Friday, 27 September 2013

Learning to slab climb in Switzerland

We still had a week of our summer holidays to spend, and Henkka immediately suggested going to Switzerland. Not a bad plan. I had never climbed in Switzerland before, so I was super keen to go! Alpine rock climbing, mountain hiking and good wine - that sounds like a good holiday to me!

Thus we flew to Zurich, rented a car and drove to the mountains. We knew it was late in the season - and the forecast didn't look too good for the Alps. Argh! Thanks to short distances between different areas (cantons) in Switzerland, we escaped the heavy rains of the Alps to Ticino, which is a canton located very close to the italian border in southern Switzerland. In Ticino (a lovely canton by the way) we climbed in Ponte Brolla (a great place to climb a lot), bouldered in famous Cresciano and adventured up an easy 700m long multipitch Via del Veterano (F4a-5a) in Freggio. 

As it finally cleared up in the Swiss Alps, it still felt too cold and damp to climb alpine rock routes (above 3000m). We stayed lower and sought after routes facing south, such as the quick drying slabs in Grimsel pass. Thanks to Henkka's steady head we climbed the super slabby Tim und Struppi and Grimselstrorm (top was wet, so we didn't top out), enjoyed the slabs and cracks of La Strada - and when everything else felt too damp - climbed multipitch sport in Azalee beach, also in Grimsel pass. Slab climbing is something else - so different to jamming and crimps that I so much prefer. Brrr. I got spank'd. 

What a great time I had and such a good introduction to swiss climbing.  This time it was too damp and cold for higher alpine rock routes, however we are hoping for a big alpine rock trip to the Alps next summer - and swiss alpine rock is definitely included to our trip plan!
If you enjoy slabs, here's a perfect place - Grimsel slabs in Räterichsbodesee.
Henkka leading his way up Tim und Struppi, nice one! Unfortunately last couple of pitches were wet so abseiled down couple of pitches short of the top. Certainly an introduction to slab climbing... brrrr!
Walking down after climbing La Strada in Grimsel. All dry this route. 
It was cold and damp in Grimsel - thus routes facing south were dry enough to climb. Next summer new try? 
Henkka enjoying the easy slabs on a 700m long Via del Veterano (F4a-5a) in Freggio. It's a route well worth climbing, fun day out! Hah, hoping not to be veteran climbers yet...
Sari climbing Primavera F5c+ in Ponte Brolla. Cracking place if weather is bad everywhere else!
We also visited Grindelwald for some outdoor shopping and coffee. And hike up to the Hintesberg for great views of close by mountains of Eiger and Jungfrau.
Admiring limestone in Hintisberg, also in Grindelwald.

Returning to Lofoten, Norway for summer holidays

Due to some unusual circumstances, we had to cancel some of our holiday plans this summer, and instead spent three weeks climbing and enjoying life in the magical islands of Lofoten, Norway. We were hopeful to visit Kvaloya island in Tromsö as well, however weather was very unstable in the north, thus decided to stay in Lofoten area for the entire holiday. 

I was also lucky to have my friends from London and Norway to visit Lofoten, and thanks to the weather gods we enjoyed climbing the classic Lofoten cracks in glorious sun shine. During our stay we climbed several classics such as Vestpillaren (3 teams of us climbing Presten same night!), Bare Blåbaer, Dagens rätt, Fir and forsök, Gandalf, and Tromsö Express to mention a few. A lot of climbing and a few new routes to our logbooks! In summer 2012 I and Henkka were super psyched and we climbed a whole bunch of routes in n5-n6 range in Lofoten - record that it is hard to beat. Unless we would be able to climb solid n7, but that is yet to be achieved ; ) 

On our way back, we had a quick stop in Eidetinden (in Stetind area) where we climbed a classic called Klubbruta. We also had a look at the Stetind mountain and it looked so amazing - I am hoping to do it next summer!
Beautiful and magical Lofoten islands
 Sari and Henkka enjoying life  
Sari climbing first pitch of Vestpillaren, Presten. Vestpillaren, especially the n6 piches felt hard this year... hmmm has my climbing got worse? 
Chris sending Tromsö Express, a lovely route!
Sari enjoying Bara Blåbaer (again) with Henkka and Nora. A route that is not to be missed when in Lofoten.
Enjoying Klubbruta n4 in Eidetinden. Although just "n4" still a good adventure!
Midnight sun in Lofoten. Chris at the top of Presten at 3 am.  Back to the camp at 6am.  

