Reaching the Apex

Sweden, from her southern most tip up the coastline for MANY miles is literally littered with boulders. There is rock absolutely everywhere and the only reason for gaps with no established crags, after talking to Fredrik last night, is the lack of habitation.

Take this area for example. If you look on 27crags (a must for anyone climbing in Scandinavia by the way) then you’ll see a large cluster around Gavle. There’s then a large gap before another large cluster north around Sundsvall. The reason for this? No one lives there, confirmed by the fact he’s seen boulders there ready to be cleaned and climbed. In short, if you’re dead set on opening up areas and first ascents, Sweden is the place for you!

An overview of established bouldering sites in mid Sweden between Gavle and Sundsvall, owing to the lack of population rather than a lack of suitable rock. Image taken from 27crags.com
An overview of established bouldering sites in mid Sweden between Gavle and Sundsvall, owing to the lack of population rather than a lack of suitable rock. Image taken from 27crags.com

The nation’s capital is no exception and this is exactly where we found ourselves heading on Saturday afternoon. In fact, it transpires there’s a rather hefty guidebook for the Stockholm/Uppsala area and a good one at that! Not that we were heading there for climbing.

Simon had been in touch with a friend of his, also known as Fredrik so, in order to distinguish, i’ll call this new Fredrik from Stockholm FvW and my old friend from Gavle, FN. Anyway, FvW had offered to put us up for the night.

Despite my weak protestations to find a guidebook on Saturday night on the way there, we headed straight to meet FvW. There followed an enjoyable evening including beer, glances at football matches, burgers followed by burgers, some more beer and then, a little more beer.

That’s not to suggest this was your standard get-wasted-bar-crawl, not at all, i was in the company of connoisseurs! These boys love their beer, to the point of obsession and what i was privy to witness was much discussion at every bar and at the tables over the various breweries, brewers and brews available here in Stockholm, and further afield.

Sadly my love of beer is lacking; substantially in this case. I’ve never been a drinker and while i do enjoy the taste of a good pint, it’s not something i tend to linger over too much. Nor do i drink much of it and i was definitely the odd one out wandering the quality pubs of Stockholm’s old town.

What i do appreciate is the pub itself (and a quality burger) and this was a great introduction to another fantastic city in Europe with an excellent and enthusiastic host whose sense of humour alligned with my own beautifully. FvW was witty, funny and sarcastic and we both had a fantastic night.

Sadly though, our haste to arrive Saturday night meant that climbing was almost out of the question come Sunday morning. Granted we could’ve used 27crags but one problem the Swedes seem to have missed is the increased cost to foreigners in this regard and a book is much better. But now we had a choice between getting a guide and going climbing somewhere. We opted to shop.

A further walk through the city got us to the climbing centre and one of the friendliest i have ever encountered. While i can’t comment on the climbing (we didn’t even go and look) Klatter Verket is the most friendly and welcoming wall i’ve been with a small but selectively stocked shop – something i’ve been longing for on this entire trip! A guide for Stockholm-Uppsala obtained, and one for Vastervik, somewhat annoyingly, as well as a nice Sportiva t-shirt i’d been haggling after for some time. A nice retro style, white t-shirt with some nice little touches, i was soon to learn the perils of white outdoor clothing.

We left and wandered back, taking in Stockholm’s high point at the top of a “ski slope” of sorts. It was a beautiful view of the city and a nice walk, allowing us to see quite how close to wilderness this CAPITAL city lies, not to mention lying on the sea shore.

But then, on the walk down, i stood on a damp rock and my foot slipped out from under me. Normally i’m very good on my feet and rarely trip or fall but lately it’s been happening more. I’m blaming my boots for this! But then, as i came to ground, my arm instinctively went down to protect the fall and itself slipped on the wet rock. Next thing you know, there’s a deep graze (deep for a graze at least) running from my elbow to my wrist, leaking all down my arm.

It was a nothing trip, a bit pathetic really in my eyes, but sadly one of the peculiarities of me is that the smallest amount of blood loss can send me into shock very quickly. It’s not a problem, as i know it’s coming, and especially on this occasion when i only noticed how red my arm was much later. Next thing i knew, i was crouched on the floor, nauseated and feint, wondering whether my consciousness would remain.

It did and as i say, i felt more than a little pathetic. At one point, i felt the shock coming and thought “Oh really? For this?! For fuck’s sake!!” knowing it was just a little scratch. It is, however, a knarly looking scratch and unlike most climbing injuries, one that looks much worse than it is -possibly from the fact it wasn’t even vaguely a climbing injury!

Now back, we relaxed, i drank lots of water, we faffed and packed and soon headed off North, bound for Arlanda airport. Although not quite.

On Tuesday, i need to head to Arlanda to collect Emily. While this is encompassing a lot of my thought process and is undoubtedly the part i’ve most been looking forward to since leaving home what feels an age ago, i do still have time to kill beforehand. So, once we got to Arlanda, we kept going…

Not far away, about half an hour to a nearby crag that looked good and extensive in the newly acquired guidebook. After a trek on gravel tracks into the forest, seemingly into the middle of nowhere, we arrived at some beautiful granite blocs surrounded by trees and bracken.

We didn’t have time to climb, frustratingly but such is life. We did though, have time to scout out and appreciate the outstanding rock quality and stand out lines! It even occurred to me that this simple little crag might appeal to me more than Kjuge!

It wasn’t a lingering look though and soon, we were back at the flygplats to drop off Simon for his flight to, ironically, the UK (ironic as my companion is actually a Candian living in Kobenhavn). We said our goodbyes, probably slightly stressed from the week of travelling and exploration and parted company.

I’d just like to take a second to tell you about Simon. At this point in my life, and i’ve been doing it for a few years now, my friends are judged (sorry guys and gals) by whether they would get an invite to my wedding. Simon is in the top three. There is a reason we keep going away together, why i can seemingly socialise on a fairly intimate level with him, time and again. He is an outstanding human being, thoughtful and considerate and while he may occasionally stress me out or take us in a direction i don’t like, it is marginal and minuscule compared to both my own faults and his good qualities.

This type of trip is stressful. We were constantly hounded by the worst bits: finding our way, finding somewhere to stay, finding our feet and finding we have to move on again and on a single destination trip, these problems are restricted to a single time, this summer we’ve dealt with them time and again. The fact we didn’t fall out massively is a testament to my good friend and our great friendship. (I’ve also talked him into being a contributor on ChezdelaBloc now too, so you’ll get it from his own side too, hopefully!)

Two hours after leaving him at the airport, i arrived in Gavle at the house of one of my other great friends and his wonderful wife. Now the next stage of the trip is under way, and i cannot wait.

The rough journey taken to it's furthest point. Picture taken from Google maps
The rough journey taken to it’s furthest point. Picture taken from Google maps
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