Osttirol, 2013

Summer retrospect #4: Osttirol, Austria. The paradise next door, finally discovered. Only named ‘Dolomites’ for touristic reasons (you could do that back in the day), nevertheless impressive on an equal scale for long and slightly scary high-altitude climbs. Will be back. Pictures:

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Briançon, 2013

Summer retrospective #3: Briançon, Hautes-Alpes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France. Pretty sure it’s one of Europe’s most diverse climbing places, especially when it comes to long, bolted multi-pitch climbs. There’s just everything a climber’s heart desires. Fullstop. (And good weather.) Pictures:

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Schwiiz, 2013

Summer retrospective #2: Bergell, Switzerland. Now, there could lots to be said about this small country lost in the middle of the Alps, we all heard the stories; But this time, it’s just going to be a few pictures speaking. And maybe a note that this all-too-neat little neighbouring country was for some reason sadly under-visited thus far. May also be connected to the second small point I’m going to make here, which is that one night on the hut pictures below was significantly more pricey that ten days of camping in France. Well. Bergell:

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Most Magic Islands

Writing about this adventure now seems almost like a retrospective; Looking back at one of those amazing trips, back in the day; one of those trips that, whenever thinking of it, makes you smile, remember, daydream … but then, it took place just a few months ago. At the beginning of what turned out to be a very long, short summer. When many great things happen in a short period of time, one is advised to just sit back and re-think, at some point. I guess this point is now. What happened? Facts: I ended up in northern Norway, trad climbing, day and night (or rather, only days, because nights tend to not exist in that latitude), even catching a fish.

Both those occurrences seemed highly suspicious, had anyone asked me a year ago. Climbing, in Norway?! Must be terribly cold and wet. Catching a fish? Me? Never. Poor thing. But as always in this random array of things called life, happenings line up and lead to a beautifully unpredictable outcome. To kick things off, I, randomly, received the (highly entertaining) guidebook Lofoten Rock as a happy-birthday present, utterly unexpectedly so, but browsing through it uncovered some apparently neat rock buttresses. Then I first looked that place up on an electronic map and concluded it was damn far way, far away by any standards. And well, a bit less randomly but still, I moved to Sweden, and all of a sudden, Norway was just a ‘stone-throw’ away; or at least a neighboring country. And Lofoten a mere 1300km from here, bah, nothing! Set into relation, that is.

Since Norway is about the most expensive place on this planet and climbers notoriously poor, we loaded the car of partner-in-climb-crime, Dragos, ’till the rim with food, ropes, traditional climbing equipment, a fishing rod, and more some more food. A few energy drinks, even, foreseeng the events to come. Then we started driving. And drove. And drove. Pretty much straight, with some minor up’s and down’s, for about 800 kilometers, then turn left, and cruised for another 650 kilometers. Some mere 20 hours of driving, and we were there: The Magic Islands, as they are called in tourist catalogues.

Now, I am not a particular friend of things ‘magic’ or ‘surreal’ or ‘unglaublich’, but what offered itself over the next couple of days was indeed (I almost hate to admit) magical. An ever-present part of the given ‘magic’ was found in the latitudinal positioning of our geophysical location, being so far north that the sun actually never (ever!) touched that horizon but instead presenting a multiple-hour-long intermixed sunset/sunrise symphony. We seldom had dinner before 2 a.m., dangerously following our central-european climbing attitude of being back in safety *just* before dark; So, without dark, we simply didn’t get back at all. Really, one ends up with a somewhat jetlagged feeling in the first few days.Almost, it lead me to question reality-as-it-is-known altogether, because how can there be such a place featuring designed-like landscapes full of fjords, mountains, lakes, the most entertaining dwarf-plants, eagles, and always this one red house, this one boat, perfectly embedded within it. At any point did we expect a full-grown Hobbit to cross our path, saying hello, and moving on. Or a unicorn, for that matter. We would have not at all been surprised; it just seemed the most logical thing to happen in this setting. Almost a religious experience, the presented landscape; The Promised Land! But consequently, in fact, since taking climbing trips is my current religion … ohh I seem to get carried away here, I’d rather stop.

