We were fortunate enough to spend 7 weeks in Norway, enjoying a stunning road trip and sampling many of Norways best climbing areas. We drove up Sweden to arrive in Northern Norway in peak climbing season, starting with Lofoten. After visiting more crags further north, we made the long and beautiful journey down the west coast of the country. The crags will be described in the order we visited them, so depending on where you plan to climb in Norway it might be worth starting from the bottom of the article. The country is full of mountains, fjords, rivers and crags – we only visited a small selection of what’s on offer, even on our relatively long trip.
Guidebooks for Climbing in Norway
27Crags is very useful throughout Scandinavia and there are an enormous amount of Norwegian crags on the database. The topos, approach notes and relevant information are usually kept up to date and the app is very user friendly. As a single resource, and for the price of subscription, it is definitely worthwhile.
Climb Norway: A National Guide is a very selective guide with a broad range of climbing locations. The crags included can be hit and miss, some of them are superb and others aren’t worth visiting. The main strength of the book is it covers areas across the country so it is very helpful for a road trip. The negatives are the very basic descriptions and approach notes for some crags. Sometimes you will need to use another source of information to have a decent chance of finding the place!
Rockfax Lofoten Climbs is the only guidebook for routes on Lofoten and it includes all the places you would want to visit as a non-local. The information is mostly accurate and the topos are good quality. We did find the book had a tendency to over hype some venues, don’t expect every crag to be amazing.
Bouldering in Lofoten is an extremely worthwhile guide for anybody visiting lofoten. The guide has a great spread of locations across the islands and the quality of the bouldering on Lofoten is superb. The book is really well put together and saved many climbing days when the weather was poor.
Weather and Climbing season in Norway
If you want to climb dry rock in Norway then summer is the time to go, with June, July and August giving the best chance of dry weather. In high summer there is 24 hour daylight in the northern parts of the country, which drastically increases your chances of getting good climbing conditions. Naturally, the further south you go, the longer the climbing season is. Ultimately, any time of year could prove to be wet and dry spells are never guaranteed…it is likely you might get more use from your coat than your suncream!
We found that Yr.no was the best forecast and in the short term it is usually very accurate. However, don’t pay much attention to anything more than a couple of days ahead as it will probably change completely before the time comes.
The Lofoten islands are among the most famous places in Norway – to climbers and tourists alike. The archipelago extends away from the mainland and arks far out into the sea, famous for its natural beauty and picturesque fishing villages. For climbers, Lofoten is synonymous with trad climbing and multi pitch routes by the sea, although there is the opportunity to do pretty much any type of climbing you desire.
The islands are quite big and spread out, so at first it seems like you will be constantly driving between crags. However, the climbing is very much centred around Henningsvær & Svolvær and the Rockfax guidebook covers relatively little outside of these areas. The bouldering guidebook has a much better spread of locations and is a great way to see some quieter parts of Lofoten.
We enthusiastically dusted off the trad rack, looking forward to the best of what Lofoten had to offer. Unfortunately one thing hampered us…the weather. Despite it being July, the peak season for climbing in the area, we struck a particularly grim spell of weather. We spent 10 days on Lofoten and it rained on 9 of them (and the forecast wasn’t improving when we left), with the one dry day seeing big queues of climbers for the classics. After lots of rain dodging, waiting around on busy routes wasn’t appealing so we pottered on some single pitch routes during the day and then opted to climb at midnight to avoid the crowds. This limited us to shorter objectives as we certainly don’t have the stamina to do long routes in the small hours!
For the rainy days, sport climbing and bouldering were the saviours. As most boulders receive no run off and are exposed to the wind, they dry very fast and you only need a few hours without rain for them to be ready, while Presten will still be soaking. Because of this, we think the bouldering guidebook is an absolute must for Lofoten, doubly so because of how good quality the problems are. The best sport crag on Lofoten is Eggum, an awesome venue that is thankfully steep enough to stay dry in the rain. The rock is really beautiful and atypical for the area. The crag has around 40 routes ranging from 6a-8b, with the majority in the mid 7th grade.
From the climbing we managed to do, it was high quality, but not really any higher than other parts of Norway. As a location on the trip, it wasn’t our favourite, mainly due to how extremely busy it was. Lofoten felt like much more of a ‘honeypot’ than any of the other places we visited. Of course we have a somewhat biased view because of the weather! Despite this, the islands are truly beautiful and some of the rock is really fantastic. We don’t want to put anyone off, and we would probably go back, but we thought it is worth saying it isn’t the be all and end all of climbing in Norway.
