torsdag 24. januar 2013

DM 2012 - Behind the Scenes!

From Kalymnos, I went directly to Bodø (in northern Norway) to set problems for the Norwegian national bouldering cup.
At the time of packing, I did for some reason not think any further then Kalymnos, and thus left my down jacket in Sogndal. 
Now, finding myself going from 30+ degrees to less then 3 with nothing but a sweater, this lack of foresight was coming back to haunt me..

 "The old slaughter house, now turned bouldering gym in Bodø, whit a great mountain/fjord view" 

I could write on and on about constantly missing the bus, freezing my ass off and so on, but I won´t.
Bodø was a "fun" experience, if fun can be used to describe constantly working...
Not only did I do the route setting (with Hannah), but for the first time I also worked as a commentator on the live streaming, something that lead me to getting the job commentating on the national championships later on, but I digress.. 

"Jan Erik testing one of the junior finals, here seen from the commentator box" 

Completely wasted I also had a film show in the evening after the comp, here I undoubtedly made little sense, but luckily for me it requires little effort to press play when you can´t think of anything to say. 

But enough with the intro...

During one of our days working in Bodø, a call came in from a man in need in Denmark. 
With barely a week to go, the French routesetting team booked for the Danish bouldering championships had canceled, leaving the man, Nico, to find a new team on very short notice.

Since I had no other plans, I accepted and that is how I one week later found myself in the climbing gym in Århus. 
To join me, Nico had gotten the "danish" swede Kalle and the actual dane Casper. 

"The two skinny looking barbarians, Kalle and Casper"

Kalle had set for several big comps in Scandinavia and Denmark before, but having favoured school (and golf!) the last 6 six months, was a bit off his game.

Casper, setting boulders on a daily basis at Copenhagen boulders, was perhaps lacking experience setting for big comps, but straight out of Font, definitely had his game face on.

I had never before worked as a routesetter outside Norway, yet the responsibility of being head route-setter (with no extra pay..) was still for some reason trusted upon me. 
This probably because I was unknown in Denmark and the easiest to blame in the event of complete failure, but I prefer to think it was... hmm... I´v got nothing...

Setting for a comp usually means a ridiculous amount of hours in a short amount of time. Since the pay usually isn´t very good, the chemistry of the route-setting team decides if it´s something worth doing or not.
Not knowing who Nico would hook me up with, taking this job was therefor a bit of a gamble. 
Luckily for me, Casper and Kalle turned out to be two of the coolest dude´s ever, our chemistry great and hanging out with them a blast from beginning to end.

"The barbarians of Scandinavia united at last" 

I could write on about all sorts of weird shit that happened during this week, but I´ll leave it with a couple of pictures and of course the much anticipated film I haven´t actually told people I was making.

"Kalle checks out the alien lamp at the city hippie sleep-in"  

"Casper, in lack of any other choice, goes for the organic breakfast after his 2,5 hours sleep" 

"Casper checks out the potentially good looking lifeguard in the next door swimming pool" 

"Kalle makes the macro leap"

"Our great assistant Anders, here testing one of the mens finals"

 "Our second assistant Jeppe, finally finding us a bus after leading us the wrong way for ages.."  

 "Casper introduces Kalle´s face to his nice sweaty palm"

"Denmark's best workplace, McDonald´s?" 

"Starving from yet another day on beer and cashew nuts, Kalle is devastated to find the McDonald´s closed for the night.."    

"The complexity of 100+ boulder stations getting the best of Kalle"

"Kalle putting on strong pose, here in front of the "Macromania" boulder"

"Casper, possibly trying out for the Derelict champaign, working his "le Tigre" on the easy Svæ" 


 "Sweden and Denmark joining forces for one last great pose-down"  

And finally, the film with a capital THE!

DM 2012 seen from a routesetters perspective.

Now THE film might paint a picture of us failing with the juniors, but as there where 6 different classes I will not say our failure was complete, more like 33%...
The seniors went much better, that is if I choose to ignore that the women´s finals didn´t see too many tops, which I of course do:D
Since I was half asleep in the senior semi´s, I only filmed a couple of my own boulders, there where however many more really cool problems set by Casper and Kalle that never made it into this film. 

