Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bohuslän climbing: a trip report.

Bohuslän landscape
(All photos clickable for bigger versions) Trip reports are a bit old school, the type of thing people used to do back in newsgroups days. But lots of people have heard of Bohuslän in Sweden, whilst fewer non-Swedish climbers have actually had a chance to visit, so I thought that a trip report might be of interest to some.

First, thanks to Tomás for agreeing to come on the trip with me, and for roping in his friends Mishi and Martin to share the driving and climbing with. Tomás was the fella who agreed to go head-torch climbing with me on a dark, cold, damp November night in Stockholm last year, so he was just the guy for a mission like this one. It was a top weekend, I got to visit an area I’ve long wanted to go to, and the guys got a crash course in trad climbing. I wasn’t particularly ambitious in the climbs I did, but it was ferociously hot all weekend making all climbing a rather sweaty affair. Additionally, for Tomás, Mishi and Martin this was their first time trad climbing so obviously they wanted to focus more on placing and removing the gear than on cranking hard. Nevertheless we did some 5+ routes which I guess would be British HVS, and for a climber of moderate talent such as myself, no pushover.

Swedish climbers; almost certainly cooler than you are.
Firstly, where to stay: we camped at Klättertorpet (website in Swedish and doesn’t have any English on it so you’ll have to trust me). We were there on a long weekend around two public holidays so it was very busy - just loads and loads of climbers. You can camp or stay in a rather endearing bunkhouse.
A climbers' bunkhouse, obviously.
The facilities are basic - compost loos and just cold running water, but its a nice area an only 50 kr a night per person. The Swedish climbers were all absurdly athletic looking and decked out in fancy gear, making me feel like a typical tatty, fat Brit in comparison. Try not to let that psyche you out.

On the first morning we went to Möhättan for a route called Flaket, which I presume means “flake”. This is odd as its a 50 mtr high corner. Anyway it gets lots of stars and is an easy classic. The crag is a bit different from most of the Bohulän crags that are vertical lumps of granite bursting from the ground. Möhättan is a series of slabs up a hillside, looking like a miniature version of many mountains in the Narvik region.

Mishi's first trad lead - doing an excellent job on Flaken.
The route is very obvious from the road (being a 50 mtr corner and all), but finding the base of it was a bit of a nightmarish bushwack with us either ending up too high or two low to traverse to the base. Once found, the climb itself is very nice - a bit reminiscent of the crux corner pitch of Vestpillaren on Lofoten - just a slightly easier angle. We had a 70 mtr single rope and got down in a short and long ab. With 55 or 60 mtr doubles you’d be back down in one. We then did one more “sports route” on a lower tier - I say “sports route” as it had one bolt in 20 mtrs of climbing.

This is not a sports route...
At 5+ it is straightforward enough slab climbing to lead you quickly and easily into pant filling terrain, where sliding 15 mtrs down a granite slab makes you consider the wisdom of climbing shirtless and in shorts.

The big wall at Välseröd
We then went across the valley to Välseröd, one of the classic crags of the region. The heat was sapping our drive but Tomás and I did the excellent easy classic Jungfrun, that starts with an easy but quickly exposed up to a pinnacle belay and then super classic hand crack to the top of the cliff. A sort of Swedish version of Valkyrie at the Roaches, although easier and I’ve never got sunburn at the Roaches.

Looking down the hand crack of Jungfrun.
The routes on the big wall at Välseröd look very impressive - a guy was shunting one when we there and looked quite lonely in the middle of the 50 mtr sheet of rock. The crag classic Villskudd (6-) looks very nice. It has been called the best route of its grade in Sweden, but the heat and top ropers scared me away from trying - for Finns though I would note that it doesn’t look any better, and indeed perhaps not as good as the big Olhava routes of the same grade. I think its easy to forget just what an amazing crag Olhava is.

Naked German. They are just at their happiest that way.
In the evening we went for a wash and swim in a lake before back to the campsite for a BBQ. The swimming as well as being refreshing was a good chance to check for ticks - one of the few unpleasant “objective dangers” of Bohuslän climbing!

Brappersberget, where one is easily reminded that one is mortal.
On the second day, we went first to Brappersberget, a monolith of rock behind Lyse Church. The mainface is tipped back so interesting slab climbing is the theme of the cliff and it seems that you can climb the slab almost anywhere at about 5+ if brave enough, but most of the recorded climbs all follow natural cracklines. I led Big Ben, 5, and St Pauls, 5+, only Big Ben gets a star but actually I think St Pauls was more enjoyable - longer and with more varied climbing. Tomás led Kyrkråttan, which is a fantastic easier climb at 3+. Its worth noting that Brappersberget is open and close to the sea. On a breezy day it was much more pleasant climbing there than on the stiflingly hot more sheltered crags. Presumably the opposite is true in colder conditions.

Tomás leading Kyrkråttan
The last Bohuslän crag visited was Fedjan. I wasn’t particularly impressed with this crag - definitely not one worth travelling for. It looks like it spends much of the year wet. I led a route called Bideford Dolphin. The guide gives it a star and says well protected, but compared to unstarred routes elsewhere its not brilliant and neither is the gear. I was OK with a double set of cams as all the gear is shallow greasy breaks, so quantity rather than quality is the order of the day.

Me onsighting a granite 6a+ at Ågelsjön, something I rarely manage on Finnish granite.
It’s a pretty big drive over from Stockholm where Tomás lives and I had flown to, so both on the way over and way back we stopped at a crag called Ågelsjön, near Norrköping where we met and dropped off Mishi and Martin. This is a lovely spot by a lake, I didn’t have time to really explore the different areas but did some nice, if a bit polished shorter sports and trad routes on the little wall not far from the car park.
I’ll definitely head back to Bohuslän sometime, probably in the autumn when the conditions (cooler) suit me better, and would give me a fighting chance on some of the classic mid-grade routes at the “big” crags of Häller and Hallinden. The area gets called “world class” by some - I guess it is in the same way that you can argue “Gritstone” is; none of the crags in their own right might reach that status, but put such a huge selection of routes and cliffs in a relatively small area and you can’t really go wrong. It is also interesting to note just how many crags there are as you drive around that appear so far to have been completely ignored by climbers. Hence, there are many thousands of new routes still out there waiting to be done.


Sean said...

Trip reports may be old school but I still like them! Looks like a really cool cragging area.

Fiend said...


Hendrik Morkel said...

"Naked German. They are just at their happiest that way."

I'm laughing tears here, Toby =) I'm in Hki from Monday to Wednesday, maybe we can manage to meet for a coffee/ tea/ beer sometime? And I promise to not get naked :D

Toby - Northern Light Blog said...

I thought you were Dutch? Or is half Dutch half German? Anyway, both countries that seem rather fond of getting their kit off - and good for them I say! A bit of fresh air around the nether regions is good for the soul. :-)

Unfortunately I'm in the UK until late Wednesday, but another time! Climbing perhaps as you are climbing too?