Prague

Laetitia is working in Prague this week, another tour as a tutor on the Lead with Impact course. And so another great opportunity for me to take advantage and get to see parts of Europe I really don’t think I’d visit in normal circumstances… More “Prague”

Last Day of Cragging at Gaillands

The morning dawned misty in the valley, so after a late breakfast of pain au chocolat and coffee in town we had a late start for a short midday session at Les Gaillands. The crag was deserted, as the holiday period was over, or was it because only English climb in the heat of the sun?

Pete leads a 5c pitch on the Pettit Gailland
Laetitia leads the same 5c

Pete led three routes which we alternately followed or led.

Ian going for non-existant holds on a 6a pitch

As it go hotter we ventured higher up the crag to get the full benefit of the searing heat! Pete found a powerful corner 6a which he led, Laetitia followed, and Ian swore at!

Pete bridging the corner before the powerful moves (Ian’s legs aren’t this long)
Pete & Laetitia happy on the belay

As the heat took its toll we escaped to the bottom of the crag where Pete showed off his slack-lining skills to the locals. While Ian and Laetitia went to the ice-cream telepherique to cool down.

Waiting for the cable car to depart!

Once again there were lots of small creatures to avoid on the crag. Can you name them?

A
B
C

A day in the Pfalz

After Rebecca & Mathias’ wedding party we spent Sunday climbing in the Pfalz – we’d arranged to meet Max and Uli at the Drei Felsen

Our last trip to the Pfalz hadn’t seen the best weather – it was quite damp on several days – and we came away thinking the climbing there wasn’t up to much, and certainly wasn’t what you might call “world class”. However, modifying our perception a bit, after spending another day there in glorious sunshine I have to say that it is actually quite good! Amazing what a bit of sun will do… 😉

On the second pitch of Falkenverscheidung (6) at Drei Felsen

To get away from the noise of the B10 road below, despite the great sunny climbing, after a few routes we quickly moved on to the Weiherwände area – a very much quieter spot.

We arrived a few minutes after Max and Uli and followed them up Südpfeiler. Well, that is we followed after getting Max to clip the second bolt as he abseiled down to protect the desperately thin starting moves!

Südpfeiler (6+) at Große Weiherwände

After that we realised that the heat of the day had beaten us! That, and the call of spaghetti ice-cream was too much to resist in the heat! 😛

Pete, Uli, and Max hiding from the intense heat - relaxing and chatting in the shade!
...and then we rushed off to Annweiler for ice-cream!

Back in Edenkoben that evening we enjoyed a very German (we think) pub dinner. We ordered a Pfalz speciality; weinkraut, and three different types of sausage! :yum: And of course, eating out in the beirgarten we enjoyed some beer too! :yum:

The beer garden in Edenkoben

Lofoten – The Facts and Logistics

After a few blogs which included our adventures while we were in Lofoten – climbing, ice-cream and beer – I thought I’d add one more about the Lofoten facts and logistics to help any future Lofoten adventurers.

Henningsvaer
Henningsvaer

There is of course plenty of information on the web, but this addition might help the climbers out there.

Guidebook
Well of course, it has to be the Rockfax Lofoten Rock by Chris Craggs and Thorbjørn Enevold. You can read the details, history etc. on their web site. This guide is pretty good – for pre-adventure reading. The photo topos really excite the imagination. However, there are a couple of down sides:

  • The size of the guide isn’t really suitable for multi-pitch routes. Photocopy the routes, or rip the pages out. 😈
  • The use of the Top 50 routes, makes the top 50 routes very popular! Don’t forget there are plenty of other starred routes to have a go at.