Senja is an area best known for its winter season, with the island having an incredible amount of ice and mixed climbing. Senja is the second largest island in Norway (excluding Svalbard) and it is a relaxing and peaceful place to be. For rock climbing, there isn’t a huge amount developed or documented in Senja, but when it comes to hiking and fishing it has an abundance of both. We decided to visit Senja after leaving Lofoten and after spending some time there we took the ferry from Botnhamn to Brensholmen on Kvaløya. The journey from Svolvær to Brensholmen is actually a shorter distance when you go via Senja, although the journey time is slightly longer. This makes Senja an obvious place to include on a road trip and although the rock climbing isn’t the best or most abundant in Norway, the spectacular scenery and atmosphere more than make up for that.
The boulders at Tungeneset are the perfect place for a quick session, with a short approach, fast drying rock, good landings, free toilets and a great view. The blocks are on the national tourist route and the area is a popular spot for holiday makers on the island. Despite this, it will never feel as busy as Lofoten. There are currently only 10 documented problems, topos for which can be found on 27 crags. There are clearly loads more boulders in the area and you wouldn’t have to walk far to find some new blocks. Although its only a small area at the moment, it is a lovely place to stop with a lot going for it and it was great fun climbing here after spending the morning being rained off.
Ørnfjord is a truly stunning part of Norway and the climbing here is in a great location, less than 20 meters from the waters edge on a secluded disused road. There are currently 10 routes here, several of which have 2 pitches. At the time of writing, 7 of the routes are fully bolted and the rest are trad. Some of these are retro bolted so the venue may become entirely sport in the future. For information and topos the Facebook page ‘Ørnfjord climbing crag‘ has all the information you need. The routes here are mostly low grade, around N5, slab climbs on lovely quality rock. The crag almost looks like limestone from a distance, but it is actually a lovely textured granite.
From the crag parking it is only 1.5 km to the trailhead of Segla, one of the most famous hikes on the island. We walked after climbing to save ourselves the expensive parking fees at the trailhead. There are also several other nice hiking trails up Hesten and Barden. The area around Fjordgard is stunning, with the finger shaped peninsulas of Senja covered in aesthetic peaks and having a never-ending amount of gorgeous coast line.
Kvaløya is the fifth largest island in mainland Norway and it is the furthest north we went on our trip. This is mainly because Kvaløya is one of the last ‘climbing dense’ areas in the north of Norway, the other being the Lyngen Alps – which is much more a mountaineering and winter climbing area than somewhere for rock climbing. Of course, there will be plenty of rock further north, the whole country is brimming with rock, but visiting areas with lots of venues gives you a much better chance of overcoming bad weather and make the most of your trip.
Although there is a guidebook for Kvaløya we were told by local climbers that it is old, out of print and difficult to get your hands on. Luckily there is an excellent online website with the climbing areas and topos online here. Kvaløya is close to the city of Tromsø, supposedly home to the worlds most northern university. Many climbers you see out in Kvaløya live in Tromsø, which has a good climbing scene and a reasonably big climbing gym.
Brensholmen is one of the most popular climbing areas in Kvaløya and understandably so, it occupies a beautiful location by the sea and has a good selection of quality routes to choose from. The rock here is quartzite and some of the routes climb almost exclusively on quartz holds that have some beautiful and unique forms. There are currently around 60 routes here, the majority of which are bolted. The grades range from 5a to 7c+ and a few of the routes can be done as two pitches. The Climb Norway book only includes one small sector of Brensholmen so we almost didn’t visit as we thought there were only a few routes. Use the Tromsø Klatring website for more topos and a better approach map.
Just before the crag is a beautiful sandy beach, perfect for swimming, with a lovely flat grassy bank that makes a great camping spot. Brensholmen is right next to the ferry port that goes to and from Senja and it is a great first stop when you arrive on the island. The whole experience felt like a holiday in itself, when the sun shines you feel like you could be in the south of France, just with less people and better fishing! The climbing here is really nice and it would be easy to hang around here for a while, but make sure to visit the other crags on the island as both of the other areas we climbed at were just as good, if not better.
Ersfjorden was an area recommended to us by local climbers and before we met them we had spotted the area online but didn’t feel overly drawn to it. When we did visit, we understood completely why they recommended it, the rock quality is very high and the sectors are very unique, with stunning views. Ersfjorden itself is a gorgeous village that feels very tranquil and remote, despite being only 20 kilometres from the centre of Tromsø. There are over 150 routes here, mostly sport but there are also several trad routes, with a big spread of grades between them. With the quantity of rock, you could probably go on climbing routes and boulder problems here for years.