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Easter holidays in Lyngen

Here are few nice shot from our Easter break spent in Lyngen, northern Norway.  Thank you Henrikki for taking me there! There was a lot of snow in northern Norway this spring, thus conditions were difficult. Thanks to Henkkas' knowledge of the area we found the perfect spots for skiing and climbing during this short break. During the few days we skinned up and skied down Sjufället, forest skied in Tamok and climbed few hundred meters long ice fall called Borchokka WI4.    

Lovely Lyngen with huge amount of snow!
Skinning up Sjufället - nice day out!
Learning to forest ski in Tamok
Ice climbing day in Borchokka (WI4) with Henkka and Janne. 
First pitch of Borchokka

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Adventure trad in Moroccan Anti-Atlas

The Anti-Atlas
I and Elisa Tiensuu spent three weeks trad climbing in Moroccos Anti-Atlas mountains in January 2013. We focused our trip on areas north of Jebel el Kest and Taskra North. The Anti-Atlas is an exiting winter sun-rock destination with perfect weather, sun-drenched orange quartzite, stunning scenery and an enchanting culture. Climbing in the Anti-Atlas can definitely be described as adventurous climbing since many of the routes may only have seen one or two ascents and there's a lot of first ascent potential left.

The rock is a quartzite characterized by large grains and good friction….and a lot of slabs. The quality of the rock varies, some being very solid and excellent in quality, some more crumbly and loose. There are several excellent mountain crags with routes as long as 500m or even more, though many crags are generally between two and four pitches long. For a solid VS or above (Finnish 5) leader there are endless amount of routes to climb. Approaches are generally easy and most crags are gained with less than a thirty minute walk. Without a doubt there is a lot of potential for new routing for those willing to explore crags further away from the road. The Anti-Atlas area has been developed in the past 20 years mostly by British climbers such as Joe Brown, Claude Davies and co. Most recent developers include Steve and Katja Broadbent, and Emma Alsford and Paul Donnithorne.  

To date, all of the routes on quartzite in the Anti-Atlas have no bolts or fixed protection, thus all routes employ solely natural protection. Visitors to this region are urged to respect this ethic in order to preserve the adventure of this unique trad climbing venue. Some granite sport crags are found close to Tafraout, and we were told that German climbers are currently writing a new guide book for these climbs.

Since many of the routes have only seen few ascents, grades in the topos (British grading) should not be taken as granted. We climbed a VS that felt like a VDiff and an E1 that felt a lot harder (British grade comparison found here Descending the routes wasn't always so simple, sometimes involving a fight through thorny bushes or an exposed down climb. This is part of the adventure of climbing in the remote Anti Atlas! Climbers do need to be aware that there is no organized rescue, and that medical facilities are limited. I should also mention here that we never saw any other climbers whilst on the crags (thus a definite a bonus to our trip) and only met few in Tafraout. So the Anti-Atlas is a very remote and adventurous climbing destination.

Elisa enjoying cragging in Ksar rock. Noah's Ark VS 4b.
During our stay in the Anti-Atlas we wanted to visit as many areas in the north side of Jebel el Kest and Taskra North as possible. We aimed to onsight routes that inspired us at the level of VS to E1 (Finnish grade 5 to grade 6). We chose routes that were recommended in the guidebooks and we definitely didn't get disappointed. During the trip we climbed following routes:

Mountain routes
The Lion King HVS 5b ***, 180m in The White Dome, Adrar Umlil
Scimitar ridge VS 5a ***, 265m in Safinah, Samazar valley
Central Buttress Direct E1 5b ***, 495m in the great rock of Aylim, Samazar valley
Gamma HVS 5a***, 200m in Greek Buttress, Sidi M'Zal 
Crazy Mushrooms Ridge, HVS 5b***, 195m in Babouche Buttress, Tagzene

Valley cragging
Paladin VS 4b ***, 35m in Ksar Rock
Morocco Coco VS 4c***, 50m in Ksar Rock
Noahs Ark HS 4b ***, 60m in Ksar Rock
Sahara VS 4b ***, 40m in Ksar Rock
The Colour of Money VS 4c ***, 45m in Ksar Rock
Cracktastic E1 5b**, 60m in Imrir Village Crags
Dennis the Menace HVS 5a**, 35m in Griffon Rock
Grasshopper Arete VS 4c**, 40m in Griffon Rock
A Profusion of Protrusions E1 5b **, 50m in Griffon Rock
Tenderloin VS 4b*, 20m in the Boar Walls
Tusker S ***, 25m in the Boar Walls
Oxford Crack VS 5a ***, 45m in Robin Hood Rocks
Centenary Buttress HS 4b ***, 50m in Robin Hood Rocks