Getting There
There’s lots of choice – planes, ferries, driving – depending on how much time you have, and how much money you have. My priority was to get as much climbing time in a week off work as possible. And if you are clever it doesn’t have to be too expensive…
We flew from Manchester to Oslo; then Oslo to Bodø with SAS; and then Bodø to Svolvær with Widerøe. There’s a 20kg limit with SAS and 15kg with Widerøe. Flying out from Manchester on Friday night, having a stop-over in Oslo and continuing on to Bodø on Saturday morning was cheaper than doing the whole trip on Saturday. We stopped in Thon Hotel Gardermoen. I booked a family room which just about fits four adults (if you’re not too big), which included a very good breakfast (and for the sneaky like Pete, a lunch too :mrgreen: ). The transfer bus to and from the hotel was NOK 60 each, each way. A taxi costs NOK 250 each way. This was all still cheaper than flying out of Manchester on Saturday. We flew back on Sunday.

Car Hire
I searched and searched on the web for something cheap to no avail. Most web sites seemed to indicate car hire pick up and drop off wasn’t possible at the weekends in Svolvær, but eventually I got one from eBookers with Europcar. This was £406 for a week!!!! 😮
While we were there we found Lofoten Rentacar which seems to be cheaper with a small car being NOK 400 a day.

Where to Stay
We took the hint from the Rockfax guide and stayed at the NNKS. This is in a fantastic location within walking distance of many of the Top 50 climbs. It’s a great place to meet other climbers, and of course it’s right next to the bar and above the gear shop. What more could a climber want….? …. sleep! 🙁 Friday night and Saturday night are serious party nights, starting at about midnight and getting quiet sometime after 3.30am. It’s probably easier to join in than try to sleep through it.
On the whole, I’m still glad we stayed there – with the benefits of meeting new people.

Nord Norsk Klatre Skole accommodation
Nord Norsk Klatre Skole accommodation

We met Chris Bonington out there, he was staying in Kalle, which looked like another excellent spot.

And of course, there is always free camping, in beautiful settings. But having a roof over your head when it rains seems like a much better idea to me.

And talking of rain…
We had one full day of rain and one which had a few wet hours. The rock dries very quickly though, so people were out climbing fairly soon after the rain stopped. Remembering that with 24 hour daylight, anytime is climbing time! 😀

Midnight sunshine
Midnight sunshine

Costs
Everyone worries about the cost of food in Norway. Here are some example grocery prices from the supermarket in Henningsvær:

  • Corn Flakes NOK 22.90
  • Loaf of bread NOK 23.90
  • Milk (1 ltr) NOK 13.90
  • Frozen Pizza NOK 34.90
  • Can Lager 26.00
Henningsvaer main street
Henningsvaer main street

Beer in the pub was NOK 60 something for a pint! 😮

What to climb….?
Well that’s up to you. My favourite was Lundeklubben. 😛

Lofoten – and to finish, Vestpillaren

The last three days of our Lofoten Island rock climbing trip were the most amazing of the trip…

Paradiset

Laetitia on the Paradiset beach
Laetitia on the Paradiset beach

Richard and Laetitia led the very fine and un-protected slab pitch of<br data-recalc-dims=By the Dashboard Light” title=”_PWS5554″ width=”399″ height=”600″ class=”size-full wp-image-5881″ />
Richard and Laetitia led the very fine and un-protected slab pitch of By the Dashboard Light

Then it rained! So we went to Svolvaer for coffee, cakes, and ice-cream. Richard wanted to go back every day after that for more Royal ice-cream! 😀

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Vestpillaren, take-1 and Store Festvag
Friday’s forecast was awesome, sunny, warm, and no (arctic) wind. Richard and I planned an ascent of Vestpillaren. According to the guidebook, it is the MUST DO route of the Lofoten Islands. Vestpillaren is nearly 500m long – a 12 pitch monster of a rock climb!

The only problem was that everyone else thought the same about the weather. We arrived at 10am (no rush with 24 hours of daylight) and were still waiting in line at 11am. The (British) team in front had taken over an hour for the leader to do the first pitch. When the second then decided to take a pee before starting to climb, followed by falling from the first move of the pitch we realised we were behind a seriously slow team! Plus there were at least ten more people above them on the route already – traffic jams were guaranteed. All that with a minimum of eight hours climbing with a clear route and two hours descending after that looked bad. We decided to come back on Saturday, and join Paul and Laetitia at Store Festvag

What an awesome place. Perhaps some of the best pitches of climbing of the holiday.