The climbing is spread across boulders of all shapes and sizes scattered across the hillside. Some of the boulders have low-ball problems and some of them are over 30 meters high. There are all sorts of walls, cracks, pinnacles and roofs, you can climb here in pretty much any conditions if you’re psyched enough. Ersfjorden is really popular with local climbers, owing to its quality and proximity to Tromsø. Weekdays are quiet but in the evenings, or at the weekend, the place comes alive with lots of enthusiastic locals keen to make the most of the summer. Ersfjorden felt like the epicentre of climbing on Kvaløya.
Gullknausen is a superb crag, with several high quality routes and an unforgettable view. Currently there are 15 sport routes, 9 trad routes and many projects here and no doubt there will be more in the future. We met some really friendly local climbers at Gullknausen, who were attempting a trad project which looked both hard and terrifying and we did find the other routes here had an element of spice to them! The main crag is in a ‘Z’ shape, with 3 really nice walls, a soaring arête and a corner. The walk in is beautiful in its own right, even if it is a bit long. When you get there you are at about 400 meters elevation, but with the fjord almost directly beneath you. The crag is on a ledge on the side of the mountain with a near vertical rock and grass slope plunging right down to the waters edge.
Grade wise the crag has a reasonable spread from the French 5s and 6s up to the low 8s. The lions share of the routes are in the 7s with some stunning routes in unlikely terrain. The granite here is quite different in style from most other crags in the area and the name Gullknausen actually translates to ‘the golden nugget’, referencing the colour of the rock. Due to the crags shape, various walls receive sun or shade either frequently or barely at all, with the warmest sector coming into the sun at about 2pm in the summer. Even in the warmer months the shady wall can feel cold so it is worth bringing a warm jacket, especially if you will be stood around belaying for a while!
Flatnager is the sport climbing area in Norway, known worldwide for its cutting edge routes and stunning location. There are around 300 routes here spread across several sectors, with the grade range being about as wide as is possible – with routes from 4b to 9c! Although it is possible for people of all levels to climb here, to access a decent amount of the best routes it is ideal to climb at least in the 7a-7c range. At this level you can enjoy climbing at the world class Hanshallaren, as opposed to the other sectors in the area. The Hanshallaren cave and the walls coming out of it are the star attraction and the other sectors look a bit rubbish in comparison.
The rock at Hanshallaren is mind blowing and even though we had seen loads of videos before we arrived, it is truly difficult to appreciate the scale and quality unless you are there in real life. Unsurprisingly, some of the world’s hardest routes look even harder when you’re stood beneath them! Crucially, the granite here is some of the best you can find in Norway, with beautiful strata bands and uniquely formed holds. The other sectors pale in comparison, as do any other crags in that part of Norway.
Perhaps one of the only downsides to Flatanger is the slightly awkward access situation. There has been a bolting ban for a number of years now, as the crag is on private land. Generally the bolts are good but on some routes they are a bit rusty, not to mention how it stifles new route potential. The parking is also on private land and is paid for, by Vipps app (only works with Norwegian banks) or by going to the landowners house to pay. It wasn’t unusual to see or hear of people getting told off for various reasons and it made the place feel a bit tense. Don’t let this put you off visiting, the superb climbing more than makes up for it, just be aware of the specific circumstances in Flatanger.
Hell, with its name lending itself to many jokes, is a crag that was well hyped as a place worth visiting. As such, we went with relatively high expectations and felt somewhat underwhelmed. While the conglomerate rock is very nice and gives a welcome change to granite, the crag is quite small and in a poor location, opposite a noisy and ugly recycling centre. We found the routes suffer a lot from water runoff from the forest above, and many of the classic routes were dirty and mossy even after several dry days. Between Hell and the close by New Wave sector, which is different rock, there are some nice routes with some fun climbing and cool features. There are around 130 routes here, from 4 to 9a+ and generally speaking the harder the route the better it is.
In our opinion, it would only be worth visiting if you have a reason to be in or near Trondheim. If we had our time again we would skip Hell and spend more time at Flatanger!
Kvitnes is a really nice crag, right by the sea, close to the town of Kristiansund (not to be confused with Kristiansand). The Climb Norway book has over 60 routes detailed for Kvitnes, although there are actually quite a lot more than that (as well as other crags in the area), details for which can be found on the kristiansundfjellklubb website. The rock quality here is really high, and some of the routes cover really impressive terrain for the difficulty level.
We really enjoyed the crag and the location, but one of the downsides was that a large quantity of routes were wet and didn’t seem to have much chance of drying quickly. Thankfully we were still able to do some climbing, but it is worth knowing Kvitnes is not a good option for continued bad weather. It might not be like this usually, as a local told us it was the wettest summer they can remember. Regardless of the weather it is a beautiful area with some really high quality rock and it is definitely worth visiting.
