Last month, Pete and I were invited on a trip to Norway to lecture at the infamous Ballestein Festival. Literally translated this is the “Ballsack (bollocks) Festival” and even has a poster of a climber bouldering a giant pair of testicles. When you get an email in your inbox asking if you’re up for presenting at a festival with this kind of poster, you know you can’t turn it down!
What was even more exciting than the promised crazy Norwegian climbing festival, was the assurance that we’d have time to make a visit to try Nico Favresse’s Recovery Drink on the Profile Wall in Jøssingfjord. As a route suggested to be perhaps the hardest crack on the planet, it’s received a relatively small amount of media coverage. I suppose this is testament to Nico’s quiet demeanour and conservatism. When I asked him some questions about it before going, I knew we’d be in for a good trip. He reckoned it was one of the best bits of climbing he’d done.
Heading out with Pete Whittaker on a trip always brings it’s risks. They’re mainly navigation ones as the combination of both of our levels of idiocy brings much confusion and missed road turnings. Fortunately this time, we were hosted by some competent Norwegians and an extremely nice Canadian. After 6+ hours of driving we arrived, tired from flights, at Jøssingfjord. We’d been landed the pleasure of a 4 man bunkhouse which neatly fitted 2 climbers, a filmmaker and Cannuk.
The next day we headed up to the Profile Wall with a great deal of anticipation (and some fear when we saw how overhanging it was!) to try the route. As usual, we didn’t know how to get to the crux pitch, so made some assumptions about the first pitch and botched a rough bit of climbing together. Standing beneath the line of the route an hour later, I was blown away – oh my God – what a pitch!! Double tramline finger and thin hands crack, through bulges and all on impeccable Norwegian Gneiss.
Over the next few days we put some time in on the route and worked the sections and tried some of the easier links. At first glance, it all appeared to go well, with every move done on the pitch and some sequences fitted together… when we tried a “what does it feel like” link from the bottom though…. hmmmm…. quite tricky!! Needless to say, the most important thing for me and Pete was that this line stood up in terms of quality and intensity:
- Difficultly. It’s hard to say after trying it only 3 sessions in freezing cold and rain, but it’s similar to Cobra in terms of the hardest single moves but is way more continuous and has a longer crux. Cobra is a 5 move crux, but Recovery is maybe 10 moves or more and you’re already pretty pumped when you start! It also has a way harder finish than Cobra – of pumpy 7c+ (?) rather than vertical tech 6b+.
- Quality. Probably the best thing about this line is that it’s not unpleasant crack climbing. Not surprisingly, it’s quite hard to find things above 8b that aren’t utterly joint or finger destroying. It’s the long, continuous and sustained nature of the route that allows it to be just under that pain level yet still hit some big numbers. I have to say, Nico is a pretty lucky guy to have this first ascent under his belt. One of the best in the world!
After the climbing (and vowing a return-match for us both) we drove back towards Olso to attend the festival. I won’t write too much about the madness of the drinking, partying and nakedness as I’m sure Joe Kinder or Henning Wang have adequate evidence of what went on!
What I do want to say, is that I think this festival is such a great idea and the philosophy and people behind it are amazing. Firstly, the main man Lars Halvorsen runs this thing each year in a totally non-commercial style. There’s no admin team, corporate selling stands or ulterior motives. He wants to run a festival for climbers that’s about loads of people getting together to celebrate what they love and also to try and raise money for CAC.
Walking out of the party tent at 5.30am in the morning I could see Lars had achieved everything he’d set out to do. Well over £3000 raised for CAC, drunk and wasted climbers with no tops on lying in the grass & sweat-lined marquee and Pete Whittaker still standing tall, fuelled on pints of cider dancing his best moves to a Rocky tribute song.