I’m reading You Will Know Our Velocity right now. It’s hilarious and depressing at the same time like all Dave Eggers’ books. I’m almost done and I’m dreading being finished with it because I don’t have a replacement paperback to bring to Greenland! Shiza! Since my last post, we’ve finished listening to Freedom by Johnathan Franzen on MP3 and despite what our friend Dr David Mejour says, I think it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, or listened to on MP3. Not quite as good as The Corrections maybe, but still phenomenal. Some parts were a little graphic and brutal and maybe a little awkward to listen to with others… but thoroughly entertaining and captivating. We also listened to Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. Keith Ladzinski and Audrey Sneizek recommended I read this mammoth novel a couple months ago and wow, so good! These audiobooks saved some seriously boring drives and some long periods waiting out the rain in the tent. Let me start from where I left off last time… Jesus I’ve had way too much coffee this morning.
We had a couple more days in Trondheim after my last post. I unfortunately did not send Hell’s hardest route, Flykræsj, on our next day back there before leaving Trondheim, and also unfortunately, Adam Onsight didn’t manage to onsight it either (but he did manage to onsight The Eye of Odin… I’m no longer surprised, but I’m still very, very impressed). I blame the hot temps for both of our failures on Flykræsj. The hot temp combined with the delicate crimp moves at the top is not a recipe for success on Flykræsj. BUT, despite the heat Trine managed to send her first 7b, The Classic!!! Super proud! We left Trondheim for Vingsand with a sense of completion, having cleaned up some projects and cleaned Trine’s apartment, ready for it’s next residents.
Flykræsj and the steepest part of Hell
Vingsand is probably Norway’s best bouldering area (even though climbers from Trømso swear that the bouldering up there is even better, as do the climbers in Stavanger think their rocks are the best…). Vingsand is fairly condensed, the rock quality is superb, the lines are obvious and long or tall and the views are spectacular. You can see the ocean from almost any problem in the area, and the ocean is shockingly beautiful. I visited Vingsand in September last year for three days and managed to send Nalle’s problem The Diamond on that trip, which could be one of the most spectacular granite problems I’ve ever done. On this trip, knowing we only had two consecutive days, I didn’t have much of an agenda, other than to try this undone power-endurance line out the cave at an area called Langveggen (long wall).
Langveggen and our campsite and Vingsand
On our first day in Vingsand we first went to a cave near the town before Vingsand, home of a link-up problem called Origins. The cave itself was a little un-spectacular- it was a weird, multi-tiered thing with roofs and un-even landings and most of the problems, other than the highball Origins, didn’t top out and didn’t have very obvious starting positions. Origins though, started sitting with underclings and climbed out the tallest, steepest part of the cave. If featured a hard section at the bottom, easy climbing in the middle, then a scary and powerful outro section. The start had a few really powerful moves on bad holds supported by hard-to-see feet. I decided to work the top half of the problem first, knowing that if I had it wired I could probably send the whole thing if I got through the bottom. I figured out the top of the problem pretty quickly after wussing out a few times and dropping off, but the bottom gave me more trouble. It took me about an hour to figure out the moves and by the time I figured it out, it was getting hot and the base of the problem was in the sun… but I gave all I had in one try and managed to link the whole shabang. I’ve heard that the whole problem only gets 8a, but for me it felt closer to hard 8a+… but maybe it just wasn’t my style. 8a into 7c? Something like that…
After Origins we made our way over to Langveggen. It was nice and windy and cold. Perfect conditions, but I felt worked. I scarfed down some food and had a little re-warm-up and felt better. I started trying the project and the moves came together pretty quickly. After only about an hour I was ready for some red-point burns… I’ll just call them red-point burns since the ‘boulder problem’ is 35 moves and 20 meters long. I fell once just before the crux, but I still had some skin left, and some energy, and it wasn’t about to get dark at 8:30… I had all the daylight in the world left! I gave it one more try, fought my way through the crux, through the easier traverse moves in the middle, and through the V10 crux 2/3 of the way through and hung on to the top! FA!!! Haha. It was windy and thrilling and we were all alone out there, and the problem is really good! I think it’s probably like 8B boulder, or 8c/+ route.
