Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Lofoten, part 2 - Climbing, Days 4-6


Day 4. Another rainy day.
After camping for three days below the Gandalf wall, we moved our camp to Kalle beach and went straight for a climb at Myggapillaren. It’s a very beautiful place and the walls look quite dramatic. 

The midnight butterfly (N6 etc.) - The climb we chose had 3 stars in the guidebook and a vague description for the starting moves. Ilona said she wouldn’t like to start. More out of a team spirit rather than out of stoke, I said I’ll start; racked up and hopped onto a slabby, almost hold-less wall. I had to traverse on that slab for about 2 meters up and right to reach the first crack and put some pro. The ground was muddy, I wasn’t warmed up and felt shaky. Ilona spotted me behind as I made the first unconfident attempt of the traverse...and fell down to the ground from about 3 meters up. Woooooo, that was quite a flight. "Okay", I thought, "let’s try to put some pro into this crack from the ground!" Ilona stepped on her tiptoes and jammed a tiny nut as best as she could from where she were. "Bomber!" - I said, and repeated my traverse attempt, this time not being spotted, but clipped. But having a pro didn’t quite improve my head game and my second attempt was even less confident and yes, I repeated the fall. The nut popped. I fell all the way onto my back, the grass cushioned the fall. I wasn’t keen on trying any more. Ilona was spooked seeing my flying twice, so wasn’t excited to try either and we bailed. 10 minutes into our hike back to the camp it started raining. Fab.

Waiting for the rain to stop, we went to Svolvaer just for fun and came back again around 6 pm, when the clouds disappeared and Kalle beach was drying in the evening sun. The perfect crack seen from the campsite, Puffriset, was unoccupied by anyone. Unbelievable! - thought we and ran to the base.

Puffriset (N5, N5+, N6, N5-) - I led the 1st and the 3rd pitches and quite enjoyed them, Ilona led the classy pitch 2, a really sweet hand and fist crack. The crux pitch is pitch 3 which has more and less scary variations, both of which go at N6. I chose the less scary but not a less fun and committing one. It’s a long-ish slab without any protection. Spooky, but very enjoyable, teased my nerves just a little. Super cool climb.


[Day 5. Geitvika + Festvåg again -->]
[Day 6 - An EPIC FAIL day. -->]



Since the previous day was kinda short due to weather, we felt a bit rested and Ilona felt super strong :-)The sun was shining brightly and she proposed to do Pan, another N7- climb up at the Coast, a sea-side wall overlooking Henningsvaer. It turned out to be an excellent idea.

Pan (N5, N7-, N7-, N5-) is a fantastic climb: both N7- pitches are sustained, interesting and challenging enough. Ilona onsighted both of them, I was happy to follow both of them clean. The first pitch is short and easy, good warm up before the crux pitch. The crux pitch starts with a finger crack: one has a choice of footholes though and could either jam the toes or use some tiny feet on the face of the wall. The crux is right at the top below the belay stance: you get to an overhang, where you can balance, spread your feet and rest your hands. Getting over the bulge is tricky: there’s a great handhold in the crack above your head, but as soon as you get there, you stop seeing your feet. So marking footholes and being precise with your feet before getting over the bulge is the key. Than you have to push yourself up, match both hands on a small crimp (or use it for the left - me & Ilona had different beta’s) and lock hard to get your feet over and stretch far to better handholds on the right. It’s really powerful and feels quite satisfying to finish the climb like that and being able to breath out at the belay. Pitch 3 is a bit easier: handcrack with a mix of good holds. The final pitch is a cruiser. And the view from the top is amazing.

Pan was my second favorite route of that trip after Vestpillaren Direct, so really recommendable. Actually we met a funny Canadian dude later that day, who spent in Lofoten a few months climbing and Pan was one of his top picks on the island (along with on Presten - a to-do for the next time).

After finishing Pan, we decided to walk a bit further, back to Festvåg, where we climbed on our second day. 

Luksusdyret (N5, N6, N5) - We spotted that line a few days back, when we climbed Lundeklubben right next to it. Ilona started and I led the rest, but I didn’t have enough gear and got a bit lost on the way, so ended up splitting the second and the last pitch in four separate parts. The crux - getting past the roof cracks - was really fun.