Pete at the top of the 3rd pitch of Lundeklubben
Pete at the top of the 3rd pitch of Lundeklubben
Paul following Laetitia on the last pitch of Lundeklubben
Paul following Laetitia on the last pitch of Lundeklubben
Richard at the top of Lundeklubben with Henningsvaer behind
Richard at the top of Lundeklubben with Henningsvaer behind.
The slab is much steeper than it looks in this ultra-wide-angle shot.
Laetitia on the crux of Gaukerisset
Laetitia on the crux of Gaukerisset

We resolved to get up at 6am to be first on Vestpillaren on our second attempt; our last opportunity before leaving the islands. Unfortunately, Friday night is party night in Henningsvaer! At 10pm we went to bed. At midnight the party started! It was loud! Richard declared that there was no chance of getting up early and climbing a 12 pitch route with no sleep, and a headache. So we turned our alarms off and got what sleep we could.

Vestpillaren, take 2
At 11am on our last day we drove below Vestpillaren to dream of what might have been. Amazingly with the help of Paul’s binoculars we could see that there wasn’t a single party on the whole line! 😛 Game on. 😀 Unfortunately Richard was wasted – his and Paul’s room was directly next to the bar where the party had been the night before. However, luckily for me Laetitia was up for it, and after some fast re-packing we set off…

Vestpillaren
Vestpillaren
If you know where to look there's a couple of pin-prick dots high on the face; that's us!
Laetitia on the 3rd pitch
Laetitia on the 3rd pitch

The crux, the Slanting Corner, was fantastic. And a relief to get behind us as, excepting the long descent walk, was the last difficulty. The corner itself can just be seen as the lower of two features near the top on the right hand side of the mountain shot above.

The crux 9th pitch, the Slanting Corner
The crux 9th pitch, the Slanting Corner
Seriously knackered at the top, with gathering clouds!
Seriously knackered at the top, with gathering clouds!

What a brilliant route! The best end to the holiday! 😉

That night we enjoyed the party atmosphere in the bar ourselves, this time not cursing the noise!

Excellent live Norwegian entertainment
Excellent live Norwegian entertainment

Kalle
While we climbed Vestpillaren, Paul and Richard went round to Kalle and climbed the Puffrisset… A desperately thin main slab pitch followed by a poor top section. Are those top pitches ever climbed?

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… and Finally

We counted up our empty beer cans (and other recyclables) to take back for 1NK each refund!  Don't even ask how much this lot cost us!
We counted up our empty beer cans (and other recyclables) to take back for 1NK each refund! Don't even ask how much this lot cost us!

Bob Graham Round Support

Our friend Steve has spent the year running ridiculously long distances, among other things for an attempt at the Bob Graham Round. This weekend was the date, and Rachel and I drove up to the Lake District to support him.

For those who don’t know, the Bob Graham Round is a 42 peak, 66 mile challenge that has to be completed in 24 hours. It starts in Keswick and takes in Skiddaw and Blencathra, the whole Helvellyn ridge, most of the central Lake District peaks, before winding back to Keswick via Dale End and Robinson. Steve was starting at 6:30pm, so he was doing the Dodds and Helvellyn in the dark, and asked me to run that section with him, in the hope that I could help with the night navigation. Rachel was doing the following section, from Dunmail Raise to Wasdale via the Langdales and Scafell.

We spent saturday getting my parents to Manchester for their flight back to New Zealand, with a stop at the Roaches to stretch our legs and pick loads of Billberries. Yum! Then after dinner we drove up to Threlkeld where I was meeting Steve.

