“I was thinking to perhaps check out an unclimbed trad wall in Modalen if you are up for that. About an hour approach tho, and not sure if we can get up..So adventure :)”
When you receive such a message from Ove, it’s hard to say no.
We have every given afternoon for sport climbing in incredible craggs within a 20mins drive; for one full day that I had off, it felt god damm right to go explore some wild valley!
Ove had already been in the valley and had hiked to the wall. He thought it looked very climbable.
Well, I was already happy just with the idea of the road trip and the hiking while looking for beautiful rocks. I hadn’t been around Modalen before, but I had heard about the beauty of the mountain valleys at the end of the Romarheimsfjorden.
Moreover I trusted Ove; I wanted to believe that probably, one way or another, we would reach the top of the mountain.
Anyway, we fix an early meeting and decide to go for it!
On the way there, we passed by one of the most scenic cragging spots that I’ve ever seen. That statement is a long shot, especially in western Norway; but the funniest part, is that it wasn’t even the most impressive view of the ride.
Finally, by 9.45 we make it to Mo.
Time to get the toys out!
20 min later, we are on the go with two heavy backpacks. We are expecting quite a long hike, but my little ski touring pride tells me that I should not complain and keep my though looking.
After following a river bed for some half an hour we finally reach the valley of Stølsheimen. At this point I just throw my backpack and start taking photos. This place is just overwhelmingly beautiful!
There is granite everywhere and even we can still see snow on the top of the mountains. On the very middle of the valley, there is this one rock that overstands the others. That’s our wall.
It took us some further 40mins to cross the valley and reach the stream at the feet of the crag. From here we have a better view of the wall. It looks, big, solid, constant and with several crack systems that gives us confidence for navigating on it.
After checking it properly with the binoculars, we have a candidate line.
The plan is to try to follow it, but it feels like we can traverse to easier parts of the wall at the two key ledges.
After an hour and a half we are finally gearing up at the base of the wall: Ove will lead the first pitch.
Ove is leading slow but steady. The rock feels compact. It’s well protectable, but still there are some spreads. There is actually quite some vegetation on the main ledges of the pitch making an unsure stepping.
Once passed the first belly of the wall, after some 40m, Ove sets a convenient hanging belay on two camalots c4 #1. We graded this pitch as norwegian 5+ (around 5c french grade).
On top rope I catch him up fairly quick, however I still take my time for studying his gear placements. This rock has a lot of tricky offset placements and I will need some lesons from the locals for my following lead.
On the belay I rearrange my rack and go for the next pitch. I should progress through a slab segmented by thin cracks, all the way to the next ledge where the wall starts to get steeper again.
Half way on the pitch, it starts to rain. I’m glad that it didn’t lasted too long and that it didn’t end up wetting the wall. After 40m of climbing I find an obvious belay spot.
This was an easy pitch of norvegian 5- (french 5a), fairly straightforward to protect. Very solid rock, great friction and no more grass on the route.
Ove catches up really fast, and goes for the next pitch. This is a very beautiful transition pitch; it has still some elements of the slab, it still goes through a beautiful crack system but this time it starts to gain in steepness and there are even some punctual overhangs. This pitch is again a norwegian 5+ (so around 5c french grade).
Ove lead it solid, finding smart protection point and builds a bombproof hanging belay where he fit all our biggest toys; yeah, even the hexes.
I must point that for removing all the dirt and grass from the belay crack, he had to garden with the nut tool for quite a long time. He well earned the title of “the constant gardener.”
Once I reached him, I got a lot of confidence from the belay, especially looking at my next pitch. The idea is to follow our original line. It looks elegant, neat, gaining in steepness and following again a few overhangs. It feels like a left deturn will go through a more complicated section, while on the other hand, a right deturn will take me to easier grounds.
I decide to stick with the original plan. I move confident, but taking my time to find good protection. At the very end of the pitch, before making it to the obvious belay ledge, I decide to spice the pitch a bit and go through a steeper crack quite covered in moss.
I needed to do again quite some gardening to place good gear at the base of the crack and clean the upper moves. When I go for it, it feels slightly bouldery, still dirty on the footholds, but a little trust move take me to the obvious belay ledge. We graded this pitch 6- (French 6a/6a+).
Now Ove has the final homeworks of topping the headwall.
At this point I’m starting to feel the milage.
It looks like there is an obvious crack system that leads to the top towards our right, and then quite a physical section through some thin cracks on overhangs just over us.
Guess where Ove decided to go…
He takes his time progressing and finding the right protection at the base of every crux. Steady he is crushing them one after another, and I’m just getting tyred by looking at him.
Finally I hear him screaming: “on belay!”
It’s my time to go.
For some reason, even though I just witnessed that it was going to be bouldery, I guess I decided to assume that on top rope it was going to be easy. The first crux comes alright and then I get at the base of the real crux. It’s an overhang split by a thin crack quite smooth on the top.
For getting the real picture; it just looked like a big ass. A big butt actually covered in moss on its cheeks and smooth towards the top.
I’m just at the base of the overhang and I’m already tired in my arms.
I place myself on the overhang and decide that I should go for a mantle move. I felt pretty solid on it, but when I was almost donne passing the section, my foot slips away!
Yeah, next thing I know is that I’m swinging in the air.
I guess your heart always stops for a little bit on a fall on gear, even top rope.
I’m glad that Ove had this scenario on mind and built the belay at another bombproof spot. From my swing I ended up just on the easier crack system. It was very dirty of moss, still overhanging, but it went quite straightforward to reach the belay. We rated this pitch as Norwegian 6 (French 6b).
From here on, we only had a 50m scramble for signing this first ascent to this most likely unclimbed wall.
We summited at 6pm. We enjoy the view for a little bit, but soon we realized that the fun part was over and we needed to take a long hiking detour to make it back to the valley and then to the car.
We crossed the upper plateau all the way to the end of the valley where we reached a mountain lake.
From the lake we confirmed that the best way down was going to be through the snow tongue that was doing the link between the valley and the granite walls.
However, once on the snow stripe, we realized that the snow was very compact and that it was actually very steep as to go safely on it; we decided then to down climb by the edge of the snow.
Once on the upper valley, the fight was not over. It was complicated to walk on this rocky, uneven, mossy, slidy terrain.
For sure we were having this grumpy face you get when tiredness, hunger, thirst and a bit of everything comes together at the same time. We finally reached a spot with a great overview of our line.
Finally, after over ten hours and a half of activity we are back in the car.
hell yeah, sure we well deserved today the sending Ice cream and the sending falafel kebab!
Check out Ove’s Instagram for more details of the route as well as to find more great climbing stories!
Nice job Carlos! I enjoyed your article and am jealous of your grand adventure-
Cheers from the states!
Hi Elijah! Nice to hear from you. I hope that you are as well having big projects on mind.
Our climbing in Huaraz with just 4 quickdraws wasn’t that bad of an adventure either 😉