Move all the way to your right, this includes a small descent in order
to find the beginning of a route that will get you to the first grass ledge.
The starting point is at location N67.47840, E015.11304, elevation about 770 meter.
In this picture our climbing route is indicated by red arrows.. Zoom in on the picture to better see the details. Obviously, there are variations that may be similar. This route is rated 4 (Norwegian climbing scale). This corresponds (roughly) to YDS 5.6. The lower part of this route is often, possibly always quite wet and slippery. This may increase the actual difficulty considerably. As indicated in the picture, the route traverses the broad ridge from lower left to upper right. At the upper end one may exit below cliffs and enter easier terrain that connects to the more gentle upper part.
The rapell (abseil) route descends this face pretty much down the middle. One will find a solid rapell anchor at the top of the cliffs. We located two more anchors lower down, then made our own anchor as we did not find the last one. That is, we made 4 abseils using two 60 meter ropes.
First trip July 7-10, 2019.
We had driven north from my mountain home near Lillehammer. We stayed at the DNT hut on Saltfjellet, then drove to Bodø and Kjerringøy the next day, arriving across from Straumsnes in the early afternoon on July 7th.
Malvin came across with his boat and put us onshore in a good spot in order to start our climb. The ascent to Sjunkskardet went well and soon thereafter we arrived at what looked like an ideal spot for camping, near the end of a small pond.
Monday morning, July 8th. Another perfect day in Northern Norway. Our plan was to descend to the sea near
Sjunkan, walk along the shore and then attempt to repeat the first ascent route. It is not known if it had
ever been repeated and our thinking was that if Egil and Thor (see below) ascended without any climbing gear
more than 100 years ago, then most likely we should be able to climb this route today. We could then abseil
and return directly to our campsite.
Quite a bush walk to descend to Sjunkan, but the worst was yet to come. It turned out that walking from Sjunkan to Grautneset (Seiskaneset) was far from easy. Large boulders with moss covering treacherous holes. Lots of birch trees mostly bent horizontal by snow and avalanches. Progress was quickly reduced to snail's pace. It was so bad that we tried to shorten the distance by going higher and perhaps gain the ridge a bit sooner. This was difficult as we ran into cliffs. Finally, there was a possible exit, but blocked by a dangerously loose rock. We removed it and then discovered a route that gained the plateau - part of what would become our ridge higher up.
Progress was now easier, what we still did not fully realize was that the approach to here had taken close to 8 hours and obviously already consumed a lot (too much) of our energy. It is easy to forget time when you are in such beautiful landscape, with no signs of night - midnight sun and a never ending perfect day.
We continued uphill and it was clear that we would be able to gain substantial elevation without too much trouble. Higher up, as the ridge sharpened, we ran into snow. In fact, it looked like we would need to cross a sharp snow ridge in order to connect to the cliffs higher up. Bad news, as we only carried one pair of crampons and a single ice axe. We needed to protect this. I would find a route, try to make good steps, then protect Pål Jørgen as he followed using only his boots on the steepish snow. This took more time than planned for, but progress was still reasonable as we finally got to the last horizontal passage before climbing would begin.
It looked pretty obvious where to start the climb, along a crack or steepish ledge that seemed to gain a small grass area. This line was far right and a slightly awkward descent crossing into the lower end, was called for. Pål climbed putting in some protection as he advanced and we had a first pitch completed as I later joined him on the top. Already a pretty impressive scenery when looking back down. From here, we could gain access to a gully filled with hard snow going left to a tiny col. Time ran faster than we easily noticed as Pål negotiated this, partly on the rock on the right, partly on the snow. Another 60 meter gain. From here, we needed to reach a grassy area that could be seen high up in the middle. We slowly made it there using 2-3 shorter pitches completing sort of a semi-circle going right. The climbing was pretty hard with smaller holds in places and questionable grass in a few other spots. It was already getting very late, the midnight sun circled around a corner, her rays hitting the magic landscape.
