Climbing in Uskedalen. The Norwegian big wall paradise above the fjords. Part II: Your first routes

We have divided our guide to climbing in Uskedalen into a series of three articles.Part I: Getting started. An introduction to Uskedalen, its climbing style, recommended gear, beta regarding logistics and planning a trip. We close the article with a reflection regarding if you need a guide on your first contact with the valley, as well as offering tips of where to find climbing walls that may be easier for learning multi pitch trad climbing, as well as a selection…

We have divided our guide to climbing in Uskedalen into a series of three articles.
Part I: Getting started. An introduction to Uskedalen, its climbing style, recommended gear, beta regarding logistics and planning a trip. We close the article with a reflection regarding if you need a guide on your first contact with the valley, as well as offering tips of where to find climbing walls that may be easier for learning multi pitch trad climbing, as well as a selection of attractive plan B available in the area.
Part II: Your first routes. This article dives hard into what should be your first routes to climb in the valley. We focus on routes between 100m to 400m, with moderate difficulties and relatively simple logistics for getting in and out of the wall. All these routes are absolute classics with memorable formations to climb.
Part III: Going BIG! In this article we get to the core of climbing in Uskedalen. Going big in routes over 400m in an ocean of granite. These routes are absolutely free climbing pearls and they will require more from you. We have tried to hold the difficulties up to norwegian 6+ (french 6b), but increase the difficulty in terms of committing to going big. A test for your skills, your head and your mountaineering tactic repertoire.

Your first routes.

For your first trips to the valley, we would recommend climbing in the pillar of Vetletind. Here you can find routes ranging from 240m to 400m of moderate difficulty. Most of them offer difficulties from the IV+ to the norwegian 6 grade (6b in french scale). In these routes you will get a good taste of the “Yosemite” free climbing style. Notice that this is written by someone that has never been in Yosemite, so take it with a grain of salt.

Vetletind in the front, with the veltetind pilar on the left of the wall, in the center of the picture. Geitadalstind in the back.

These routes have a short and easy approach, progress without fixed gear, and are crossed by two narrow ledges. We called them in Norwegian “the first ramp” and “the second ramp”. Towards the south side of these ledges, on a slabby section you will find the bolted rappel return. Two rappels from the upper shelf to the second shelf, and two rappels more to the ground. It is also possible to walk up (or down) to the first shelf from the south. Accessing the rappel return of the upper shelf can feel exposed at some parts for climbers that are new to this environment. Some grassy sections can be slippery when wet, and there is a point where the shelf is narrow and can feel exposed. Most experienced climbers progress through this shelf with comfort, but if it is your first visit, it is not shameful to use the rope for protecting parts of the traverse. If you decide to use this strategy, be very careful with your rope drag and make sure that you do not throw rocks down the wall that could potentially hit other climbers.

KVINNHERINGEN, Grade IV 340m
Kvinnheringen is likely my favourite route on this wall for bringing someone on their first visit. It is a long route, moderate steep and has delightful crack dihedrals, thin flared cracks with elegant moves, and a “all in” final pitch with overhang climbing on fairly good crack jugs. Perfect for feeling the exposure and the pump. A lot of beautiful climbing overall. Kvinnheringen traverses the wall more diagonally than it may seem in the topo. Make sure that you do not get off route, specially after the second pitch.

SILKEVEIEN, Grade IV+ 240m

Silkeveien is probably the most popular route on this wall. Very similar to Kvinnheringen, but slightly steeper, harder, a bit shorter and more direct. Very aesthetic route. Notice that the first pitch is kind of hard for the grade, especially the first 4 meters, where you have delicate slab moves before reaching the crack system and are able to place gear. The beginning of this route is known for having been a show stopper, or at least a challenge for many climbers on their first visit to the valley. Take your time for assessing the situation properly, don’t give up too soon and be prepared for giving that little extra all the way from the beginning. Nothing goes for free in Uskedalen!

HVORFOR ER IKKE DETTE LODDRETT? Grade 5,  600m

Why is this not vertical? That is the name of the route. I like the irony, but I don’t agree with it, I think it is already a very beautiful route as it is. The original route is 600m and tops the wall, however most people climb either to the first or the second ramp, where the climbing is more sustained, for then reaching the rappel retour. The first two pitches follow a long underclinged dihedral with poor fit placements. Both pitches are graded IV, but I would recommend you to get ready to pull pretty hard. The two upper pitches to the second ramp follow as well delightful formations. A very recommendable route.

