Late-season luck in Lofoten.

In the British climbing community, you’re bound to have heard of Lofoten at some point. Usually described as being one of the only places on the planet that has more rainfall than North Wales. Tales of terrible storms, weeks spent sat in a tent waiting for dry weather and mind-bending frustration at poor conditions conjure up an image of a hostile string of jagged spires, shooting up from a fierce and stormy Nordic sea.

You can imagine my surprise then, when we arrived to clear blue skies, white sand beaches with soft lapping waves and enormous DRY granite crags, bathed in warm sunlight.

My jaw dropped. This was climbing heaven.

Stefan – who had visited Lofoten two years earlier and experienced its full range of violent precipitation – seemed almost annoyed that I wasn’t getting the full ‘Lofoten experience’.

Now I’m fully aware that this could very easily come across as a full-on boast-post. “Oh the wonderful weather! Oh the incredible rock! Oh the beauty of it all, we saw the Northern lights every night and they were amazing!” (although we did, and they were).

But no one really wants to read about how great the weather was when they weren’t there.
Now it seems most climbers visit Lofoten between June and early August for the dryer weather and midnight sun (allowing you to climb around the clock!).
However when we arrived in the middle, it was late in the season. The nights were back, and the climbers were gone.
Well, almost.

I would like to dedicate this blog post to the late-season keenos. The deluded souls who turned up expecting to get rained out, for the days to be shorter and all the fish to be gone, but pitched up anyways because THIS was what free time they had and they wanted to do some damn fine granite climbing! The idiots who turned up at the back of the queue, but got the greatest rewards. You know who you are (hell there was only about 5 of us…).


Stefan on the Lower pitches of ‘Himmelen Kan Vente’ (Heaven can wait), (6+), Presten, Lofoten.


Cherry on the ‘Slanting Corner’ pitch of ‘Vestpillaren’, Presten, Lofoten


Stefan freeing the ‘A0 Aid Move’ on Pitch 2 of ‘Himmelen Kan Vente’, Presten, lofoten.


Cherry trying desperately to make everything look harder than it is.


The moody Nordic sea and the Western peaks of Lofoten, as seen from the top of Presten.

One thing you may not have read much about (unless you’re particularly active on 27 crags) is the development of the bouldering in Lofoten. Still carrying our pad in the boot, I was keen to try one of the only boulders I’d actually seen pictures of the ‘Separate reality roof crack’ boulder (Graded VG for Very Gnarly). But when I went on a little boulder hunt, I bumped into a few more local climbers who are helping to develop the bouldering here and establish enough content to piece together a guidebook for all visiting pebble-botherers!

As it stands, some descriptions, grades and topos can be found here:
Whilst there may not be enough documented yet to warrant a full-on bouldering trip, I urge anyone visiting to drag along a pad and a brush if possible and go explore some unique and quality problems in a wild and beautiful setting. There are boulders dotted all over Lofoten often close to the road and I’ve been told they dry quickly after rain (Although something closer to wellies may be more appropriate footwear than your approach trainers).

The Presten boulders and Paradiset are good starting points, and those with a sense of adventure and a keen-ness for boulder hunting will be well rewarded.

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Tape, Tea and Taylor Swift on the Storpillaren


A faint orange ribbon had been growing across the eastern sky for nearly an hour. Sat there, shivering in my bivvy bag the warning words of the guide book echoed around my head.

‘Long’ – ‘Serious’ – ‘Remote’ 

“Yeah but if we split it into two days we should be fine – there’s a huge ledge above pitch 11 – its only got three hard pitches – the weather looks great”

36 hours earlier sat in the Henningsvaer car park we had progressively egged each other on to have a go at The Storpillaren.

This 800m pillar is attached to the North face of Vågakallen and stands like a sentinel peering out across Svolvaer and the surrounding sea. At 16 pitches with a long approach and even longer descent the whole route goes free at Norwegian 7 or British E5 6a.

But of course we had neglected to read this part of the guide. We thought we were getting on something around E3.

