Published on 05/10/20
My summer as a professional athlete has always been around Italy, Europe or the world pulling holds for training and competitions, proudly wearing the colors of the national team or the Army Sports Center. But this was not a normal summer for the whole world, much less for competitive sports. As the health emergency worsened in all countries, we began to see one race after another on the international federation calendar fall with the words "postponed" or "cancelled". We lost the motivation of the competitive events but at the same time we were free of our duty, we looked for other goals for this new summer.
In the past I have already been to Norway several times and it has always fascinated me with its responsible and respectful society, its nature so untouched by the presence of man and the sense of freedom that the fjords and vast woods infuse. However, I had not yet been so far north and especially in the famous Hanshelleren cave, Flatanger. As soon as Stefano Carnati and Luca Bana proposed me the trip, I immediately accepted.
On Monday 3rd August I landed at the small airport of Trondheim and after another four hours of traveling north I joined my two companions who had preceded me by a few days. Stefano and Luca had already started to warm up the engines and, above all, to mount the quickdraws on the routes we wanted to try, not a small job given the inclination of the face and the fact that you have to easily carry around 20/25 quickdraws per route. I arrived at 11 in the evening in our hytte, the small house with red wooden walls typical of the Norwegian countryside that would have hosted us for the two weeks of vacation, and I already couldn't wait for the night to pass to get my hands on the rock of the mythical cave.
The awakening, however, was not the best. It was foggy and it was raining enough. Even my first approach to the cliff seemed more like a game to be able to stand up and jump from one stone to another so as not to sink into the mud of the path but as soon as I got to the base of the routes all worries disappeared and I fell in love with first sight. The classic and harder routes are all generally long and located in the inner part of the cave. Unless infiltrations, however quite frequent, remain protected from the rain. The rock is a superfine granite gneiss, it creates incredible formations and holds and the fine grains smoothed by water and wind allow you to climb as much as you want without hurting your skin, enjoying every movement of pure pleasure. The peculiarity of the crag is the use of knee pads, so unusual to me that they made me uncomfortable the first few times. You feel like you are wearing war armor every time you get ready for a route and at the same time they save your life (and arms) on the numerous knee bars that you will surely encounter. Each route is five star and could very well be the best route on most of the crags I usually climb. Choosing which one to try first is never easy. When in doubt, I felt more than I could already from the warm-up.
The first day I immediately threw myself on “The illusionist” together with Stefano, a very short 9a, composed of an intense first section of about twenty truly aesthetic movements. It is not the best known and most attractive pitch among the long classic routes of Flatanger but I had already targeted it from home as an "approach" pitch so as not to immediately start working those intergalactic journeys of the other routes. The hard part ended a few meters from the ground but a final boulder problem that was not at all trivial did not allow you to relax until the end. I immediately felt comfortable on the route and managed to solve it on the first lap of the third day but in the meantime I had started to work on two other beautiful projects: "Odin's eye" 8c +, which takes its name from an incredible shape of the rock which is several meters, darker and resembling an eye; and "Thor's hammer" 9a / +, without hammer-shaped holds but whose line that goes straight up to the vault of the cave strikes you like one of the lightning bolts launched by the characters of the Norwegian divinity.
Once the holiday started, the days of climbing passed quickly with the alarm clock dictated by the sunlight, light breakfast, approach to the cliff and the attempts on the routes each on their own project. Once the energies were over, we went back down to the hytte already discussing how many things we had done to eat for dinner to recover the energy lost on the overhanging marathons. However, the region does not have many tourist attractions in addition to the wonderful landscapes and some fleeting encounters, if you are lucky, with some moose and therefore the speed of the climbing days was balanced by the relaxation and tranquility, however much appreciated, of the days of rest. Not having a car of our own, we had to rely on the rides to go shopping or to move a bit outside the campsite. Each day of rest we made an attempt to fish, a very simple activity in that region from what we were told by the Italian friends who had already been there. "Just throw the line with the hook and the fish will bite" they said ... but maybe we were missing something in the technique. The fishing balance at the end of the holiday marked only one crab caught ... After a few hours of waiting in vain for the fish, we decided then that it was better to go and defrost the frozen one bought at the grocery store and go back to thinking about climbing, an activity that was much better for us.
Alongside the projects for several days of work, in order not to miss anything, I also dedicated myself to some “quick” attempts. Fast relative to the number of attempts but absolutely not to the climbing time ... I manage to climb two 8c flashes, that is to say on the first attempt. “Muy verde” and “Nordic plumber”. The first was quite short, intense and relatively painless. The second is quite the opposite. Fatigue and pain, in mind and body, brought a lot. I have never been a fan of very long routes but something clicked for me on this holiday, also thanks to the beauty of the lines, and one day I decided I wanted to face a battle to the last breath. Nordic Plumber is 45/50 meters long and is a succession of many boulders separated by rests, generally very good if not complete where you fit one or more knees. The saying "if you win a battle you did not win the war" could perfectly fit this route because despite the very first initial section which is the hardest taken individually, success or failure is decided in the last meters, on the fateful final rail in which if you get too tight or miss the sequence of the hands you fall and ... you start again.
At the time of the flash attempt I was aware and ready for a long journey but I did not imagine how much. My muscles were already exhausted at a third of my pitch. Not so much for the pumped forearms, I am quite used to that, but all the more to a state of general physical fatigue of the whole body that I had never experienced during a climb, from the shoulders, to the abdominals, to the calves, to the feet. Not giving in and continuing to climb to the top was a real mental struggle. After 45 minutes from when I left the ground, with even some knots on the rope to unravel (fortunately in a point of good rest) I manage to get to the last holds and pass the rope in the chain while my head turns off definitively from the exhaustion of energies.
After a couple of days to recover my energy, I return to real projects. I arrive at the last two days of the holiday with the accounts still to be closed on both the routes of Odin's eye and Thor's hammer. I was afraid I would have to go home leaving at least one pending. Thrilled by the achievements of Stefano and Luca who close their projects, I squeeze all my energy into what could be my best climbing day. With two precise and decisive shots I overcome the hard part of both routes and, attentive and agitated at the same time so as not to make mistakes, I manage to hold on and get up to the chain.
As is often said, it would have been a wonderful "last day, best day" for our group, too bad it was our penultimate day ... For the real last day we were busy dismantling all the quickdraws left on the routes and finishing it completely the energies by trying some route out of curiosity as a possible project for another possible future trip. Journey in which we will be even more charged and prepared (also on fishing techniques).
The GRIVEL equipment used for the project:
_Trend Chalk Bag
Marcello Bombardi, born in Correggio in 1993 and now living in Pont-Saint-Martin (Aosta Valley), he has been with the Grivel team for a year. Professional athlete in the Italian National Team, he competes in speed, boulder and lead specialties (1° place Lead World Cup 2017, Chamonix) and also practices sportive climbing and outdoor bouldering. Favorite Grivel products: Rocker 45 backpack, Trend harness abstract, Alpine Plume quickdraws.