Bohuslän is in South West Sweden, close to the border of Norway and about an hour and half drive North from Gothenburg. The name of the area is the name of the region, much like we might use Peak District, Lake District or Snowdonia in the UK.
Until 2010, I'd say that this area was a totally unknown destination to anyone but Scandinavians and locals. Then the DVD Crackoholic was released. Remember Richard Ekehed from Hard Grit (who climbs Master's Edge)? He's one of the locals and invited a young Neil Gresham and Leo Houlding out to the area back in 1999, and I'd say they were probably some first visitors to the area from another country (other than Norway). It still is a very esoteric and under the radar area.
After the film came out I think it has grown in popularity, and word has trickled out it's a world class climbing destination. It remains quieter, less busy, and without the hustle and bustle of the more well-known European granite destinations (Val de Mello for example). Everyday life, climbing and things in general feel way more relaxed, less pressured and easy going. When you visit Bohuslän it's all about waking up and seeing what the day brings. It's a place to go and enjoy the climbing and have a relaxing time!
Whilst Bohuslän might not have the size and scale of other destinations (it's mainly single pitch climbing), what is does have is impeccable granite. Forget the quality of granite in Yosemite, Squamish, Mello, etc, Bohuslän is better. Huge statement that, I know - but I've said it. It is. The best granite and routes in Bohuslän easily match up to the best pitches I've climbed anywhere in the world.
Why would you go to Bohuslän? You'd go to this area for the Trad climbing. There are a few bolted routes and crags, but you're going to be travelling here to place Wires and Friends, not to clip bolts. This is primarily a single pitch location, although there are some 2 pitch routes, don't expect adventurous climbing. A 20-minute walk to a crag would be a long walk and 5 to 15 minutes of walking is standard for the popular areas.
If you watched the DVD Crackoholic, it might give you the same impression that foreigners have about our Gritstone: death! However, those that climb in The Peak District will know that there are many safe and easy routes for all abilities to enjoy. Bohuslän is exactly the same. It has a slight aura of being hard, scary and dangerous, but this is only applicable to the top end routes. There are many easier and safer routes to get on. Even though there are very low-end routes in this area, I'd say a climber operating around HVS or above would have the most rewarding time here.
There is plenty to choose from in terms of style; cracks, slabs, steep, vertical, faces, corners, crimps, slopers – take your pick, it's all here.
There are loads of great crags to visit in Bohuslän, so many good ones it would be impossible to cover them all in this short article. However, below I've picked five of the top crags of the area and given you a little run down of each. If you go to Bohuslän, these places aren't to be missed. Remember though, this is not everything that Bohuslän has to offer at all. Make sure you seek out the more obscure crags, as some places may only have 1 or 2 routes, but those routes are absolute gems and can make the trip!
Probably the proudest and most famous crag in Bohuslän. As you drive towards the main climbing sectors this is the area you'll see on your right-hand side. It looks imposing and impressive and you'll be able to see straight away that this is an area with world class lines. Big leaning aretes and huge corner systems correlate their way across the entire buttress. On first appearance, the crag looks pretty steep and can feel intimidating when you first get there. But as you hunt around you'll find that not every line takes a big exposed hanging arete and there are some lower angled climbs.
The venue is actually on private land in the back of a farmer's field. The farmer, Bengt, has become a legend among the Bohuslan climbers for his generosity to let climbers come and park at his farm and use the crag for climbing as and when they like (make sure to leave some change in the money pot, as it helps keep a good relationship between climbers and Bengt). He doesn't speak a word of English (or at least he didn't when I last went), so communication is best done through friendly waving.
The two easier angled must do routes here are Mallrol and Chapman, both long and wandering routes up edgy granite slabs. The next classics do start to get a bit steeper, burlier and pumpy, such as Dr Feg, Tor Line and Trampoline. The hardest routes quite often take the striking aretes, so take your pick!
- Stora Vaggen: This is the big slab of rock that you see can when you're walking across the field to the climbing, which eventually spans into the forest and 'creates' the upper tier to the crag. Across this length of rock are a smattering of easier routes which makes for an excellent day out or provide a good warm up for the steeper pitches below. A must do route on this section of crag is Prismaster. The upper pitch is fantastic.
- Branta Vaggen: When you get onto the lower tier and into the forest properly, there are some easier routes, but things tend to get quite hard and quickly. To really make the most of what's on offer you'd want to be climbing E5. If you are climbing this standard, you'll climb one, think it's the best route you've ever climbed, take 10 paces to your right and climb another which is equally as good. You can probably do this about 15 times! After rain this area within the trees can take a little longer to dry than other places, so give it some time.
Again, this crag is split into two halves. An easier half (Stora Galgeberget) and a more difficult half (Lilla Galgeberget). I think this is the crag which has my favourite walk in. There's nothing really that special about it, you just walk through a flat meadow for about 5 minutes, then the rocks are there - but on a nice sunny day it just feels very 'Bohuslän'
- Stora Galgeberget: The first buttress you arrive at is just outside a woodland. Borja om fran Borjan is the obvious leaning splitter crack which takes the centre of the buttress and is superb. If you venture further to the right, you'll enter a woodland. Here you can find many lower angled and lower grade routes. All are very long, interesting and classic.