Now all those words for (insufficiently of course, since words can never come true to the feeling, or at least, my words can’t) describing the mere setting, the context, the surrounding for the action that we came to seek here: squeezing and interlocking our taped-up hands and feet into perfectly-sized rock cracks of delightful granite (some call it climbing). This also deserves some fair mentioning. Climbing in Lofoten! Yes, that’s what we came for … and rightly so. Definitely one of the best places to trad-climb in Europe, the granite here is sheer perfect and, combined with the setting, makes for an unbeatable experience. Some of the most mentionable lines we did include the famous Vestpillaren on Presten (6/E2 5b, a 500m 10-pitch trad-climbing orgasm, still considering to entitle it with ‘the best route I’ve ever climbed’), Månedans (6+/E3 5c, what felt to the point being the most complex and horribly breathtaking trad lead I’ve ever done), Svenske Diedret (6+), Lundeklubben (6), Gamle Rev (6), Gandalf (5), and the nothing-but-enjoyable Bare Blåbær (5-). Also, randomly and most cheerfully joined by our two-and-a-half (adventure) women, Birte, Kathi, and (adventure) dog Watson, we summited the historical Svolværgeita, The Goat, to jump its horns. And yes, bolts are very rare up here, but when Norwegians put all that effort in drilling some holes into the rock, it’d better be worth it. Being vivid sportclimbers by nature, we of course had to check it out, and yes, the routes we found in Eggum were nothing but ingenious. Good days.

After assuring that the weather forecast would assure us good weather for our grand finale on the way home, climbing the South Pillar of Norway’s national mountain, Stetind, we headed straight there and, well got stuck in rain for two straight days. But I guess you can’t be lucky all the time, at least we could see the summit for a full ten seconds in those two days of desperately camping at the base of the mountain, which was enough to bound us for coming back to this place. And doing the summit; never been so stunned to climb a peak than this one.

All in all, I can claim that this was definitely one of my most memorable climbing trips of all time and more than worth the distant travel. Never seen so much natural beauty (I am aware that, during the last years, I’ve made that claim more than only once, but always with profound honesty, referring to the most beautiful place so far; however, northern Norway beats them all, in my very subjective opinion), never enjoyed such a density of great trad-lines, never had so much sun per day (can’t beat 24h). This is paradise.
(Have I said that before? Possibly. But in my religion, there exist multiple paradises, just that you know. And out. Pictures:)

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Swedish Spring Magic

I’ll excuse myself for my overly flattering choice of words here, but the arrival of spring up here in Sweden was something truly magical. This article in DIE ZEIT talkes, in my opinion, a little too close to the surface about the current unrests in some suburbs of Stockholm, but what the author did nail is this: There are winter swedes, and there are summer swedes. Very true that is, and during the last few weeks, the summer swedes were awaking. The magical thing about the whole story is the motivation that was to be felt crisping through  midair, everybody seemed all of a sudden motivated to do everything.

What that ment with my chosen circle of friends was this: We went climbing a whole lot. Basically, a different trip to a different part of the country every week for the last few; a great way to explore! However, since Sweden is still massively big, it also met a lot of driving, in all directions. So we got to see various areas and cliffs and campfire spots around Stockholm, Nyköping, Sundsvall (east coast), and most notably, Bohuslän (the glorious west/wet coast). Now this is what I would call the first proper climbing destination is a sense that there is an entire guide book about it and it offers some the most solid granite I’ve ever touched. And it’s (almost) all trad. So we had to gear up big time, I threw in my nine colorful stoppers and accompanied by Mats’ and Daniel’s roughly 183 camalots and 281 stoppers (plus various other scary-looking tools that you have never heard or dreamt of), we were good to go to tackle some cracks. Jammin’.

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Och solens ljus
och lundens sus
och vågens sorl bland viden
förkunna sommartiden.