The wanm-up, and powerful moves at the bottom
The V10 redpoint curx
Easier moves at the top
The next day we went back to Langveggen so Trine could try the classic 7a or 7b on the far left. I lounged and listened to music through the Goal 0 speaker, which omits super-high quality sound! I highly suggest you get one for some solo bouldering sessions, as long as you don’t play metallica or AC/DC while I’m around.
Trine did the line in two sections but didn’t have the endurance to put it together so we bounced to the Lynx cave. Lynx is a super-classic ‘8a’ roof problem on sculpted, smooth, incut crimps. I fondeled, visualized, booted up and flashed the rig! Amazing line! 8a though? Pitty it doesn’t have a top out… Phil would be super into it. I also tried the infamous project to the right of Lynx and I was almost strong enough to do the moves. I cold see it going down if I trained for a month at I Bygget on those types of crimps, but again, no top-out. Bummer sauce.
The drive from Vingsand to Lofoten was incredible. You have never seen so many shades of green, have never seen so many happy sheep, have never seen so many rainclouds cut with so many sun rays and so many comically shaped peaks. Then you cross into the Arctic Circle, which doesn’t seem like a totally arbitrary boundary, because the landscape goes from lush forests to higher-altitude, rocky tundra sounded by craggy mountains. The Arctic circle! We bivied next to a wide river an hour before Bognes, woke up in the morning and drove to the wrong ferry at Skutvik (stupid GMaps!) which didn’t leave for 6 more hours, so we drove the 45 minutes back to the ferry at Bognes and were on it, moroting towards Lofoten an hour later! We saw Norway’s most famous mountain, the one we tentatively planned on climbing, Stetind, from the ferry. An hour after that we were off the ferry and driving through Lofoten. It’s like, if someone put Tuolumne meadows on top of the Catalina islands and made them four times as long… it’s so gorgeous it looks fake. We made it to Henningsvær with enough energy to put up the tent, make dinner, then crash hard.
On our first day we did some trad cragging at the Pianokrakken and Trine realized that she just wasn’t meant to be a trad climber… it’s not for everyone. At Pianokrakken I linked the first two pitches of Soria Moria together into one pitch for an onsight of the entire route. It felt super desperate for Norwegian grade 7+, which I think translates into French grade 7a, but to me it felt more like 7b or even 7b+, even with the pitons I clipped through the cruxes… superb route though! Despite Trine’s lack of enthusiasm for trad climbing, we did Lofoten’s most popular multi-pitch trad route, Vestpillaren on The Priest the next day. It’s Norwegian grade 6, which is 6a+, and is well protected, but like all mutipitch trad, I think it’s a safer undertaking if you’re solid at the grade. It took us a good ten hours to climb the route’s 12 pitches and hike back down. I linked pitches where I could but we stopped frequently. Trine had one short day of experience dealing with trad gear, so it was understandably slow going on the follow, but we left no pieces behind! At the top I had a bit of a scare when I link the route’s last two pitches with a variation out right, and ended up placing only one blue TCU in about 50 meters of climbing… fortunately it was easy climbing, but quite frightening at the end. We topped out and our friends Sanna and Yngve were waiting for us on the summit, and the view was incredible! Too bad I didn’t bring my phone and/or camera. And thanks to my extra-comfy size 41.5 TC Pros, my feet have never felt better after 12 pitches of slabby cracks. Those shoes really are amazing! Trine’s feet were in a really old and soft pair of Anasazi Velcros and while they are high-performance shoes, maybe a snug, soft-fitting pair isn’t the best choice for multi-pitch trad…
Hanging in the midnight sun after the Priest!