The morning and early afternoon had been tough but we were 7 pitches in with the technically hard climbing behind us. We felt good, a bit wasted but good. Andy had put in an outstanding effort on-sighting the left leaning jamming crack on pitch 4 and I’d gibbered my way up my share of the hard pitches.

Then we got lost, or a least we think we did, we’re still not so sure.

You’d think that climbing a pillar with a cone shaped top would be pretty obvious, maybe we were just more tired than we thought, maybe we just got a bit spooked by the loose rock littering the top pitches. But when Andy started to see smiley faces in a random bits of rock and vehemently defended what he thought he could see, we decided to stop.

We put on primalofts and socks, wrapped ourselves in our bivvy bags and waited.

The daylight slipped away. The stars came out. The wind bit across our ledge.

Cocooned in our pitifully cold shelters we caught the odd hour of sleep.

As dawn crept slowly, beautifully across the mountain tops we wound our way past massive tottering granite blocks and up wet vertical grass to the top. A brief respite on the summit and we started the descent. Seven hours later we were back at the Clio.

Andy settled into the passenger seat barely able to bend his knees.

‘Man. That was hard.’


Sugar and Tea… Power food.


Early morning walk in, plenty of chilled tasty snow melt for hydration.


Crack rope gun Cherry smashing out pitch 4.


Getting there! The Pitch 7 belay.


Moving onto looser stuff higher up.


Easier but still not ‘easy’ climbing on the upper pitches.


Are we having fun yet? Pitch 11 bivvy.


Sunrise and a battle oats bar for Sunday morning breakfast.


Main top ridge, before the choss…


loose, wet and chossy as f*ck, such quality on the last two ‘grotty’ pitches…


The stress of the route brought about localized smurfitis. Either that or Five Ten have some dye issues.


Thick wooly socks. They make everything better.

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Team Clio send!


“So what about you guys hey?” enquired Hugo, the happy-go-lucky Aussie peering out from underneath his thick woolly hat. Before I could open my mouth and put the words together, Nick a buoyant and friendly British bloke we’d met in the toilets – answered for me.

“They’re off up the Storpillaren mate. F*ckin long, f*ckin grim, f*ckin North facin’, f*ckin serious route!”
I really hope Nick writes a guidebook one day, his route descriptions would be brilliant.

I winced a little at each of his adjectives, surely he was just exaggerating for the sake of a little campfire bravado? After all, the guidebook only gave it n7, which was kinda like E3 ish?

I won’t write a pitch by pitch description of the route, as they can be a little boring. But I will offer my two cents regarding difficulty and grade.

The most difficult climbing is contained in the steep and brilliant sweeping grooves and cracks visible from Kalle, pitches 3 to 7. Big chimneys, offwidths and great cracks gives really physical, gnarly, ‘old school’ climbing with great gear. Stemming, jamming, thrutching and fighting your way up will lead you through these crux pitches. The route becomes much more serious higher up, with some tricky navigation, plenty of loose rock that would be a quite difficult retreat. Once the last ‘grotty’ pitches have been negotiated and you top out the pillar, a long and tricky descent will require you to stay switched on, as it requires some exposed scrambling, steep gully-shuffling and short abseils. There is no footpath or track leading the way, so careful navigation is required.

As for the grade, I’d say it was best described as an NCCS grade IV wall, with sustained technical moves of British 6a, if you’re trying to free the whole thing.

I’ll never forget my experience of the ‘Great Pillar’, fighting hard through the crux pitches, shivering the night out with cups of tea and Taylor Swift, carefully picking our way through the loose top pitches and tricky descent, before stumbling through the trees and boulders back to the car like zombies.

The next morning I awoke sore, groggy and in need of a strong coffee, but dare I say… satisfied?

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Going to Hell

“Go to Hell”.

In England: [insult] instruction. Requests the target of said insult proceed directly to endless burning torture in the afterlife.

In Norway: [advice] suggestion. Informs the target of said advice of their best chance to climb dry rock in the seemingly permanent precipitation of the Trondheim area.

After 2 and a half weeks of thrashing it out in Flatanger, our puny British biceps couldn’t take the abuse anymore. We descended the country for a few days rest and recovery in Trondheim, a fjord-side mini-city full of cafe’s and ski-shops. There we met up with our friend Jenny who introduced us to Bjørn and Cecilia, a couple of Hytta-dwelling Trondheim locals who took us in, fed us, and taught us little Norwegian culture.


