dinsdag 10 september 2019

Summer 2019

Spring was the time of fingercracks. After having sent Hydra (8a), I found a new project in Glühfinger (8a+), a finger killer with delicate yet powerful climbing. I needed to hop on the route twice to get all moves dialed, and then it was time for attempts. The climbing felt super solid, and I expected it to be a quick send, but instead it's still a project now at the time of writing. Many too hot days and having only one good attempt per day (no skin left after that) made this a harder project than I thought. Now that it's autumn, I hope conditions will soon be good again to finish this route!

Early in the summer, a weekend with perfect weather in the usually rainy Salbit occured, making it worth to go for a quick hit and run of the Salbit Westgrat with Noël. A ridge containing 6 towers, 38 rope lengths of climbing up to 7a, all of perfect granite. The climbing follows mainly cracks and flakes, the friction of the granite is superb and the weather couldn't have been any better. We needed a bivvy after the 4th tower, so we could enjoy a beautiful sunset. The picturesque last tower made the trip complete. A weekend well spend!

After finishing my last course in Wageningen, I moved to Den Haag for my internship. After spending a couple of days at the office, it was time to leave to France for some mountaineering in The Ecrins. In two weeks many AD tours were made, focussing on making speed. It was very nice to see the area in summer after having been there last winter for a full month. Seeing the Meije every day made me keen on climbing it!

So when I could take some more days off from my internship the traverse over the Meije was high on the to do list. A bit unpredictable weather and the long driving time however made Noël and me decide to go to Chamonix. On the first day however, one of our double ropes got seriously damaged and our big goal for the trip, the Grand Capucin, was not possible anymore. Instead we enjoyed ourselves on the beautiful routes of the Aguille du Midi South Face and camping on the glacier.

After some more days of working on my internship, it was time to leave to Swiss. Not for climbing this time, but for running! To celebrate the 25th anniversary of my parent's marriage, we were about to run the Jungfrau marathon with the whole family (my parents, brother and me). 42.2 km of running and 1800 altitude meters made up for a good challenge, but the many spectators and the beautiful tracks (even in the fog) made the marathon more fun than suffering. My finish time of 4.28h was enough for a 20th place ánd the family record. Super proud of my parents and brother who all managed to finish as well!

Since I was not as much in the mountains as I usually am in the summer, I had quite some time for indoor training, and my climbing shape feels good! Upcoming weekend it will be tested in the Frankenjura, hope training will pay off!

woensdag 22 mei 2019


I'm back!
Back to writing, back in the Netherlands, back to school.

[June 2018] After my last blogpost I've spent a full summer climbing. Starting off in Bohuslän (Sweden), enjoying the red granite cracks in between the super green forests. Suddenly realizing that the world isn't only black, white and blue (like winter in Northern Norway). Suddenly realizing that taping is actually a super important climbing technique. Realizing how much I love climbing. The temperature was as high as the stoke, and the days were spent climbing line after line and going for swims in the sea. Life was all about friends, some rock and loads of icecream. Since basically all climbing in Bohuslän is singlepitch trad climbing, it was the perfect start for working towards my main goal that summer: free climbig Store Blåmann. Bohuslän taught me how to work on trad routes, getting the details right, making airmiles and trusting gear. It also taught me how much tape was needed for small blue cam sized cracks, and how much more tape was needed for grey cam sized cracks. With all these new skills under the belt, I went back to Tromsø.

Vegard trying hard in Hassan Chop - Bohuslän

[end of June] Back in Tromsø however it had been snowing and the world was black-white-blue again. Instead of going climbing the skiing season continued with some more gullies filled with lovely spring snow.

Spring skiing! Picture by Anders

[beginning of July] After the snow came the sun, in full force. Soon all snow was melted and I went a bit south to Lofoten to hop on some beautiful long routes with Belgium boss Lander. We repeated some not so often climbed but beautiful lines, making the best out of the midnight sun by climbing day and night. The crack climbing skills from Bohulän were in full use, the ocean delivered fresh fish and the cinnamon rolls from Henningsvaer made up for long days in the mountains.

