Norway and Sweden are well known for being wonderful destinations for trekking and canoeing. But that’s not what we’re going to talk about today. We’re here to talk about climbing and bouldering in these beautiful Scandinavian countries. The aim of this post is just to give you a little taste of the best climbing and bouldering regions and to answer the question as to what makes climbing in Scandinavia in general and in Norway and Sweden in particular so unique.
Of course, this post isn’t meant to be exhaustive. We only hope to inspire you and put you in the mood to head over to Scandinavia to climb! Let’s begin with an important fact: the Scandinavians are very environmentally conscious people, which is the reason why they have refrained from placing bolts in many areas. So, it’d be a good idea to consult a climbing guide or ask a native before heading out.
Climbing in Norway
Old hands in mountaineering know Norway as the Mecca of ice climbing. Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or very experienced, you’ll definitely find a route for you. Beginners will love the region around Rjukan. This is where the popular ice climbing festival is held. But, if you like it a bit wilder or just prefer places off the beaten path, you should definitely check out Laerdal, which abounds in huge frozen waterfalls for all your ice climbing needs. Large areas of this region remain largely untouched. Of course, Gudvangen and Hemsedal are worth mentioning as well. All of these regions are mere hours away from Oslo.
For sport and alpine climbing, Setesdal is extremely popular, not least because it’s located in Southern Norway and thus easier to get to. If you happen to be in Denmark, you can just take a fairy from there to the Norwegian mainland. The granite rock in Setesdal offers climbers not only a large number of bolted routes but also plenty for route setters to work with. Many of the routes are smooth slabs, so you’ve got to like that sort of thing. But, they’re really fun once you get the hang of it! Cams, nuts and slings are a must even with bolts!
If you fancy more extreme regions, you’ll love the area around Narvik, or more specifically, Stetind. This rather imposing mountain is located north of the polar circle, so it’s pretty chilly all year round. There’s a climbing guide for this region as well, which will show you the way up the smooth sides of the granite. Of course, you can head up north to the Lofoten Islands as well. These islands are perfect for fans of multi-pitch climbs, not least because of the absolutely unique and beautiful scenery. The difficulty of the set climbing routes are between 4 and 8 (UIAA). There are climbing guides available as well: Ed Webster’s “Climbing in the Magic Islands” and the more recent “Lofoten Rock” published by Rockfax. Of course, you have the option of acquiring these guides and others when you get there.
Climbing in Sweden
Pretty much the opposite of the raw and wild alpine-like character of Norwegian climbing areas are the ones found in Sweden. Being able to climb by the sea is quite the experience. It’s as if the dichotomy between the water and the mountains vanished into thin sea air. In Bohuslän, which is north of Gothenburg, there are not only cute little islands but also solid granite to climb in warm summer weather. The majority of the predominantly sport climbing routes are significantly shorter than those in Norway. You can find much more on this region in the the tourist information in Uddevalla.
If you’re into the more difficult stuff, you’ll have the time of your life just outside of Stockholm. The demanding sport climbing routes, such as the Örnberget or Värmdö, start at around 6b (according to the French scale). However, out of the approximately 2000 routes that are within an hour’s drive from each other around Stockholm, there are some great routes for beginners as well. Other great routes can be found in Agelsjön near Norrköping or Kullaberg just north of Helsingborg. More maps and info on climbing in Sweden can be found at www.sverigeföraren.se, provided you speak Swedish.
There are plenty of places to go bouldering in Norway and Sweden. Many such areas are in Setesdal and in Southern Norway. Nico Altmaier who Alpine Trek has been working with for a while now, travelled to Norway for some bouldering in 2014 and made a short film about it.
Sweden is becoming one of the more popular destinations for bouldering holidays. In the rather idyllic town of Västervik in Sweden, there’s even an International Boulder Meet with several famous boulderers. The meet has taken place several times now and has really put the area on the (bouldering) map. Sweden’s bouldering scene is small but has been on the rise for a number of years. There are plenty of other spots as well. Check out the map of Sverigeföraren for more.
So, why should you travel all the way to Scandinavia to go bouldering or climbing? What makes the region so special?
Well, for one, it’s the variety of the Nordic countries. Not only can you boulder by the seaside but you can also experience extreme 750-metre long alpine adventures and unbelievable ice climbing routes. Norway is characterised by the rough and unpredictable climate, the view of the fjords, the green hills and the unbelievably exhilarating feeling of being out in the “real” wilderness – things we have trouble finding anywhere else, let alone at home in Britain. But, if you’d rather play it safe and keep to the climbing guide, you’re sure to have just as much fun.
Sweden is best for a relaxing holiday by the sea combined with some demanding sport climbing and bouldering problems. Plus, since it doesn’t get dark until really late at night in the summer months (and not at all north of the polar circle), you could theoretically climb into the wee hours of the night. The Scandinavians are such pleasant people, too – you’ll absolutely love it there! What are you waiting for? Head up to Scandinavia!