On a more "serious" note. I would like to say thanks to Nico for doing the work even further behind the scenes and just getting us all together.
I would also like to thank our great helper Anders who showed up almost every day to do the "dirty" work without getting payed!
And last but not least the Danish climbing community for showing up and making all our work worth while. 

fredag 18. januar 2013


Usually when I go on climbing trips I go somewhere good conditions can be found.
This years Kalymnos trip was different. Tobias was turning 30 and he had chosen Kalymnos at the start of october as the site for his celebration.

"Random shot of some of the Kalymnian crags"

Bored with constant rain and indoor climbing I decided to go a bit early.
This brought me to Greece around the 20-th of September when it´s still way to hot for my comfort.
On top of that it was an unusually warm year, the temps between 25-35 degrees in the shade and of course the wind mostly absent. 

"Still 20+ degrees at sunset" 

The first week or so I climbed with Jarle Haugan and Christer Marqvardsen Amundsen. As I found myself struggling on the warm ups, I ended up spending just as much time in the bar and at the beach as the crag, resulting in a great tan and a short tick list.

"Chilling after the crux, just below where I slipped off on the on-sight attempt, on the 7c+ at Cave.." 

"Christer feeling the power of the protein shake" 

"Jarle once again winning our game of darts down at the Scorpion Bar" 

"Beer a clock at 11 in the morning after one of the many long nights down at the Scorpion Bar"

When not hungover or climbing I also found some time to walk around, tourist style, and take random pictures.

"Some random car"

"The snake guarding the path to the E.T Cave"


A week later the Sogndal crew arrived, the North Face festival started and we finally got a few chillier days, if chilly still can be used when it´s 25 degrees++...     

         "Solveig chilling at the hotel"                     "Ole and Anders slowly going somewhere"
The North Face competition wall was unfortunately a bad joke and the closest I ever got to see the "pro´s" compete was from the road below.
Not saying that the wall it self isn´t good, (I never went up so I don´t know) but with a 45 min uphill approach combined with the sun hitting the wall before 10 in the morning, I can´t comprehend what sort of climber would think this wall would be good for hosting a comp at the end of september… 

"The comp wall all the way in the back, the sun already creeping in at 9-ish in the morning"

So, basically ignoring the festival, Lars Ole and I ended up driving around to the shady side of the island and the new crag E.T Cave instead.
Located reasonably high and without a horribly long approach, E.T attracts wind from several directions, making it one of the best "summer" crags on the island. 

The cave only has a few routes that, except for the one 7b+ and a project, all are in the 8a-8b range.
Leaving the sun walls, we ended up spending several days here, giving me the opportunity to fuck up several times and still get to send Tyrant (8a+), one of the best and most complete routes I have done to date. 

"Lars Ole entering the overhang on Tyrant, 8a+"

 "Kneepads recommended"

 "The crux" 

"Starting to get pumped and another crux to go" 

For his birthday Tobias had organised for a big trip to the Sikati Cave by boat. 
Far out on the backside of the island, this one of a kind massive hole in the ground was the site of the Petzl rocktrip in 2006 and hosts some of the longest single pitch sportsroutes in the world.

"The Sikati cave seen from the boat" 

Psyched on one of these massive routes, Lars Ole and I went over a few days early to abseil down the 75m long monster Morgan Adam est une Andalouse (8b).
There was little chalk, far between the bolts and just figuring out where the line went, clean the holds and put on our (specially bought for the occasion) one meter draws was a massive undertaking.
Wanting to get a feel for the route I volunteered to go down and do the work while Lars, clearly relieved, ended up watching and half sleeping down in the cave. 

The route basically breaks down into 3 parts. 

- Part one is a popular (good chance of having to stand in line) steep 7b+ into a short even steeper 7c+ extension to about the 25-30 meter mark. 

- Part two is a massive jungle of huge 10-15 meter long stalactites, a funky almost vertical dihedral between some big tufas before ending in a good rest sitting awkwardly on a tufa mushroom. 

- Part three is about 10 moves of steep climbing, a "hard" boulder problem, before another 10 meters of easier but seriously runout (basically no more bolts) climbing to the chains. 

