Mountain pollution - Friday photo #237

Friday Photo #237 – Ryten Poop

Mountain pollution - Friday photo #237

Photo: Pile of human faces and toilet paper under a rock on the summit of Ryten, Moskenesøy, Lofoten Islands, Norway. July 5, 2017. 22:44

This weeks photo is literally shit, in more ways than one. First, it is a photo from my phone, so apologies for the quality. Second, it is a pile of poop and toilet paper, left in the open save for a small stone placed on top. How nice!

This was a few meters from the summit of Ryten, where I was with a client a couple weeks back. I was looking for a nice steady rock to put my tripod on and then I came across this lovely sight. There were also other areas as well, unfortunately.

This is completely unacceptable mountain behaviour and is not something that should be seen on Lofoten!

I guess this has to be another one of my annual ‘tourists behaving badly’ articles. Unfortunately this year seems even worse than the last.

I am bringing attention to this this week, as in the last days there has been a series of articles about poor behavior from tourists in the local news. See:
NRK article 1
NRK article 2
NRK article 3
NRK article 4


With the final one titled: We must turn our marketing away from Lofoten. This is coming from one of Norway’s biggest tourism agencies. A sad state of affairs. But now that the people are here, something needs to be done.

As I now hike the mountains here on a weekly basis, I can see the damage being done. For some trails that I might not have visited for a while, I am shocked at the amount of new erosion and spreading of what might have been a single trail into multiple ways, all attempting to avoid the erosion of the last path. And I myself, and this website, are also part of the problem.

The chief example of this on Lofoten is Reinebringen. The trail has now officially been closed by Moskenes Kommune. But the wording of the signs are unclear, and without proper direction; making it seem more like a suggestion that they hope you listen to. And so hundreds of people still hike this dangerous route daily; just this week there is an article that 7000 people have gone up the supposedly closed mountain in the last month alone. The highest amount of traffic ever.

A friend of mine recently contacted the mayor of Moskenes, suggesting stronger wording might be needed, she was told that the sign was good enough. Well, obviously not!

More funding has been raised to continue work on the trail, but realistically, I would be surprised so see if finished by summer 2020.

Which leads me to the typical situation on Lofoten: There are complaints about too many tourists and not enough facilities, but it always seems up to someone else to find a solution. This is due to a myriad of reasons from funding (the Norwegian government wont allow implementation of any sort of ‘tourist tax’), to who actually has the authority/responsibility to do something.

From the outside world, Lofoten is one place. Lofoten. For Lofoten however, there is Moskenes, Flakstad, Vestvågøy, Austvågøy, Leknes and Svolvær, Statens Vegvessen and private land owners, plus numerous organizations. Often, it seems they try and shift the responsibility of providing any necessary infrastructure onto someone/something else. And so nothing will be done this year, next year, or the decade to come. The nature will be polluted further, tourists will be blamed, and next summer the same articles will appear in the local newspapers and I will type another one of these articles, reminding you to behave properly.

There was supposed to have been an expansion of the parking area at Kvalvika made after lasts years chaos. It wasn’t. They are now attempting to direct visitors the parking area at the school in Fredvang, which is good! However, this is 3.5km down the road from the traditional parking area at Torsfjord, more than doubling the distance of the hike. And so what happens? People still illegally park along the road, same as last summer where I wrote about it in Friday Photo #187.

I saw a comment on Facebook today that someone counted over 60 tents at Kvalvika one night this week. 60 tents is probably around 100 people, just on a single night. All without a toilet! And that is not even counting all the day hikers. No wonder there are piles of shit to be found next to almost every rock and tree. How long can this rate of usage continue on before Kvalvika, and many other locations, become toxic dumps of faces and toilet paper?

I have been attempting to talk with some people and bring a bit of my perspective as an American, and what we have done to help protect some of our more fragile mountain areas. But I am also aware that I’m an outsider in an old and well established community, and my input, though possibly useful, might not always be welcome. However, I chose to make these Islands my home because I love them more than any place else in the world. And their future is also mine now. So I hope things can be improved for the benefit of all.

Nature is fragile here in the north. And so it is up to all of us to help keep in clean and minimize our impact.

For more information about how to behave in the outdoors on Lofoten: Download the Lofoten Code of Conduct

For a list of local toilets and waste disposal locations, see: Clean Up Lofoten Map

Camera Info:

3 replies
  1. Adinda says:

    Hi Cody,

    I have been in Norway for the last week and heard about it on the Norwegian radio as well (Norwegian is somewhat understandable for a Dutch person). Last year I visited the Lofoten in June and had a great and peacefull time hiking your recommended 3-beachhikes in a row, thank you for that. I did the northern Kungsleden last week, also using your website btw:). (It was, however very very wet) Arriving af the Lofoten yesterday, I was a bit shocked by the heaps of tourist everywhere and now reading that there where 60!!!! Tents at Kvalvika makes me rethink my plans to revisit. What I wanted to note is that during my hike in Kungsleden and up to Festvagtinden and Mannen the last few days, a lot of people I talked to, used your website as a guide. In other words, a lot of us are in these places because of your well written descriptions and photography. That said, I haven’t read any description of mountain etiquette concerning human waste on your website. As a conscious traveler I have once found the leave no trace rules myself, but I imagine that a lot of tourists do not even realize that they are doing something wrong. One guy on Kungsleden told me paper was biodegradable (so it was ok people leave it everywhere?) and he had never heard of the bag-it method and found me quite rediculous for even mentioning it. I have seen the code of conduct, but I think it’s quite short and maybe not explicit enough.
    What I want to suggest to you, since I have now fallen in love with these islands and would really be hard broken if it went to shit (…literally), is that you could maybe write a main explanatory article about (human) waste disposal and methods and link it in your pages on each of the different sights you describe. I fear a lot of people only read these particular sight-posts and so you do not actually reach them with this particular blogpost. I think you would probably be able to target the most tourists that visit these overcrowded trails and sights.
    All this aside, I really hope we as tourists and the locals of Lofoten can figure this out, because I have thoroughly enjoyed the last two days, even in the crowds. (This weather,huh?:))
    Thank you so much for all your nice writing and photography and keep up the good work! 🙂

  2. Katharina says:

    Hej Cody,
    thanks for sharing your experiences with the increasing tourism on the Lofoten Islands. We have been on the Lofoten the last 7 years as hiking guides and there are big changes in the conditions of the trails, garbage, traffic…So I really hope that there will be soon a strategi for a sustainable development of the Lofoten Islands. To stop the marketing is a good idea but definitely too late – now the tourists will come, more and more and if there won´t be a good strategi soon the Lofoten Islands might not be as beautiful as they are in some years!

  3. Elizabeth says:

    This makes me so sad and yet I’m in the middle of planning my family vacation for next month and was planning specifically to visit the Lofoten Islands. More people have more resources and are able to visit more places and the strain is felt everywhere tourism occurs, but I’m sure more profoundly in places that didn’t previously have a crush of tourists. We are avoiding the Norway in a Nutshell routing just to find some solitude in nature. People need to be responsible tourists and tread lightly upon the places they visit. Maybe some additional education for folks not only from your website, but the tourist websites about how to leave a smaller footprint? Maybe start volunteering, or providing content that can be disseminated per above suggestion?


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