Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki, Finland

You don’t often hear of climbers going on city breaks and i’ve often said in the past that they don’t put airports, accomodation and boulders near each other. Well, Helsinki bucks that trend and then some.

When Nalle Hukkataival topped out on Burden of Dreams, the world’s first 9a boulder problem, back in October 2016, i was expecting the profile of Finnish bouldering to rise quite a lot but on the basis of our summer four-day trip to the capital in June 2019, that really doesn’t seem to be the case. Granted, it was hot and conditions were not ideal but Europe was in the throws of a massive heatwave causing records to tumble and forests to flare up in Spain. Being so far North actually proved very useful for us. So why were we the only ones?!

While not quite the home for 27crags – the rapidly growing online topo website – Helsinki is certainly very nearby and climbing here dates back at least to 1955. The potential is easily seen as soon as you wander the city from the Central Station, with rock outcrops appearing almost on every street corner. One kids playground had little boulders for little tykes.

Not that it seemed to translate into local climbers at the crags. In our four sessions, we met a total of seven climbers, and one of them was from Manchester. No, Helsinki seems to be a hidden gem, there for you to enjoy in peace and quiet.

It is worth using this opportunity to check out the city too, which has as much a Russian influence as a Scandinavian one. The central Oodi Library in particular is well worth a visit.

The Areas

Part of the reason for this quietness might be the lack of concentration of boulder problems. The climbs and crags are fairly spread, although no more so than many other crags around the world. British climbers will certainly be used to the idea of having to shuffle around but for those used to projecting, there’s plenty to go at.

We visited four crags in our short stay, although we chose carefully and may well have hit the best of the bunch. Either way, they were excellent crags, either in terms of their aspect or in terms of the routes to be found there.

  • Meilahti. There are two distinct and separate sectors to this crag: one wooded wall that stretches the boundaries of boulder problem, another shorter set of stepped walls on the shores of the Baltic. The seaside sector was our section of choice with a range of excellent problems ranging from Pussauskoppi 4 right the way up to Meikun pitkaveto assis 7b, the stand start version eluding me personally. Slouperri Origia 6a+ felt tough for the grade but is worth a look, as are the surrounding link ups and problems

  • Koivusaari. There is always something nice about a giant boulder, with 360 routes and that is exactly what you can expect at this venue on the banks of the Baltic. A short walk from the Koivusaaren Metro Station, with views either back over the city or out to sea, highlights include Platoon 6c and the powerful Peppu 7a+. Take lots of power with you as the harder climbs are steep ones that will suit the gym monkeys, and plenty of skin for the rough granite.

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What a day! That's gotta be one of the best days in a trip ever. A late start pushed itself into the afternoon but after that, it's been all go. Firstly we headed to Koivusaari and the most impressive boulder in the most astounding scene. Right in the shore again, the lines were outstanding, even if I did leave with Peppu 7a+ agonisingly close. Then we shifted the focus and headed to Taivaskallio With a stack of Simon friendly problems. He blasted them out, one after another, flashing problem after problem. Taivaskallio is a very historical crag for Finnish bouldering too and it was great to experience such a fantastic crag. We're now back, battered and beaten by buoyed by a brilliant day off quality Finnish bouldering #Helsinki #Finland #helsinkibouldering #finnishbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #grimpeur #rockclimbing #escalada #escalade #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #birthdaytradition #sunsoutgunsout

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  • Taivaskallio. More of a beginner venue, really, with a large quantity of lower grade problems that don’t lose quality with difficulty. Climbs here date back to 1955 mainly on the Keulamuuri sector, with 44 problems up to 6b+. Make sure you do Karhea Laatta 4 for the historical value before checking out some of the other sectors and checking out the view of Helsinki from the old war bunkers on the top of the hill.

  • Melunmaaki. Possibly my pick of the bunch, with several sectors to explore on more monolithic blocs for those that want to feel more alive or more vertical crags for the more technical of you. The prow line of Erektio 6b is certainly inviting. However, for us, we stayed on the Mellankolia boulders. A must try for anyone operating around the grade is Mellankolia 7b+ and if you can’t manage the tough first move, try from two moves in at about 6c+/7a.

Local Amenities

It is somewhat unnecessary to list all of the local amenities for Finland’s capital city; as you can imagine, there is plenty here. The downside is there could potentially a little too much, depending on your tastes. Obviously, the places we went suit our tastes and may not be to yours but i shall share them with you anyway, in case you like pizza and beer…

  • Food. It wasn’t hard to find a decent supermarket and the selection was much the same i’d found anywhere else, with reasonable prices too. Around the corner from our accomodation was an Alepa which suited perfectly and had everything we could want. We also saw some K-Mart and a Lidl, so there are options.
  • Accommodation – Campsites. Not sure on this one, as we were knee deep in city centre. I would imagine you’d need to go a fair distance out of the city to find anything suitable and while Finland has everyman’s right – allowing people to use any land unless under certain situations – i would suggest that pitching a tent in a public park might be pushing your luck somewhat.
  • Accommodation – Buildings. We utilised Airbnb and got somewhere out to the west of the city that was dear for two of us but with ample room for plenty more. While there, we heard the East of the city is cheaper but i can’t confirm this (i’ll trust Tomi, he lives there after all).
  • Cafes and Bars. Eating out did cost us Scandi prices, especially drinking out at 9 euro per bottle! However, if you decide to treat yourself, i can thoroughly recommend Putte’s Bar and Pizza in the city centre, which may charge you more than you’d like but at least gives you a huge pizza in a great setting for your money. A mid-way option would be to check out the street food down on the sea front, where we ate moose sausages and reindeer meatballs, which were delicious.
  • Guidebooks. When 27 crags launched their Premium feature, they offered a free copy of the Southern Finland Bouldering Guide and this is what we arrived armed with. However, within the first hour, i had subcribed to the premium version of 27crags as it was far superior. It really does cover everywhere, including the less popular or less quality spots in the area, but will guide you anywhere you choose to go.
  • Other Handy Places. So many; it is the capital after all. The must see for me was the Central Library Oodi; a treat inside and out. Other than that, simply walking around town yields beautiful architecture, including the Senate building, the Parliament building and various other spectacular places. Boat trips are possible from a multitude of spots. There are various indoor climbing gyms in town, although we didn’t visit any so i’ll leave you to Google them for yourself.

Relevant blog posts: here (if you’re that psyched or bored)

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