Solo in Northern Norway
At the anvil of the gods: Marmot athlete Robert Jasper had to come up with a plan B for his planned expedition this year and tells us of his successful first ascent of the largest granite obelisk in the world!
I had to postpone my solo bigwall expedition to Greenland this year due to the COVID-19 crisis and the resulting entry ban. Northern Norway came to my mind as an alternative again. The time during lockdown was difficult and it was a great feeling to finally travel again, climb, and enjoy the tranquility of the mountains.
In 1998 my wife Daniela and I visited the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago north of the polar circle. We were on our honeymoon climbing adventure. Mighty peaks rise from the ocean there. We were able to do the first ascent of “Freya” on the north face of Vagakallen, a 900 meter route ranging in the 9th degree. It was our highlight. Back then we saw the Pyramid of Stetind for the first time in the distance. Norway has been a destination of choice for me since then. Especially in winter for ice climbing. It’s wild mountain ranges with the granite walls are beautiful and have remained mostly unbeknownst in my home country.
The Stetind, at 1392 meters, is the national mountain of Norway, also called the Anvil of the Gods, is the largest granite obelisk on eath. It’s been on my wishlist since first seeing it.
When climbing rope solo style, the climber belays himself in hard terrain. This means that the route has to be climbed on lead, then you have to abseil back down to remove your protection to then ascend again to your highest point. After a few easier rope-solo routes to warm up I concentrated on my main goal.
Unknown terrain brings up the greatest adventure
Once the rough norse weather offered a fair-weather-window, I was already at the base of the approximately 800-meter-high south face of the Stetind. I made ground without protection in easy terrain until the wall began to get steeper. I discarded my initial plan to climb the Guldfisken Route because rockfall had deployed rubble on the ledges of the vertical wall. I noticed a large dihedral further to the right that looked good. The only problem was that it ended on plain slabs. A big question mark was if you could continue to climb further. Uncharted territory? My biggest passion is to explore unknown terrain. I don’t know what to expect and that means lots of adventure. To achieve something like this solo poses the biggest challenge to me.
I climbed pitch by pitch, or rather, I climbed up, down, and up again. It was very tedious but at least I wasn’t getting cold since I had no breaks in between and kept on moving! I have come to develop a routine while rope soloing over the course of the years and I get into a good rhythm. I’m about as fast as a rope team. The challenges and the risks are much higher when going solo and every step must be thoroughly thought through. But I especially enjoy being alone in nature with myself. The contrast to everyday life in the valley is strongest for me during extreme situations in the mountains. These open my eyes and I grow through them in many respects.
Further routes followed after a few days of rest, like the first solo ascent of Torskefiskaren (6b+, clean, 300 meters), a challenging route on Kugelhornet. Also, the Eidetind Traverse via the route Engelsdiederet and the first solo ascent of the Swiss Variation (6a+, 300 meters) on the south-east pillar of the Rundtind.
To sum it all up I can say that Norway is an absolute paradise for adventurous climbers, true to the motto: “Climb wild!” The climbing routes are barely developed and you need to place protection yourself. All this in a wild mountain environment with constantly changing weather. It’s simply raw adventure!