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Europe, Norway, Lofoten, Austvagoy Island, Vagakallen, Second Ascent of Storm Pillar

Austvagoy Island, Vagakallen, second ascent of Storm Pillar. From June 16 to 18 Vasek Satava and I made the second ascent of Storm Pillar on the Storpillaren of Vagakallen. The route was first climbed in September 2003 by Louise Thomas and Mike “Twid” Turner (U.K.). This pair spent two days fixing the lower section, then made three portaledge camps on the wall, climbing for three days and waiting out two days of stormy weather, to complete the 19-pitch route at British E5 6a and A3.

We had a small amount of information from Twid and felt it might be possible for us to make a free ascent. We got a detailed topo from the climbing pub in Hemingsvaer. On the first day we onsighted the lower slabby part of the wall and slept at a grassy spot above the big terrace (top of pitch eight). Next day we continued, planning to make a free ascent of pitch 12, the first aid pitch. However, we met three ugly pitches, including the very steep “waterfall” 11th pitch, which had been given the grade E4 5c. We managed to onsight this hard pitch; the grade was a joke. Above, we discovered that we would be unable to bivouac, as we were not carrying a portaledge. It took us over three hours, using all the gear we had, to overcome the A3 pitch. Without resting for part of the day, we couldn’t even attempt to free this pitch. We also felt that we would probably need to replace much of the gear or drill a few bolts. Although there was gear every half a meter in the crack, it was generally poor.

We continued up, looking for a place to rest, but there wasn’t a ledge big enough even to sit on, so we continued through the night, which was still quite light at this time of year. At the top of pitch 16, which we reached at 9 a.m., we found a big square block that we could sit on and sleep for three hours in the morning sun. After this rest we climbed the A2+ pitch, which again might be possible to free-climb except for problems with protection. Above, easier pitches led to the top of the pillar. After taking photos we rappeled the route. Due to overhangs and poor belays, rappeling was almost as adventurous as the climb, but we made it down in a few hours.

During my visit to Wales in 2004 I tried to understand the British grading system. Here in Norway I stopped worrying about it, accepting that just about anything could fit any grade.

Pavel Jonak, Czech Republic