Lander enjoying one of the perfect cracks in Lofoten

[mid July] Over the last few weeks my skin had turned brown, my hands rough and my brain ready for Store Blåmann. Fresh from the Netherlands Youri came. With a huge amount of stoke he more than compensated for his lack of trad climbing experience. Within a few days climbing classics at Baugen he got to nail trad climbing fantasticly, not afraid to fall on the smallest gear. To relax the brain before heading to Blåmann we did some climbing at Gullknausen, a cliff known as the end of the world because all you can see is ocean. In the evening the rock colors gold, and it was at this magical place that Youri met his feature wife (fairy tail story, but a true one!). For me it was also a good place, since I finally managed to climb Fidel (8a), after falling at the end the year before and falling at the very last hold in my second last attempt.

Unfortunately at this point some rain came in to challenge our plans to free climb Blåmann. Our initial route we wanted to climb (Atlantis), was soaking wet for days, so we decided to go for Ultima Thule. I've tried that route twice before in winter, bailed both times. I've climbed it once in summer, but artificial (using gear to pull up). Every time I was on the route I had been thinking how impossible it would be to free climb those small cracks, and I got obsessed by the idea of how cool it would be to actually free climb it. With heavy backpacks full of gear, food, drinks and excitement we walked up to the base of the wall. I kicked off the climbing. Protection in the beginning was sparse and I was intimidated by the amount of rock towering above me. Slowly I climbed till the end of the first pitch. Number one done free, many more to come. Youri was up next, cracks got even smaller and the walls sometimes overhanging. After a big battle Youri topped pitch 2 without falling. The rest of the climbing was summarized by small cracks, some overhangs, some even smaller cracks and some corners. We managed to free everything, until we got stopped by a wet, slimy crack. Two meters of aiding were necessary to bypass this, after which we continued our free climbing style. 13 hours of climbing later we stood on the summit. The midnight sun was smiling to us, congratulating us with the ascent. We danced on the music of Paul Kalkbrenner, we ate chocolate and I cried silently by the beauty of this world. How the sun could light up the night, how the sea can kiss the feet of the mountains, how two human beings can have so much fun by suffering to get up a steep granite north face.

Me climbing in the sea of granite, picture from Youri

Summit happiness

[August] The very next day after Blåmann we drove to Lofoten for more long routes. A heat wave had arrived, and a rithm of climbing during the night, sleeping during the day and swimming whenever was developed. Highlight was the ascent of Storpillaren, a classic and long tespiece, with a descent that is just as memorable as the ascent. The first half of the route is characterised by some hard pitches, steady climbing and beautiful cracks. The second half is harder routefinding, and the semi-last pitch is an awful slab with bad protection (more fair to say: no protection). The descent is steep, grassy and loose rocks. Terrain you shouldn't fall in and terrain that you couldn't really protect. There is no path down and it takes quite some route finding to get to know the way down. After getting pretty stuck Lander came to show us the way and about 24 hours after we left camp, we arrived at the tents again. For another classic we had to drive down a bit more, to Stetind. Teaming up with Jussi this time we started climbing in the rain, but after some hours the sun came through, the walls dried and we had big smiles on our faces.

The beautiful Lofoten as seen from Reine

[End of August] Time to head back to the Netherlands. Leaving Northern Norway behind for some time to do my master in Wageningen. Leaving the place that stole my heart. Back to the place were this adventure once started. Who knows what other adventure(s) Wageningen will facilitate?

[december] Some months had passed by and finally it was time for holiday again. Wageningen had treated me as if I had never been away. Most of my friends were still here, university life was busy with long days. The Netherlands were flat as always, bike thieves as active as always and climbing gyms my second home as always. I picked up doing competitions again, made it to the Dutch finals of sport climbing were I ended on the slightly disappointing 4th place. The national student championships bouldering went surprisingly good, and I could take a gold medal home. But then, in december, it was finally real play time again. First of all I spent the self-study week in Tromsø/Lyngen. Visiting my friends up north again, going wild in the fresh powder and kicking of the skiing season with some awesome couloir skiing.

After 2 exams and a 2nd place at the national ice climbing championships, my brother and me went to Margalef, Spain, to catch some sun and climb loads of rock. We managed to hitchhike to a tiny tiny village in the middle of nowehere (accomplishment 1), I managed to send 2 8a's (accomplishments 2 and 3) and we managed to get rid of all our skin (accomplishment 4). Not bad for just a short week!

Back home, back south, to France this time. A week of skiing with the family. Unfortunately there wasn't so much snow, but enough to have loads of fun and to enjoy some beautiful touring!