The beautiful deep blue waters of TrondheimsFjorden. And some other less beautiful scenery in the foreground.



Whilst sight-seeing in Trondheim made for a far better rest day than lying about in a tent (and to be honest, mainly consisted of going from street to street consuming as much ‘Pølsa’ and waffles as humanly possible) the need to climb crept back like a growing hunger, or perhaps more accurately – withdrawal symptoms.

“Go to Hell.”

Well why the hell not?

Stood under the hard overhanging conglomerate walls of Hell, our still weak arms began to shiver in fear. A cold breeze floated through the crag, chilling your fingers and biting at your ankles. The rain fell heavily at the end of the overhang, forcing the belayer to retreat underneath the rock, where they must engage in their own battle to keep the rope out of the dust and muck. We stared up at the sheet of bubbled texture on the face of the cliff, laughably referred to as the ‘holds’, small polished pebbles and blind pockets, some of which – but only the essential ones of course – had succumbed to the steady seepage of rain water through rock. In the distance we heard gunfire, from the nearby military firing range. Or was it thunder?

Tie in and slip your numb feet into your shoes. Chuck your jacket into the dirt and shove your fingers under your armpits. Pull on, and try not to let go.

Welcome to Hell.


A friendly little wooden sign and a rainbow welcome you to the gates of Hell.


Cherry, possessed by a fear of small slopey holds and fingery climbing, sits in the dust and considers his options.


Cherry on Himmel (7b), which is German for ‘Heaven’. We’re assuming that the first ascensionist was from Frankenjura…


On the road to Lofoten – these little wooden huts make all the difference on roadside Bivouacs.

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Cave Life

“Once you get the moves up the slab there’s another rest.” Said Henning, a tall Norwegian climber with quite the knack for throwing in kneebars where they shouldn’t exist.

The German gave him a quizzical look. “Slab?” He questioned. “Its, ‘technical wall climbing’!”. He was right of course, but it seems anything in Hanshelleren cave that’s less than about 30 degrees overhanging is referred to as a slab. The main wall of Hanshelleren Is a towering wave of ever steepening granite, decorated with giant flakes, tiny crimps, flared cracks and unlikely pockets. As you follow the wave round to the right, it crashes and tumbles – creating the super-steep roof climbing required for the worlds hardest sport routes. Everything here is 3 stars, no doubt about it, the location alone makes you feel like a hero. “You cant really climb a bad route in the cave”.

For 80 Krone a night (around £6.50 at the moment) you get a camping spot with a picnic table, showers, toilet, a kitchen and best of all – the barn, a sort of farmyard common room with sofas, tables, fridges, a toaster, microwave and WiFi. The barn is pretty special.


#BarnLife. A fridge, a toaster, free Wifi and a bunch of old sofas. What more do you need aye?

Olav and his wife have set the place up to pretty accommodating for climbers. Simply turn up and pitch your tent wherever, and around 7:30pm a Norwegian man in a blue t-shirt will come wave a guestbook at you, tell you about the weather, sell you a guidebook (just under £20 and fairly essential for newcomers) and give you the WiFi password.

The climbing in Flatanger is characterized by large rounded flakes and fissures on steep walls, often 30m or longer. The main wall and the roof are intimidating at first, but the holds are mainly pretty good (although sometimes very spaced), and routes are broken up by resting on monster jug rails, kneebars or even bat hangs. Its a very physical and somewhat gymnastic style of climbing, with big moves on great friction!


Via Ferrata on SandMaelen is a great ‘active rest day’ option, when the weather is good.




There aren’t many crags that require a rowing boat approach. Ask Olav for the topo to a little hidden slabby buttress!

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Cherry’s fairly ineffective anti-bug belay setup. Pretty ‘fly’ though.

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Stefan on the reachy lower moves of Kampfer Der Nacht (7c) at Glasoyfjellet.

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Cherry making a quick redpoint of Berntsbanden L2 (7c) at Hanshelleren.