Finally here, it looked like we were now pretty close (below) the horizontal shoulder where we knew we would run into the well described route coming up from north-west. How to proceed from here? Directly up was not an option. From below, going right had seemed to be best, but then we did not fully see the terrain going left. From here, going left looked most promising. A wide gully that narrowed, then became blocked by a huge choke stone. Pål started up there to explore. I was patiently waiting while I also realized that we had alfready been going for 24 hours! Quite incredible how time had been flying away while we were fully focused on getting up this route.
Pål made little progress, he explored both sides of the big rock, but seemed to literally run out of steam - both physically and mentally. He returned to me and admitted that he did not think he was much able to continue. When looking back at our situation, it is pretty clear that we were both extremely tired at this point. In particular, Pål having essentially no food and no sleep for 24 hours - his body was screaming for sleep and new energy reserves.
We discussed the situation. If we could complete the climb, then abseiling on the west side of the peak would quickly bring us back to camp. Bailing here and abseiling down the route we had climbed would still require a long descent back to the fjord followed by a horrible walk to Sjunkan, then ascending back to camp. No good future at all. Sleeping and eating in the spot we were, then continuing, would most likely have been the best choice, but we did not have any equipment for sleeping and only a couple of power bars for food. It was still pretty cold when the sun did not hit us. I had never considered that this climb would take more than 12 hours and it was already Tuesday morning!
Very reluctantly, we concluded that our only option would be to return the way we had come. First, abseiling. Full focus on building safe and reliable anchors. It took us a few hours to get safely back down to where we could walk. The downhill section that followed went well and perhaps it fooled us a bit with respect to our overall physical condition. However, as sóon as we were back down starting the horrible flat section, we both felt terribly tired. Progress was slow. After several hours of slow walking including a few short rests that did not seem to help, we rested at the bottom of the 150 meter vertical ascent from Sjunkan. På could not carry anything any more. I fell briefly asleep while sitting on a log. I then took the backpack and slowly started uphill. We teached the brink, a pretty nice spot with fresh running water. Pål said he simply neede to sleep. We had been walking and climbing for 36 hours at this point. Tuesday was about to end. I wanted to sleep in our tent, it now seemed within reach. Thus, we agreed to split here, Pål would walk to the tent after catching some sleep, he would also take the backpack. I arrived at the tent after 37 hours, I had never been out more than 30 hours before. I quickly slept. Pål slept 4 hours, then walked to the tent. I woke up (briefly) when he entered the tent, I was very happy to see him. Including his 4 hours of rest, he had been out 41 hours.
After sleeping and eating, we were already in the afternoon of Wednesday. We decided to explore the approach up to the abseil route and make a final attempt on climbing the peak if it looked reasonable. However, when we arrived at the base of the cliffs, we certainly still felt the effort from the two previous days. Add to this that the first pitch looked difficult and slippery. We quickly agreed that we were not up to the task given that we were obviously still tired. Thus, we returned to camp, took it down and hiked across the Sjunkeskardet pass and down to the shoreline. The time was near 2 AM (Thursday). We set up camp next to Malvin's house to be ready for an early departure in the morning. Malvin discovered us around 0800, and took us across the water in his boat. We thanked (and paid) him, then started driving towards Lofoten where we wanted to ascend Higravtinden, the highest peak in Lofoten.
Thanks to Pål Jørgen for an epic trip. We climbed through the night in midnight sun. We were both exhausted and reluctantly, but wisely decided to turn back. We had to struggle back across horrible terrain and finally ascended the last hill from Sjunkan and back up towards our camp. By then we had walked and climbed together 36 hours with minimal rests. We both tested limits and realized that we were in a domain where we had never been before.
I will always remember this trip with you.
Second trip September 16-17, 2019.
I travelled back to Northern Norway in mid September. My main objective to climb Skittendalstinden and hopefully, make a second attempt on Sjunktinden. This would complete my climbing of the 100 most prominent mountains in Norway. After a successful trip north to the Narvik area, I therefore drove south towards Bodø and stayed at the DNT hut Gjælentunet.
