Made famous by Adam Ondra screaming his way up a multitude of hard first ascents in the area's spectacular granite cave, the Flatanger region of Norway is quickly becoming one of the premier summer sport destination crags in Europe, attracting climbers from all over the world seeking its flawless granite. The crown jewel of the area and the primary reason most climbers visit Flatanger is the Hanshelleren cave, an enormous slab of overhanging granite comprised of what many refer to as the ‘best rock in the world.’
Climbing in the cave area can satisfy every taste and every level. Routes range from off-vertical technical adventures to rope-changing endurance sieges; the climbing becoming more challenging as you traverse the crag - from its leftmost on the more vertical wings to deep within the steepest part of the cave.
Despite its media reputation as a hardman’s super crag, Hanshelleren has something for every climber: quality is guaranteed from the mid sixes to the upper nines. Due to the limited size of the area there aren’t too many routes at each grade, but almost every route is a five-star classic in terms of rock quality and movement and developers seem to be constantly extending routes further and further up the cliff.
The crag classics include:
Gulrot Tyven (6b+), a long, juggy adventure through sandstone-esque granite features.
Hovdegjengen (6c), a short and powerful jaunt up a blocky weakness.
Kakestykket (7a), a striking line which traverses the edge of the cave, you’ll wonder why you’re pumped on a vertical traverse.
Tungt Møblert (L1) (7a+), slopey laybacking at its finest.
Syvsover (7b), breaks away from Tungt Moblert and offers very different climbing up sidepulls and cracks.
Kykkelikokos (7b+), a long crack line in a stunning position with an end which spits off many.
Berntsenbanden (L1+L2) (7c or 8a), the first extension to Hovdegjengen adds a powerful section into insecure laybacking, the second section tackles the bulging headwall all the way to the midway ledge.
Eventyrblanding (7c), a crimpy exposition followed by adventurous climbing on big sloping features.
Andre Hoyre (7c/+), a short and powerful route reminiscent of limestone with a few granite tendencies, great movement.
Flaggermusmannen (8a), tame start followed by bouldery climbing with a wild dyno, the bat hang rest at half height is tried by all.
Massih Attack (L1) (8b), slopey granite strangeness involving a technical dihedral, powerful crux and fridge-hugging outro.
Nordic Flower (L1+L2) (8b+ or 8c), legendary endurance test piece with a bouldery start into flowing endurance climbing.
Nordic Plumber (8c), a massive link up incorporating some of the cave’s best climbing.
Odins Eye (8c+), a striking line tackling the cave’s dark ‘eye’ feature, bouldery sections interspersed with taxing rests.
Thor's Hammer (9a/+), an unreasonably long route which strikes fear into the heart of pros and punters alike, the king line of the cave.
When do I go?
The season gets into full swing in summer, the Flatanger Climbing Festival in late June marking the highpoint of conditions. The grace period between the long winter allows for some generally temperate weather interspersed with disproportionately hot days, in which the Hanshelleren area transforms into a climber-cooking convection oven remedied only by hiding in the cave or under a boulder. It doesn’t really get too wild in terms of weather during the summer, but you are close to the Arctic Circle so pack the puffa.
The sun doesn’t ever entirely set in the summer months so a headtorch isn’t required and the Hanshelleren cave is almost entirely weatherproof (excluding seepage after extended periods of rain). Midges can appear on windless days, so either invest in a net hat or leave before the evening when they arrive in force, they show no mercy after about 8pm.
How do I get there?
The closest major airport is in Trondheim, approximately a two and half hour drive from the Climb Flatanger campsite. Flights with Norwegian airlines are pretty cheap, looking at around £100-120 return in the summer. To make it the rest of the way there are two options; if car-less you can either rent (it’s not cheap) or catch a direct bus to Sjoasen (£20 a ticket), a town relatively close to the campsite. If you email ahead to the campsite owner, they will book you a taxi to take you the rest of the way for only a modest fee. If staying at the campsite you won’t need a car, so I would advise against renting unless you require personal transport.
Where do I stay?
The majority of climbers stay at the Climb Flatanger campground run by Olav and Berit Strøm, a fully equipped site with (generally) warm showers, an oven and stovetops, refrigeration, washing facilities, wifi, a sofa-stocked barn and only a 20 minute hike from the Hanshelleren area. The going rate is £7ish (75 NOK) a day, relatively steep by dirtbag standards but worth it for the amenities.
Norway’s wild camping is protected by the Allemannsretten – every person’s right of public access, so as long as your tent isn’t visible from roads or within 400 metres of someone’s property you’re good to camp/van in any number of the laybys in the surrounding wilderness. Though in an effort to encourage patronage the campsite owners have begun charging £5/day (50 NOK) for parking below Hanshelleren area, making it harder for wild campers to commute rather than staying at the site for only a slight additional fee.
What's the scoff like?
There’s a fairly large Spar in the nearby town of Lauvnes, which apart from operating the worst coffee machine I’ve ever used is very well equipped, selling everything you’ll need except wine and spirits which are sold exclusively at government run ‘monopolies.'
The Spar is a 15 minute car journey from the campsite and during the peak season you’re more than likely to find other climbers willing to drive the car-less, though hitchhiking in Norway isn’t the norm. Additionally, Lauvnes has one pub/eatery which I wasn’t able to sample, though I hear the burgers are substantial.
Flatanger is a renowned fishing destination with enthusiasts traveling great distances to sample the plentiful grounds, so if you fail to organize a ride to the store then there’s always the option of taking up a rod and fishing for your dinner in the mackerel laden waters around the campsite.
Which guide do I buy?
The campsite owner sells a slightly outdated local guidebook for pretty cheap, but if you’re happy just climbing in the Hanshelleren area like most folks, you’re better off downloading the Climb Norway app which is up to date and far cheaper.
Where can I buy gear?
The nearest place to pick up any climbing gear would be Trondheim, there isn’t much in the way of large shops once you leave the more populated parts of Norway. The campsite owners have recently begun to sell chalk, though its quality is dubious - I would highly recommended bringing your own large bag to sustain your trip.
The aforementioned Spar in Lauvnes has an unreasonably large supply of fishing gear and a bit of camping kit, though the selection isn’t vast or of particularly high quality.
What else is there apart from the climbing?
There’s endless hiking and boating potential in the extensive and wild Fjords. The campsite owners rent out a rowing boat for short range excursions o,r if you want to give your arms a well-earned rest, a business in Lauvnes rents out motor boats equipped with rods for the full fishing/Fjord cruising experience.
Hike highlights include summiting the peak behind Lauvnes or the classic hike to the top of Hanshelleren, both relatively mellow walks with a fantastic view payoff. There’s also a via ferrata up one of the cliffs near to the campsite which is an enjoyable jaunt, though not quite as adventurous as blazing a trail through the Norwegian wilds.
If you prefer completely immobilising on your rest days, you can always hang out in the cushy barn on the campsite and stream movies using the normally stable wifi. Though if you feel like waking up at the end of your vegetating session you can go for a Norwegian ‘swim’ in the freezing sea, a post-climbing tradition for many Norwegian climbers.