Stefan resting on hidden jugs, Bonanger (7c) at Hanshelleren.

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Stefan unties after his half of a Team Clio redpoint of Andre Hoyre (7c+) at Hanshelleren.


Cherry updates his ticklist by candlelight in the barn.



More rain-proof roof climbing at ‘The German Wall’ also known as Glasoyfjellet.


The cave.


We soon got into the Flatanger rhythm – wake up early for a hearty breakfast, slog up to the cave in the rain, climb till your arms explode, return to the barn for some pasta-pesto-parmesan and – if you’ve earnt it – a can of very expensive beer, then proceed to black out in the tent clutching your biceps in pain. Rinse and repeat.

We both agreed that Flatanger was hands-down, unquestionably the best sport climbing area we’d ever visited (so far) and for anyone claimbing in the Mid f7’s and above, the cave is an unmissable destination. The routes are world class, the rock is an absolute dream and the positions are wild.

Flügger färg!

The four days we’ve been in Sweden have taught us three things.

1. House music can always be found if you scan through enough radio stations.

2. Swedes all drive estates.

3. Bohuslan granite is good. Really good.

“Bo-hu-slan, I told you about it months ago” Andy sounded rather exasperated that I had no idea what he was on about. On the three day/five country drive from Fontainebleau to Sweden he explained that North of Göteborg and South of Oslo was this magical promised land of perfect Granite. All I could think was that it would break up the drive to Flatanger and might be a nice rest.

With a single place name by which to set the sat nav and zero plan other than to spend four days there, we arrived in Hallinden station car-park. Not really knowing what to do next we strolled up to the obvious looking crag half a mile away.

‘Do you have a guide book?’ – ‘errr.. no’
‘So, where do you stay?’ – ‘errr…in the station car park..?’

The two Swiss climbers who greeted us seemed bemused by our lack of preparation but gave us directions to a bunk house (possibly the nicest and cheapest bunkhouse in Scandinavia) and a building you could get a shower in for £1.50, the latter appeared not to have changed since the middle part of the cold war.

The next morning armed with a guidebook bought with pastries from the local corner shop of all places – which also had a colourful collection of DMM gear – we eagerly went to find some rock, Andy keen to prove he was right.

And he was.

Early morning truck stop coffee in Denmark


The main crag at Galgeberget – a great introduction into Bohuslans friction


Galgaberget’s main face routes top-out to a fantastic view of the coast.

Stefan 6+

Stefan on En Liten Bit Granit (6)

Cherry 6+

Cherry on En Liten Bit Granit (6)

Cherry Odon

Cherry on Odon (7)

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Stefan on Odon (7)


Hallinden – home of huge classics, and steep cracks.


Stefan on Prismaster (6)


Stefan topping out Prismaster (6)


Stefan’s psych-selfie after topping out Prismaster. “Possibly the best pitch of HVS I’ve ever done. Stunning.”


Cherry looking not tired at all before his burn on AfterBurner


The Hallinden main face, as seen from the road.


Parmesan. Parmesan on everything.


The bunkhouse is pretty cool…


“Hello… is it me you’re looking for?”

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Operation Stacked

“Diverted traffic! There we go”, we turned accordingly for another little yellow sign, hidden behind a bush like an Easter egg.

We had been part of this diverted traffic for over an hour, a result of splitting all other traffic from the freight lorries in the somewhat incredible ‘operation stack’, in which 5 and a half thousand lorries were currently using the M20 as a sort of car park, in what must be the worlds most expensive game of Tetris.

Initially, we were a little miffed to see are crossing delayed until 3:30am, but after considering the lorry drivers who had been in Folkstone for days, our situation didn’t seem so bad, and we just got on with it.

By the time we stopped for the night, just south of Calais, we’d been on the go for 12 hours, leaving Nottingham late afternoon on Wednesday. Why had we left two days late? Well, I’m not a superstitious man, but it seems we’ve had a run of fairly bad luck recently. It started with the van breaking down just weeks before our departure date, on a state of disrepair that left Stefan no option but to shell out for a other vehicle – a Renault Clio with just enough room to take our 2 months of gear and food.