Steve arrived about 10pm, looking pretty strong, and well up on his schedule. After a short break, we set off up Clough Head. The climb went well, and we arrived at the top a few minutes quicker than planned, but with it now fully dark, and in quite thick cloud. The leg to Great Dodd went well enough, and fortunately we found the summit carn fairly quickly as by this stage visibility even with lights was about five metres.

After Great Dodd we followed the ridge along to Watson Dodd and Stybarrow Dodd. Watson was a bit of a disaster as we left the path too early and then after we had found the cairn, promptly missed the ridge on the way back to the path. We lost another couple of minutes trying to find the cairn at Stybarrow, but then quickly found the path down to Sticks Pass. The next two peaks, Raise and White Side were uneventful as the path goes right to the summit of each, but the poor visibility meant it was hard to run fast even on the downhills so we were losing time against the schedule on almost every leg.

Map of my run. Rachel joined us at Dunmail Raise, south of Thirlmere.
Map of my run. Rachel joined us at Dunmail Raise, south of Thirlmere.

The climb up to Helvellyn Lower Man was easy, and remarkably it was almost perfectly calm—I can’t imagine there are many days you can climb Helvellyn at night in just a t-shirt and shorts, even if you are running! From there, we hit the trig on top of Helvellyn perfectly, but things started to go wrong after that. At Nethermost Pike we needed two goes to find the summit, and I picked out the cairn above High Crags as the next one to visit, rather than Dollywaggon Pike, so dragged Steve up an unnecessary hill. From here we descended to Grisedale Tarn, dropped some gear off and went up Fairfield.

Fairfield was horrible. The steep climb seemed neverending, and then once we got to the summit plateau we couldn’t find the cairn (again), but eventually we were descending again, having lost more time, before the final climb to Seat Sandal and then the big drop to Dunmail Raise and the car. We got there around 3am, about 10 minutes down on the original schedule, mostly because we couldn’t descend fast in the cloud, and we kept missing the best lines.

We met Rachel and Yuko at the car, and since I was feeling pretty good, I decided to continue with Steve and Rachel on the next section. We spent a few minutes filling water bottles, our packs and ourselves, and then set off up Steel Fell. By the top it was light enough to read the map without a torch, and the cloud had mostly cleared so we could at least see where we were going, but Steve was struggling to eat enough, and we were still losing time on most legs. Calf Crag came and went, and then we struggled in morning mist to find the summit of Sergeant Man.

After a quick diversion to High Raise, we had the mostly downhill section to Thunacar Knott, Harrison Stickle and Pike O’Stickle. Even here though we were losing time, and after getting lost in the mist coming off Martcrag Moor, and with Steve developing a large blister it was clear that he wasn’t going to finish the Round. We gave up just before Rossett Pike and walked from there to Wasdale via Angle and Styhead Tarns.

Steve looks shattered, but can still stand unsupported!
Steve looks shattered, but can still stand unsupported!

Steve deserves congratulations for how far he got. He was well ahead of time at Threlkeld, and only lost time on the Dodds due to my ropey navigation and the heavy cloud. I reckon I ran about 25 miles before we gave up, and then we walked about 5.5 miles from there. Rachel did around 15 miles in total, but Steve had already done 14 miles before I even started, so he’d done almost 40 miles before we quit. Pretty impressive!

Afterwards we collapsed and slept for a while, then went for lunch at Wilfs in Staveley, followed by ice cream, and the long drive home. Halfway back we had to stop and sleep for an hour. We didn’t get around to blogging it, but last weekend we ran in an overnight orienteering relay on Merthyr Common. I started around 1am, and Rachel started around 2. We’re both looking forward to a weekend with normal sleep patterns, but with the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon starting from Coniston next weekend, I doubt it’ll happen anytime soon.

The world's saddest hanging basket. Could it be the savage local weather conditions?
The world's saddest hanging basket. Could it be the savage local weather conditions?
Not enough energy to eat an ice cream!
Not enough energy to eat an ice cream!