Beachen was possibly our favourite place to climb south of Flatanger, with loads of great routes at a variety of levels. The best thing about the crag is you can climb a top quality 7b, walk 15 meters and belay someone on a top quality 6a. In total, Beachen has around 60 routes with grades starting in the 4s and going up to the low 8s. The steep sector Overhenget will stay dry in the rain and the quality sector Bølgen drys very quickly. The approach is short and access is really straightforward, the fjord is close by for swimming or fishing too.
At our grade level, we could have spent quite some time climbing at Beachen, with so many of the routes climbing on great rock. We felt Beachen was one of the ‘premier’ sport crags in Southern Norway. The only real downside to Beachen is that it can get very busy, with the bottom of sector Overhenget becoming quite crowded, especially at weekends. It is easy to avoid the crowds if you rise early, as apparently people can’t seem to make it to the crag before lunchtime! Coincidentally we also found the conditions to be better in the morning, when the crag is cooler and the holds feel less greasy.
Fiskesleppet is a quiet venue on the island of Sotra, a short distance west of Bergen. The island is large and has lots of different crags with trad, sport and bouldering as well as lots of great coastline. The crag has over 50 routes from 3-7c+ and roughly half of the routes are bolted. We found the grading at Fiskesleppet was all over the place, with routes at the Dr. Shrimp sector, like Sandpistol, being desperately sandbagged. Meanwhile, other routes, like Hysa at its eponymous sector, were soft for the grade. Overall, while the crag is nice enough, there is nothing here making it worth a big detour. The best thing about Fiskesleppet is its location on Sotra, which is a very charming part of Norway.
Sirekrok is one of the best crags we visited in southern Norway. The location is tranquil, the routes are long, good quality and most importantly of all the crag is rain proof. We climbed at Sirekrok in torrential rain and the vast majority of routes stayed completely dry. The approach is short and straightforward so you won’t get soaked walking there either. There are around 40 routes at Sirekrok and the grades range from 6b-8b+.
Although the rock is granite, like most Norwegian crags, at Sirekrok the routes climb much more like limestone and it will feel like a taste of home for many European climbers. The climbing is very athletic, in a steep overhanging wall with lots of bulges and overlaps. Being able to climb between 7a-7b will give access to a number of great quality routes that go the full height of the crag and have some pretty wild exposure. Below those grades there are still good routes, but the lower graded ones won’t be weatherproof.
Urdviki took us by surprise, the crag doesn’t look like much from the road and it isn’t particularly mentioned as a good crag to visit. When we arrived at the crag we were really impressed, it is massive, with very high quality rock and some superb lines. For us, the only problem with Urdviki was the ratio of easy to hard routes, if you climb 7c or harder then it is heaven on earth in Norway. For the lower grade range available, 6b-7b+, there are plenty of amazing routes, but maybe only enough to last for a handful of days. for example there are 19 routes 7b+ or lower and 23 routes 7c or harder.
We did find that the grading at Urdviki was very fair, the routes very well bolted and often cruxy. It is the perfect venue to push yourself on harder climbs than normal and make the most of some of the gorgeous rock here. On one section of the crag, the granite has a totally unique appearance, with incredibly smooth rock that has beautiful rounded grooves running through it. We can only describe the climbing as ‘reverse tufa’ and it is one of many different styles at Urdviki. We have only got positive things to say about Urdviki, the crag is fantastic. The approach, however, is a bit full on – especially in the wet!
Sykehusveggen is like a Kristiansand city crag, a short wall with 38 routes from 4a-7c+. The wall is not amazing but the rock is nice and access is incredibly easy. You park right next to the crag and the walk in is measured in seconds, not minutes! The crag is particularly worth including as a lot of people visiting Norway will arrive on the ferry in Kristiansand making Sykehusveggen a great quick hit of climbing on the way out or the way home. A side note is that some of the routes seep and a large amount of the crag will be wet after rain, despite the steepness.
Ula is an extensive bouldering area on the coast, with some really beautiful rock in an idyllic setting. In the vicinity of Ula there are around 300 problems, from very low grades up to a maximum of around 8A. The problems have generally good landings and some of them are quite high. 27 Crags is the best place to find topos for Ula, and it is really easy to locate the blocks using the app.
Ula feels like a really special place and when you’re there you feel like you’ve been transported away from Norway to somewhere Tropical! The rock is superb and has an extremely smooth texture to most of it. In Ula, knowing how to place your feet is worth more than strength.
