An article I wrote for the University of Nottingham's Journal this year.
During my May half term last year I took the chance to visit a Swedish friend and get a tour of his favourite climbing area - Bohuslan. It’s about an hour and a half north of Gothenburg. The area is famous for its crack climbing, and I was a little nervous of this, being a fairly bumbly crack climber! I would highly recommend a trip, the climbing is world class, it’s a beautiful area, the Swedes are very welcoming and it’s pretty easy to get to.
The climbing is spread out on small granite tors across a large area. I say small, they’re up to 70m high, but generally single pitch, sometimes with bolted abseil descents. Most of the classics are less than 15 minutes walk from the road (and, in fact, if you can’t see the crag from the car there are probably new routes to be done).
A lot of the climbing follow quite pure cracklines, but there are lots of flakes and grooves too, as well as some good slabs. The crack climbing is actually pretty user-friendly, even for a Brit. They are often fairly uniform in width on a route scale, i.e. if it’s a finger crack at the start, it probably will be at the finish. On a micro scale however there are lots of good features. The granite has amazing friction and the cracks have frequent constrictions which provide excellent jams at all sizes, and there are some fantastic juggy flakes too. It feels like sport climbing, there are almost always excellent runners and they’re usually very obvious.
There are four famous classics at E1 (Swedish 6-) We climbed two of them, and they were fantastic, steady climbing with good gear: Prismaster, a two pitch route up a series of slabby, overlapping grooves and Vilskudd, a series of cracks and flakes which wouldn’t be out of place at the Roaches (except for the fact that it’s too good, and 30m high). A relatively new crag, Jonas following an E1 crackline.The major crags are littered with obvious clean lines, near Prismaster is the “Steep Wall” - 100m wide with overhanging fingercracks every 5 - 10m! I attempted Afterburner, a famous sandbag. It’s given the Swedish equivalent of about E2, which it might be if it were vertical. Overhanging fingerjamming (which was easier than it sounds) leads to a good jug halfway up, unfortunately the next section involved steeper fingerjams and an awkward transfer between two thin cracks. I managed to put a nut in the jam I needed, and eventually got spat out of the crack.
Basically everything we climbed was a classic. I was lucky enough to meet several of the first ascensionists at the crags too, including one particularly good day at a place called Skyggeberget, climbing routes called “Champagnefrukost” (Champagne Breakfast) and “Sillunchen” (Herring lunch) - Everything on this crag was a bit old-school, being given the equivalent of E1. Most were a bit more of a fight than expected!
Everything in Bohuslan is graded using the Swedish system. “6 minus” is a crucial grade, being about E1, and the grade that seemingly all the best routes are at. 6 would be about E2, 6+ E2/3, 7- E3 and 7 E4, at least from my limited experience there. The grading on crags which were first climbed a bit longer ago tended to be quite stiff, but virtually everything is well protected (and would be obvious if it weren’t).There is some sport climbing, mostly up otherwise unprotected aretes and slabs. It would be missing the point to go to do this, but it might be useful if you had wet weather as they would dry very quickly.
Swedish food is fantastic. Fish dishes are the order of the day, and expect to have caviar on your eggs in the morning. Pickled herring is surprisingly good too. You can get all the usual food you might want too, although I’d bring your own teabags - the Swedes get mixed up with Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea. Having a wash near the hut.
In summer it can be quite hot in Sweden. If you want to climb really hard things you’d be advised to visit in April/May or late September and October. That said, plenty of Swedes will be climbing in Bohuslan in the summer, and it’s possible to find shade, so you could have a very good trip.We stayed at a climbing clubs hut in the area, which was quite cheap and had everything we needed, including a good sound system. It was pretty quiet when we were there, with only half a dozen teams climbing. There are definitely worse things in life that being trapped in a hut in the hills with a load of Scandanavians. There is also camping nearby (underneath the Heller crag) and you could easily rent a summer house, but it might be pricey. I was lucky enough to stay in a summer house belonging to a Norwegian climber who had put up a lot of the routes in the area - if you can swing this it’s awesome! The summer houses are beautiful wooden buildings, with log fires and good gardens. It’s a bit idyllic really, and the Scandanavians are so welcoming that it’s probably not ridiculous to suggest you might be invited to stay.
You’ll need a car to get around the crags, and probably to get there from the airport. But, saying that, it’s quite a flat area and if you’re feeling adventurous you could cycle around a lot of it quite comfortably, you’d have to put a few miles in to get to some crags, but it would make for a good trip.The catchThere is a slight catch, but my experience is limited so if all this sounds good then do some research! The catch is that most of the really good climbing was at least E1. There is easier stuff around, but the nature of the crags we went to didn’t lend itself to easier routes. Not even rubbish ones! This might be a product of the people who developed the area though - there are loads of undeveloped crags, and I find it hard to believe that you couldn’t have a good trip if you’re climbing VS.
As an illustration of the amount of unclimbed rock, we went in search of an obscure route one day, only to get lost and find a gully which was apparently undeveloped. It ran for hundreds of metres up the hillside, with routes up to perhaps 60m on both walls, hidden in the trees. We climbed 3 new routes, a slightly loose HVS on the south wall (which would get stars in a Rockfax guide nonetheless) and two diagonal cracklines on a fantastic 25m wall opposite. They required a little bit of cleaning, but the last two routes would be 2 or 3 star classics on the grit, at around E2 and E4. We left them to be rediscovered, who knows, perhaps you might accidentally climb one of them one day?
A single rope is fine (in fact probably better than doubles) for the routes here, we didn’t climb anything that couldn’t be safely tackled with a single rope and a few long quickdraws. I wouldn’t take a super skinny one, as the rock is quite rough. It’s worth having a rope that’s at least 60m long for the abseil descents, although on a lot of crags you can walk off easily. 15 quickdraws is probably a good number, including several extendable ones.For rack, take as many cams as you can get your hands on. Nuts will work well in this rock too, we placed loads, but for some of the cracklines you’ll be grateful to have 4 size 1 cams! at least a double rack up to 3 inches is a good idea, and if you want to climb some of the harder routes some microcams would be useful. A set and a half of nuts should be enough, a few small brass ones might be useful on some routes, but probably aren’t essential.Lots of fingertape to make a pair of crack gloves would be a good idea too. I didn’t do this, my hands lasted the week well enough, but had I stayed longer I would have regretted not strapping up! I taped my fingers for the classic crackline “Granite Bitten” - appropriately named, it’s a Swedish pun meaning both bitten and addicted, it would have chewed me to pieces if I hadn’t taken precautions!
I was lucky enough to have a week of sunshine! On rainy days, or if your skin needs a rest, there is lots of sightseeing to be done in Bohuslan. You could also take a trip down to Gothenburg, or even Oslo for the day. Canoeing is probably pretty fun around the peninsulars too.