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Catalunya is not Patagonia

The only reason for this title is a subtle reminder to, next time, bring a 100m rope and climb that route. Looks amazing. But also, the title holds a lot of truth, as Catalunya has arguably less wind and is more renown for its high quality red wine. Both facts contribute towards a very enjoyable holiday, and the fact that you’ll find more world-class sport climbing crags than in any other area of comparable size anywhere else, well that too (of course, that depends on your subjective definition of enjoyment, but it very well suits mine).

So, finally, after all those years of dreaming about it, reading about it, seeing movies about it, having people telling me about it, finally, tickets to Barcelona were purchased. Also, a very welcome change to the Swedish weather: If spring does not come to us, we come to spring! And spring it indeed turned out to be, the feeling of warming sun rays on your naked arms is something very well appreciated, once having lived through a Nordic winter (in fact, within a day I managed to get the first sun-burn on my forearms ever, which tells you even more about the Nordic winter).

Starting out with an all-day private tour-guide trough Barcelona and very welcome taste-introductions of clara and the legendary pam tomacat (excuse my spelling, but I’m too lazy to searchengine it right now), we soon got a bit overwhelmed by all this exciting urban things to explore and people and cars and AAAH so much concrete! so we fled to first have a look at legendary Mont Serrat and after that, to the province of Lleida to meet up with our international climbing crew in St. Llorenç de Montgai, known for it’s most famous resident, Chris Sharma (in certain circles, that is). We thought we’d check the rock quality too, just to be sure, and ventured from one paradise cliff to the next; We now can all approve Chris Sharma’s decision to move here and in fact, should just do the same. But then, there is so much more to explore and after a week of bungalow-luxury, we shortly laughed at our international climbing friend’s decision to go back to Sweden and ventured on South, geared with the little orange tent and lots of motivation. Tarragona houses some of those spots like ‘Siurana’ or ‘Margalef’ or ‘Mont Sant’. In short, every single of those places features some 1000+ climbing routes of unimaginable beauty, so after climbing a few of them, one simply has to move on to be completely overwhelmed by the next area, the next day.

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One thing that has to be further noted is that in all likelihood  the secret to climb 8b is to get a camping van, VW style. Because simply everyone down there seems to have one of those vans, and simply everyone seems to climb superhard, too. Direct correlation. So, dear father christmas, please a VW bus, next time. Thanks. For one thing is certain: That wasn’t the last time in Patagonia äääh Catalunya.

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Exploring Sweden, vertical this time

Days start to show first signs of actual daylight again, which is an unmistakable sign for: Spring is knocking! And of course, the winter was hard, implying that everyone who dedicated her life to touching as many rocks as possible is now super-psyched to get out again & rockin’. Some happenings:

A few weeks ago, an international expedition (Romania, Germany, Spain, Austria) headed up North, mere 300km towards Sundsvall, to take on the challenge of working some ice, vertical this time. The fact that I used to ride my bike for 3km to get to a bigger waterfall should not influence the greatness of the weekend. Hey, ice climbing in Sweden, how’d thought that? To make things more exciting, Team Austria quickly realized that it had, brilliantly, forgotten to pack a harness (see, that’s what Sweden does to me!) and had thus to climb in painful slings. Live and learn.

After that, the Swedish weather goddess seemed to finally show signs of a guilty conscience after weeks of pure dark- and greyness and tried to make up for that by blessing us with two weekends of cloudless (!) sunshine. She better did. So what inevitably followed were strong signs of spring depression amongst all of the Uppsala climbing community (read: we really really can’t be inside today; we really really need to absorb that sunshine right now; all of it;) and thus a bouldering-climbing hype. Season starts in March, apparently.

Apart from the usual bouldering sessions at Källberga, there were to incidents of actually clipping rope through quickdraws: A magnificent day at the trad-climbing crag Runsa, featuring the ultra-classic Vampiren and my first-ever approach that involved walking over a frozen sea. What to add to that. Finally, last weekend featured both brilliant ice skating (långfärdsskridskor), winter campfire (grillkorv!) and sport climbing at Fjärdhundra. An impressive 15 meters tall, it was enough to get us pumped half way up. Usch.

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To make a long story short and to remind you all, in case someone forgot: More chalk, less talk.

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