Disco 2000, 8a+ Blåmman from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.
Friday, 21 August 2015
Disco 2000, 8a+ Blåmman from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.
It was while freeing Bongo Bar on the north face of Blåmman, 4 years ago that I got the spark of curiosity to try to free Disco 2000. Looking across at the maze of roofs to my right, I saw a bolt belay looking lonely in the middle of nowhere on a blank looking granite wall. Huge roofs above and below. I could picture Marten Blixt hand drilling them by headtorch in some blizzard during their winter aid ascent in 2000.
After 4 days of sitting in the rain in our tent below the wall, Jacob and myself were desperate to make more progress in aiding up to that belay and finding out if the line was even possible to free. We continued aiding through the ‘night’ (the midnight sun period had just passed) and made it up to bolts. There were definitely enough holds on the crux pitch. However, the next roof, which was split by a soaring finger crack, was completely soaking.
Returning to our tents to sit through some more days of rain, we began to realise that wetness was going to be a major problem for us in trying to free this line. Calum Muskett arrived, bringing a couple of dry days with him. Jacob and I were so impatient as the wall started to dry out again that we raced back up to try the Arctandria corner at around 11pm.
Disco 2000 shares the first two (and crux) pitches of Arctandria before breaking out left through the roofs. Arctandria was first freed in 2005 by Didier Berthod and Giovanni Quirci. The immaculate 50 metre open groove on the second pitch went at 8a+. We were both rather intimidated by it.
It turned out to be a bit easier than we had worried. Perhaps a combination of mutual keenness to climb it, and cool conditions of the middle of the night helped. After working out the moves and gear placements, Jacob went first and dispatched it. His telescopic arms spidered through the whole crux section in two moves. I went straight afterwards. It was after midnight and a little hard to see the odd foothold, so a few smears were improvised in a hurry.
After going down for a rest as it got light, we climbed back up the fixed line later the same afternoon and I finished cleaning the crux pitch while Calum worked on the Arctandria corner. Later on it started to rain again. Calum descended the fixed rope first, and as myself and Jacob descended, I noticed the temperature dropping. I stopped and asked Jacob if I could try the crux pitch now. As it turned out, while I led this, Jacob was getting steadily soaked by the rain on the hanging belay below me. On the roofs above, I didn’t even notice. I was in my own bubble, absorbed by this brilliant varied pitch.
On thin crimps where the aid line pendulums on pitch 4 (8a+)
The load carrying involved in remote big walling has been a little hard on my still recovering ankle, so just now I feel such pleasure to step into rockshoes and move freely without pain, or having to concentrate on every step to avoid it. Still, I was anxious not to take a long fall from the delicate final groove to the belay, the result of which would have been a nasty slam into the wall. We also took turns to free an unbelievable finger crack through the next roof. Even though the fingerlocks were wet, it was still one of the best pitches anywhere. Jacob joked that there ‘might be some crimp on the lip’ to help us pull over where the crack thinned. I agreed outwardly. Inwardly, I thought ‘there’s no crimp up there!’ As it happened, there was the most badass jug exactly where you’d want it. Swinging footless from this proves a spectacular finale to the roof pitches.
Calum approaching another roof on pitch 6 (7c)
The rain prevented us from doing any more, so we went down. But the next morning the sun was shining and the air seemed really dry. The upper pitches had had seeps of around 100m in length after all the wet weather, but today they looked much shorter and more broken. So we blasted back up the ropes to start trying the upper pitches. Jacob and Calum had a good tussle with another E7 pitch of laybacking and slippery undercutting. The next E7 above had a worrying gap between holds where the aid line pendulums. It needed cleaning which I did as quickly as possible and then Jacob asked to jump on the lead. He wanted to try and dyno sideways across the gap. He clearly likes and is good at dynos. But when he flung himself at the hold, slid off it and hurtled down to join me on the belay stance, I suggested he look at the crimps just above.
He wasn’t having any of it. Instead, shaking with a wee dose of adrenaline, he scuttled back up the flake and took off sideways again. This time he stuck it. I knew there was no way he’d let himself fall off the sustained E6 climbing that followed. So I relaxed and waited for my turn. I found a technical traverse on sidepulls just above and next thing we were all hanging awkwardly from the next belay.
Nice camp site below the wall
At this point it was nearly midnight, it was clearly raining to the north and south of us and we knew the next 4 day spell of rain was due to hit in a couple of hours. It seemed like continuing would almost certainly mean a cold and wet retreat from near the top of the wall. On the other hand, if those pitches were easier, we could just make it. They still looked wet and we knew that this moment was likely our only realistic chance to complete the free ascent. So we carried on, first with a soaking wet E4 groove. I slithered and power screamed my way up it. It wasn’t pretty, but I got to the next ledge. The following two pitches went a little quicker in the gloom of the night and landed us on a ledge with two pitches to go. The rain clouds looked like they were just a few minutes away. To be honest, the rain wouldn’t have made much difference to the next pitch.
I climbed it by pasting the back of my Gore-Tex jacket on the wettest, moss ridden side of the groove, while leaning both feet out to the driest footholds out left. A ridiculous technique to look at, and to do, but I got higher. Every so often I lobbed dripping lumps of turf over my shoulder to reveal soggy handjams beneath. I slithered across a bulge that would be easy in the dry, getting really pumped. I shouted to Jacob that I couldn’t hold on to the wet holds any longer. He didn’t believe me. If it wasn’t for a wee kneebar on the lip, I would have been right. In the end, the rain started just as I pulled over the last pitch of proper climbing. Within 5 minutes we were completely soaked and water was pouring down the rock, but we scrambled to the summit, happy.
With the all the route now freed, we would have returned to make a single day redpoint which is definitely possible. But after more days of rain, the face was soaking again, so we didn’t get to even try. I was still really happy that we managed to take every moment of dry weather to get all the pitches freed in the 50 hour, rain interrupted sessions we did get. The locals we met in between the solitude of our camp below the wall were extremely friendly and kind to us. Both the climbers and the various people we hitched lifts from. It made it such a nice experience on top of all the great climbing, and this left us very impressed by the community in this part of Norway.
A rather finely placed jug on the lip of pitch 5 (7c)
Saturday, 8 August 2015
Myself and Jacob Cook enjoying another night shift on Blamman’s north face.
Right now I am in arctic Norway with Jacob Cook and Calum Muskett, climbing on Blamman’s north face. I was here 4 years ago on a Gore-Tex Experience Tour trip and made the first free ascent of Bongo Bar (400m, 8a). While I was dangling around on Bongo Bar I remember looking to the right and seeing the aid line of Disco 2000, going through roof after roof of rather blank looking granite. I remember seeing a bolt belay, seemingly in the middle of nowhere on a smooth face between roofs. At that moment, spark of curiosity was opened in my mind to see if this could make an obviously really hard free route.
And so now we are here, trying it.
The first few days have been a little slow in progress. We have aided through the crux pitches in the first half of the route and done some cleaning and investigating if there are enough holds to make a free ascent possible.
We have done nearly all the moves on the three hardest pitches now, all F8s. But we have also spent a lot of time sitting in the tent, listening to the rain falling. So it’s looking like our time will be too short to free climb so many hard pitches. One of the hard pitches is still dripping wet with seepage too. But we’ll see.
Whether we can or not, so long as we find dry rock, I'm sure we will have a good time and a good workout.