Weekend Whipper: A Cam-Ripping Close Call in Norway

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You know the dilemma: either you place a large cam and block a bomber hand jam, or you opt for a smaller, hard-to-place cam that leaves the good jam free.

Sebastian Menze, who will compete in his first Paraclimbing World Championship this September, opted for the latter on Venuspassagen, a powerful trad line near Bergen, Norway, that’s graded Norwegian 7+ (roughly 5.11d).

The Climb is something of a rare gem for the region where the rock—which Sebastian says is generally either “compact granite” or gneiss—tends not to form continuous crack features. Following a left-angling crack on the short, slippery, and slightly overhanging cliff, Venuspassagen starts out with bomber hand jams, bad feet, and powerful moves. But things gets mighty awkward when the crack briefly disappears at half-height. This is where Sebastian attempts a “weird, bunched up, twisty kinda move” and takes to the air.

He wasn’t frightened, he says. Twice before he’d fallen in that same spot and twice before the cam had held. But this time it didn’t.

The piece is quite difficult to place, he says, and you’d really rather put a big cam where your left hand is jamming, but that makes the move even harder.

“I was a little surprised [the piece] came out,” he says, “and improved the placement on subsequent tries. I still haven’t sent the route, but hope that some rest, lower temperatures and not having an empty chalkbag will help me next time.”

As a short climb, the blown cam placement put Sebastian perilously close to the ground. If it weren’t for some alert work by his belayer, who had very little slack in the system, we might be telling a different story. He’s also lucky that shrubby tree wasn’t a little further to the left.

Sebastian lost his left foot in an accident when he was a kid and now climbs with a prosthesis on his left leg. “I started climbing eight years ago, and after some bouldering and sport climbing, I fell in love with trad climbing. By default I am using my good leg a lot more, but can stand on small edges with the prosthesis too, as long as I see them. I remember breaking at least two prostheses on lead falls, before I switched from climbing with a carbon foot to one of the new climbing feet made by Evolv.”

“Paraclimbing is picking up speed here in Norway,” he says. “We have our first national team this year and I will compete in my first Paraclimbing World Championship in September. I can really recommend Norway if you like granite and adventure climbing, just plan some extra time as it can be a tad rainy sometimes.”

Happy Friday. Be safe out there this weekend!

Readers, please send your whipper videos, information, and any lessons learned to Anthony Walsh, awalsh@outsideinc.com.

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