Hyggen is a popular crag, not far from Oslo, with over 60 routes at a big spread of grades. The crag has a really short approach and many routes are sheltered from the rain due to the steep roofs at the top of the crag. The rock quality here can be a bit hit and miss, the Tango sector has some really great rock, whereas the Seven sector is a bit flaky in places. The venue is popular with local climbers and the routes seem to get climbed quite frequently. Hyggen is one of the nicer crags near Oslo and is worth a visit if you are in the area.
Hauktjern is considered to be the premier sport crag of Oslo, with a huge amount of climbing from the 4th grade up to the low 8s. The crag is situated in a beautiful location, next to a lake in the forest and it doesn’t feel at all like you are so close to the city. The approach is about 30 minutes walking from the parking at Østmarkveien, many people cycle from the city and the majority of the path is perfect for a bike. People chain their bikes up and walk the last few hundred meters to the crag. The proximity to the city means the crag gets busy on weekends or in the evenings after people have finished work. There are in excess of 150 routes and some of the sectors are quite well hidden so it should be possible to enjoy a quiet route to yourself most of the time.
Rest day activities
A country so full of mountains and fjords is equally brimming with quality hiking trails, offering everything from short jaunts to multi day journeys. Some of the hikes in Norway are incredibly famous, such as the Trolltunga. While they certainly look amazing, we decided to skip them due to the €50 parking fee, yes you read that correctly!! The outrageous charges make the popularity very surprising, Norway isn’t short of beautiful places and you can go somewhere much quieter, for free, and it will still be stunning. Norway also has a very liberal attitude to camping, and it is perfectly normal to go for a few days hike and take your tent with you, to enjoy the mountains in solitude.
Norway has access to a huge amount of water, it actually has the second longest coastline in the world (when including Svalbard), with only Canada having more. The water quality is superb and you’re never far away from a stunning bathing spot. A post climbing swim in the brisk waters will keep you feeling fresh and is a great way to get some exercise in nature. The water will feel a bit on the cold side at first but you soon get used to it, in the summer months the temperatures are comfortable for spending a reasonable amount of time in the water without a wetsuit.
If you eat fish, then fishing in Norway is an absolute must, it is so good it feels like cheating! Although we are amateurs at fishing, with only a basic & cheap set up of various spoons, spinners and miscellaneous lures, we got some awesome catches. Never ending Mackerel, Cod, Pollock, Cole fish, Trout and more were all caught on our simple gear. The only thing that seemed to be of any importance was choosing a good spot, which is simple when you get your eye in and know the tide times. If you desire you can eat fish everyday and it makes for a great evening of fun after you’re done climbing. Better still, many of the crags are less than 10 minutes walk from great fishing spots so you don’t have to go far. With our successes we often joked if we were actually on a fishing trip with some climbing on rest days!
Alongside fishing, foraging is a staple pastime in Scandinavia and is all part of the pleasure of being in the northern climate. The season is relatively short but very intense, with huge gluts of berries and mushrooms appearing when the weather is right. We harvested enough berries to make our own jam, which tastes great and is significantly cheaper than anything you’ll find in a Norwegian supermarket! It is worthwhile looking into the various types of berries, for example the common bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) which is common in the UK is not as sweet or juicy as its relative the bog bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum). The different varieties have their own strengths and weaknesses, e.g some are better in jams and others best eaten fresh.
Travelling through on a road trip you can find wild strawberries, raspberries, cloudberries (our favourite), and Lingon, as well as less commonly eaten species like bearberry (make sure you 100% know what you’re doing before you eat anything!). There are an endless amount of plants that can be used for everything from salads to fragrant tea and it is surprising how much vigour the plants have in the summer months.
We had a great time climbing in Norway, and enjoyed the scenery and the nature just as equally. Norway is a very expensive country to visit, but by stocking up before we visited, camping out of a Citroen Berlingo and living a basic existence we managed to keep the cost at an affordable level. The climbing varies massively from world class crags like Flatanger, to ‘local’ venues like Fiskesleppet. We tried to describe and show what the areas we visited are really like, so you can make an informed decision on whether to include or omit any areas on your own trip. Personally, we enjoyed the North of the country the most, with Kvaløya being a highlight in every way. Further south, Flatanger, Beachen, Sirekrok and Urdviki were the standout areas. These are the crags we can really recommend as being some of the best venues on offer in Norway.
You can read about the other half of our Scandinavian road trip in Sweden here.
Relevant information and resources
Climb Norway: A National Climbing Guide
Bouldering in Lofoten https://lofotenbouldering.com
Rockfax Lofoten Climbs https://www.needlesports.com/Catalogue/Books-Media/Guidebooks/Scandinavia/Lofoten-Climbs-COR-CE561
Tungneset 27crags https://27crags.com/crags/tungeneset