The first time I visited Norway was for the Ballsack Festival (one of the most entertaining parties I’ve ever been to?!) with Pete. We’d been invited to present at the climber’s festival with the promise of a car and a map for a week so we could go to Jossingfjord. You’re probably thinking we’d just get lost immediately, but that problem was solved by a couple of local guys coming with us as escorts – our reputations must have preceded us!
For most climbers, Jossingfjord is famous for Recovery Drink, an approximate 8c+ crack established by Nico Favresse. At the time he’d thought it was a step up from Cobra Crack and seeing me and Pete hadn’t long returned from doing that route, it seemed like a cool idea to go and try it. To cut a long story short (you can get a lot of the theme of misery from the video below) we had some truly British weather and attempts were more or less cut down to trying boulder problem sections interspersed by trying to revive hands and feet into a sense of feeling. The Recovery Drink was mega – there was no doubt about that – but what impressed us even more was the massive untapped potential of the valley. Perfect rock everywhere and barely any lines established. We’re not talking obscure lines either. There were perfect multipitch splitters, long corner systems and some very tasty looking slabs as well.
This year when I had the opportunity to go and lecture at the Stavanger (Bratte Rogalands Venner – BRV), I knew I had to try and get a few days back at Jossingfjord. Recovery Drink seemed out of the realms of realism as I’ve been suffering from an increasingly annoying injury which has been hard to manage. I won’t moan too much, but basically 8c+ is definitely not happening at the moment. On the positive side, the Profile Wall in Jossingfjord is home to another slightly easier but stunning line – Ronny Medelsvensson – an 8b fingers and thin hands crack put up by Erik Massih and Crister Jansson. It’s a perfect line with thin splitter cracks that break the left side of the Profile Wall. When one section of crack peters out another immediately starts, which creates sustained jamming sequences followed by a little boulder problem to transfer to the next section of crack. In fact, now I think about it, that’s exactly what Recovery Drink does!
I organized a few days climbing there last week with Louis Sæther and Ben Queensborough before going off to do a lecture in nearby Stavanger. Louis is one of Norway’s best boulderers but curiously he also loves the trad! I did a couple of ground up new routes with him last year and he never really complained when I made him do some offwidthing or loose choss block hurling. He was game for pretty much whatever, which is somewhat key when crack climbing (or climbing with me). I think it’s the style of the movement and the discomfort which requires people to be quite flexible in personality. One minute you’re cruising, the next minute you’ve ripped a massive flapper in the back of your hand – it doesn’t matter though because tomorrow you’ve got to redpoint and your partner has already torn his skin so he’s not listening to your moaning. It’s a bit of a “just get on with it” attitude that helps I guess…
The first day up there was brilliant. We were joined by a London photographer Ben Queensborough who was still dressed in his best outfits from Shoreditch (yup, I’d have to continually take the mick out of his £200 leather shoes) and not yet that experienced on rope-based adventure photography. The thing was though, he got on with it. We’d totally chucked him in at the deep end and with some occasional cock ups (probably my fault) we got it all sorted. Louis and I dogged the route to work out the sequences and what the tricks were. The crack system is probably around 25-30 degreee overhanging so it’s pretty sustained and the climbing works with a mixture of finger locks, thin hands and the occasional hand jam. Even the first 20m were brilliant and this was before you got to the roof. From there, it actually eased off quite a bit despite how it looked from below and bomber hand jams allowed you make big moves on steep terrain without feeling too stressed.
At the end of the first day I did the main section of the crack in a oner, so I thought I might as well strip the route and go for a lead the day after – at this point Pete would be saying something like “but Tom you’re totally unprepared. You don’t know the gear and you’re still freestyling quite a bit.”
Typically, Pete would have been right and my first attempt was me trying to remember how to place the gear and switching all the finger locks to pinkies down instead of thumbs down. What a plonker. I knew I was doing it even in the middle of the climbing, but I felt like I had so many things to think about that I couldn’t make decent decisions. I think this just goes to show that on really perfect ascents, it’s why your mind is so quiet. You don’t have many extra decision that aren’t accounted for and you don’t waste any mental energy – you just plough it 100% into trying really hard.
A couple of attempts later Louis was getting some good links on the main hard section and Ben was up on the fixed ropes complaining about losing feeling to his legs. “Yes, he’s getting the hang of this now…. Numb feet are exactly what you’re looking for when hunting out the best images….” I shouted encouragement upwards to let him know all the best in the business have lost all their toes by the time they’re in their mid 30s. Once I’d sorted out what I was doing with the friend placements (and a key nut to make things a bit faster) I had a good go without messing up. Like lots of the good cracks I’ve done, the climbing was so good that you forget about the pain a bit and enjoy the movement and the asthetics of the line. By the top easier section, my thumbs were so pumped that pulling the trigger bars had become difficult. Just ram them in is my method! Thank god I had some fairly new friends as my desert collection were still filled with sand and Mike Hutton’s chili sauce.
After getting the route ticked we spent a couple more days doing other established climbs in the area. Louis made the first ascent of a bouldery 8a+ fist roof crack (right in the middle of a popular crag!) and I fell off a few other bits and pieces. As I left Norway, I was reminded that this country has so much potential it’s almost criminal that more people don’t know about it. There’s a dedicated harcore Norwegian contingent who develop much of the stuff here and it’s only occasionally when people like Alex Megos and Adam Ondra visit that it gets a quick bit of well deserve limelight. One thing is for sure… I’m definitely going back there more!
All photos supplied by Ben Queensborough – see his gallery at www.bqphotography.co.uk