Yes Mats. This is definitely worth a blog entry. The tricky thing is just that all blog posts have to be written by hand. There really should be a automation process to it. Such a big effort! Maybe that’s why it took me three month to write this. Three month (I know you were faster)! But there really wasn’t any time whatsoever during the last three month to write a blog post; no no. So as of now, it feels like last year that we drove through a lot of flatland to arrive in Bohus yet again. So how should one possibly write about a thing in such a distant past, barely remembered at all? Well, a first step would be to copy-paste all text found scratched on a worn, torn, and rumpled sheet of paper. It reads:
Svaneberget, Bergkirstis Polska 6-, 35m: “beautiful sweeping line that requires footwork to the top”; “def. not in the trad-mindset yet.”
Hallinden, Prismaster 6-, 55m: “an exceptional climb: a classic for sure”
Hallinden, Fueled on Coffee, Powered by Bakon 7, 25m: “thank god for great granite, and thank god Daniel led this one”
Häller, Chapman 6, 35m: “a great, great climb”
Häller, Djurgårdsfärjan 6, 45m: “Simon led this classic Swedish horror show. Actually was a strange and wonderful cimb, with very unusual moves required. The traverse at the top is also pretty special”
Högberget, Karl Alfred 6-, 25m: “svamp?”
Högberget, Jäger 6+, 25m: “a line, a line, a line. worthy finale of a great trad trip”
(Thank you Sam, you slightly crazy English guy, for pre-thinking most of the comments. Will start my own routebook soon. You’ve got a good point there.)
Second, you quickly upload some pictures found on your hard-drive to the almighty cloud and add them to the blog post; makes for some good and colourful space and doesn’t require a lot of thinking. Go:
Summer retrospect #5: Sea-kayak trip around Gräsö, Uppland, Sweden. At some point towards the end of our magnificent weekend trip, Malin asked: “Now, would that be worth an entry on your blog?”. Yes, Malin, absolutely, I said. Just that it took a few month to publish, but that’s another story (not that complicated of a story, I just never took the ten minutes to upload a small selection of the photos and the nine minutes to write those few words; but, you know, there’s always something else to do).
Reasons why it’s worth a blog entry include:
A weekend of cloudless autumn skies, enjoyed on the open Baltic sea, occasionally splashing its mildly-salted water in our endlessly peaceful faces
The sheer calmness and “remoteness” of the whole endeavour; To start paddling, we first drove to a mildly populated little village, took the ferry over to an even scarcer populated island (Gräsö ), where we drove to the point where the road disappeared into the sea, where we got picked up by a tiny boat that brought us to the next island from where we finally started paddling. That’s how remote it was!
The possibility of actually going for swims, in Sweden, in September, in the sea, and not freeze!
A one-of-a-kind sunset, motivating us all to search for our spirit animal and then try to mimic it, silhouetted.
(a campfire alone should be reason for a blog entry those days)
A mild late-summer night spend on one of a million empty and uninhabited islands
An unbelievable night-sky, and thousands of distant stars doubling in number by being perfectly mirrored on the calm, dark surface of the sea in the bay.
(This point is simply to emphasize the above point, which was unbelievable)
CALMNESS, in absolute terms
The absence of mosquitos (which is a very real plus if one wanders around the little island, closely observing the rims of dried-out ponds; literally, you won’t believe the death toll …)
The joyful exploration of empty islands, see if there are treasures hidden, and outlooks that reminded me of seeing pigme-Lofoten
The hoisting of a flag, which was actually a t-shirt, but saying ‘LIVE SIMPLY’
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’.
Och solens ljus och lundens sus och vågens sorl bland viden förkunna sommartiden.
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.
To make a long story short and to remind you all, in case someone forgot: More chalk, less talk.
