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Europe, Norway, Tromso Region, Kvaloya Island, Blamann, North Face, Arctandria, First Free Ascent

Kvaloya Island, Blamann, north face, Arctandria, first free ascent. After meeting a Swedish guy in Squamish, Canada, who told me about a north-facing wall somewhere in Norway where the sun shines through the night, I was totally psyched. Looking at Marten Blixt’s website, I was almost sure there would be good crazy stuff to free-climb. It would be fun to visit somewhere few people go, trying to do something no one has tried. It’s bad to be a sheep.

Two months later I was in TromsØ airport with fellow Swiss Giovanni Quirici and Laurent de Senarclens, the latter accompanying us as photographer. We spent three weeks at Blamann, mostly hiding from the rain in our little tent.

We first climbed Atlantis on the left side of the wall. We climbed it in a single push of 10 hours, falling on pitches one, three, six, and eight (wet) but following free. At the top we had the best sunset of our lives (and the longest as well). Wet crack climbing no longer held any secrets. [The 400m Atlantis was first climbed in June 1980 by Frode Guldal and Harvard and Sjur Nesheim, at A1/A2. It was climbed free in July 1990 by Per Hustad and Johan Nilsson at Norwegian 8-/8 or F7b+. It has now been freed several times. While the north face of Blamann is generally overhanging and composed of compact, solid granite, giving mainly well-protected aid routes of 10-12 pitches, Atlantis has a few loose sections—Ed.]

For the rest of the trip we focused on the best-looking line on the wall, Arctandria. [Arctandria was first climbed in May 1981 by Finn Daehli and Harvard and Sjur Nesheim, at A2+ with copperheads, hooks, and knife- blades. During subsequent ascents drilled protection was added—Ed.] We climbed the first five pitches on aid in two days, fixing ropes and returning to our base camp to sleep. We spend six separate days climbing on the wall and working the route, with both Quirici and I leading every pitch. The second pitch, a beautiful corner, finally went free at 8a+, on the third day of attempting it and the last day’s climbing, and then we only pinkpointed it. There were good Friend placements, reasonable nuts and copperheads. The third pitch was a perfect finger crack, and the roof on the fourth pitch provided a wet layback. Unforgettable!

Every pitch was of high quality, and we had much fun climbing them. It was also interesting to climb the route free without changing its character by adding bolts. This ethic definitively makes the free-climbing side of our activity much richer.

Three weeks is a short time. Rain often made the pitches wet and harder, so we never got the opportunity to try a single-push ascent. The challenge is still there.

Didier Berthod, Switzerland