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

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

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

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Stefan on En Liten Bit Granit (6)

Cherry 6+

Cherry on En Liten Bit Granit (6)

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Cherry on Odon (7)

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Stefan on Odon (7)

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Hallinden – home of huge classics, and steep cracks.

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Stefan on Prismaster (6)

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Stefan topping out Prismaster (6)

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

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Cherry looking not tired at all before his burn on AfterBurner

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The Hallinden main face, as seen from the road.

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Parmesan. Parmesan on everything.

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The bunkhouse is pretty cool…

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“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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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!

Northbound.

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:

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‘training’

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Photo: Ace Film and Photography http://www.acefilmandphotography.com/

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Photo: Ace Film and Photography http://www.acefilmandphotography.com/

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

Captain Kirkpatrick and the one-day Enterprise – VIDEO

Better late than never – here is a short video of our 11:30 hr speed ascent of the Leaning Tower, tied to Andy Kirkpatrick.

This was our last ‘Big Wall’ at the end of the month in Yosemite, and I think its fair to say that it was totally beyond our expectations.

When we sat on the coach that drove through the valley floor and stared up at the countless towering walls, we both considered the many possibilities and opportunities that stood before us. We could go aid climbing, free climbing, bouldering or big walling! Yosemite Valley is big-climbing Mecca, and it makes you consider your ambitions and your limits every day. The walls are so gargantuan, grand, and clean that they can look intimidating and impossible – they remind you how small you are and how hard you’ll have to try. But the climbers in the valley are so endlessly psyched and mindlessly optimistic that they’ll make you believe you can do anything, they’ll tell you to jump over that gap that you never though you could jump.

To “live the dream dude!!”.

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When we met Andy, he was one of those people. He gave us an opportunity to try something far beyond our own expectations. Like two men crazed by some infectious psyche disease – we over-enthusiastically agreed. Perhaps he wouldn’t realise we had no idea what we were doing?

As we settled down for 5 hours sleep, underneath North America’s most overhanging big wall, Stefan politely asked ‘So Andy – how do we climb as a 3?’.

Perhaps he did, and that was just part of the challenge.

Scotland, spindrift and vertical swimming

A short and not-so-sweet video that really is just a collection of video clips and pictures of our 2015 Scottish winter adventures (so far).

This year we’ve been learning the way of the weekend warrior – stupendous cramped car journeys that pull into the North Face car park (the true centre of British mountaineering) at 4am, only to wait an hour in the dark for the alarm to go off at 5am, throw some pot noodles over your face and start the Ben Nevis commute. Of course, all this is only true provided the weather holds up its end of the bargain – and even then you may get to the CIC hut just to turn back muttering “No f**cking way am I gunna get myself killed today.”

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It’s a frustrating game, when the odds simply refuse to stack up in your favour. But keep at it, and with a bit of luck and a lot of chocolate biscuits, the weekend warrior is rewarded with some of the richest mountain days and most memorable climbing experiences they could hope for.

If you’ve bought the trousers, you’ve gotta do the route.

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‘That’ll be £250 please’.

I handed over my card. With some post Christmas money available and sick of having trousers that absorb more moisture than they keep out,  i had invested in some decent hard shell trousers.

Rather appropriately TNF Point Five, to which Cherrys first response was  ‘If you’ve bought the trousers, you’ve gotta do the route.’

Two years ago, while misguidedly learning to use crampons on Tower Ridge, I remember looking over to the Point Five/Zero gully part of Ben Nevis. From TR it looked steep, very steep. The specks of climbers steadily chopping their way up it looked impossibly small and dwarfed by the scale. The idea of getting on point five gully was exciting. For the next two years all our plans to get on it were thwarted by bad weather, lack of funds and not being able to climb together.

Until last weekend.

Cherry drinking breakfast while queuing at the base

Cherry drinking breakfast while queuing at the base

Cherry finishing the first pitch

Cherry finishing the first pitch

hunkered down while being shelled by ice

hunkered down while being shelled by ice

Stefan leading the rogue pitch

Stefan leading the rogue pitch

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psyched!

Cherry saluting an magical day

Cherry saluting an magical day

Sunset over Lochaber

Sunset over Lochaber

Over the moon we’d actually got up it we ambled down the tourist path in the glow of a beautiful setting sun.

We’re heading back up there this evening, with a smidge more confidence and understanding of how to climb ice.

The wet season

Every UK climber knows that pre-Christmas, is the wet season.

Well realistically every season can be the ‘wet season’, and I certainly remember Autumn/ Winter times that were wetter than this one, but having said that it’s still pretty wet.

Carefully balancing university commitments and climbing goals, this Autumn/ Winter has been one of indoor training and little climbing – but quality days taken dvantage of when they did come through.

For Stefan and I, returning to live in Nottingham with no car and a final year of university to contend with – was a bit of a shocker. No more casual evening cragging, no more walking distance boulders and as a result, a lot less opportunity to get out and get stuff done.

However, as foretold by the ancients and written in the holy book of the weekend warrior – you have to make the good days count.

When a clear, cold saturday morning rolls around, we’re up at 5, on the train for 6, and at the crag for 7/8am, loosing skin and wasting chalk on every piece of dry rock available. It’s been an interesting change of pace, and it certainly pays off to learn how to save yourself for the right conditions, the right day, and then give it 100% in your window of opportunity.

Here’s to a cold dry winter in 2015!

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Another unsuccessful trip to Burbage.

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Unimpressed by wet crags.

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The definitive 5.11 – Burbage South’s answer to Seperate Reality?

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Another night spent speculating the many choices of poor footholds on Deliverance (7B).

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Christmas spirit at Sheffield Train Station.

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“Stefan climbs the North face of Santa” – Graham Higgins

Merry Christmas everyone!

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