"The route follows the overhang from the left corner up to the big stalactite, straight up between the black tufas and ending about a cm left (in the picture...) from where I´m standing" ©Lars Verket

About 65 meters up, just the weight off the rope will be several kilo´s not counting the ropedrag and you are faced with what for me is the by far hardest single move on the whole route. 
The boulder consist of a big move from a undercling to a small crumbly crimp followed by a tricky mantle.
Not too worried about the mantling, it would all come down to this one move from the undercling to the crimp.

A rest day later and we where on the boats heading back to the cave. The weather was once again uncomfortably hot and the wind was as usual nowhere to be found.

"The 40+ minutes boat ride bringing out some boy on boy Titanic action" 

I must admit I was not feeling very optimistic as I was walking up from the beach, when I then slipped off the move from the undercling several times on the warm up, (we rappelled down) I was almost ready to give up. 

Lars however nervous, stayed psyched, and with loads of friends and several photographers watching, we where committed, the time had come to go big or go home.

Lars had onsighted the 7c+ a few years ago, not tried the middle at all and top-roped the last 15 meters for the first time today.
I had tried the moves, hanging in the grigri, from the top down to the 7c+ in sneakers while cleaning the holds + top-rope tested the final crux with climbing shoes today.

Since I had done the work cleaning and fixing draws Lars had decided that I should choose who would go first. 
With out proper beta on the first part and not feeling ready at all, I let Lars go first, completely forgetting that I would have to clean the draws if he where to succeed. 

About one hour later he entered the crux, screaming and pulling his way through before mantling in to safety. 

"Lars Ole somewhere on the 7b+ part, 60-ish meters to go" ©Lars Verket 

Now, feeling even less ready, it was my time to shine.
Still way to warm for my comfort there was only two hours to go before the boat left, leaving me with little choice but to go for it. 
I brought a t-shirt to wipe off the sweat and tried to focus on one short section at a time.
After about 10 meters I was literally dripping and already struggling to flash the 7b+ part. Luckily it got better and the 7c+ extension felt surprisingly easy.

To give myself some incentive to get to the final rest below the crux, I had stashed a can of coke and a chocolate bar in a plastic bag there in the morning. (the bag up to my right in the picture below) 
Feeling totally dehydrated, this was all I could think about after having pulled the rope through in the stalactite jungle and so, before I knew what had just happened, I found myself sipping warm coke and looking up at the dreaded undercling.
"Me in the tufa dihedral, the top of the 7c+ down left of the rope, my can of coke just meters away" ©Lars Verket

After sitting in the rest until I could barely feel my legs waiting for Dag Hagen, the editor of the Norwegian climbing magazine Norsk Klatring, to get into a photo position above me, I was as ready as I was ever going to be.
The ropedrag was worse then feared and I was getting pumped and stressed even before I reached the move. Once there however all that disappeared, nothing mattered but that elusive small crimp above me.
I pull hard, screamed, stuck it, fought through the next moves, mantled like a monkey in heat and it was done!
My longest "sportsroute" to date, a weird mix of flash and redpoint and not a single lead fall.

"Mid crux, the undercling sticking out to the left of my left knee, the bad crumpling crimp in my right hand. Dag Hagen taking pictures from above ©Lars Verket  

 "Safely above the mantle, the last draw on the left and only 8-10 meters to go" ©Dag Hagen

So is it really 8b? 
Maybe, maybe not, I know I could easily have fallen at the top several times, so how do you grade a route like this?  
What I do know is that it´s a journey worth taking, no matter what number you choose to label it with. 

"Returning to the birthday dinner in Massouri"   

After Sikati we had no more rest days, Lars Ole continued to crush while I just got more and more tired, in the end no longer able to bust a proper move. 
We spent the last day trying some new routes put up by Ole Karsten and Tobias on yet another warm and windless day.
Everything felt wrong so, after failing to onsight Ole´s new 7b+, I gave up and spent the rest of the day belaying and taking pictures.
"Attempting to on-sight Ole´s, clipping the anchor is a lame crux, 7b+"

Lars Ole, also tired, had some last reserves of fight in him and by some miracle managed to pull off the first accent of a really cool route Tobias bolted earlier in the day named Angry Bird(s?).
In really bad conditions and using a very hard sequence he graded it 8a.
I hear that an easier solution was found a few days later so what grade it is now I don´t really know.    