The next day we rested and bathed for the first time in four or five days and then it rained for three days straight. We went to an overhanging sport crag called Eggum for a day of soggy bolt clipping which was fun but the crags hardest route was seeping from every crack. We camped below Eggum for three nights in a beautiful location, listened to Pillars of the Earth and ate a lot, but the wind-blown drizzle was unrelenting despite the yr.no’s original promises of sunshine. On a day that we were sure would clear the clouds away, we drove out to Helt Rå Stein (totally awesome rock), home of the old Ben Moon project that Nalle sent called Rough Gem. It was still drizzling. We slogged out to the boulder and my shoes were soaked and the problem looked amazing but impossible for me in those conditions and after three days of in activity. We bailed. We drank coffee at a cheesy café inside a shopping mall and used the internet for the first time in a week and after checking the forecast (more rain every day), we made up our minds to leave Lofoten, leave Norway and go to Southern France, to… drum-roll please… yes, to Ceuse. Fucking Ceuse. I think I said last time I left Ceuse, “I’m never coming back here”, but there we were, tickets bought and car rental reserved and plans ironed out. Fucking Ceuse.
We had one more day of climbing on Lofoten, in a ridiculously beautiful oceanside area called Kalle. The area’s main feature, Storpillaren (the big pillar), looks like the sierra neveda’s Incredible Hulk dropped on top of a mountain in Hawaii. It’s so striking it’s almost hard to look at, and there are unclimbed aid lines on it… I was drooling when we walked by it. We tried to hike up the steep hill to the classic-looking two pitch off-width Vågarisset (the Daring Crack), but it was an epic approach through bush-chocked gullies and across almost blank slabs and I was wearing rain boots and it was hot and we ended up turning back 100 meters from the base. Then Trine’s sweater fell out of the top of her backpack and she had to slog back up the hill and retrieve it after we realized it was gone back at the base of the hill. *sigh* We did one classic dihedral pitch, Svenske Direct (the Sweedish Corner) and then walked over to the area’s testpiece, the steep and bouldery Butter Arms. I was going to try it, but listed in the guide next to it to the right lurked a sport climb-project called No Butts and I decided to try this instead for some reason. Looking in the guidebook now, I realize that the line for the No Butts project is drawn 5 meters to the left of the line I got on, but it was the only line there so it must have been No Butts. So having climbed only the 5.10+ Sweedish Corner as a warm up, and now with the cold and windy conditions, I racked up with quickdraws and like and idiot, tried to onsight what very well could have been the FA of this old project with slightly sketchy looking bolts. The bottom of the route was powerful with big moves between pretty good holds and I had to laugh because I was not expecting glue to re-enforce holds anywhere in Lofoten, but there was some. I figured out the moves as I went up and out the roof, campusing at the lip and terrified to fall on the old bolts. I’m sure they were safe but I was gripped anyway, and over gripping every hold. I made it to the rest halfway up and rested a while, shaking the feeling back into my numb hands. My body was cold and upset with me for not having warmed up its muscles, but was still cooperating. There were some balancy, almost footless cruxes higher on the route, and I was pumped but held on and managed to top out the route! It felt like I was hanging on for dear life and maybe that’s why I didn’t fall… it cold have been as hard as 8a+ or as easy as 7c, I had no idea and I assume I probably did the top sections wrong, but it was actually a phenomenal route! Was it an FA? No idea. There was some chalk, but there were also some cobwebs. It was freezing after that and Trine didn’t bother to bring an insulated coat since it was so hot when we’d left the car, so we were freezing in the cold wind, sharing the clothes I’d brought. We left without having tried Butter Arms, which was fine because I know I’ll be back someday. We threw our bags in the car and drove to Svolvær, catching the last ferry back to the mainland at 9 pm.
Leaving Lofoten we felt a mixture of sadness and relief, having only sampeled the rock this Archepalego has to offer. I thought we’d be trad climbing until the backs of our hands were bruised and then going bouldering when we’d want to just get up something small, then going sport climbing for some fitness, changing it up all day every day, but instead we sat in the rain and listened to audiobooks most of the time and only climbed for four days, not bouldering once. But, not every part of every trip can be blessed with perfect weather… We stopped and camped in the same spot we camped at on the way up and the mosquitoes were insane.