... and tried one or two harder routes that we didn't succeed with.  
Elisa enjoying the crux pitch of Scimitar ridge VS 5a in Safinah
Elisa topping second pitch of Cracktastic E1 5b in Tizi Escarpment
Sari checking out the topo for the Scimitar ridge VS 5a in Safinah
In addition to fully appreciate Moroccan culture, landscape and architecture, we visited a sea-side town of Sidi Ifni for some horseback riding on the beach. On the way, we bargained with the camel traders at the camel markets in Guelmim, but decided not to buy one. Of course Marrakech was a logical sight for its magical square of Jemaa el-Fnaa, endless berber markets (souks) and its famous palaces and riads. We also hiked up Morocco's highest mountain Jbel Toubkal (4167m) via south col route (grade F) at Parc National de Toubkal, Atlas mountains. There is some excellent trekking and winter climbing in the Atlas mountains, it is worth checking it out.
Sari and Elisa at the summit of Jbel Toubkal
Few words about logistics:
We booked our trip to Anti-Atlas in very last minute thus we did very few arrangements from home. I guess the most important thing is to order guidebooks in time though there was some on sale in the hotel Amandiers in Tafraoute and in the Kasbah Tizourgane. It's necessary to bring all climbing gear (including spares) as there are no climbing shops in the area. All other essentials and food can be bought in the close by town called Tafraout. There are cash machines in Tafraout, even my visa electron worked there. It's essential to rent a car since crags are quite spread out in the Anti-Atlas. We rented a Kia Picanto from Marrakesh, and had no problems with it.  However, it was chaotic to find our way out of the city and found our GPS crucial when driving through bigger cities. In general, Moroccan roads are fine, though mountain roads can be narrow and in bad condition. Morocco is a common destination among French motorhome enthusiasts, so driving there with your own vehicle is generally not a problem. 

For accommodation, there's plenty to choose from in the town of Tafraout. We stayed in hotel called Auberge Les Amis, which I heartily recommend. It is very clean and nice hotel with very good value. We also stayed four days in the Kasbah Tizourgane, which is a fine castle offering half-board accommodation in Ida Ougnidif area. The Kasbah Tizourgane is little bit more expensive but is located close to the crags on the north side of Jebel el Kest. From Tafraout, it's roughly one hour drive to reach the north side of Jebel el Kest. For shorter stays I would definitely recommend staying in the Kasbah Tizourgane, however for a longer stay Tafraout provides more facilities, shops and other activities. 

The first guidebook to the area - Climbing in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas by Claude Davies (Cicerone) covers around 25 crags on the south side of the Jebel el Kest (Tafraout side). This guidebook doesn't give route descriptions or overall grades, it just gives topos with lines and a technical grade. However it is the only guidebook that currently covers the south side of the Jebel el Kest.  

Two new guidebook has been recently released covering the north side of the Jebel el Kest and Jebel Taskra area: Moroccan Anti-Atlas North by Steve Broadbent and Morocco Rock (2012) by Emma Alsford and Paul Donnithorne. Check out and for more information about these guidebooks. We bought both these guidebooks but in my opinion, you only need one as both books cover same areas, Morocco Rock being more up-to-date. New routes climbed after the guidebook release are generally documented in the large and strange hotel Amandiers in Tafraoute and the Kasbah Tizourgane. 

References and for more information check out:

I can with honesty say that I had one of my best climbing holidays in the Anti-Atlas! So don't think about - just go for it!
Sari on the crazy mushroom ridge HVS 5b in Babouche buttress
Camel market in Guelmim
Great spot for surfing in Sidi Ifni

Monday, 7 January 2013

Winter season kicks off

Winter started as early as November here in Finland, thus I and Henkka were super psyched to spent the first weekend of December ice climbing in Korouoma, Posio. In Korouoma, we climbed several ice lines on Jaska Jokunen, Mammutti and Ruskeavirta, which were all in pretty good condition. Most days we had just below freezing conditions, only the first day was too cold, -25 degrees. Again, ice climbing on 50 meter long ice falls felt so much fun that I am hoping to return to Korouoma at least once more this season. What a fantastic way to start the winter season, and as a bonus we enjoyed glowing northern lights during our drive down south.    

