Paige Claassen writes about her approach to projecting "Eye of Odin" (5.14d/8c+) in Flatanger, Norway.
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As I clipped the chains on my summer project, I felt a surge of confidence. “I’m back!” I thought, making a mental note of my progress since tearing the ligaments in my ankle in February. The recovery had taken longer than expected, and I’d spent the last few months trying to rebuild my fitness and mental stamina – after all, it’s difficult to push your limits when you’re afraid of falling on a fresh injury. Sending “Street Fighter” (5.14c/8c+) near my home in South Africa marked a big step in my rehabilitation. Suddenly, I realized I needed a fall project, perhaps a trip with a challenging objective.
I scoured the internet, looking for a unique location with world class sport climbing and dreamy September conditions. After following a link to a review of Ethan Pringle's first ascent of “Eye of Odin” (5.14d/8c+) in Flatanger, Norway, I knew I’d not only found my location, but also my project. I found a few partners and booked tickets right away.
With only a month to prepare for my trip to Flatanger, I knew I would need to take some dramatic steps to be in top form. Flatanger’s steep and thuggy routes are my anti-style. I’m a better technical climber, and not particularly strong in the big muscle groups. I’m terrible at toe hooks, knee bars, and campus style moves. To combat these areas of weakness, I wrote out a strict training schedule, which was very different from my typical approach – weighted pullups, TRX workouts, and a toe hooking routine I made up for a home wall.
After arriving in Flatanger and trying a few routes, I felt surprisingly well prepared. My training had paid off- I felt dynamic, confident, and motivated. The fine-grained granite gneiss compound created the most inviting features and holds. I was in climbing paradise.
I quickly set to work on my primary objective, “Eye of Odin.”Featuring four distinct cruxes, I had my work cut out for me. The first crux is a powerful boulder featuring a small iron-cross campus move and a high heel. During the third week of working the route, I strained my hamstring on the aggressive heel hook, and had to take care not to injure it more permanently, which would have certainly hindered the rest of my trip.
The second crux is a long span from a wet undercling, just before the obvious “eye” feature. While a few people questioned whether or not I would be able to span the move, I knew that my long ape index of +13cm/5in would be sufficient. Plus, I don’t believe in the excuse “it’s too reachy”, only “not enough power.”
The third crux gave me the most trouble. A bicep intensive undercling traverse with an elaborate foot sequence leads to two powerful moves on poor holds. The 45-degree angle combined with two knee-bars on poor smears, a tricky toe hook, and more bicep moves could be translated to “my worst nightmare”. It took me two weeks just to do all the moves, and another week to be able to link them together. But things still felt desperate and low percentage, so I began analyzing the finer details.
The fourth crux is a powerful stab off of a bad slopey undercling. It’s not too difficult, but I knew it could be possible to fall here, at the very end, after climbing through three much more difficult cruxes. It could be a heartbreaker finish.
My left foot played a crucial role in the third crux. I needed to knee-bar with my toe on a very small smear, and couldn’t risk it slipping. I needed 100% confidence in that smear. The rock in Flatanger is almost like a fine sandstone, so I knew a no-edge shoe would be perfect, as the rounded toe is much more trustworthy on smears. I chose the Genius because the laces cinch tight around my narrow foot. I used a right toe hook on a positive but precise undercling. During my toe hook training, the Skwama was by far my favorite, because the toe hooking rubber comes much farther up the shoe, and there are no laces in the way.
In the end, a Genius on the left and a Skwama on the right was the perfect combo. After unlocking this beta and learning the exact angle at which I needed to place my toe hook, I was ready to send. I came close a few days prior, in perfect conditions, but I felt nervous and put too much pressure on myself, ultimately failing simply because I didn’t try hard enough.
One Tuesday there was very little wind, which meant the route would be wetter than normal, and all the underclings leading up to the second crux would be wet. However, I knew it was still possible, and that if I could get through this section, the second half of the route would be dry. I clipped up the route to dry the holds as best I could with a t-shirt, toilet paper, and chalk, then lowered and rested.
The next time I left the ground, I climbed to the top, making it through the first boulder problem, the second long span, the third “eye” crux, and the fourth heartbreaker move without falling. I gave a whoop of excitement and felt a wave of relief, knowing that I had accomplished a route from my life list - a beautiful line with unique features in one of the most special climbing areas in the world.
*Note to all climbers: The talus field at Flatanger, and at many crags around the world, is filled with banana peels, egg shells, pistachio shells, and other trash. It is not acceptable to throw even organic material at the base of a cliff, as it takes a very long time to decompose. Please pack out your trash, even organic waste!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paige Claassen is a member of the La Sportiva Climbing Team.
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