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Lillemola Island, Man Hands

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to establish a granite big-wall route on an uninhabited island, with crystal clear water in the inlet and a 100' approach to the base across a white sand beach? From June 25 to 28 Mike Brumbaugh, Andrew Burr, Brian Heppner, Ari Menitove, and I put up Man Hands (5.11+, 1,000') on an east-facing wall on Lillemola (Litlmolla), one of the smaller Lofoten Islands.

We flew to Kiruna, in northern Sweden, via Stockholm, and drove west to Lofoten. We’d seen a picture of the wall in a guidebook and thought it would be a fun adventure. When we asked for the island with the big wall, locals knew what we meant. Although a team had previously established an aid route, there were no recorded free climbs. We hired a jet boat from Svolvaer and with three days food and made base camp directly beneath our project. From camp to the base of the wall took less than five minutes, and we were climbing above the tent and white beach the whole time. Our island had one small cottage; some otherwise deserted islands have summer cottages that are used a weekend or two a year.

Man Hands was seven pitches long. Highlights were leaving beautiful dihedrals with finger and hand cracks, to face-climb over compact terrain toward the next crack system. If someone was to bring a drill and place a few bolts between non-connecting crack systems, this wall would provide many wonderful 1,000' routes that could then be climbed carrying only traditional gear. We rapped the route from nut and sling anchors. It was one of those once-in-a-life-time experiences, which Andrew summed up with, “After major unearthing of the first pitch and heavy cleaning of pitches two and three, we completed the climb ground up in one push under the ever-lit sky of an Arctic summer. From the jet boat ride, to the man-eating mosquitoes, to the hermit crab fights on the beach, I loved every minute of it”.

Rob Pizem, AAC