This then helpfully broke down the second it reached Nottingham, presenting Stefan with no real information as to what was wrong other than ‘an electrical fault’ and forcing him to limp it to the garage.

Naturally, we decided to the most effective way to deal with the situation go to Cambridge and get drunk. 5 days, 24 beers, a bottle of rum, and £400 later, the car had been repaired. We then began our very own version of ‘operation stack’ as we attempted to fit 4 ropes, trad climbing kit, a boulder mat, camping stuff, and 2 months worth of clothes and food into a 3 door Clio, and leave enough room for extra baggage.

As we threw the last bag of cams into the boot and nervously started up the engine, a small black cat walked out in front of the car. It stood there for a while, looked into our souls and then continued on its way, neatly crossing our path. Like I said, I’m not a superstitious man, but there becomes a point where you have to accept that the universe may be dropping you hints.

Eventually, we emerged from the tunnel, flicked over to the right hand side of the road, and continued on to our first destination – our ‘warm-up’ climbing area, if you will.

The notoriously tricky and strenuous boulders of Fontainebleau.











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Another new supporter!

All climbers know the feeling. You open your eyes to see canvas above you – you’re in your tent. You’ve slept in late to recover, because you’ve just come down from an absolute epic. Stupidly, you decide to try and sit up. Mistake. Every single muscle in your body aches, like you’ve just gone 15 rounds in the ring with Optimus Prime.

In the climbing world, nutrition is one of those things that is often overlooked – shoved onto the bottom of the priority list after equipment checks, navigation efforts, weather concerns and getting the perfect selfie. This negligence towards eating good food is something that’s been present throughout climbing history – I heard Paul Pritchard once spent a month eating nothing but Custard Creams.

However, eating the right stuff at the right time can have an incredible effect on your output, ensuring your muscles have the energy they need to keep burning for how ever many hours that 5.8 squeeze chimney is going to take you.

On extended climbing trips, recovery is absolutely key in your trip strategy. Getting your body back up to scratch and working at 100% again is vital if you’re going to continue on to that next goal. In previous trips we’ve often found that one of the things that held us back was spending multiple days trying to recover on a diet of cous cous and pepsi.

However, this year we have a new strategy – 100% Natural High Protein bars from Battle Oats. The guys at Battle Oats produce handmade High Protein energy bars here in the UK. They are the absolute perfect snack for keeping your energy levels high whilst out bouldering, casually enjoying with a mug of hot coffee in the morning – or literally saving your life as you shiver yourself into a nightmare, on the penultimate pitches of some ‘adventurous’ day gone bad.


For a great example of some less effective mid-route snacking, checkout our ‘breakfast’; and ‘lunch’ options on Point 5 gully in the video below:

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New Supporter Announcement!

For those of you who read about our Yosemite antics, or watched the video of us on Triple direct, you will have noticed a particular element of our trip that played a somewhat central role in our comfort, happiness, and probability of success: Hydration.

We all know how much hydration can effect your output in any sport. It’s simple, you can’t perform anywhere near your best when you’re dehydrated. Dehydration causes you to slow right down, as you become fatigued and light headed. This leads to climbers moving slowly and become easily confused or overwhelmed! Slow, weak, overwhelmed and tired… sounds familiar to be honest.

But away from the safety of the YOSAR team in California, we decided it may be a little more important to stay on top of our H2O in Norway – especially with long days of free-climbing on top-form, and moving quickly and safely being key to success.

Luckily, the sciencey dudes at nuun hydration have stepped forward and to support us in staying on the right side of desperate thirst! Nuun make portable hydration tabs for athletes and other outdoor-folk, to help easily and conveniently manage hydration whenever and wherever. Great stuff!

So as we start the oh-so-wonderfully entertaining game of hatch-back tetris before the long trip up North, we have a fair few extra small cylinders to squeeze in, and a little extra confidence that we wont end up drier than a rice-cake in a sauna.


So a big shout out to the lovely people at nun for keeping us a little bit safer and a lot less thirsty. Cheers!

For a fine example of how not to hydrate, checkout the link below of our mid-summer, mid-drought, El-cap experience last year:

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The light at the end of the library.