People argue that one of the main reasons for Uppsala’s popularity is it’s proximity to Stockholm, the self-proclaimed “Capital of Scandinavia” (though many Uppsalarians would disagree and probably wish for Stockholm to be far, far away). However, it’s definitely great for travel purposes (having Arlanda close) and museums. And, I’m sure, for many more reasons that I haven’t figured out yet. And proximity, that is, for Swedish standards of course; There are still 70km between the two cities (although one also hears arguments, mainly whispering out of the capital city, that consider Uppsala to be a suburb of Stockholm).
Now, when I first heard people talk, back in lovely autumn, that it would actually possible to skate from Uppsala to Stockholm, I first neglected and couldn’t believe it at all. But, consoling multiple sources, I came to the conclusion that this was not a hoax and it is indeed possible, having a good, cold winter, to achieve that. Live and learn – the only sensible thing now as to officially declare the successful action of this to my overall winter-goal while being in Sweden. Challenge was on.
But not for long! Way, way sooner than expected did I find myself in a car heading down to Staden, on a cloudless morning, staring out at mid-Swedish pine trees and a marvelous sunrise. Again, overly lucky to, although still a långfärds-rookie, be part of an experienced crew that made it all possible. What a day; and usually, me having no idea what I’m actually in for, just hoping for the best. And the Best, it turned out to be!
Starting from Hässelby in Stockholm, we found once again perfect ice and this time, even coupled up with perfect wether; A what I found very rare combination indeed. All the better to use this perfect day for the adventure, we could skate almost all the way, except to small passages that have to be walked because of floating water (not good for ice building). The 62km distance were covered in 5h and 1min; Of course, missing the 5h mark so closely can only mean that I will have to do it ALL again. Too bad.
There are the days that you can write an entire book about. This is a story about one of those.
As already noted earlier, one cannot leave his passions behind when moving to a different place on this planet. Well, for rock climbing, compensations can be found on blocks scattered around and about; but then, at some point, inevitably, winter hits the screen and buries even those possibilities in, if lucky, powdery white. What does one do when those conditions occur, normally? Strap the skis on and powder down! But now, this is only really fun when the steepness is exceeds a certain percentage (yes, there is still cross-country, that’s correct). So, problem arising: way too little steepness in southern Sweden to be found. Flat sucks. That’s what I used to think … but wrong!
Flat + lot’s of water + closeness to Baltic sea + sustained long minus temperatures = one of the World’s best spots to: Långfärdsskridskoråkning! Nordic ice skating, that is (took me about a week to be able to pronounce the sport I’m intending to discover) and fun, that is!
After a few lakeside-trainingsessions, some crazy locals (case will be argued), the big day came and the call to head out into Stockholm’s archipelago. Wow, the real sea, the real deal! Previously, I lacked even knowledge that open sea does freeze, except around Antarctica and such places; But here, down in Stockholm? Apparently it does. From now on, the day is bound to teach me one surprising lesson after the other; let’s start to discover:
#1: Ice is significantly bendable. So much that standing upon an ice surface will give you the feeling of being on a boat, exposed to waves. It goes up and down, following the swell; with you standing on top! Now that feeling can’t be put into words properly (although have a close look at Mat’s brilliant video footage of the day, right at the start, to get an impression), but believe me, it’s something else. Seeing the ice you’re skating on doing waves. A totally new face, once again, of that way-too-under-appreciated element of them all: Water.
#2: Ice is even more fascinating than previously dreamed of. Having a perfectly (!) smooth surface, mirroring your undoubtably insignificant shadow on a for Austrian standards endlessly wide, open space … something else.
#3: Skating 40km is easy, having the wind in your back. A new means of transportation altogether; Distance skating, långfärds!
#4: Swans can’t start without water. And are somewhat bigger when on land. The iceberg principle, perhaps. Anyways, we found two of those majestic birds trying desperately to start off and join their loved ones way out in the open water, but they just couldn’t; We all felt pity (probably all except me, I was still too fascinated from everything to actually feel pity) so Frederik and Anders were brave enough to unleash their hunter-and-gatherer skills and attempted to help them survive. What a scene. One could be helped into a bigger pool of water, the other swan resisted successfully. Spotting seven sea eagles on the horizon gave little hope to the creatures. Cruel nature. But: sea eagles!!!