I picked up Sondre at the airport around noon and after some final shopping we were on our way to Kjerringøy. The ferry worked well and shortly after parking at Øyjorda we could see Malvin coming across from Straumsnes, as always with his dog also in the boat. We were walking by 1445 and had no difficulties in finding a good route up to Sjunkskardet and then loosing about 100 meter when descending to the tiny pond where I camped back in July - a very nice place and close to ideal relative to the west side of Sjunkhatten.
We established camp, the weather was near perfect, it would be a night with moonshine and stars. Sondre was tired after a somewhat hectic week on Iceland and travel back to Norway. He took an early nap before dinner and decided to just sleep outside, since there would be no rain.
The next morning was crisp with frost in the grass, we had breakfast and left camp around 0800. The approach hike went well, thanks to the trip Pål Jørgen and I made in July. Much less snow, but still some. We first looked at the possible start on the left side. Sondre certainly agreed that climbing up here looked complex and difficult. We next headed across to the far right. The line leading up there follows a crack, but the route is completely wet and the soaked lichen makes everything very slippery.
Sondre still felt that this was the best route, at least one could climb along a reasonably direct line. Much longer than on the west side, but easier to place protection here.
We started up this route and it was indeed a very cold, wet and slippery experience. There is water coming down all the time, not very different from a small creek. Finally up, the next move is a very short climb to gain the grassy ledge that extends all the way across. Next, we walked all the way to the left (when viewed uphill) end of the ledge, where you see a fairly easy continuation of the route going up along a very clear crack in the rock. Higher up, and onwards the rock again gets steeper, but, fortunately, it is pretty dry.
The climbing continues on an ascending traverse, partly, the rock is quite nice and handholds along the left side mixed with more friction based moves will provide interesting challenges along the way. Higher up, the route traverses on ledges and good rock surfaces to exit near what looks like a corner up to the right, but still below the highest rocks that tower up on your left. Turning the corner, one discovers that the remaining part of the climb is easier. Ascending a few short steps and you are up on the much more gentle slope partially filled with broken rocks. This part of the climb is (YDS) class 2, normal off-trail walking.
The summit has its highest point on a piece of smooth rock while the cairn is located quite close nearby.
We completed about 7 pitches of climbing in slightly less than 4 hours, quite acceptable according to Sondre.
The summit was nice and the weather better than forecasted. We had sunshine and quite good visibility. Kjerringøy has a wild and facinating landscape. No reason to descend quickly.
Finally, it was time to descend. We walked down to the cliffs pretty much in the middle (as seen from above). A bit of looking and we discovered a pretty solid anchor for abseiling on a lower shelf that could be reached without any difficulty.
Abseiling, we discovered 2 additional anchors, but at the end of our third rapell, we could not see any suitable place from where to continue. Placing 2 independent nuts and attaching a long sling gave us a secure final anchor and this abseil got us all the way down to the grass below the first cliff-band.
The hike back down to camp went without any problems and we decided to return to the car after a break and pulling down our camp. The weather was still good and the evening light was nice on this magic landscape as we hiked across Sjunkskardet and descended towards the fjord. We called Malvin and he was ready with the boat as we arrived shortly before 2000.
We drove back to Bodøo, somewhat delayed by a longish wait for the ferry. Dinner in Bodøo, then an other hour to spend the night at Gjælentunet since all hotels in town seemed fully booked. The next morning we climbed Steigtinden before catching our flights back home in Southern Norway.
Many thanks are due to Sondre for good company, expert lead climbing and for several interesting conversations. He is a true mountain goat and he understands that mountaineering in Norway has many aspects and values that we all have a responsibility for passing on to new generations were a common goal must be to inspire as many as possible to appreciate our unique mountain landscape.
The first ascent
The first ascent was back in 1909 by two local men, Egil Rostrup and Thor Normann. They climbed the North-east ridge without using a rope or protection. This is quite an impressive accomplishment. As they got higher, they realized that they could not climb back down the way they had climbed up. They tried a different route down that got blocked by a pretty big vertical cliff. At this point one man told the other: "I am not married, so I will jump first," aiming for a snow bank below that had not melted out. "If I survive, then you can follow". This worked out, but should not be an example to follow.
Most pictures in the above section by Sondre.