Cherry_header5 Finally we have surfaced again, having held our breath through a storm of coursework, presentations and exams. Bursting through the other side of our Final year Exhibitions, desperate for some time to climb on real rock (after a considerable amount of beer and sleep). The next couple of months in Nottingham with no uni work should leave us with some time to train for the upcoming Norway trip.

Not to say that we haven’t been training all year in some respects – as the training for this trip is quite different from our last. For one thing, we aren’t planning on having to do any multi-day routes. This means (hopefully) no hauling or need for a port-a-ledge on this trip. Even if we do get on multi-day routes, we’ll more likely climb them ‘alpine style’.

Additionally, we’ve been concentrating much more on things like hard bouldering and trad climbing. Whilst we’ve retained the aiding and big walling skills learnt in Yosemite, on this trip we’re hoping to do much more free-climbing, perhaps with the goal of developing some new routes and boulders of our own. This has meant a much greater emphasis on physical training as not only do we need to be physically fit again, but we’re going to have to be as ready as possible for the kind of free-climbing that Norway offers!


Basecamp on wheels! Complete with slick alloys and top-of-the-range sound system.

Yes, the Van is here – a beautiful rattling lump of off-white metal that is the key to a successful trip. Stefan has been trialing it already, taking it on short trips to the peak, and less short trips to North Wales. It has yet to be properly panelled and kitted out, but that will all happen in the weeks to come.


Stefan on the powerful ‘Pit and Pendulum’ a V8+ in the Ogwen Valley, North Wales.

Stefan has been utilising his newly acquired transport to get stuff done! Freshly released from exams, he’s been pushing himself on ever more powerful boulder problems and difficult trad routes.


Cherry making the big move on ‘Deliverance’, a V8+ Dyno in the Peak District.

I on the other hand, have been pansy-ing about on technical slabs and walls. Finally doing ‘Deliverance’ at Stanage plantation felt like a big deal for me. I’d had a fair few sessions on it yielding no success, and the feeling of pushing it closer and closer and closer until I finally latched that edge and topped out the problem was fantastic – I felt it got me really motivated to stick with hard projects and see them through.


James Salisbury sporting a gorgeous blonde toupe, on the desperately thin slab ‘The Snivelling Shit’, an E5 6a at Millstone Edge.

I was also pretty psyched to flash (on top rope!) The Snivelling Shit (E5 6a). This low angle blank slab is very similar to the sort of climbing we could be doing on big face routes in Lofoten. Funnily enough, it felt incredibly similar to the sort of climbing we were doing on the Apron, in Yosemite. Only that was graded 5.10 R, and this was graded E5 6a. And this felt easier….


Cherry using some fairly insecure thin hand jams, to flail his way up ‘The Gates of Mordor’ an E3 6a at Millstone Edge.

My experience on The Gates of Mordor (E3 6a) perfectly captured the training that I want to be doing. Not being scared of taking falls on gear, trying really hard on real rock, and using my route climbing in the UK as a learning experience, to become a better climber! Trying this was route was not just about doing it, but also learning how to do it. What to expect? More of the same. Thin slabs, steep cracks, powerful boulders, and bad driving. It’s good to be back!


Things have been quiet recently, too quiet. With both of us being in our final year of study, balancing work commitments and climbing can be a tough game, especially when the nearby peak district has been soggy for about 2 months.

Obviously, we’ve been training incredibly hard:




Photo: Ace Film and Photography


Photo: Ace Film and Photography

And we plan to put our various climbing skills to practise in one of the most beautiful and wild climbing destinations in the world – The Lofoten Islands in Norway. An endless landscape of jagged granite spires rising out of the sea awaits, with top class trad climbing, bouldering and even hard sport routes.

The plan?

Train hard, work hard, graduate, drive north, climb until our fingers bleed and we run out of food.

This blog will serve to document our efforts in fulfilling all of these goals! Thanks to everyone who’s followed us so far, and I hope you find the photos, articles and videos to follow at least entertaining – if not informative.

The Magical Lofoten Islands

The Magical Lofoten Islands


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