Home to blue beaches, a friendly climbing community and some world class crags - it was not my first visit to Leonidio. Situated in the Peloponnese of Greece this small town is host to an expanse of climbing and many “king lines” you’ll never forget!
Nordic Flower 8c
The Flatanger region of Norway is host to the huge cave of Hanshalleren. Development began back in 1996 but picked up pace as climbers like Magnus Midtbø and Dani Andrada continued bolting, creating some World class routes in the steepest parts of the cave. Fast forward to 2012, the cave became a landmark of climbing history when Adam Ondra bolted and successfully climbed the route Change – the worlds first 9b+.
Now commonly known among climbers as a summer destination, my opportunity to visit this spectacle did not come about the usual way. Assigned to create a film with friend and climbing partner Alex Rohr, I was tasked in capturing his attempts to climb the first part of Change 9a+/b.
Before visiting I researched the area, finding images and videos that would prepare me for filming. My expectations where of a cave with long routes weaving their way through – but nothing could have prepared me for the colossal scale and steepness of this cave. After getting accustomed to the style I set my sights on Nordic Flower, one of many classic 8c routes of Flatanger.
Like many routes there, Nordic Flower has two anchors. The first graded at 8b+ and the second anchor graded at 8c. My plan was to climb to the first section and if motivated, continue to work the extension. Nordic Flower starts with a cruxy section lasting 5 quickdraws from where difficulty eases off. Pumpy climbing on good holds follows but always on steep terrain, reminding your arms that you are still in a cave.
Progress was quick and within a few days, starting just a few meters from the floor I climbed the route to its first anchor with ease. I was confident that I could add a few extra moves and climb from the bottom! However this would not be so easy.
Many of the holds stayed wet the entire trip and due to its specific moves had started to give me (and other climbers) knee injuries. I didn’t want to abandon my project especially after practically climbing the whole thing. However, I knew I had to look at other options.
Fortunately, Nordic Flower can also be climbed via an alternate start. Given the same difficulty as the original, this alternate start remains dry and demands less injury prone moves. As you can imagine I was very pleased to hear this! What I didn’t expect was that this alternate start felt so much more physical. Still, that didn’t matter because I found the climbing to be more varied and on smaller holds – I actually preferred it despite the extra challenge it would give me.
Not long after I had successfully climbed to the first anchor, claiming my third 8b+ route of the year. But now was the time to decide if I wanted to try the extension. Traversing from the first anchor you gain an intense rest before climbing onto even steeper terrain and the crux of the extension. I didn’t know it was possible but I even got neck pump from looking backwards all the time. It was hard to imagine having enough power left in the arms to do this from the ground. However, the moves were so good, some of the best I had ever done on steep terrain. So I committed to it.
The next few days I repeatedly climbed the 8b+ only to fall after a few more quickdraws into the extension. It was devastating! I knew I had good chance but needed to stay calm. It was as much a mental battle as physical. Being a huge cave you’d expect it to remain completely dry. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Condensation, seeping cracks and sea mist – you have to deal with it all.
The wind began blowing into the cave and with it a thick mist. Soon after the extension of Nordic Flower became shrouded in a heavy, damp cloud. The day was pretty much written off but I decided to give it a go anyway. The route felt horrible but after 40m of climbing I again found myself before the extension. I continued to climb and immediately noticed that my grip wasn’t as tight as it needed to be. Trying not to hesitate with the beta I focused on being precise with my movement. I made it through the crux and into the next big rest but had struggled with the previous quickdraw and was now completely burnt out. I should have skipped it! The neck pump returned, my legs burning as I tried to recover into the steepest part of the route. I continued, telling myself to stay calm and not over-grip. That made little difference though as my hands began to open up immediately. The rock was damper than usual but at this point I didn’t care!
Now just a few meters from the anchor I hesitated at the last hard move. A rounded undercut that you have to grip and maintain tension on. I felt as if I had no chance. Using the last of my body tension I stood up and continued moving. Gaining better holds I reached the anchor, finding the last bit of power to fight the rope drag and clip the anchor! An hour later and 60m further I had climbed my project, Nordic Flower 8c.
Flatanger is for sure an incredible place. Whilst it seems to be known for its hard routes it offers climbs for all abilities. If it’s too hot in the Alps, I can highly recommend heading north and hiding in this Cave.
Thanks to Alex Rohr for the photos and belaying me patiently.