Caught Upon the Goat Horns of a Dilemma

Fløyfjellet stands like a watchful troll over the town of Svolvær; its mighty presence sometimes benevolent; sometimes less so, depending on the weather conditions; protective one minute; threatening the next.  At 569 metres, it is one of the most popular climbing peaks in the Lofoten archipelago.

The most recognisable feature of Fløyfjellet is Svolværgeita ––The Goat––named because at the summit of this 150-high rock pillar are two distinct ‘horns’––Storhorn and Lillehorn, or Big Horn and Little Horn––separated by a 1.5-metre gap.

The ascent of Svolværgeita is not for the faint-hearted.  The summit was only reached for the first time at the relatively late date of 1910.

Of course, in typical mountaineering tradition, once a summit has been achieved a greater challenge is required.  Nowadays, that challenge has taken the form of leaping from the top of Storhorn to the top of Lillehorn.  As if the prospect of imminent death by plummeting from a near vertical rock pinnacle isn’t already terrifying enough, the leap across The Goat’s Horns has been made even more challenging since 2008, when a sizeable chunk of Lillehorn broke away, reducing the effective size of the landing platform.

Several climbers were prominent on Svolværgeita on the day I visited.  I could sense their dilemma.  It was palpable.  Shall I stay; or shall I jump?  1.5 metres.  What’s 1.5 metres?  It’s not so very far; it’s the inconceivably long distance between life and death.

In the best/worst tradition, a compromise was found.  Not a jump; instead a straddle.  Not so elegant, but marginally safer.

Personally, I think it is madness to be up there in the first place.

© E. C. Glendenny


E. C. Glendenny is a great believer in taking a leap of faith.

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