The Best Bouldering between Finland and Sweden is on the island of Åland. No longer a secret spot the island attracts not just climbers from Finland and Sweden but from across the world. And so I arrived with four fellow German climbers on a large ship on the island, in search of red granite boulders.
Text: Hendrik Morkel https://hikinginfinland.com/<br>
Fotos + Video: Nicolas Altmaier http://nicolasaltmaier.de/ <br>
Åland is special, you realize that as soon as you arrive in Mariehamn. The capital of Åland - or Ahvenamaa in Finnish - feels like a small town, but as we’re here for the red granite we don’t spend a lot of time in town to see if it has more to offer than the cozy pedestrian Mainstreet. The map of Åland could give you the false impression that it is a large island, but the truth is that we’re in Geta in less than an hour, passing orchards full of ripe, red apples and small bays. Here and there cliffs rise through the forests and we ponder the rock climbing possibilities on the island. However, we’re here for the boulders. And the island has plenty to offer of those.
After we arrived at the beautiful Dånö Strandvillor the Topo Guide & laptop come out and we quickly had a game plan for the week we are here: Fågelberget, Kasviken, Restday, Djupviksgrottorna, Kasviken, Gunnarsklint, home. The logic was to first tick the spot which has the longest approach, and Fågelberget has a four kilometre one - or slightly longer if you take a “short cut” through the wilderness.
It’s the first full day on the island and the weather is cool, breezy and grey. We shoulder the crashpads and after an hour walking arrive at the Puerto Rico block which becomes our basecamp. Crashpads are spread out, we warm up on some of the easy problems and then took a look at some of the other blocks around - but you don’t really need to go far to climb cool routes.
Florian and Friederike tick the classic Moon Arête (7b) and a few of the other easier problems around, while Nico and Christoph make laps up the Pictor (6c) Highball for a video and photos. The sun even comes out for a moment and with the warming rays the clothing layers fall.
The approach to Kasviken is the, yes, better. Park your car responsibly next to the road. Unload crashpads. Cross the street. Walk two minutes up the hill. Done. There’s no wrong short cuts you can take, you arrive up on top right in front of Dodo, the main attraction of the sector. A beautiful red granite block with superb problems like Dodo (8a+) and Dodo Stand (7c), Slobodan Syddovich (7c) and Nitro (8b) will keep you busy. If those grades are out of the question then start on the easier problems, which also are very enjoyable: The Warm-up Wall features problems from grade 4 to 7b, Vittu Saatana Perkele (6c) will satisfy the Highball fans while Yellow Calx (6a+) is great to practice crack climbing.
That’s obviously not all, with over 60 problems there’s enough to project for everyone. The area itself is delightful, with Blueberries and Lingonberries growing everywhere for healthy snacks between climbing, late morning till evening sunshine and that fabulous, easy access. You will easily understand why we spend a couple of afternoons here and ticked well over a dozen of hard problems between us, and there’d still be plenty to return for.
Also known as Grottan this is the sector with the most problems (over 100) and a very nice medium-length (2 km) approach. We follow the nature trail from the Café Soltuna and after 30 minutes of nice walking on well-marked trails arrive at the first block, Geta Life. Voodoo (7a) and Geta Life sitstart (7b+) are two nice roof problems that will get you warmed up for Paskapäivä sitstart (8a) and Normipäivä sitstart (8b) a bit further along. While we had a Restday before Normipäivä and Paskapäivä are elusive for us.
Then it’s time to walk on to Hammas. You might need to warm up after the 200 m walk from the previous two problems, and Hammas Finger Crack (7b) is just good for that. You then can solve Hammas Peikko sitstart (8a) and Drakguld sitstart (8a). If you like First Ascents then Black Survivor (8a) still is there for the taking, otherwise walk a few meter further and try the Über-Classic Supermartikainen sitstart (7c+). Again that’s just for inspiration and many of the other popular routes, from Martikainen (6c+) over Hammas (7a) to Fint problem som Erik visade (6a+), are well worth a visit to this beautiful sector. It gets a good amount of sun and you might need to wait till the early evening for some of the problems to be in the shade.
How to get there & getting around
Apparently there are three options to get to Åland: Swimming, hanging on to seagulls and an underground boulder traverse which comes out at Djupviksgrottorna (rated 6c+).
Joking aside, we took a Viking Line boat to get to Åland which was fast and comfortable - around six hours from Turku to Mariehamn. www.vikingline.com
You also can take a plane to Mariehamn, though keep in mind that transporting crashpads by plane in addition to your normal luggage you might need to pay extra. www.finnair.com and www.nextjet.se
fly to Mariehamn from Sweden and Finland.
We rented a van from Finn-Rent in Helsinki which was very affordable and the car spacious enough for five climbers, four large crash pads and luggage. As the sectors are a good 45 minute ride from Mariehamn it’s smart to take a car along, as the busses don’t ride that often. It also makes it easier to go grocery shopping on the island and get to the sectors. www.finnrent.fi
You have two options for finding the blocks in the forests and along the shores and they work best together: The Southern Finland Bouldering Guide and 27crags.com. Use the excellent Guide book while you’re out in the forests and along the coast, and check new problems and sectors that aren’t covered in the Guide via 27 Crags. If you want to venture beyond the most popular sectors - Fågelberget, Kasviken and Djupviksgrottorna - you want to print out the Topos from the website, and make sure to write down the coordinates to them, too. Some of the newer sectors don’t see a lot of visits so find the trails there can be an exercise in navigation, and make sure to bring your (steel) brushes along to clean them.
Djupviksgrottorna, Kasviken and Fågelberget are ★★★ areas and really are enjoyable if you climb 6b+ and up. There’s no shortage of hard problems either, and with Gamer Over sitstart (7c), Mongooli sitstart (8a), Dodo sitstart (8a+), Neverland (7c), Living the Dream (8b+), Normipäivä (8b) and Drakguld sitstart (8a) you got a hard tick list which will keep you busy for an afternoon or two.
Where to stay
There are several accommodation options in and around get. We stayed at the beautiful Dånö Strandvillor which had superb facilities: Sauna, large kitchen, comfortable living room for chilling, a terrace with a great view on the sea and free Wifi! The Dånö Strandvillor sleeps between six and nine people easily and starts at 900€ a week. www.visitaland.com/en/services/dano-strandvillor/
There are more affordable options, too, which you can find at
Sunscreen. A Tick remover. Plenty of water and snacks. That’s what should be along when you visit the above sectors. Åland has a sizeable population of Ticks so make sure to check yourself each evening for those little bloodsuckers so you don’t end up with tick-born Borreolosis, which really is no fun.
Bring crash pads and chalk along, as well as a brush - there’s no climbing shop on the island where you can buy gear and you either way wouldn’t want to spend your holiday buying climbing gear.
Visit Åland is a great resource to find out more about the island and gives you plenty of options for fun rest day activities. We were visiting an old ruin and played Mini Golf, went swimming and sea kayaking, and if you like cycling make sure to take your bike along as there’s a lot of nice roads to explore. www.visitaland.com
The Four Germans and me rather liked Åland. Hard problems were climbed, we enjoyed stellar weather in the middle of September with warm days close to 20°C and starry nights with the Milky Way over us. Warm Saunas ensured muscles and mind were relaxed for the next day. The red rocks which look like sandstone but are the fine granite you’re used to from Finland are well worth a visit, and we are strongly considering to return - after all, there’s still plenty to climb there!
Text: Hendrik Morkel / https://hikinginfinland.com/