martedì 13 maggio 2014

Åland Islands - Bouldering in Finland

The view on the bay, Aland (FIN).

Aland Island – Northern Europe.

A place almost unknown. It hasn’t a big notoriety from the bouldering side and even under the geographic aspect is not so famous. It has been hard to locate it on the maps of the minds’ people when I said I wanted to go there, a region so dispersed and only renowned for making wood or fishing. This part of the Europe is an archipelago under the Finnish country, but closer to Sweden considering the easiest way to get it. It counts 6 500 islands and its name means “the lands of the perch fish”.

I usually pay much attention to what concerns the place around a bouldering area. The aspects of the nature can make a good balancing of harmonies and bouldering can be a nice way to live breathtaking landscapes, enjoy the pure wildness and feel the scent of the woods. I love to catch the small details that the environment has; Although it has less importance than the quality of the rocks or of the moves, it is always an interesting part which offers me enthusiasm to live a climbing experience. I knew about Aland thanks to a boulder’s pic I saw years ago, and I discovered that around this one also some other problems had been established by Finnish and Sweden climbers. Checking the sectors from the web, I could note that the quantity of the problems were at the north top of the archipelago, 40 km far from the only true city of the region, Mariehamn. Aland was therefore put on the list: the list of the places where I would like to go in the world. On that list you add always and you tick seldom, but the ticking usually gives a lot of satisfaction and incredible emotions. At the beginning of 2014 I spoke with Ricky, a friend of mine who is always excited to travel for climbing and checking areas considered a bit out of the ordinary. I knew he would have been interested in this, in fact we organized the trip and I finally seized the opportunity to go. Rudy, my brother, got the holidays at last and he joined us.

Today, I can say that I have personally climbed in the best landscapes ever, at least if we consider just the bouldering places. Green pine forest, gravel pink roads, blue north sea, seagulls, pink granite and silence were the main characteristics of what we saw and the flat long hiking let us enjoy the wildness of the area. We liked the boulders a lot too; in some of them the granite offers good shapes like geometric holds, roofs and physical long moves typical of Scandinavia. I immediately understood that the rock would suite my style perfectly. The first hard line I tried was the big overhang of “Normipaiva” 8B, a huge roof with 8 meters of development with good crimps located far from each other. The climbing on it is funny and athletic and it was probably one of the lines hit me more in Aland. The FA was put up by Nalle Hukkataival years ago and then a jug broke in the last move. I found anyway a good beta to get the top quickly. The last move is now less dynamic and more technical, since the jug let two crimps and it looked hard to do the move as fast as before.

The main reason which lead me to Aland, was the majestic line of Nalle hukkataival “Leaving the dream”. It is situated on the coast of an awesome bay; definitively one of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen and the hike to get there lasts 1 hour. It's easy to imagine the great quietness you can find in this paradise. At the first sight the line dazzled me a lot, more than what I thought. It looked to be so visionary and I was impatient to attempt it. It excited me and I quickly felt at ease, even though I didn’t get good achievements for the first session. It motivated me a lot, it was giving me positive feelings and I was so happy to be under it. I found it so good for many features: the triangle shape, its height and its original aspect which stands it out by other world class lines. Considering the peculiar geometric shape, it was basically impossible to try the upper moves with the rope, but hanging down I could touch the holds and put the chalk on them. The second part of the boulder looked fortunately easier than the first part, composed by a single hard dyno to the lip. I really loved this move. Using the rope I could hang down on the both sides of the triangle, I signed all the holds and with the chalk the line seemed to get a bit of life since none tried it for years. Fortunately I could read the sequence correctly and this fact helped me a lot. I had many doubts about the first move, not only about the beta, but even about the correct starting holds. The only info I had were present on the guidebook and it says to start standing on the little bloc below. From that point I could reach the good hold on the left arête and an undercling/sidepull crimp for the right hand in the middle of the roof. I was doubtful, but they seemed to be the most logical ones to try it from the bloc.

"Living the dream" 8B, Aland (FIN)

The second day on it my doubts went on, but I wasn’t able to find another proper start. Starting lower on the bloc didn’t make sense, since it would have had the same difficult start from the ground and this way would be much harder and sure more complete. I decided to attempt it like that, thinking about the most logical thing to do. That day, just after the warm up, I met Erik Massih, a guy from Stokholm and a local of Aland. Fortunately, he had a ladder and he kindly lent it to me to try the second part of the boulder and make my mental setting more sure about the development of the line. The holds had chalk and I knew more or less the sequence but I didn’t want to miss it from the start. The ladder gave me a huge help, I understood the second part perfectly and I was really sure about it. That days seemed to be perfect and my mind immediately noted this. Dry weather, wind, cold, ladder, two spotters and four pads which could make the first jump easier. I decided to get my mind as free as I can and I started. Being sure about the landing, I locked the first jump and knowing the upper sequence I went to the top. The pads made a bit of difference but I also felt really better in doing the first move. “Living the dream”, with the starting holds I used, might be personally around 8B and I felt maybe easier than the grade it had. This is simply due to the fact that I have been lucky in having a ladder and this thing changed a lot the approach for this line. Few things impressed me about this problem. The first deals of the vision that Nalle had 7 years ago in climbing this piece of rock, much respect to him. Secondly, the place around this gorgeous boulder and third that for many years none attempted it.

During the second part of the trip we went more to Kasviken, a sector closer to the parking with typical Scandinavian roofs and a really good granite. I have always an iron brush and a rope in my bag, so when I see a line under the moss which can tickle my imagination I can clean it up. I love to brush a thing that I imagine, but especially a line that seems to be really good for the moves I look for and for the kind line I would like to establish. In that sector I saw a compression line that looked to be amazing and maybe possible, but touching the green holds was hard to say with certainty if it would be or not. I brushed it and I put the chalk. The holds started to have a different grip and I could feel the possibility of my vision. Unexpectedly, I quickly found the beta that suite me more and I figured out the sequence. I got two sessions then after the rest I surprisingly sent it. I was able to send it the same day I brushed it and despite the quickness of the process, I guess it might be the hardest thing I have ever climbed in North Europe between Aland and Vastervik. The name chosen was “Nitro” and I was really lucky to finish it that day since the days left have been rainy and wet.

Now it is time to go back training. The injures to the tendon is going better, but it is not gone. I feel I have to be really wary about this and try to look it after as much as I could in order to get back in the better shape and better feelings. On the rock it is not so painful and I think I could climb more than in the gym. I will now have some projects in Champorcher and some boulders to try in the French side of Swiss. Stay tuned.

"Dodo" 8A+, Aland (FIN)

"Game Over" 7C, Aland (FIN)

Rudy on "Hammas finger crack" 7A+, Aland (FIN)

Ricky on "Supermarkitainen" 7B, Aland (FIN)

"Normipaiva" 8B, Aland (FIN)

"Moongoli" 7C+/8A, Aland (FIN)

Fagerlberget, Aland (FIN)