- Lilla Galgeberget : This area is off to the left as you walk in and is the slightly harder end of the crag. There is great history among some of the routes here, one example being Aretmetik. It's a very bold route, only protected by skyhooks and when the first ascensionist climbed it, he was so very close to his physical limit, leaving very little room for manoeuvre or error, a fine effort! If you visit this section of crag then Masken is a good warm up to the sector and Abracadabra is a great techy crack with a fingery runout to finish.
This is a brilliant location for easier climbing. The area is split into around 6 different small sectors and it's all belay to your bumper type climbing. Very convenient for a quick hit if you're short on time, but you could also spend numerous days there, as there are so many routes to go at. Villskudd is the classic of the area, but on the same buttress there are several routes that are similarly superb.Skälefjäll
One of the harder crags of Bohuslan. There are some routes at lower grades, but you'd want to be climbing in the E numbers to make the most of going here. The crag stays very shaded, so in early spring or late autumn it can stay wetter for much longer and feel dank and cold. This is more of a summer venue. Again, this is an area with striking lines; splitters up blank faces, sharp cut aretes and smooth bridging corners. I'm going to recommend 3 routes here:
En Liten Bit Granit - A great warm up
Granitibiten - A fantastic finger crack splitter
Electric Avenue - One of my all-time favourite pitches of climbing
When do I go?
I have only ever been in Spring, but both Spring and Autumn are good. If you are looking for cooler conditions, then April would be a good shout. Late May should be perfect. June will be hot and relaxing. Any earlier than April, and the days will be short and cold, and it won't feel much like a holiday. Even though June and July can be hot, these months are great because the length of daylight is so long (you are the same latitude as the most northern tip of Scotland), so you can have long morning lie ins, but climb late into the night. Or if you're psyched, get up at first light and have a 20-hour climbing day!
August, September, October will be the Autumn equivalent of the Spring months. I've spent just over two months in total in Bohuslän and I've known the weather to be wall to wall sunshine for 2/3 weeks solid, but then I've also experienced a week solid of rain and no chance of climbing. Weather is not guaranteed, but as Brits I'd say we're pretty good at snatching at dry rock between rain showers, so you should have no problem.
How do you get there?
The easiest way to get there is to fly and then hire a car. There are two options:
- Fly to Gothenburg, hire a car, then drive one and a half hours North
- Fly to Oslo, hire a car, then drive 3 hours South
In general Sweden is a bit cheaper than Norway.
When I've stayed for an extended trip in Bohuslän, I have driven from the UK with my van. However, I believe all public ferries to Scandinavia have stopped, and now the ferry to Esbjerg (in Denmark) has also stopped. So, unless you are really keen to take your van or you're on an extended road trip, driving is not really an option anymore.
Where do I stay?
There is now a campsite at Bengt's farm below Haller. This wasn't there when I last visited (only being built), but has opened in the last couple of years. I've heard from friends who have been more recently than me that the camping is good. It is obviously very convenient because you are right below one of the best crags in Bohuslän (Haller), and very close to a lot of the other great locations mentioned above. There are toilets and showers at the campsite and a barn to cook in if the weather is bad. It is around £10 per night.
A little further from the main climbing areas is the Bohuslän Climbing Club hut (BKK). This is a good place for lone climbers to meet other people (although make sure to go at a popular time, or you'll still be walking around alone) and also stay. Details and prices can be found on this link
What's the scoff like?
If you want somewhere local to eat out, then Restaurant Oasen in Brastad does decent pizzas. If you go more than once the owner might try and give you free vinegary cabbage. If you don't like it, don't eat it. I made the mistake of feeling bad for not eating it, chowed down on the lot and proceeded to get an even bigger plate of it next time… I felt bad again so ate a quarter, chucked a quarter in the bush and left the other half! I haven't been back since. In the bigger town of Lysekil there are numerous places to eat out and cafes to sit in, so just have a wander and see what tickles your pickle.
Which guide do I buy?
There is a new guidebook, Klattring i Bohuslän, which has recently been released by previous Bohuslän locals Hanna and Petter Restorp. I've met and stayed with these guys whilst they were writing this guide. It was a self-run project and the love, time and care they put into the book is well worth buying it for. It is available in both Swedish and English, so using it shouldn't be a problem. I believe the guidebook is available from the local shop in Brodalen, however to be safe I would try and get one before going if possible.
Where can I buy food?
For food shopping, there is a Coop in Brastad, this is big enough for a decent food shop. If you do want bigger supermarkets then Lysekil, about a 30-minute drive South of the climbing area has slightly more to offer. In the supermarkets they don't sell higher percentage alcohol, so if you want booze, you'll have to go to the Lysekil Liquor store. Remember you're in Sweden, everything feels a little more expensive than you would quite like, so having a few pennies spare will go a long way with the food shops, so you don't have to skimp to basics.
What else is there apart from the climbing?
Aside from countryside climbing, you can escape to the local towns and cities. If you fancy just eating out, chilling in a few cafes and going to the cinema, then Lysekil is the closest place. If it's more of a city day out you are after, then a trip to Gothenburg will be on the cards. Apparently, although I've not tried, Gothenburg (and the West coast of Sweden in general) is renowned for its seafood.
Around Bohuslän there are loads of small beaches, little swimming areas and nice exploratory spots to seek out. The best option is to have a drive, a walk and an explore. If you do this, you'll come across some pleasant small beaches and swimming spots. Beware, when you find water it will be absolutely Baltic! I can assure you, you won't be in there for long…