Finally, on the way from Luksusdyret we hopped on the route, which we passed by a few times by then, Skiloperen (N6-). It’s a really beautiful line, hand-to-fist size crack, fun and easy: on both sides and inside the crack there are some hidden jugs for those, who aren’t keen on jamming (who are these people anyway?! haha). This climb made a brilliant finish for a good day.


Yeah, the last day was a ‘type two’ fun day: it was not amusing, when it was all happening, but it’s actually hilarious to think about it now.
Rockfax guidebook (which is an okay guidebook I guess, but well… not without its own flaws) has star ratings for the routes, and generally one can trust it. Many of the routes we climbed on that trip were top 50 or three stars routes. So when I spotted Vågarisset, a route which the guidebook describes as ‘striking’, an N6 line with three stars right by the Kalle beach (or so we thought), we decided that it’s going to be our last adventure on that trip. And it was quite an adventure indeed. 

First of all, you could see the ‘striking’ crack from the beach, but it looks reeeeeeeally far up the wall. The guidebook promises 40 minute approach and has a very vaguely drawn line of the path. We lost the path right at the beginning, an hour later we lost any hope to find it again and were navigating simply by the view of the crack. The wall is above a very steep foresty area, so as soon as we got inside the jungly bit, we totally lost orientation. We scrambled up with huge difficulty, trees and bushes were catching on our ropes, we soloed some sketchy ~5b-ish boulders on the way up, getting more and more frustrated and scared as there was no good way back without breaking a neck. Finally after 2.5h (!!!) we got to the bottom of the climb. Totally devastated, tired and unhappy. It was also damn hot.

Looked up on Vågarisset and the ‘striking’ crack felt intimidating and too wide. So we decided we don’t have enough gear to protect it (left #4 at home on that day!), so the next best thing was to climb the route next to it, Zig Zag. One star, if you care.

Climbing is fun, right? Right. So I hopped to lead the first pitch and it was a shitshow. Tricky finger crack at the start, than easy bit and than the crack becomes too shallow to use or to pro, so one should traverse to the right, into the corner of the next wall. Took me a while to commit to that traverse. Wasn’t hard, but after all of the stuff which happened over the past few hours, my brain was drained. When I finally was at the ledge, about 40 meters up after about 45 minutes of climbing, exhausted and dehydrated, I had to spend ages to figure out a solid anchor with the leftover gear I had.

Ilona traversed the next pitch and when I followed, she shouted: do you see the weird sling? And I did. She said: That’s someone’s bail sling. Me: Cool. Wanna bail? She: You? Me: I’d love to. She: And you haven’t even seen the next pitch, it’s a freaking chimney, it looks shit. Me: Brilliant, let’s bail! And so we did.

Getting down from the second pitch to the base and than one more abseil to as low as we could took us about an hour. We were super tired from the heat, stress and probably from all the accumulated climbing exhaustion. But the end was still far. The descend down to the coast was about ~45 minutes: easier, than up as you could see the sea from everywhere, but still super steep and sketchy. We didn’t talk much. As soon as we got to the sea, we silently stripped off and dipped into the cold salty water. Sooooo goooood. Okay, feeling a bit more like humans now. We sat, ate the rest of our snacks, drank the rest of water, dipped into the sea again, discussed what happened, laughed a bit and decided to hike back to the camp. It was about 2 pm.

The hike took us another 1.5h. Freaking boulders: too tall! You get to the top thinking you can just hop from one to the other, but then there’s no way and you have to go back and around and than there’s suddenly sea or jungles again. F*cking hell that approach and descend. Just pure nightmare. Although it might be a mix of poor directions, exhausted minds and tired bodies. We got back to the tent around 5 pm, drained. 

A mental note to my future self: ‘We can see the climb from here!’ is not a good measure of distance. But hey! Now I know how to bail from the route, when I can’t climb it. 


Overall, Lofoten was a blast. Really good quality of routes, fun lines, amazing place to learn and advance in crack and trad climbing. If one is lucky with the weather, there isn’t really much which can go wrong: a lot of great rock, beautiful routes at all grades, 24h of daylight and wildcamping make the trip pure joy. One week is way too short though, so definitely coming back there for longer and maybe once I’m a bit stronger ;)

[part 3 with the beta on how to travel there and around is coming soon!]

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