In Valdres, near where Trine’s home is, we sport climbed one morning at a wall with perfect vertical to slightly overhung 20-50 meter routes on immaculate granite. I feel these pitches would be all-time classics at any crag in America. On the 23rd we drove to Oslo, boarded our KLM flight trough Amsterdam to Geneva and were greeted with 30 degree heat stepping out of the airport. It was hotter than hatties but it was nice to have some actual summer during our summer vacation. And I know, KLM through Amsterdamn… those fuckers conned me into buying another one of their affordable tickets… like most of the promises I make to myself, I broke this one too, but I didn’t fall asleep in Amsterdam this time so it was ok.
Our rental car was so tiny. It was like a clown car, but with four doors and it was red. I had to downshift to second gear to get up steep hills on the way to Gap, but it could be rallied around corners at top speed and it could turn on a dime. We nicked named it Petit rouge.
Ceuse was hot and super-crowded and I couldn’t believe I was back after how sick of it I’d become last year… I don’t think I can ever go back in the middle of summer. It’s just too much. I don’t like waiting for warm-ups, I don’t much like crowds, even though I like very much interacting with other people. But the trash, and most of all the used toilet paper pisses me off so much. If you’re eating right now, I’d advise you to skip the remainder of this paragraph. The toilet paper in Ceuse is disgusting. It’s actually at every sport climbing and bouldering destination in the world, but let me give you a brief description of the situation at Ceuse: hiding under every boulder within 100 feet of the cliff, there is a small army or toilet paper and wet wipes, scattered around aimlessly, in various states of decay, clinging to bushes and rocks and dried up turds. On the hike up, very close to, and even sometimes ON the main trail, little white and brown-streaked ghosts lurk under stones and hang from thorn-bushes, invading your sight and ruin your wilderness experience. You can even smell it sometimes, as if someone had done the deed just moments ago right next to the trail.
I mean, jesus! How can climbers call themselves environmentalists as a whole when every popular sport climbing and bouldering area in the world looks much the same? I think the prevailing mentality is that, why should I pack out my toilet paper or even bother to hide my waste when there’s already so much here? And it’ll decompose in, as a very nice Danish guy at the site next to us at Les Guirens said, “in some years”? Exactly! In some years! And if people just keep adding to it, more and more every year, it will never go away! It will just grow and grow… I think it’s a mentality of those who did not spend their childhood in the wilderness, who didn’t develop a respect for it at a young age, and don’t see their actions as having any consequence or any impact on the nature or the landscape or the experience of others. They think, “why shouldn’t I pack out my used paper when there’s already so much of it here? Nobody else is?” Or they simply just don’t think about it at all… they treat their crags as a gym or the sidewalk in their city, not as a sanctuary, a special place meant to be preserved and kept pristine. And I’m ashamed to say that it’s not just in Ceuse, or in Europe, but it’s in the states as well. In the Red for instance, it’s just like Ceuse. I caught a kid from San Diego at the happies, red… or should I say brown handed, walking barefoot away from a pile of his own feces covered in toilet paper covered in rocks not twenty feet from Goldfish Trombone. And nobody wants to talk about it. Futhermore, nobody wants to DO anything. Nobody gives a shit, metaphorically of course, because literally they seem to give plenty. There are no signs anywhere, there is no education about what to do and what not doodo.
Is this seen as a stupid cause to get behind? It isn’t to me, godamnit! I’m not trying to preach a “leave no trace” ethic at the most popular areas in the world- I think that’s possible in the back country, but at a place like Ceuse, it’s just not possible. BUT, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to bring back with us EVERYTHING we bring in, besides the waste that comes from us, which we should burry in the forest, far away from the cliff.
People, PLEASE, for the love of all you consider holy: Sweet baby Jesus, Elron Hubbard, Veganism, Allah, Mother Earth, Sister moon, Yahweh, freedom or the pagan pantheon, I want you to swear here and now that you promise to pack out everything you pack in- all your trash and all your toilet paper, and engourage others to do the same. Use a zip-lock plastic bag or a trash bag or your dirty sock that already smells terrible. Oh and brush chalk off the popular routes. Thanks. Amen.
