Stop whining and start climbing

Hellooo, long time no blog. Over the winter I was busy with work and didn’t have as much time to climb as I’d like. Now I’m starting to get back out. Slowly. I was fortunate to get 10 days off around Easter. What to do with all those days? What is the best way to unwind from work and relax?

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“Do you know how to place it, Emma?”

“Yes… I mean no. But I’ve seen people do it.”

That conversation sums up my trip to Senja, Norway. Some call it a vacation, I’m calling it an alpine climbing course.

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Approaching the Spoon Couloir.

We had four climbing days. I actually had six since I begun my holidays by participating in the ice climbing instructor course (JKO) in Korouoma, in Northern Finland. I went back and forth about whether to participate this year or not.

I visited Korouoma with Liisa in January to see where I’m at. It took me two and a half hours (and more takes than I care to admit) to get up the easiest line at Jaska Jokunen. Way to get a boost of confidence for the season! Ice is a terrifying element… since it is just water. The trip was the high point of my busy winter but at the same time I went through a low point as a climber.

Why am I doing this? I remember having fun ice climbing last year. Right now I’m so scared I don’t want to move. What if my crampons fall off? This is stupid. I don’t want to climb anymore. This is my weekend off. I should be doing something fun. What if I drop my ice tool? Why am I not using leashes? And now I will think about the letter I got from my sister a few months back. Oh god, I might as well start crying right now.

Emma, stop thinking so much about climbing and simply climb.

Or as my friends in Oregon would phrase it: Stop whining and start climbing.

And so I did. After the Korouoma trip I went back to top roping as much as I could whenever I could. It paid off and I passed the course but I was totally pooped after. More importantly though, I realized I was having fun too.

Back to Norway. I’ve done climbs in the alpine terrain but I have not had this winter combo before: avalanche hazard, mixed ice/snow climbing, spindrift, and winter camping. In addition, I’ve never had this little information about the area I’m going too.

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Camping by the ice fall Big blue.
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The last belay of the Big blue was in a cave.

We went with the recommendations of a local guide Bent Vidar who operates the Senja Lodge & Mountainguides. We climbed the Spoon Couloir (400m/III, AI3), the Cave Couloir (600m/III, AI3) and an ice fall called the Big Blue (160m/WI4+). The routes are in the Top 12 list of the Senja mini guide. Bent told me that the guidebook for the Senja area is in the making. This place doesn’t get much traffic yet but I’m fairly sure that will change.

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Getting acquainted with the occasional spindrift in the Spoon Couloir. Photo by Max.
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What a lovely, relaxed day. Photo by Max.
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Liisa swinging her tools in the Spoon Couloir.
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Bye bye Norway!

It’s my 29th birthday today, hurray! My birthday present to myself this year, in stead of climbing 29 pitches in a day, is to go climbing in Yosemite. Maybe we will try to get 29 pitches in in two weeks. Katja? 😉

The Magical Kvaløya Island

I’m back! And I have a new blog. I’m new to WordPress so bare with me. I am trying to keep it simple. Feedback is always appreciated so don’t hesitate to contact me.

The Norway tour was everything I had hoped for. I left home with a three day notice, expecting to spend two weeks in Northern Norway. I was traveling with Rami and Liisa. We brought gear for climbing and ski touring. Two weeks later, I found myself in Nissedal in Southern Norway. First we drove from Tampere to Kvaløya.

Kvaløya is an island right next to Trømso, Norway. Kvaløya provides a great playground for activities such as ski touring, climbing, bouldering, hiking, running, fishing and mountain biking. If you link well, you can do it all in one day.

Norway takes my breath away.
The clear blue sky was greeting us in Norway. This is a beach somewhere between Trømso and Kvaløya.
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Ersfjorden is one of the coolest crags I’ve been to! Photo by Rami Valonen
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Ersfjordbotn, Kvaløya. Heading back to the car after clipping bolts at Ersfjorden. Photo by Rami Valonen

I’ve wanted to go to Kvaløya since last summer. I went climbing in Lofoten while Rami and Lauri went to Baugen and Blåmannen. After hearing their stories and seeing their photos I realized Baugen is where I want to go next.

Our main goal was to climb in Baugen. Baugen is a part of the Hollenderan mountain range, the historical epicenter of the Kvaløya climbing, as the Kvaløya – Selected climbs describes it. Baugen is the alpine climbing venue in Scandinavia. The wall consists of about 20 sustained 250-350 meter routes, in the 5.10 to 5.12 range. Plus the variations.

For anyone who seeks beautiful views, Kvaløya offers many established trails and top tours. Photo by Rami Valonen
For anyone who seeks beautiful views, I recommend Kvaløya. Me and Liisa filling our bottles. Photo by Rami Valonen
The approach to the Baugen hut.
The approach to the Baugen hut. Photo by Rami Valonen
The view from the saddle. The Baugen hut is located a ten minute hike away from the hut.
The view from the approach. The Baugen hut is conveniently located a ten minute hike, or a two minute ski away from the climbing.

The Baugen hut is run by the Trømso climbing club. It is the cutest and best equipped hut I have stayed in. Wine glasses and slippers are included! First day we hiked in (3 hours) and went climbing in the evening (more hours than I care to admit). We were back at the hut around 3am.

The Baugen hut is very cosy. Bring your binoculars and check which routes are dry. There is also a lot of interesting things to read and topos you can borrow.
Hanging out in the Baugen hut. The in-house library offers a lot of interesting reads, including topos. Photo by Rami Valonen
Liisa is enchanted by the view of Baugen. I am sleeping. Surprise! Photo by Rami Valonen

The climbing was excellent, just as promised. We climbed Baugsprydet (6-/6) and Vårrusen (5-).

Belaying Liisa on Vårrusen. Photo by Rami Valonen
Belaying Liisa on Vårrusen. Photo by Rami Valonen
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Me and Liisa at the top after climbing Baugsprydet, which is the first route at Baugen! Photo by Rami Valonen
A bolted rappel line is always nice. Photo by Rami Valonen
The bolted rappel line can be tricky to follow, unless you know exactly where to go. Photo by Rami Valonen

As much as I love climbing in the mountains, I don’t feel shame in admitting, that the climbing is scary up there. Even if I say I enjoyed climbing a route, I most certainly experienced moments of discomfort during the day. I remember a time, not long ago, when I was blissfully unaware of things that can go wrong. The North is s great place to practice, because during the summer months, the sun never goes down. Say no for getting benighted, hurray!

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The steep…ish snow traverse is not my favorite. It felt steeper than it looks. Photo by Rami Valonen

For me, alpine climbing is the most empowering and exciting form of climbing. Someone asked me why. Why do you do this? Aren’t there challenges here, somewhere closer to home?

The very fact that someone asks me this question, tells me, that there is no point in trying to explain why.

Mountaineering is as meaningless as life itself – that’s why its magic will never die.  – Peter Wessel Zapffe

Agreed.

A week spent in the Kvaløya island gave me just a tiny a glimpse of what it has to offer. I can’t wait to go back!