Spring Fin Bouldering, Åland Island Life
Spring sunshine is brushing the surface of red granite blocks in Åland’s Djupviksgrottorna (more casually, Grottan). The granite here is slated in such a way that the ubiquitous roofs look like they’ve been constructed from stacked up Lego blocks. The hold-potential of those Legos has not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by build-ups of chalk here and there. “A bouldering paradise […] filled with beautiful routes on good holds with great landings” says 27crags.com, and couldn’t be more on point.
Åland is special, and that goes for more than bouldering. Åland, or Ahvenanmaa as the Finnish-speaking Finns call it, is an autonomous region formed of hundreds of islands in the Baltic Sea southwest of mainland. The official language is Swedish and it is widely spoken throughout the archipelago, although in mainland Finland 90% of the population speak Finnish as their first language. The landscape is rocky (yay!) and the proximity of the sea guarantees a mild climate and distinctively fresh-feeling air.
In Grottan one of the most popular sectors is Geta Life, thus called not because we cannot spell English idioms, but rather because of the Åland village called Geta. On popular climbing weekends, such as during Easter and First of May bank holidays, it can get crowded, especially on Voodoo (7A). The upside of busy days at Geta Life is the chance to properly cover the ground with pads, which will be appreciated by those who turn out too weak for the semi-powerful roof moves on Voodoo. The coolest way to top Voodoo is via a crowd-pleasing bat-hang at the point where the roof section of the route meets its wall section. For those of us who did not yet advance to that level of black bouldering magic, there’s Baby Voodoo (6A+) that avoids Voodoo’s roof moves altogether.
The popular Helsinki-Stockholm and Turku-Stockholm cruise ships stop at Åland’s capital Mariehamn, which lies on the archipelago’s largest island Fästa Åland. Those cruise ships are also boulderers’ most popular means of migrating to these peculiarly boulder-friendly islands. Since the bouldering is so good in Åland, most people dedicate at least an extended weekend to their trip. For accommodation, you can choose anything from camping grounds and cottages to hostels and hotels. For a truly Finnish experience, book something with a sauna, which in a land of over 2 million saunas won’t break even a van-lifer’s bank.
If one of Grottan’s sectors were to receive a diversity award, it would have to be Hammas. While the name means literally “tooth”, to visualize the Hammas block, think of Pride Rock (you know, from Lion King) constructed of red granite Lego blocks and in bouldering-friendly size. Hammas offers a good variety of problems: there are fingery routes, traverses, overhangs, mantles and dynos and the difficulty ranges from 3+ to 8A. The name route is Hammas RIP (6C), which used to be a 7A+ before a hold was chipped. Nonetheless Hammas RIP is often mentioned as one of the highlights of the area, even after the downgrade.
Moving on from Grottan, one of Åland’s most stunning bouldering locations is Fågelberget, where the boulders stand right on the seaside. What could be better than watching the sun set over the sea horizon after a hard-earned send of your favorite project? The appeal of much-loved Kasviken, by contrast, is not a stunning location but the amount of project-worthy problems. Other developed areas have their own attractions – as do the many boulderable areas that are still waiting to be discovered. If you are looking to try your hand at bouldering in Finland, Åland is probably the best place to start.
By Elina Vessonen