05. September, 2011 ,

GORE-TEX Experience Tour achieves its objective by completing first free ascent of Bongo Bar on Blåmann Norway.

When the GORE-TEX Experience Tour team travelled to the island of Kvaløya near Tromsø in arctic Norway their aim was to look for new routes to climb on the mountains and granite walls in the area.

Their main objective was to establish a new free climb on the north face of Blåmann, which is one of Europe’s steepest granite big walls, overhanging for 1200 feet.  In the past few years, the climbing world has begun to see Blåmann as a potential place for cutting edge big wall routes using climbing gear only for protection from a fall rather than direct aid.

The team consisting of Dave MacLeod, GORE-TEX Experience Tour winners Julia Snihur and Helena Robinson and climber Donald King spent several days on the cliff attempting to make the first free ascent of the aid route ‘Bongo Bar’, fixing ropes and working on sections of the climb.  With the route recced, MacLeod and Snihur returned and climbed the 1200 foot route in 11 hours in a single push, with no falls, and MacLeod leading most of the climb.

It wasn’t all plain sailing.  MacLeod almost fell on the crux section of the climb due to wet holds.  After slipping he caught a small edge with two fingers and managed to continue. Other dangers included sharp edges on the overhangs which risked cutting the ropes and retreat from the upper half of the climb if bad weather arrived, as overhangs at half-height make it extremely difficult to abseil back down.

A first free ascent of Bongo Bar had previously been attempted by a couple of strong teams including world class Austrian climbers Hansjorg Auer and Much Mayr in 2010. Wet cracks on the crux overhangs halted their progress and the traversed left to join an existing route on the face before abseiling down due to the wet conditions. Their ascent received the alpine prize award from the Norwegian Alpine Club to pay tribute to the adventurous and bold nature of their climbing.

There has already been a lot of interest in the climb from the world’s climbing media. Watch this video of the climb itself:

About Dave MacLeod

Dave MacLeod is a professional climber based in Lochaber in the Scottish Highlands. He is widely known in the climbing world for several world class ascents on Ben Nevis as well as the first ascent of the Longhope Route, St John’s Head, Orkney which is the hardest sea cliff climb in the world.  Julia Snihur is a PhD student in business based in Barcelona and climbs to a high standard.