Tuesday, November 16, 2010

October climbing

I've been remiss with the blogging lately. Apologies to anyone who drops by once in while looking for a minute's distraction to find the same old same old. It's November, it's raining, I'm miserable, I'm tired, blah, blah, blah. Whatever... anyway, here's an update with some climbing photos.

I think October is the best month for climbing in Finland. The colours are great, it's cold enough to stop you sweating and it means good friction for your feet. Camping is always fun once it's dark and you can sit round a camp fire, but there is still enough daylight for a good day's climbing. The weather often seems to be pretty good. And for photographers, it is the 'golden hour' for much of the day - the low sun illuminating the leaves on the trees and the rock. All the photos below are 'clickable' or bigger versions.

Early October: Dave, Simon and I go to Olhava. Always fantastic. I liked this snap of a fellow climber taping up. It's the way to go if you are going to try and do some full days there. I think she is just concentrating on the taping, because she cruised Salama (E1 5b) with ease and grace straight afterwards so I don't think she was needing to do much psyching up (p.s. if that is you, leave me a comment as I have some nice pics of you on Salama that I'd be very happy to email you if you would like!).

Dave leading Suuri Leikkaus (E1 5b). I remember him seconding this route the day I first met him about 13 years ago! But still he had never led it. Over a decade our much expanded joint rack of large cams has made it much less unnerving an ascent than it would have been back then.

Sunday morning. The one thing with colder nights as autumn comes on is that it's harder to get out of your pit in the morning.

Dave suffering from the same not-quite-ready-to-get-out-of-the-bag syndrome. Simon has been strong and managed to struggle out his bag by this point. Some morning person has already relit the campfire though, the star!

Leisurely breakfasts and cups of coffee whilst using the excuse of "we're waiting for it to warm up just a little".

Sunday: Dave leading Finland's most aesthetic route - Kantti (E2 5b). I second it again and once again realise I still don't have the balls to lead it. Maybe next year...

Mid October - Kustavi, SW Finland. Another beautiful sunny day, but even colder. The crag is deserted besides us. I put one of those chemical handwarmer sachets in my chalk bag having read it as a 'top tip' in some climbing mag once. It works really well, and the I need it with the rock being so cold.

This crag, Isonittu, is all about the cracks. We do 11 pitches in the day, all except one sports route follow crack lines. I'm testing Camalots versus Dragons for UKC. It is the perfect testing ground - we place one or two nuts all day, the rest is just cam after cam after cam.

There is something vaguely Californian looking about this photo, but it wasn't the temperature. Dave leads Sankariheviä, VS 5a. The crack is perfectly jammable. The strong of arms but weak of pain tolerance layback it instead. Wimps...

Pulling through the overhang on Täysjyvä, VS 5a. Note the camtastic crack that the line follows. Isonittu might have the best collection of mid-grade trad routes of any crag in Finland. It can be a bit shady and dank in summer, but by late autumn virtually all the leaves have dropped and much more sun is hitting the section of the cliff in the woods.

10 routes into the day and the sun is setting. Not much time left before dark and coldness sets in. There was just one more route that I wanted to try before we called it quits...

This is crappy photo, but I just wanted one of Kaunokainen - which I reckon is about HVS 4c but it's an offwidth, so who knows what grade it is really. The crack is so wide, only the cam you can see in the picture fitted (and for most of the route -only just) so as I squirmed and slithered up it, I had to push the cam before me as the only runner. Leg jamming and chicken winging are the way to go. Skin was shredded, small amounts of blood were spilt, but that's how it should be. It ain't pretty, but upward movement becomes possible.

Late October: Havukallio. We are in no rush to get to the crag knowing that it is bloody cold out of the sun, but still everything is frosted when we park mid morning. It was so cold I wasn't climbing in a particularly inspired way but it was still great to be out.

It is a bit hard to see but on the left of the photo is the first bolt with quickdraw attached of the first climb of the day, Vanha vihtahousu, F5+. On the right, ice dribbles out of a crack. As the day went on and the sun came round we actually saw some lumps of ice that had formed from seeps at the top of cliff break off once warmed and come crashing down the cliff. It was nothing that couldn't be easily dodged, but not something I remember seeing before whilst cragging!

Jody battles frozen fingers and numb toes on Vanha vihtahousu, F5+. It was mainly a loosing battle, and it seemed just racing to the lower-off and getting back down on to the ground for gloves, trainers and hotaches was the best tactic.

Later the sun came round and the cliff at least looked gold and warm, even if the difference wasn't actually so great. Here Jody climbs an unnamed crack, just to the left of the route above, that goes at about VS 4c.

All in all, what more could you want from a month?


Markus Varha said...

Amazing photos and stories, thank for this Toby!

Dave said...

Great pictures. I wish it was October again...