In March 2011, i was in Fontainbelau with a good mate from back home. Within a few days, we made some friends; a couple from Canada (one of which turned out to have put up half the first ascents in Pemberton) and another from Sweden. Three years later and i was honoured to attend the latter’s wedding in Stockholm, such was the bond we managed to form. In the interim period, we’d met up in Germany, travelled to Austria and they had been to experience the mountains of Snowdonia. And none of it would’ve happened if not for one week back in September 2009, which is another story for another time but wow, was it a good move!
Think for a second of the vast array of rocky areas in the world and the abundance of available boulders to try. More than you can comprehend, i’m sure, and yet if you look at the surrounding area to Goteborg, namely the Baltic Sea, you’ll notice a distinct flatness in the terrain. It may surprise you then, to find that Goteborg is home to some sensational bouldering and in the most magnificent and unique setting you could imagine. And all this supported by Sweden’s remarkably brilliant infrastructure and transport network, making travelling a delight and a dream. The downside is it doesn’t do much for the bank balance but you can’t have it every way…
Perched on the Western coast of Sweden, Goteborg (or Gothenburg in English) is the second largest city in Sweden, dating back to 1621 and a wander round the city centre will give testimony to this: it is a wonderfully historic place, full of phenomenal architecture and plenty of character. I could imagine early travellers heading across the Baltic by boat, only to find the ground slowly rise up from the sea in a typically Swedish, gentle way – as you glance across the archipelago to the West, you can make out little bumps of land; it is quite surreal but truly impressive. It is on these islands that you can find some magnificent bouldering, for example of the island of Hono, where the water has ground down the rock to a nice smooth finish, leaving just enough features for you to scale to the top.
While the boulders of Hono are undoubtedly the most famed in the area, there is plenty more to go at, with granite crags inland from the city. In fact, a quick search on 27crags.com gives more crags than you can imagine and my experience is limited to the first two: Hono and Utby. Even Utby, i have just been reliably informed by a chap from Kungalv, is a very long crag with plenty to whet the appetite, which demonstrates just how limited my experience was. Still, I’ll tell you what i know, which will hopefully be enough to send you scampering to Sweden to check out this quiet and understated area.
I was sadly only there for a total of five days, one of which was a washout in the middle, meaning i only managed to really explore a couple of crags. There is a lifetime of climbing here, with trad and sport too, if that’s your thing. Be careful though, as i was informed pretty early on that the locals have a tendency to deliberately mis-grade problems, lowering them by half a grade; a 7a+ elsewhere would get 7a here. We debated for quite a while as to why, and indeed why this is a daft idea, but as long as you know this, the grades are generally consistent.
Hono. Reached by ferry from the mainland, i first heard of this little island on an old VHS video in my late teens and was instantly excited even then. It’s not a long ferry ride but enough to give you an entirely different perspective on the city you’ve just travelled from and then suddenly, you find yourself wandering through foliage to try and navigate your way around. This isn’t that easy, to let you know, proven by the fact that even with a local tour guide, we still took the wrong path and ended up bushwacking and struggling to find where we wanted. A couple of problems well worth fishing out though would be Den Gamle Och Havet 7b (i was sadly not quite that good when i was there) and Kolla! Fettot Har Vitta Jeans 5+, (which was wet).
Utby. A short tram ride from town, followed by another short bus ride, followed by a ten minute walk will bring you to Utby. Sound far? It’s really not, it’s a nothing, and the ease of access means that it’s incredibly accesible for those travelling to the area without access to a car. There’s more than enough here to keep you occupied for the duration of a a small trip but we got stuck into ticking off Voodoo 7a (one of those that should be graded harder). It’s well worth a look, and one i was very glad to come back with, although there is so much more here, it’s best to have a wander first to see if there’s anything else that particularly grabs your fancy.
Bring your pennies. Sweden, and Scandanavia in general, are widely regarded as expensive places and i must admit, every time i go, for however long, i come back flat broke. The bright side to this is that the quality, of food, goods and life in general, is second to nowhere i have ever experienced. Yes, a train ticket may cost you an arm and a leg but the train will be there on time, in pristine condition, and you’ll enjoy the experience of rattling through the Swedish countryside. Things are efficient, people are friendly, and most not only speak English but actively want to. On my way there, i learned the phrase “Tyvar tallar jag inte Svenska” or “I’m sorry i don’t speak Swedish” and every time i used it, i was greeted by a look that suggested they were surprised i’d tried that much, and were more than happy to continue in English. The one woman i met who broke this trend must’ve been 101!
- Food. There are an abundance of supermarkets and the like in suburban Goteborg.
- Accommodation – Campsites. There are three located in and around the city – quite an unusual situation for a city! They are all connected under the name Liseberg and are liberally spread. I believe they also have huts too.
- Climbing Shops. I quickly stumbled across a fantastic little shop but i don’t know what it was called. I think it was Friluftsbolaget but i can’t be sure. What i do know is that it is climbing specific and where i bought my guidebook. For those more outdoorsy than just bouldery, there is also a Naturkompaniet opposite the next place i got enthused about…
- Cafes and bars. Oh, i took a photo of a cafe i found in the centre of town so that i’d remember it several years later when i’d long since forgotten what it was called. Indiska is a wonderful little tea room/coffee shop that drew me back three times in the solitary day i was in town, predominantly because, in my haste to head to Sweden, i forgot to take tea…
- Guidebooks. The one you want is Boulderguiden Goteborg – an obvious title that doesn’t need much translation. The rest of the book does though, for non-native Swedish speakers; not that i’m complaining at all, merely warning you. At nearly 180 pages, it’ll give you plenty to go at and is a very good guide. Available from the climbing shops in town.
Relevant blog posts: here (if you’re that bored or psyched).