Exploring Norway’s Trollfjorden by Ski and Kayak


Norway’s Lofoten Islands rise abruptly out of the North Sea to more than 3,500 feet. The densely packed archipelago curves southward like an eagle’s talon poised above the Arctic Circle. A haven for sea birds, including puffins in the hundreds of thousands, the Lofotens also host the world’s largest orca gathering. It’s a remote and dramatic landscape, one of the best places in the world for sea kayaking, and for a certain kind of skiing.


To free-skiing kayakers Ian Watson, Andreas Fransson, Fredrik Anderson and Patrik Lindqvist, the islands offered a synthesis of skiing and paddling. Sea kayaks are the perfect vehicle to access these mountain islands, and also fit the team’s self-powered hard-guy aesthetic. After all, these aren’t your typical resort skiers; these are people who climb for hours for a few turns in untracked snow. Not that the kayaks’ load-carrying charm was lost on the alpinists. “This was the strangest and best way I’ve ever begun a ski-touring mission,” Watson says of the day last March when the four men shoehorned backcountry skis, mountaineering and camping gear, plus a week’s provisions into their kayaks. “We’re used to carrying all of this on our backs.”


After several days of great paddling and poor snow conditions, the men climbed through a six-foot-wide fissure in a blue-ice glacier, skinned 1,000 feet higher and finally boot-packed to the 3,399-foot summit of Trolldindan Peak.




“Kayaking was the perfect partner for ski-mountaineering,” Watson says. “The Lofoten Islands are possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited, and that’s not a small claim.”



“Golden sunlight filtered through the high clouds, making the fjords fade from a deep blue to rippling gold, and eagles sawed around ridges below us,” Watson recalls. “The earth curved across the North Sea horizon to the south.”


The team took a moment to drink in the scene, then strapped on their skis and dropped off the summit ridge into a narrow slope tilting at a 55-degree angle toward the fjord, nearly two-thirds of a vertical mile below.



“The slope opened up to a face of 48 degrees, with perfect corn skiing to 700 meters,” Watson says.

Here they made a crux move—a 50-foot traverse across bulletproof snow angled at 70 degrees—before skiing the next pitch and traversing two miles to the cliffs overlooking the famous Trollfjorden. Norway’s most famous fjord, it is just 350 feet wide at the entrance, and more than twice as deep. The next day, as a driving rain turned to snow, the adventurers paddled into the fjord for one more look.


“Kayaking was the perfect partner for ski-mountaineering,” Watson says. “The Lofoten Islands are possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited, and that’s not a small claim.”

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