Blåmann Wall, aid climbing up Atlantis on Kvaløya Island, Norway
Diego Pezzoli recounts his recent of the aid climb Atlantis (400m, A1+/A2, 8-/8) up the Blamann Wall, Kvaløya Island, Norway.
Blåmann wall once again. The "little" big wall on Norway's Kvaløya island that has always appealed not only to strong Norwegian climbers but also to talented international climbers such as, in recent years, the likes of Didier Berthod, Giovanni Quirici, Hansjörg Auer, Much Mayr and Dave MacLeod who travelled up north to tackle both the free and aid climbs. Everyone who has been has always talked enthusiastically about this granite monolith and another climber to remain impressed was Italy's Diego Pezzoli who visited Kvaløya Island this summer along with some Russian friends he had met during the 2012 Svetogorsk Alpine Marathon. Pezzoli's summer experience sheds interesting light onto the aid climb Atlantis and the different facets of rock climbing.
BLAMANN WALL by Diego Pezzoli
Tromsø, 12th August 2013. In the queue, at the baggage reclaim after a sleepless night, I wait for my haul bag and portaledge to come out onto the conveyor belt, I admit that as always I'm a little bit anxious while I wonder if it'll ever arrive. Out of the blue I'm hugged warmly from behind, Ivan Simonyuk greets me along with Maxim Torganov: I knew they were waiting for me at the airport and I'm delighted to see them again. In the end the baggs arrive. We go to the car and join the others, Aleksej Kiselev and Andrey Varvarkin.
The sky is grey and rain threatens as we drive across Tromsø towards Kvaloya, alongside the ocean until we turn off onto a smaller road that leads to the Blåmann wall. When we finally reached our destination Ivan, being an excellent and fast cook, prepares a typical Russian dish, kasha, which we eat while drinking the usual Russian tea. It's time for bed and we all fall asleep, while our awakening isn't the best as the sky hasn't changed colour.
We get ready to walk to the base of the wall and take a closer look at our chosen routes, Max and Ivan want to climb Arctandria (400m, A2+, 9-/9) while Andrey, Alexey and I have opted for Pichtaco. Not even 100m after we set off the annoying rain forces us to put on our Gore-Tex jackets. 45 minutes later and after having negotiated a small snowfield and some wet slabs and reach the base of the routes.
We immediately realise that unlike our friend's route, our chosen line is wet, in particular the first pitch. After checking the guidebook and making sure that for both Alexey and myself it wouldn't be a problem, we decide on Atlantis (400m, A1+/A2, 8-/8).
It’s Tuesday morning, the sun won’t reach the face before 9.00 pm, just in time to provide an hour of light and a less gloomy image of what it is in reality. So that's it, we return to our tents and shelter from the light drizzle and plan for the next day. The afternoon passes quickly thanks to learning about what berries can be eaten - such as moroshka and blueberries which I've gathered plenty of - and prepararing the climbing gear. Afer dinner I play my trump card: I extract my coffee maker from my bag and Maxim's eyes illuminate! I gain both total respect and a double ration of Mars bars, the indispensable after dinner snack.
Wednesday: we finally wake up with a light blue sky that warms the tent so much to make us delay our start. Today I’m not going climbing, Andrey will be belayed by Alexey, and in this way they lead off the dances. They get ready wearind all the material on the harness and on the bib, I admit to be less meticulous and as a matter of fact I never find what I need. Fulfilled this phase, before going, according to a Russian tradition, everyone gets sit around ten seconds as in meditation, after that we can go, this at the base of every route.
Seen the right start of the route, Andrey progresses with good ability and go through the key tracts irreplaceable fi-fi rock, a sort of ax that he uses also in cracks large also two centimeters. It’s amazing seeing him playing with such a shrewdness in fit and trationate that tool. Arrived at the supposed belay, he starts hammering and equipping it properly. As a matter of fact in Norway the ethic forces not to put fix but let everyone prepare his own belay. Two ropes, one attached to the top and the other used to recover and belay the following climber. Alexey cleans the pitch from every protection except a titanium piton, which will be useful the day after to go up again; so he is at the belay with Andrey and he belays him also for the next length.
From the tents I can see the sun but I wear a long-sleeve t-shirt, a fleece and a windcheater; I wait for them till they finish the second length. As they come back on the ground we return to our little corner of paradise, we are still in five people and we are going to eat for the last time all together, as a matter of fact Maxim and Ivan have prepared their portaledge and they will spent the day after on the wall.
Like a record which spin us round we wake up in a grey sky . I climb fast the two pitches, I settled up all the material on my harness and I start climb, in a short time I arrive at the right belay, always to be equipped, but I decide to go further. I overcome a crack with pecker, small cams and micro nuts, I go further through a section and I arrive to a little ledge, I recover the ropes but I found it hard. So I decide to stop here. I won’t say to my Russian friends that this belay is the first one I make, with two pecker one cam expanding in the crack and another one well placed. So off we go! I continue on my second length, a wonderful dihedral crack, with little cams, nuts and a lot of sections on the fi-fi rock, toll that from this moment gained a place of honor on my harness, we abseil down after this pitch and around 5.30 pm we get on the ground. Having been fast, we can enjoy in peace the last evening at the tents, from where we look our mates assembling the portaledge on the wall and trough a walkie talkie we get in touch with them.