[January 2019] I decided to take a month off from studies, to go to the Alps, do loads of ice climbing and compete at 2 worldcups. I found in Aldo a perfect partner in crime, and we decided to head off to the Ecrins. Just as with the skiing week with the family there wasn't much snow, but we came for the ice and ice there was! No all too much tho, which resulted in sometimes a bit thin lines. In the Ecrins you have the luxury of choosing between many valleys with each many waterfalls to climb. We started around La Grave, then went to the ice climbing festival around St Christophe and in the end went back to La Grave area. We combined ice climbing with some ski touring on icy slopes every now and then. The ice climbing festival was a 3 day festival, every day you could sign up for an activity (all ice climbing or skiing) and then you'd go out a whole day in a group with a guide. The first day I went ice climbing and got some nice tips from the guide. The second day there was a small ice climbing competition, on which I manage to finish 2nd. The third day I went for a skiing clinic from two professional freestyle skiers. They were just as good in giving skiing tips as in skiing themselves, which made up for a super learnful day.
The temperature in the ice climbing valleys was about a freezing cold -14, but as soon as you got into the big valley the sun was shining, bird were tweeting and you could (more or less) climb rocks in t-shirt. With this lovely contrast I climbed a 7c 2nd go to prove ice climbing doesn't harm for your rock climbing skills.

[February] After loads of ice climbing it was worldcup time! I actually had hoped to do more drytooling in the Ecrins to prepare for the worldcups, but the ice was simply too good. What?? Isn't ice climbing the best method to get ready for an ice climbing worldcup?! To increase the difficulty and to keep conditions equal for everyone, ice climbing worldcups are usually held on wooden structures, where you hook behind holds and kick with your feet in the wood. It is a super atletic and precise way of climbing, graceful and at the same time so powerful. I actually think it is one of the most beautiful climbing disciplines to look at. Ah well, as soon as a snowstorm started in the Ecrins, I headed to Milano, where I'd meet up with Enni from team Finland for the first worldcup in Rabenstein (Italy). The snowstorm was taking over the whole alps, which made the travelling quite a challenge, and 8km before the climbing structure the car didn't manage to get up the road... Team USA came for the rescue, and we arrived just in time (or actually: too late but not too late to be troublesome too late). A review of this worldcup could be read on the website of the NKBV: https://nkbv.nl/actueel/uitslagen/het-ijsmonster-van-rabenstein.html
After the disappointment of just not reaching semi-finals due to time-outs, we went to Arco to enjoy some shopping and rock climbing in the sun. With batteries loaded we arrived in Champagny for the next worldcup. Here, Line joined the Dutch forces. A review of this worldcup could also be found on the NKBV website: https://nkbv.nl/actueel/uitslagen/line-ijsklimt-in-champagny-naar-de-halve-finale.html (written by Line). I again just missed the semi-finals due to time-outs, guess the 4 minute climbing time is 4 minutes too short for me. Line fortunately did better and managed to climb herself into the semi-finals. I enjoyed a last day of skiing, and then headed back to the Netherlands to continue studies.

[april] Spring had arrived and that means the time of climbing trips! All trips so far had been to Ettringen, a super sweet crack climbing area in Germany. It almost felt like the season start last year, in Bohuslan, but then in a closer-by area. Among many other nice routes, I managed to send the first 8a of this year: a small fingercrack named Hydra.

[may] I just started the last course of the year, after this it will only be internship and thesis (and probably 1 course in Norway). I'll definately miss the self-study weeks, in which I basically was just having holiday and out climbing or skiing. At the same time I'm pretty sure I'll find some ways to get my necessary dose of outdoor. Let's see if I can make that come true!

maandag 14 mei 2018

Winter Fun - part 2

Fiercly standing between endless cubes of salty water are the steep mountains of Lyngen. Trapped on the island they overlook the sea, see the clouds coming and soon feel the soft tickling of fresh snowflakes falling on their shoulders. Officially it's spring, but the snowstorm encloses the area in a true winter feeling. Spring only reveals itself in the morning, when you wake up at 4 AM by the first sun rays hitting the bed. I open my eyes and see the mountains looking back behind the window. Lyngen, my home now, strikes my heart.

