One of the things I have decided I will improve on this trip is my crack climbing ability. This seems like a simple task, bearing in mind my company on the trip (for those of you that don’t know Lee is a crack climbing connoisseur). I knew it would be painful at times, and a bit of a struggle – but little did I know how knackered I would feel after just one route.
We heard about Simonsberget from a Swedish climber we met in Kungshamn. As we have no guidebooks for this coast, we plugged his co-ordinates into the satnav, downloaded the topo, and added it to the list of places to hit up. Side note: 27crags is pretty useless here, try this PDF instead.
Driving over was like being back in the English countryside, but bigger. Houses, fields and trees all bigger. We pulled up at the parking and I made a quick coffee before packing the bags up and heading off.
A five-minute walk through a field and we were there, I like walk ins like that. It’s only the ticks that spoil walks through the grass and fields (tick number one flicked off leg before it got in – haha). This looked like a great crag, slightly in the trees to shade the start of the routes, and your belayer, some really obvious lines leading up the rock. I quickly spotted a 5+ that looked like a nice easy rambling warm up, approx British S-VS. But I had a potter down the crag anyway to find a few more to do later. Tick two flicked off t-shirt before attack, bonus.
After much wandering, nothing looked as appealing at the lower grades so I racked up with everything. Weighing a good stone heavier than normal I started up the route.
Well, the first two metres were slightly trickier than expected, a potter it was not. Fingerlocking behind a loose block whilst placing the first nut was not part of the plan, but all good practise. First gear in, suddenly I was safe, onwards and upwards. I pulled round onto the slab and tried to get comfortable. These footholds felt smaller than they looked from the floor, and that crack above me looked much bigger. I forged on, placing another nut to keep me feeling confident although that feeling wasn’t to last long.
Getting to the nice foot ledge below the wide crack I peered up, hoping for some nice hidden ledges for feet and crimps for hands. I was disappointed, no such luck. I shouted down to Lee “maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew?”, “That’s your MO” was the reply. I’d better get on with it then.
Thankful that I’d brought the big cam I reached up as far as I could and gave myself as much ‘top-roping’ as possible. Psyching myself up I got a knee involved and buried my hand into a jam right at the back. I pulled on the jam, kicking myself upwards with my outer foot, edging upwards I found a crimp for my left hand. Pulling hard I tried to shift my right leg. Bollocks, calf was stuck against the rope, reverse! Wriggling and struggling trying to de-weight my leg I eventually got it free and backed down to my comfy ledge. A fair bit of energy expelled for no gain.
That plan of attack didn’t feel unrealistic. So, after a quick rearrange of the rope, I dived back into the crack, I squeezed hard and pulled on the jam. This time managing to get above my cam. Whilst tentatively anchored on a creeping armbar and an insecure kneelock I managed to cram in another cam and clip it. Safe again. However, it now turned out that my plan of attack was flawed. I was facing a wall, with my back to the slab and holds I needed to get up and into the next section. Reversing time again.
A combination of bad route reading and not having the head to get up climbs is seriously improving my down climbing skills. Improving them, but from a fairly low start point so the down climb was still a sketchy affair with a couple of slips. I had decided that if I was coming off this climb I was falling off it, there was no shouting ‘take’ or pulling on gear allowed. So, with a determined attitude, I managed to do a controlled slip and slide down the crack back to my ledge.
Third time lucky? After a rest and getting some of the pump out I started up again, this time facing the correct direction. I squirmed and struggled up, fist jamming, arm-barring, and all sorts of funky back heeling. Finally, I got myself to the top of the wide crack, again. This time I was facing out and spotted a nice foothold to aim for.
Time for the next section, a thinner hand crack. I was now starting to get into this crack climbing thing, so bring it on. I spin round on my handjam (look at me go!) and hit that foothold square on.
I managed to get comfortable enough there to place another cam. I seem to be apprehensive of falling at the moment. Well I’m not sure if it’s failing or falling, either way managing to plug in gear when I feel like that is a good thing. I shouted down to Lee, “I’m knackered” and I was. Out of breath, pumped, and already feeling the bruises starting to come up on my knees -this was definite type two fun sort of route. Words of reassurance came echoing back up the face, I took a few deep breaths and started upwards.
Now, it looked like there were some nice ledges above me. Turning the climb into a pleasant corner rather than struggle with another crack or maybe even a power lay-backing attempt. The first ledges I could reach were not nice ledges at all more like sloping non-holds that, in the 20°C heat, felt like glass. I stepped back down a few moves and rearranged my feet. Screw it, I’ll layback it the holds further up look better.
I switched my feet around and started up. Two moves, three moves, cram in another panic cam. Four moves, right that ledge looks better, launch. Good enough to catch but not a jug. Scrambling my feet up, one onto a crimp the other jammed in the crack I managed to get just high enough to go for the next hold. Jug, finally. I matched my hands, relieved.
Looking down, I was now a few meters above my last cam. Alternating between staring down at my harness and across to the rock, I knew I didn’t have a suitably sized cam remaining. But I grabbing one and tried sticking it in the rock anyway. Surprisingly enough that didn’t work. Clipping it back on my harness I looked up, the few moves up to the bivvy-sized ledge did look much easier. I decided to risk it and climb on, hoping my hands didn’t give up on the way.
A few moves later, relieved and exhausted, I mantled on to the ledge. Clipping the bolt I shouted down “I’m on the ledge, just having a rest”. I said I was having a rest, I wasn’t sure. There was a part of me that just wanted to stay on that ledge and sleep. But, after a few moments I pulled myself together. Peering round to the next section I found easy climbing, actual easy climbing, shallow angled rock with a giant blocky crack system. It was the type of pottering that I thought the whole route would be, enjoyable pottering.
I took a good long rest then extended the quickdraw on the lower-off for that section and rambled up. I finished just ten meters or so further up, beneath the top short pitch. It was another bivvy sized ledge and perfectly placed trees for belaying.
Pulling up the rope I had a sense of accomplishment. It may not have been the hardest climb in the world but I had tried hard, really hard. I had practised my jamming, mostly succeeded and, importantly, I’d got to the top without falling off.
Lee made swift work of the climb, he tried telling me it was probably severe when he arrived at the top. I strongly disagreed and after he saw my face he conceded that it might have gotten VS. (Edit: he later said, on reflection, it would get VS). After we chatted and sorted the ropes I did the short top pitch. It wasn’t really worth it, and with lower off rings at the top Lee declined to second. so I set up the abseil to retrieve my kit and join Lee back down on the ledge.
A small delay in proceedings when I discovered one of my cam’s had walked its way into a pod. I struggled for a while to free it before asking for assistance. Lee jugged up the rope and managed to retrieve it. I was relieved, it was my favourite, my Purple Dragon.
Whilst setting up the abseil we heard another couple on the route we’d just finished, locals it seemed. I wondered if they were cruising up it. As Lee set off down the ropes, and I was sat daydreaming I heard the unmistakable sound of a pre-fall shout and clatter of kit. As mean as it makes me, I felt a little better that I wasn’t the only one to struggle with the route.
The route was Direttissiman** Swedish 5+ (p10 on the pdf) for those who are interested.
Lack of photos due to a dead GoPro battery. So have a photo of the bay we went for a post-climb dip in instead.