 "Angry Bird, first accent"

 "The apparently unnecessary hard crux sequence" 

 "Sharma style screaming"  

 "still screaming!"

 "The funky cross move"

 "Lars Ole latches out towards the top jug"

Thanks a lot to Lars Verket and Dag Hagen for the additional pictures. 

Next up:  - The Danish Bouldering Championships and the epic behind the scenes video!

After that I will start blogging about this season in Spain so stay tuned! 

©Henning Wang 2013

tirsdag 15. januar 2013

The Battle!

Lillehammer, a small place and by no means the centre of the universe, has over the years been the site of some of the the best and biggest climbing comps in Norway. 
The Nordic bouldering championships and the E9 invitational to name a few.
All this is mainly because of one man, Rune Osvold, that really knows how to make things happen.

This year Rune´s concept was "The Battle".
Much like the E9´s of the past it was an invitational and with big cash prices the big names where lined up like nothing ever before seen in Norway. 
New of the year was that the competitors them selfs would be setting the problems, work them for a few hours, before then trying to redpoint them in the comp the next day.

The Norwegian climbing federation (NKF), contributed with both money and their brand new portable bouldering wall, and the scene was set for a great outdoor show in downtown Lillehammer. 

"NKF´s president Ole Karsten Birkeland and Rune Osvold psyched for the comp just minutes away"

But I get ahead of myself. 

Since us normal not so strong people also like to climb, a separate "unofficial" comp was hosted for us earlier in the day.
This boulder "jam", indoors at Tyrili, followed a scorecard system on colour coded boulders set by a combination of the celebs and the locals and drew a host of people on all levels.

With a lot of cool boulders and the celebs walking around the room, it was a fun event, although the heat got way to high at times. 
To make it even more unbearable, Tyrili had some strange rule against climbing without a t-shirt,    something that got me several warnings when I kept "forgetting"...

"Morten Gulliksen, also "forgetting" to wear his t-shirt"

"Rune presents the invited athletes before the jam"

 "The really cool Dave problem, here solved with some funky girl beta skipping most of the holds.."

 "Dave, enthusiastic as ever, talking about the moves on a boulder he´d just done"  

"The Tyrili mushroom"

"Scorecard delivery time"

And then it was time for the main event, The Battle.
4 women and 5 men would battle it out for their piece of the 10.000€ pie. 
For the men the stage was set for a fight between the norwegian ace Magnus Midtbø and some of the best outdoor boulders in the world today.

(All the pictures are taken by me and subject to copyright. They are not to be used outside this blog without my written permission) 

                                    "Magnus Midtbø"                                     "Nalle Hukkataival"
                                        "Carlo Traversi"                                     "Dave Graham"                                                                        
"Daniel Woods"

"and yeah, Dave Graham"

While the invited men showed up as planned, there was unfortunately a few last minute changes for the women.
Shauna Coxey broke her leg bouldering in Switzerland, Therese Johansen injured a finger and Melanie Sandoz, with the world championships just a week away, also claimed some injury and failed to show. 
(Melanie then went on to win the world championships so probably a wise decision on her part).

In the end, the only girl from the original crew to actually show was american powerhouse Alex Puccio. 
Mina Leslie Wujastyk of Britain and Hannah Midtbø and Maria Davis Sandbu from Norway did a good job as replacements, but in a redpoint format could not keep up with Alex. 
The originally intended "stronger" match up would probably have been a bit more even and I would have loved to se our own bouldering ace Therese give the other top girls a proper run for their money.  

"The girls getting ready to battle, from the left: Hannah, Alex, Mina, Maria" 

Then it was time to begin and after a quick introduction of the girls the battle was on.
Hannah, first out on her own problem, got unlucky with a wet foothold in the first try (it had rained and not all the holds got covered...) and looking more and more tired, did not make it in time.
Mina and Maria put in some decent attempts, but in the end also got shut down.
Alex then came in, made it look easy, and crushed it on her first go.

 "Alex cutting lose on the not so juggy top holds"

"Alex taking the lead with the only top of boulder nr.1"

Next up was the problem set by Maria. Technical, but perhaps not as powerful as the rest, this was probably the easiest and saw tops from all four girls. 