Majestic faces are coming out of the clouds. The temperature is rising during the day up to a stunning 12 degrees and the sun starts burning on the slopes with snow. Spring is definately on now. From time to time the mountains are roaring, throwing off their upper layer. I do so too, and the ski tours in t-shirt soon colour my skin. Winter has been long and cold up here, and the dark period left me looking like the snow hares here: completely white.

A group of reindeers nibbling on some grasses gets alerted from the clicking noise of my bindings when I walk up the mountain. They look at me, then run away. All reason to do so: tonight on the menu for the clients is reindeer. From february till May I am cooking for the clients of Ascent Descent, preparing sauna, doing transfers and trying to go out skiing myself as much as possible. For 3 months Lenangsstraumen is my home, Storgalten my backyard.

The sky is green, purple, white. Northern lights are dancing around, playfully hunting after each other. It seems like they enjoy the last moments of being out, before the midnight sun kicks in and steals their show. The white mountains glow up in the moonlight and they look beautiful to ski on. But the appearances are deceiving. It hasn't been snowing for two months now and the mountains have turned into big steep ice rinks. Even on the most gentle slopes (ski) crampons were necessary to get up. As a birthday present, fresh powder arrived in the second half of March, now the season really starts!

Hamperokken, picture by Merrick

High season is definately on. Big groups of people are going up Storgalten, and on the end of the day the mountain looks like a battlefield with all the tracks. For me it means long days in the kitchen, with sometimes short escapes on the planks, into the mountains. Having only limited time to go out has its advantages: condition and efficiency are reaching new levels, and quite often I manage to take over the crowds on Storgalten and get the first tracks down. When I finally had some days free, I couldn't think of anything better than going out skiing, with some Spanish guys this time. Great to be out with friends instead of alone!

Summit of Kavringsfjellet

Finally we got some really nice spring powder, and a happy little Aniek made the best out of the situation and ran around like a puppy on the Lille Galtens the whole day long, grinning like a cheshire cat. That the snowpack was not so deep became very clear when I hit a snow-covered stone and destroyed my ski. Hero of the day Magnus helped me out by borrowing me a pair of his skis, and the next day I had the best tour of the season: up Bjørndalstindan (in the crowds), down the north bowl (escaping from all the crowds), up Kvasstinden and down a fantastic run with deep powder and no single track to be found. For me this tour was the crown of all the tours I did alone this season, a tour in perfect weather and conditions where my skills gained this season came together. The happiness I felt when standing on the summit of Kvasstinden is impossible to describe, so I'll not even try it. In the evening a strong wind came up, destroying the snow once again. With a temperature of above 10 degrees the skiing season felt over. Rock climbing time! A free week was spent in Ersfjorden/Brensholmen/Baugen, climbing in tshirt bathing in the sunshine. Happy I didn't lost all my strength and climbing skills while standing on the skis!

Congita on Tunga 7a+, picture by Stefan

Sitting on the veranda in Lyngen I am slowly getting sunburned. In one week time a lot of snow has melted, and it's necessary to boot pack to the snow. I am skiing some gullies I didn't ski before, but my head is already in Bohuslän. One more week of work and then I'm off, off to Sweden for 3 weeks of trad climbing! I am very grateful for what I learned here in Lyngen, both about the work and the skiing. I met great people, made beautiful tours and got to experience Lyngen at its best and worst. But hey, that's how good relationships work, and it's good to know that Lyngen will always be there for me. These mountains, rising up from the sea, stole my heart. Thanks for this season everyone, it was a blast!

