Introduction to Climbing in the Faroe Islands

Background

The Faroe Island are well suited for rock climbing. Although climbing in the traditional form is several hundred years old, rock climbing as a sport was not introduced until 2005. The old form of climbing was mainly by climbing down ropes along steep sea cliffs, often while hunting seabirds. Occasionally the hunters needed to ascend the steep sea cliffs in a manner that resembles modern rock climbing with ropes and putting placements to secure themselves. Special climbing equipment was developed, and a language specific for climbing evolved. Recent ascents on the sea stack, Búgvin, reveal that these men were not only physically superior, but must have mastered rope and climbing techniques at a high level.

Geology of the Faroe Islands

The Faroe Islands are of volcanic origin and are made of three layers of basalt.

The mountains have been formed in a layering process from grey-black basalt formed by lava of tertiery-period-volcanoes, interspersed by soft red-brown tuff, which originates from the rain of ash preceding volcanic eruptions and which is unfavorable for climbing.  Later the glaciers of the ice period restructured the original plateau to an archipelago with high mountains, deep valleys, and narrow fjords
After surface volcanism ceased, irregular intrusions were injected into the sediments and overlying agglomerates and sills were intruded between the middle and upper lava layers. The sills form columns and organ pipe-like extrusions well suited for climbing because of homogeneous solid rock and extremely good friction.  The magnitude of the columns form a dramatic amphitheater-like atmosphere. The climbing is sustained, technical, and offers a surprising range of possibilities for fingerlocks, jams, crimps, underclings and lots of friction climbing.

There are three main sills on the island of Streymoy, Eysturoy, and Svínoy-Fugloy, but columns from the sills are found on many islands.  Only a handful of these sills have been climbed and yet so many remain to be explored by climbers.

The evolving climbing interest

A part of the sill of Streymoy, Norðadalur, and the sill of Eysturoy, Veðranes, has been subject to climbing since 2006 as preparation for more ambitious climbs on sea stacks. At first, they were manly climbed with traditional gear, but in 2013 a group of Faroese climbers, mainly studying abroad, decided to bolt a crack within 15 minutes’ walk from the road leading to Norðradalur. The accessibility from the capital, Tórshavn, and the scenic views of the fertile valley and over the sea with a number of islands in the distance have made this place attractive for climbers.  Some of the surrounding rocks have been climbed traditionally during summer and winter, but due to the newly introduced sport of climbing, much is left unexplored.
For centuries, the Faroe Islands have been eroded by the rough waves of the north Atlantic sea. The sea stacks remain, and the material is mostly strong and suited for climbing. The access to the sea stacks by boat can be a challenging endeavour and is weather dependent.

Búgvin (188m), the largest true sea stack in the Faroes, was climbed for the first time in 2007 and thereafter Risin – The Giant – in 2008 (71m), Trøllkonufingur – The Troll Finger – in 2010 (313m), Kellingin – The Witch – in 2013 (69m) and Óldin in 2014 (71m). Many sea stacks are yet to be explored.

The Climbing guide

Generally, placing traditional gear is not always easy and demands some experience and a good rack. Friends in all sizes are best suited, but we recommend bringing a few nuts. For the sea stacks, remember to bring 50-60 meter of double rope, extensors and some slings. The Troll Finger and Risin have some bolted aid climbing. As a rule, the sea stacks have some bolts for difficult passages and some anchors; for more description please consult “Førarin” (leinkja).

For sports climbing in Norðadalur, bring a 50-meter-single rope. The longest pitches need 14 quikdraws. The top anchors are made of two bolts. The grading system for sports climbing is French.