ALKYMISTEN Grade 6, 245m
Alkymisten is the harder sister of Silkeveien. Alkemysten climbs beautiful systems of thin cracks and dihedrals often graded V and V+. The second pitch has a defined crux, graded norwegian 6, (6b). Here you leave your crack system, venture into a slab and right to the overlap, before reaching the next crack system. This makes for some committed climbing, where you progress around 4 meters through grade 6 terrain before reaching a bolt (Yes a bolt!). Alkymisten was my first route in Uskedalen back in 2017, and that felt pretty epic. Micro cams and small offset gear helps on this route.

The next three routes are shorter, less commiting in terms of logistics, but are true pearls, perfect routes for a half day climb, or for adding some mileage after one of the longer routes in the pilar. Bob Roger and Dalle d’erotique climb up to the first ramp, while Dronning Maud land climbs from the first to the second ramp.

BOB ROGER, Grade 5, 100m

Bob Roger is graded 5, however be ready for some intense and thin climbing for the first five meters. In my opinion it could have perfectly been graded two grades above (6-). The first pitch is quite a dream pitch. It starts with five meters of thin face climbing, gradually evolving into a crack system. First fingertips tainted with some usable pockets, to gradually become fingers, to jams, to fistjams, to off-width sizes. Bring at least one nr 4, and perhaps something else that is big. The second pitch is a curious traverse that eats as well all your big gear. You progress through an easy ledge, but due to the size of the crack separating it from the wall, there is most likely not a lot of gear that you can use. The third pitch is ok. The money pitch is definitely the first one, and that is why you can find at the top of it a rappel anchor to come back to the ground.

DALLE D’EROTIQUE, Grade 6, 135m

Dalle D’erotique links beautifully the two rappel anchors of the first ledge through a delicate slab dance, partially protected by gear and by bolts. This is a fun mix route for testing if your slab abilities are on point. For the gym climbers out there, this is a great playground for developing your levitation skills!

DRONNING MAUD LAND, Grade 6- 110m

Two pitch route that starts on the first ramp and climbs up to the second ramp. The second pitch follows a quite vertical and long finger crack well worth the three stars. Here you get to test your finger-locking skills. 

For most climbers of the region, a shy selection of the routes mentioned above can make for a proud first season in the valley. In our second article we will go through a selection of routes that are bigger and require more committed climbing. I have decided to not necessarily bring routes that are much harder in grade, at least on paper, but where you need to go BIG. I consider that in a way, that is what is special about Uskedalen. Follow up in our Part III: Going BIG!

Something easier for me?

If you are travelling to Norway to get introduced to this style of climbing, taking a guided trip, or doing a trad climbing course, Uskedalen may be a hard place to start. However you have a couple of more accessible alternatives. Right behind the mountains of Uskedalen, you can find a mountain valley, called Eikedalen (information also found in the guide book of Uskedalen). Here you can find shorter and easier routes on well defined formations. Mind that these routes are far up in the mountain, so they require either a long approach, or perhaps even better, to set a high base camp for some days. Us in Wild Voss, we would perhaps rather recommend the mountain of L√łnahorgi that we have just above Voss. Check it up!

What if it rains?!

Unfortunately, the west coast of Norway is one of the rainiest regions in Europe, so you have to plan with some flexibility in mind. The hiking possibilities in the region are endless. Mountains like UlvanosaManen or Melderskin (in Rosendal) should be on your bucket list. The mountains of Gygrastolen and Bj√łrndalstinden offer spectacular tours and have ridges with alpine sections that require the use of rope. These two traverses can be done in less than perfect weather for experienced alpinists. A glacier hike in Folgefonna may as well be on your bucket list. Kayaking the fjords and trying packrafting or river kayaking in Voss may be a must, especially in rainy weather, when the rivers are raging. If you are looking for travelling further in the region and discover as well Voss and the N√¶r√łyfjord, you may be interested in this article.

Want to read more?

Here is a report from my first visit to Uskedalen back in the fall of 2017 that i wrote in my personal blog Onthebelay.

Last summer, the Bergen climbing club wrote a nice little blog post about Uskedalen. It is in Norwegian, but you most likely can get valuable information with the help of google translate, while enjoying some nice photos.

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