By Bryan Snyder
The clump of ferns tore loose from the cliff, and I slipped back, luckily catching a birch branch in my other hand before I could fall backwards and break something essential. My shortcuts never work. I was ascending the thousand-foot cliff face south of the port village of Stokmarknes, racing to reach an overlook on the other side before I missed the cruise liner heading through the Lofoten Islands to Svolvær. And already I could glimpse the giant vessel churning up the northern waters, homing in on Stokmarknes harbor.
The clock was ticking. I refocused my efforts and heaved myself up the incline, gouging my fingers deep into moss and bracken, and hoping their roots were strong enough to hold my weight. My hike would have begun sooner, but overcast skies this morning had discouraged me from adhering to tighter schedule. Now I was paying for that faithless attitude, for once I finally hitchhiked south, the sun emerged for the first time in a week, and I felt I had to rush to pack in as many Lofoten hiking experiences as possible while the fragile weather held. Two hours to get up and down this mountain wasn’t enough time, and the distant blast of the cruiseship’s horn as it came into port was a further reminder that I had probably exceeded the limits of my stopover in Stokmarknes. Even the nearby sheep bleated discouragingly.
But with grass-stained pants, I finally pulled myself up to the rim of the bluffs and jogged uphill to the summit of Storheia. From there, I could see across the waters of Hadselfjorden to the mountainous islands of Hinnøya and Austvågøy, and I hoped I would soon be sailing through the narrow channel between them. If I could get down in half the time it took to climb up.