The new day starts with a good coffee and an abundant breakfast, we need it because it will be a long and hard day. After the usual period of meditation, with jumar we repeat the 4 lengths equipped till that moment. I cannot hide the fatigue in the comprehension of the reclimbing maneuvers, but after a ordeal lasted several hours, we reach the last belay. Now it’s Alexey turn, and he climb up through dihedrals and cracks reaching easily the end of the pitch.
So, I have time to talk with Andrey about everything, English permitting, about future plans, the house that I am going to build, his wife and his dog, about the fact that in Russia people get married young, so…about a lot of things. We don’t realize that evening is coming and we decide to assemble the portaledge. First we try to make a belay the most safe as possible, we pout two pecker, one very good piton and another one a little less, and we join them through cords, we’re satisfy with the result and put on the top the big portaledge.
We’re three people and the only way to sleep comfortably is that the one who will lay in the centre have the feet in our direction covering all the useful space. When I was falling asleep, a thud noise followed by the fall of stones was getting nearer and nearer. I was prepared for the worst, hands on the head as trying to repair myself and the fear of being hit soon, but after a while I heard the noise away until it turned off and my heart slowed its beat…
We wake up. We cook the usual tasty dish of cereals served like a slop, and we get ready to face the long hard day. Andrey climb the first pitch, he’s fast. While Andrey climb also the second pitch of the day, Alexey asks me if I want to go first, obviously my answer is "yes”. This time we change strategy and I go up the rope with just one sack tied to me, I arrive at the anchor and Andrey gives me all the material to lead the next pitch.
Rain goes stronger, three different lines of ascent are above us, and I begin to doubt if climbing or not. I continue to repeat "Bad rain!” as to make them understand tha I don’t want anymore to lead. I cannot understand where the route goes, the relation says right and the description left, in the middle of an overhanging chimney. I decide to go left, removing the doubts. I follow a crack and go up the roof, I reach a niche and I go for a dihedral, and still up following the crack till a big lean stone. I put a piton and one pecker, I join everything with a red cam. Belay made.
By now we have tested phrases in order to talk among us while climbing: "I make a belay", to say that I am getting assembling the belay; "I fixed the yellow rope" to say that the rope on which I have to reclimb with the jumars is the yellow one; "you belay on blue rope" stay for security rope that I use in order to recover also big bags. The team works well, I have been fast and Andrey, who in the meanwhile reached me with the recovered material, says me to go up also for the next and last pitch.
In the heat of getting to the top I start before Alexey arrives. Few meters last for the top and I can feel the summit. Climb the last pitch will keep me amuse , so much that I don’t realize that I am on the summit and the wall becomes horizontal. A big stone, surrounded by a pair of long cords, works as our belay, and once repeated the previous phases, I will see Andrey arrive and satisfied, who’ll say me two words which have make me felt proud: "You are a strong guy."
We take a picture on the summit, after that we have dinner with cracker and salami, mars and tea. It’s 11.30 pm and an unthinkable panorama is in front of us, foggy goes away and lights paint Tromsø in a night face. At midnight we wish Alexey happy birthday, he’s thirty now and we go sleep, still in the portaledge, but this time laying on four stones. I won’t sleep at all because of the continuous pain at my fingers and I’ll wait patiently the morning after. At the end it arrives with the sun that warm our wet bodies, a very beautiful day is waiting for us.
Through the walkie talkie we get in touch with our mates, since we had set in advance the time to get in contact, and they say us that they have still two lengths to finish the route. We decide to go down since it will take three hours to go back, but at the time it doesn’t matter if we fatigue again, the worst has been made. Once at the car, after a tea with fresh blueberries and a good break, we go back to recover tents and other thing we left at the base camp. Alexey will surprise me still running till the base wall in order to recover the few material left over there.
The rain and the wind had swept the tents everywhere and wet the most of the things left at the base camp, once again the sun will help us drying most of them. With the last effort we go back at the car in one hour and we meet Maxim and Ivan on the way. We make congratulations one to each other and we talk about the routes we’ve made, then we go celebrate together in a Norwegian pizzeria, where the Russian friends going to ask me for advice to choose the pizza to eat. After we go to a camping where the only thing that I want is a comfortable bed, but not before making a toast to Alexey’s birthday with a bottle of white wine and my beloved Finnish liquor. After midnight we drink also to Maxim who makes 26 years.
I spend the last day with them arranging the material and verifying, me and Andrey, new and exciting plans for the future. Finally we leave at the airport saying this thing that will accompany me for all the trip back home: "Do not forget our dreams!"
Special thanks to: www.krukonogi.com and www.totemcams.com and Salewa
Thanks also to my friends Eleonora Delnevo, Davide Grimoldi and Alberto Villa.