Ice falls in southern Finland are in pretty good condition at the moment, the commercial ice fall of Pirunkallio opening right after Christmas.  Thus, we have been busy climbing ice in Angelniemi, Kauhala and Haukankallio - where Henkka onsighted Syntymäpaikka. I say it is going to be a fun season ahead! 

Sari enjoying Mammutti in Korouoma
Glorious Ruskeavirta
Looking down Ruskeavirta 
Sari night climbing in Kauhala. Photo by Antti Louhi
Henkka in Kauhala. Photo by Antti Louhi

Friday, 16 November 2012

Exploring Rodellar and Montserrat in Spain

I, Henkka and Antti spent nine quality days in Rodellar and Montserrat in early November. A short escape from the cold, dark and wet Finnish weather. 

Rodellar is fabulous and famous limestone gorge situated up in the northeast of Spain. So famous that it needs no introduction. Climbing style is powerful and athletic, routes finding their way out of overhanging caves, arches, roofs, tufas and pinnacles. It was quite something else for us Finnish climbers to get use to, and certainly a fun place to climb! During the week Henkka climbed his first 7a, Cerveza de Lujo, which was short, pumpy and vertical - just like routes at home, except on limestone. I was hoping to climb around 7a - though I quickly discovered that routes at 7a were bit too pumpy and powerful - thus I enjoyed climbing several fun and long 6b's and 6c's. Such a beautiful gorge, I just wish I had more time to spend there, definitely a place to return to!

Due to bad weather in Rodellar, we also spent two days climbing in the conglomerate towers in the historic Montserrat just outside Barcelona. Climbing in Montserrat is pretty "horrific" but same time superb! Crumbly conglomerate rock, distance up to 10 meters between bolts and scarce trad protection (a sling over a knob that could come off in an any minute) makes climbing in Montserrat feel very serious and committing. We climbed two multipitch routes there - one of them was a super classic called Boy Roca (6a/5a A0). There was just one or two bolts on the first two pitches that climbed on an easy grade (4a and 4c) - but for our surprise we found a bolt ladder on the pitch climbing at 6a/6a+. Wohoo! What a great place with superb climbing. As an old saying goes - if you can climb in Montserrat, you can climb anywhere. So very true. 

Antti and steep limestone tufa heaven of Rodellar
Sari on a beautiful Tu aqui no has venido a escalar F6b+ in El Delfin sector
Henkka couldn't help having a go with the steep and juggy El Delfin 7c+
Sari redpointing Coup de Machete 6b in beautiful autumn colours
Tricky Coup de Machete 6b in Nuit des Temps

Elephant and Momia in Montserrat. Guess which is elephant?
First pitch of Boy Roca in Montserrat. Only one bolt in a 40 meter pitch!

Henkka, Sari and Antti feeling awesome at the summit! 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Autumn colors in Palkkivehmas

There is still few more autumn weekends left before winter kicks in. Thus it is time to enjoy beautiful autumn colors and perfect friction! Here are photos of our recent trip to Palkkivehmas in Hämeenlinna.
Sari on Äkkihoppu 6a
Henrikki trying Keskikoulu 6c+
Släbiä! Fakta homma 6c
Sari and Ulos kaapista 6b+
Henkka sending Master 6c
Traversing Jana 6a+

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Autumn friction - some excellent ticks!

Although weather has been really unstable all through this September, I have been climbing outside a lot. I have finally redpointed routes such as hybrishalkeama, lepakkomiehen friendi, juppihippipunkkari, urheiluhullu and sledgehammer - all routes that have been on my to-do-list for a while. Jamming in Kustavi feels much easier too - I had excellent weekend in Isoniittu and Kräkiniemi - I onsighted several 5s, flashed lumikko 6 and punainen planeetta 6-, yay! Even bouldering around Helsinki area has been super fun! 
Sari sending Lepakkomiehen friendi 7- in Kvarnby. Best trad lead for the season! Photo: Antti Louhi 
I even managed to send Enkeli 6b+ in Haukilahti. Photo: Nora Ryytty
....and started to enjoy jamming in Kustavi, Punainen planeetta 6-. Photo: Antti Louhi
Though I still prefer laybacking to jamming, on Sankariheviä. Photo: Henkka
Jammaster Henkka about to jam the slightly negative Voimasointu

In Peak Lenin July 2009