In the summer of 2013, I explored Europe by car. I spent most of my time in Norway because of the “free to roam” policy (allows you to camp anywhere) and it’s always been at the top of my bucket list. The country is so rich in terms of nature and scenery that sometimes you forget you’re in one of the most expensive places to visit in the world. Norway’s Lofoten archipelago has long attracted me for its rugged terrain and endless possibilities of backcountry adventures.
The peaks in Lofoten aren’t the most impressive in the world in terms of height. But the sheer vertical drops that rise from sea level that jaunts straight up to the peaks are staggering. No matter where you are in the Lofoten archipelago, the surreal scenery will blow you away and it’s one of the most beautiful places in Norway. I wanted to cap my Norway trip by reaching the top of Hermannsdalstinden Summit, the highest peak in Moskenesøya Island.
There are two parts to this hike. First, you have to make your way to Munkebu Hut from Sørvågen, which lies 1.5km east of the village of Å right at the end of the E10 highway. From Sørvågen, it takes about 5-6 hours round-trip and the trail meanders through moderate to challenging terrain.
There’s a cabin, Munkebu Hut, that is used as an overnight base camp for summiting Hermannsdalstinden. The hike from Munkebu Hut Hermannsdalstinden summit takes about 6-8 hour round trip. You can hike all the way to the summit from Sørvågen and that would take around 11-14 hours to complete. But that’s for people who don’t take the time to smell the flowers. The scenery here is too grand for you to just rush through it.
Munkebu monkey do
My plan was to camp out and chill at Munkebu Hut and then tackle the summit early in the morning. The hike to the hut gave about 450-meter vertical rise to my itinerary with some sections requiring moderate scrambling. There is metal supports all over the place so you’re never in danger of falling to your death or dismembering a body part.
I didn’t know how to book the hut nor do I know if there’s any receptionist somewhere who will usher you in but I came prepared. I had a tent with a sleeping bag and stockpile of Top Ramen to keep me going for days. There’s even have a bottle of wine in my backpack to the sway the night away.
The hut was full of people so I pitched a tent in a nearby embankment. It was a decent enough campsite, there was a source of water nearby but it looked a little sketchy, it’s just a pond in the ground with a sign post pointing to it that says “Drinking Water.” Woe is me; I didn’t carry my water filter for this trip! I drank the water anyway.
Well, I’m still here and writing this story so it was obviously okay. That is unless there’s a weird virus that would activate 10 years later and paralyze its host. Only time will tell.
There was a young Austrian couple who camped next to me. They would skip hiking to the summit because they have to catch a ferry the next day. I reasoned that if we got up at 4 am we could summit Hermannsdalstinden and they could still catch their ferry later on the afternoon the next day. They were hesitant but I gave them a little pep talk about how some of the greatest mountaineers were Austrian. They agreed.
After a hearty breakfast of Top Ramen, we got out on the trail the next morning. I left my tent and most of my gear behind and carried only a jacket and a water bottle for the ascent. I’m no mountain climber but I’ve scaled a few peaks in the Eastern Sierras. These guys, however, are freaks of nature!
They’re scaling up the steep trail like it’s a bump on the road while I’m struggling to catch my breath at each step. After about 2 hours of ascent, I excused myself to get water (but it was just an excuse so I could take a break and catch my breath).
The Austrian couple was on a tight schedule so I told them to go on without me. The Hermannsdalstinden mountain sits at an altitude of 1,029 meters. It’s not the highest peak I’ve scaled, not even close. But it is the highest mountain in western Lofoten with difficult and steep, exposed sections, loose rock, and sometimes riddled with high winds. It’s also one of the most beautiful mountains in Norway.
Some sections need rope pulls and the last leg before the summit involves scrambling through boulders and loose rocks, very similar to the last leg of the Torres Del Paine hike. The word “hike” here should be used liberally, this is more of a climb. Thus after clearing the section where you had to pull yourself up on a rope, the mountain opens to a bunch of boulders and rocks. There’s no discernable trail to be found. Just mounds of rocks and boulders.
I continued scrambling up the mountain, figuring it must all go up to the summit eventually even if I wasn’t following a trail. I finally saw the Austrian couple but they were already making their way down and I heard them yelling they have already reached the summit and were now in a hurry to race back to catch the ferry. They were machines! I was laboring at each step, each scramble on top of boulders and they’ve already reached the summit and conquered it like its little hill.
It would take me another hour to get to the summit after the couple left. At the top, I marveled at the 360 degrees of viewing freedom. I felt like I was on the top of the world. This was the most amazing view I’ve ever seen of the Lofoten and better than the Reinebringen even.
DO IT YOURSELF:
- Head to the town Sørvågen. Just follow the lake, Sørvågvatnet, towards the northwest and from there you will see the trailhead leading up into the mountains.
- If you’re brave (or stupid depending on who you ask), you can do the hike in 10-14 hours all the way to the summit.
- You can camp at the Munkebu Hut and summit the next day. Reserve and pick up the key in advance. Or just bring a tent and a sleeping bag and sleep under the stars like I did.
- It’s steep. There are sections with chains and ropes to help you up the trail.
- Water is available nearly everywhere. In fact, the water here is so clean you won’t need a water filter like the MSR Sweetwater and can drink it right out of river or pond. But for places where it’s not abundant, I recommend a bladder you can easily pack in your backpack like the RIQUIK military grade hydration pack that you can pack in a regular backpack like the Osprey Atmos or a tactical hydration pack for running or hiking.
- The weather is unpredictable. It can rain an anytime or the temperature could drop. Bring layers of clothing and make sure you carry a lightweight down jacket like the Mountain Hardware Dynotherm. A good pair of hiking waterproof or water resistant boots like the Vasque Goretex is also important.
- If you’re doing an overnight trip, be sure to book the Munkebu hut in advance. If they’re not available no worries, you can camp nearly everywhere. A tent like the Eureka Amari should be good enough to keep you comfy with a simple mummy style sleeping bag like the Outdoor Vitals.
- Bring your own booze and food. Norway is not the cheapest place to get a drink or eat. If you can pack it from a neighboring country like Finland or Sweden the better. I have an assortment of freeze dried food like the Mountain House Assortment pack that I cook with an MSR Pocket Rocke stove when I go backpacking.