woensdag 28 februari 2018

Winter fun

In December I finished my bachelor, but instead of throwing myself immediately into another study or work, I decided to enjoy some free time and improve my winter climbing skills.
So far the winter here has been fantastic. Starting off with a bit hard times in October, it was great to escape Tromsø in November for some ice climbing in Alta. By teaming up here with Torgrim, we got to make many meters in just two weeks and thanks to this I could enjoy a steep progression curve.
Back in Tromsø there was a big bunch of powder and the skiing was great. Suddenly it felt like everything was possible to ski down, and I felt like a hero on ski's. We skied down the Rambo couloir in Katfjordeiret, a line I never thought I would manage to ski. More of that please later this season!
But first: getting some sunshine (and rock climbing) in the Costa Blanca. I was happy that despite a lot of ice climbing and skiing I somehow kept some sports climbing skills and the 7c's went down still pretty easily. Despite climbing hard, the focus was on climbing a lot and that was what happened. Rest days were filled with ridge traverses or long multipitches, climbing days were filled with loosing as much skin on the rock as possible.
Back home in the North the snow got terrible, time to escape to Alta again! After a hard first day getting used to shivering again, Torgrim and I managed to climb about 7 new lines in 5 days, all super fun.
Tastes like more and back in Tromsø I filled my days with trips to the Kroken crag, making meters and getting more and more confidence and speed. I led my first WI6 in Nordkjosboten, a beautiful steep pillar in a stunning area.
With Merrick I climbed Smorstabfossen, a icicle in Grøtfjorden that was not really formed so we had to dryool in 3 pitches to get to the ice (WI6 in guide but in these conditions M6, WI4).
Then on another beautiful day Monsterfossen saw an ascent, climbing it together with Richard. A long approach but then 4 pitches of great ice, WI5(+).
Somehow the weather stayed cold and clear, and while all the skiers were complaining about the conditions, I was having the time of my life. Grøtfjorden was up next, some alpine climbing there with Florian. Slowly my body was getting tired, but the psych was too high and the weather too good to take a break. A day to the Kroken crag I'd now call a rest day, not a training day anymore.
Then Torgrim came with the idea of climbing an unclimbed long line in Lyngen, cool! We approached in the evening and my body felt tired, but the line looked cool and Torgrims psych was infectious. After a short, cold night we started climbing early. Starting off on hard snow we managed to make fast progress, until the terrain got steeper and the snow deeper. I got scared, my body felt wasted and motivation was far away. Just under the summit after about 1300 meters of climbing we got stuck below some steep loosy rock climbing. We decided to call it a day, and after 22 hours of being on the mountain we were back at the tent. No summit, but still a new route and a great adventure!
The week after, my body felt wasted. Good timing since I had my first working week in Lyngen, cooking for Ascent Descent. A week with just cooking, eating, sleeping and skiing a bit on icy slopes. The psych for climbing was quickly coming back, and at the end of the week I was feeling strong and fit again. Ready for trying Ultima Thule on Blåmann! With big heavy backpacks Merrick and I hiked up to the wall. The climbing went slow, but it was great. Thinks worked out perfectly and we had loads of fun. Until the jetboil stopped working... We didn't had any water anymore so giving it a push was not reasonable. We bailed from halfway up the mountain, but not before promising to get back on to it later!
Now after Blamann, my body is teaching me some anatomy, making me feel all the places where muscles are. From on the beginning of March till the end of May I'll be working in Lyngen, crossing my fingers for good skiing conditions, or hoping to find some good ice/alpine climbing partners. It feels like winter has only just begun!

dinsdag 13 februari 2018

Recap 2017, prospecting 2018 (climbing-wise)

2017: The year I moved to Norway, where I finished my bachelors, stopped with the Expedition Academy, made many new friends and developed myself in countless ways. Climbing-wise a lot changed: by moving to Norway I missed out on all the National competitions. Instead, I spent all my free time hanging on some granite rock or hammering my axes in ice. I learned how to climb up cracks on Baugen, how to aid up routes on the little big wall of Blamann, I got to climb steep ice and did first ascents around Alta, I manage to climb 8a on granite (proving myself that I can climb hard on granite too) and I got second at the European Student Championships. I got psyched, I got scared and I kept on learning the whole season. My aim for myself is to become the most allround climber I can be, feeling strong on rock, ice and plastic.

In 2018 I hope to continue my learning curve, and since I have one of the best playgrounds in my backyard now with a fantastic inspiring climbing community, I think great adventures are ahead.

Hope to see you in the mountains!

Best of 2017:
- Blamann winter attempt
- 8a on granite
- Blamann summer success
- 2nd place at the European Student Championships
- Rambo couloir down on ski's (first couloir on ski's :D)
- Ersfjordtraverse
- Many many many beautiful routes in the Dolomites

Goals for 2018, list will get updated every now and then):
- Climb WI6 (done)
- Climb Blamann in winter (tried - bailed halfway)
- Ski the Godmother Couloir in Lyngen (bailed due to avalanche risk)
- Free climb Blamann in summer (done almost free)
- Climb 5 routes 8a or harder (managed 4)
- Climb Storpillaren and Stetind (Lofoten) in summer (done)
- Podium place National Championships (ended 4th...)