Despite my anger at the shitty toilet paper, my general impatience with people not wanting to ‘go for it’ above the bolts and having to deal with the heat and queues on warm-ups, we had a pretty fantastic time with our Sweedwegian friends Sanna and Yngve. We swam at the lake and soaked up the sun’s rays on rest days, eating Tourtons and ice cream and pastries and French bread with amazing cheese, and slogged up the hill to kill our leg muscles and thrash our finger skin on the best limestone in the world. It was a summer vacation from our summer vacation with 400 of our best euro friends.
Trine, Sanna and Yngve
I put my quick draws on my project from last spring- a tall and intimidating roof in Demi-Lune bolted by Dani Andrada, but quickly realized it was too sharp and bouldery for how hot it was, so I took them down again and put them on Ceuse’s longest pitch: No Future. No Future is 70 meters long, about 210 feet, and is probably one of the most bitchen routes I’ve ever done, despite a few chipped holds which the route would surely be impossible without. It took me almost 2 hours to go all the way up the route on my first try, going bolt to bolt and navigating the routes many thin and chalk-less cruxes and it’s numerous 5-6 meter run-outs. The cruxes on the route get harder and harder as the route progresses- it’s about 8a+ to get to the 20 meter mark, about 8b to get to the 30 meter mark, and about 8b/+ to get to the place where you can barley lower with an 80 meter rope, at about the 40 meter height. From there the cruxes get a bit harder and to get to the 50 meter height, you must pass a long and sustained crux with many two finger crimp-pockets in a row and over shitty feet, and another 6 meter run out. It feels pretty good to climb so far on such committing moves without clipping, to me at least. That airy sensation is my greatest joy in sport climbing, actually. After one more good rest comes the route’s redpoint crux at the heart-breaking height of 55 meters. It’s really crimpy and nearly footless for about 4 or 5 moves in a row, starting with a deep, sidepull mono.
This section is probably a 7c or 7c+ boulder, near vertical. I fell here on my third try on the route, my second red-point attempt, on the last hard move in this crux. The next day, even though it was much warmer, I fumbeled my way through this last crux section with better foot beta and made it to the rest at the 60 meter height, hyperventilating, toes completely numb and fingers sweating like little sumo wrestlers. I was so afraid I’d fall on the route’s 7a+ top section after the crux that I almost did exactly that. Right off the rest there is a big cross-over move off a slopey split-finger pocket, and my fingers were greasing off, so I rushed the move and for a moment that seemed to last many seconds but in reality only lasted a fraction of one, I felt so angry with myself that I was falling HERE, and I started to scream ‘FUUUUUUCK’ and by then my feet were off the wall completely like they never had been on this move before, and I started to look down because I was pretty run-out and was expecting a pretty big ride but… miraculously my fingers fell into the hold and it was good enough to hold footless and my ‘FUUUUUUCK’ turned from one of anger and regret to one of immense relief and hope. I was pumped, but I concentrated like I seldom have to on terrain as easy as this, and somehow managed to climb the remaining 10 meters to the top. I was flooded with endorphiines and stress hormones and adrenaline and relief. It was awesome. I cleaned my draws off the route, threaded through twice on the way down, and was back on the ground with 20 draws on my harness (three of which I skipped on the RP burns) and a huge grin on my face. EPIC! I had done the route in 4 ½ tries! On my first try I’d gone only halfway up. Success!
Tomorrow I will be on a flight to Iceland with Mike Libecki. We’re meeting Angie and Keith in Iceland and continuing onto Greenland on Tuesday. A smaller plane, a helicopter and a boat will take us to our basecamp where we’ll be for two weeks of what I’m hoping will be splitter weather and many summits of granite peaks and if not, hopefully phenomenal boulders. And if the weather sucks, at least I’ll be with some very fun people. Thanks to Mountain Hardwear for making this trip, and lets be honest, my continued travels possible! I’m excited. I’m a very lucky guy and also without your support, mom and dad (I’m assuming my parents are the only ones who’ll stick this biblical post out until the end), I wouldn’t be where I am now. Also, thanks to you, reader, for keeping me inspired. Without the encouragement of my friends I’d be liable to just give up! Ok I gotta go pack now. Always the packing and un-packing… this is my life, but I’m not complaining. It beats the hell out of a desk job.