#5: “Just thick enough” means scary. Here comes Mat’s philosophy: “Well, if it holds, it holds, so there’s no actual danger” and “Thick ice is boring”. Also, it has to be pointed out that skating on new ice that just froze overnight makes for some memorable sounds. Tsschhhhhhhhhh. Brr.
#6: Ships are not an ice skater’s friend. Nope, because they break the ice. And that means an abrupt end to your ice skating porn, shells and open water. Now, there are two ways to solve this problem: First, you go way back to where the ship came from; or, if you’re Swedish, you just swim through the ice water. You might go to the nearest island to search for a big tree to support your paddling (but optional). So, Anders and Fredrik told us who’s the Swede in the house and … swam though ice water. Wet, cold, wind and all. Well, couldn’t but conclude: Swedes are crazy. Fullstop.
#7: Sweden actually has a military. Probably wasn’t a good idea to attack the Swedish fleet with my ice pole. After all, lucky to step food on solid ground (even more solid than our ice, that is), the only position possible (see #6) was a Swedish military base. Counting on the status of neutrality and our appearance not too Russian-like, we tried to get back to our car, some way; However, surveillance is king and we were stopped and confronted with an very military-looking general which talked serious about the offense we committed and that apparently, the maximum penalty for our crime is one year in prison. For skating into a military base. I stood back and smiled; Our personal data was collected and we were released; But NEXT time … !
But, best of all: not seeing a single human soul all day. But a fox. And deer. And sea eagles. But no humans; What I take from this implicit observation is that what we’ve done was special. It was especially so for me, a ‘first time’ in many ways, and endless thankfulness to be an unexperienced part of that. Once again, the conclusion can only be: being out there, that’s what counts, that’s what makes you feel alive (according to Mats, multipitch tradskridskor, nails it). And now I know that it doesn’t necessarily need to be in a mountain setting; a frozen archipelago works just as well.
When traveling, moving, or starting a new life, one simply cannot leave his or her passions back home. They are the first thing in the rucksack. Otherwise, they’d disqualify for the notion of ‘a passion’; So, in my case, that was a passion for sharp rocks, and I had to take it all the way up to Sweden.
Arguably, I’ve survived worse; I moved to a place that could justifiably be labeled as ‘the epicenter of flatness’, since there was literally no single rock to be found in a the vicinity of about 1000km. And I’ve moved there twice. But that’s another story – this one is way cooler anyway. Sweden does have some nice mountains; it’s just that they are at about the same distance than Austria is from the sea. However, luckily enough, a few thousand years ago, the last ice age was kind enough to drop a few granite boulders, randomly scattered about.
They say, it has to hurt. Well, it does. That is due to a coule of noticeable features that definitely make climbing up here different from anything I’ve experienced before.
Swedes love to not mind the weather.
There is just no point in doing so. Just climb. Fog, rain, snow, wind, or my yet-favorite svenska word, ‘snöblandat regn’, or particularly a combination of all those factors, that’s what makes it exciting.
Swedes love to burn rocks.
Literally; Sometimes, I’m not too sure if that’s for warming-up-the-stone reasons to prevent your hands from freeze to the hold or if it’s simply a practice to clarify who’s boss here. All love flames!
Swedes love to climb in the dark.
For obvious reasons, a necessity, but for some, as a fetish; They only send when it’s dark. After all, they might be watched. But believe it, there are truly impressive sets of illuminating-equipment out there.
Swedes love to climb feet first.
Well, at least some of them. Others do hands first as well.
But above all, Swedes love to climb. Despite everything. And that’s the spirit right there, you take what you got and better be happy (and book the occasional trip to Spain). Climbing is about being out there, meeting inspiringly motivated people, taking rock over concrete; and jävlar, it is pretty out there. If you can see something.