"Hannah setting up for the final move on Marias boulder"

 "Mina on the same move from a different angle" 

Boulder nr. 3, set by Alex, was a pure power problem with long moves between big pinches.
While working the problem the day before none of the other girls had been able to get past the second move.
This did unfortunately not change in the comp, so while Alex seemed to hike up it, the others came in only to fall off at the start over and over again.

"Alex sticking the second move"

Last up was Minas problem, the deciding boulder in the battle for the second place. Alex had already won at this point with 3 out of 3 tops while the rest had one top each and no shot at the title.

Hannah and Maria got close but ended up falling of on a big cross move. 
Alex, still looking strong, fell of the top once but sent in her next try for a perfect score of 4 out of 4.
Mina, climbing last, fell of her start dyno a couple of times but sticking that she made the rest look easy and finished the boulder off to a great cheer from the crowd. 

 "Mina sticking the dyno"

 "Maria crushing the crimpy traverse"

 "Alex making the crux cross move that stomped Hannah and Maria"

 "Mina sticking the final jug"

 "The winner, Alex Puccio, with her well deserved pice of the pie"

Next up was the men, with artificial lights and darkness all around, the mood was set for a great show.
The boulders all looked really hard and the guys all seemed somewhat tired from working them the day before.
The conditions had also changed from windy and dry during the testing to no wind and a bit humid for the comp, making everything a bit harder.

The first and perhaps the hardest was Dave´s problem.
Magnus, looking very strong, flowed across the boulder to the final move on his first try. Unfortunately he got a bit unlucky, missing on the reach to finishing hold, then slipping off on his next try.
Carlo, Dave and Nalle all fell further down before Daniel pulled off the only send, taking the lead.

"Dave, about to fall after missing the pinch"

 "Magnus closing in on the final moves on his "almost" send"

 "Daniel making the desperate reach and sticking the top hold during the only accent of the problem" 

Next up was Nalle´s problem, a big dyno at the start before a slightly easier upper part.
Here the guys got their grove back and even Dave, who seemed to think he wouldn´t be able to do the dyno, managed to pull it together for the send.

 "Daniel entering the upper part"

"Nalle sending his own problem"

Third in line came Daniels boulder, a pure power problem similar in style to Alex´s.
Again all the guys managed to stick it, Dave once again surprising himself. 

 "Magnus looking over the moves one more time before sending"

 "Dave and Nalle sticking the first hard move"

"Nalle sticking the final dyno"

The fourth and contender for the second hardest problem was set by Carlo and marked the end of the sending spree. 
Dave, having looked a bit tired all day, now seemed to be running on fumes and got shut down on a hard move on the lower part. 
Nalle, apparently also running out of juice, managed to get to within the last two moves before hitting the wall.
Luckily for us, Carlo, Magnus and Daniel all managed to pull through, keeping the battle alive as we entered into the fifth and final boulder.

 "Carlo busting one of the many hard moves on his own boulder"

"Magnus making the final match"

Boulder nr. 5, set by Magnus, would be the deciding problem for the second place when Daniel once again started off by crushing it.
Since he was the only one to finish off problem one, he had now ended the day on the perfect and unbeatable score of 5 out of 5.
Nalle and Dave, although putting in a valiant last ditch effort, now both looked to be to tired and in the end perhaps more focused on the beer to come then getting up.

Carlo at first also looked to be running out of energy, slipping off several times on a powerful move in the middle, but then finally stuck it and somehow managed to finish it off.
Magnus, on his own boulder and in good position for second place, only needed to send the boulder in few tries to cash in.
That however did not happen... With a splitter in one finger and blood seeping out he slipped off the "easy" start moves at least ten times and thus lost the second place to Carlo on attempts. 
But then, as all hope seemed lost and the time was about to run out, he also somehow managed to pull himself together and send, to the great pleasure of the crowd.
 "Daniel on the start moves Magnus kept slipping off"

 "Daniel setting up for the move Carlo kept falling off"

 "Magnus sending his own problem"

 "1-5 place from left to right, the president giving out the remaining pieces of the pie"

All this happened a while back now and I might have mixed up some details here and there.
How ever, since most of you probably don´t read about or care for the details of the comp anyway, I won´t spend any more time dwelling on it.

All the pictures are taken by me and subject to copyright. They are not to be used outside this blog without my written permission.