Monday, October 13, 2008

The cracks of Kustavi county

Depending on where you climb at a weekend, your hands hurt in different ways when doing the washing up on Monday. Bouldering or sport climbing tends to mean that you loose some layers of skin from your fingertips and hence submersing them in hot water hurts. But today it's my knuckles, wrists and backs of hands that hurt when doing the dishes. Scrapes, scratches and skin missing here means crack climbing, and Kustavi, an island at Finland's southwestern corner is all about the cracks.

Kustavi sunset

English Tony and I left Helsinki in pouring rain with fingers crossed that the forecast for improvement was right. It was still drizzling when we arrived, but the skies were beginning to break up a little. Expert local beta (thanks Teppo!) suggested if anywhere would be drying, Riskeläisvuori - a beautiful crag that in parts comes straight out of the sea, would be.

Tony climbs Kesäretki 3+ (VD)

The first attempt wasn't encouraging with me slithering out of a supposedly easy crack a few time before giving up on that route, but British climbers' enthusiasm has to be sturdy in the face of damp, slippy rock or we'd never get anything done, and we managed to thug our way up a couple of easier, if rather slippy in the conditions, routes.

The sky continued to clear so after some food at a local eatery, which was a fine example of why Finnish cuisine is so not internationally famous, we looked for somewhere to doss for the night.

Camping in the forest

We headed to another cliff, Kräkiniemi, and arranged our accommodation for the night before strolling to the top of the cliff and enjoying the moon lit view out across the hushed countryside. A night out in the woods is a relaxing experience as there is really absolutely nothing to do beside chatting with your mates and arsing about until you feel like going to bed. After a few beers we found immense amusement in messing around with cameras and headtorches and trying to write our names in light.

Not too bad eh? A few litres of dark Czech beer, a headtorch or two, some moderately expensive camera equipment and a dark night out in a soggy forest - and you too could achieve similar works of art - although you should try writing your own name, not mine...

Your correspondent enjoying that crusty bivy feeling

The night was clear and starry and very mellow, and Sunday dawned blue and sunny.

Kräkiniemi in the morning sun

Tony on Kuutamo 4+ (HS)

Kräkiniemi was very wet, but the very end climb was in the sun and dry enough for me to scuttle up before the sun swung round further leaving the crag in shadow. We stopped off at Kuulivuori which is an impressive crag but after both getting completely spanked on a supposed 5 (HVS), one of the easiest routes on the cliff, ran away with our tails between our legs.

Next up: Hopiavuori which was hiding behind an amazing a technicolour display of autum foliage. I love Hopiavuori - even more so now as I onsighted a supposed 6- (E1), an absolutely perfect hand crack which was just a joy to climb and if you can hand jam probably only British VS or Finnish 5-. It is rare that I do any climbs that feels easy for the grade! Thus is the curse of punterdom.

Tony gets three-dimensional whilst heading towards autumn on Aallon Helmi 5 (HVS)

About to head into the crack of Piippurassi

About to escape from Piippurassi 4 (VD)

We finished the day with an almost caving expedition in the bowels of the cliff, a "climb" called Piippurassi that follows an excellent squeeze chimney - something that Finnish climbing doesn't have enough of!

All that was left was the long drive home chasing an almost full-moon eastwards.


Quizbo said...

Great pics... thanks for sharing what looks like a well and truly excellent trip.

Tony and Anni said...

Thanks for a great weekend Toby. It certainly was a lot of fun. I particularly enjoyed the beer drinking, but the crack climbing was also great.

Anonymous said...

Juicy colors. Perfect fall

Anonymous said...

Nice one... Kustavi is great...

And might I enquire which HVS in Kuulivuori spanked yer arse...

As for Hopia, I'm guessing you OS Säkkipilli, right? Oh, and to make you feel even better, both Peter H. and Rami H. backed away from that one a few years ago...


Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

Henkka, it was indeed Säkkipilli. A brilliant little route. When I next see Rami I will definitely inquire whether his giving it a miss is the truth or scurrilous gossip! I know I can jam OK so started thinking maybe its the right grade right, 6- is normally English E1, but there are grit cracks like the The Crank at Ramshaws ( or The File at Higgar ( are no easier and they are both VS (5-). Routes have to be grade on the basis that climbers know how to climb with all normal techniques and that includes jamming. And if you can jam Säkkipilli is straight forward. It is brilliant though! Deffo 3*.

At Kuulivuori the route was Mainio, we couldn't even get up the start section (see pic: it was really desperate! Nice place though.

Anonymous said...

Ah Mainio... Yes, the crux is the start... just a few nasty grunts and your up and away...

I did Paha Vaatturi last time I was there. Brilliant route, albeit somewhat non continuous... Easy climbing to a good ledge and a few over the head pro (small though). Then a really nasty blind 5'ish boulder problem as the topout.

As for Rami and Säkkipilli... both he and Peter tried it, and failed. Juha lead the route, and I cleaned it in sandals and tweaked knee... After that both Pete and Rami had a few goes with it on TR and then promtly lead it... But since both are mainly bolt clippers these days, climbing jams is something they ain't too good at. It has changed though, at least with Rami (Kings Cross, anyone).