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Europe, Norway, Lofoten Islands, Vagakallen's Great Pillar

Lofoton Islands, Vagakallens Great Pillar. We always intended to visit Norway, inspired by the Troll Wall and pictures and reports from the Lofoton Islands, which lie 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Somehow Norway always slipped down the list until this summer. The Alps were suffering from a heat wave, so we decided to head north to Norway. We stood under the Troll Wall wanting to be impressed and inspired, but it was dark, wet, and oppressive.

From our camp at Kalle, Vagakallens 940-meter Great Pillar dominated our view. With the potential difficulties of the 800-meter route combined with rapidly shortening days and mixed weather we decided to go with a portaledge and four to five days of food and water.

I was amazed as the route unfolded. The climbing just worked. Above the slabs the ground leaned back in to hideously steep grass and disintegrating rock before kicking back up to vertical. We made our first camp above grassy rubble on a rocky rib. The line proved strong and the climbing generally excellent. We hoped to free the route and, so far, all had gone well. Twid was onsighting long pitches of E4 and E5, despite the impromptu snow showers. As we strained our necks upward, it was obvious the next pitch was similar to the crack in the head- wall of El Cap’s Shield. We thought: aid it now and free it later; it is only one pitch.

The third day we continued to push, aiming for a huge boulder where we planned to bivy. Above the aid pitch a tricky slab ended in a precarious traverse to a stunning jamming and layback crack. Two more pitches took us under the boulder, which formed a huge chimney we easily scrambled through to the top. It was dark by the time we hung the ledge and fired up the stove.

I was awakened by water seeping through my sleeve and into Twid’s sleeping bag. It had begun to rain and water seeped down the ropes and our daisy chains. We pulled our bivy bags close around us to keep our bags dry. Through years of living in Scotland and Wales and as a frequent visitor to Patagonia, I can safely say that I am accustomed to rain but I had never experienced anything like those next 24 hours. Imagine sitting in a car wash for 24 hours, only that each hour it ups a notch on the water, power, and volume!

The next morning the rain eased and I set off up saturated ropes hoping and praying they would not jam, which of course, they did. Eleven hours later we stood at the base. Suddenly we were greeted by a group that merrily explained the predicament we were about to face. A tiny stream we had previously stepped over was now five feet wide and thigh deep. Twid looked over his shoulder. “This is not a problem,” he declared as he waded straight in.

Louise Thomas, U.K.