Norway: part before part 1

You know how dogs only identify certain words, so that when one goes: “What are you doing, Bailey?! You know better than that, Bailey! You can’t do that, Bailey, you hear me? Now go to your place, Bailey, place”, the dog’s brain parses this most likely as such: “blah blah blah Bailey! blablablblah blah, Bailey! blablabla, Bailey blablabah. Blah blah blah (place?) Bailey! (place?)”

So when Kenneth greeted us at his climbing gym Klatrefabrikken (rough translation: “Climbing Factory”, “Place where Climbing is Made”), in Stavanger, Norway, he used a lot of words, and some of them were longer than others, but there was one that shone like a precious stone among gray rocks. My ears did an ear equivalent of crimping on the sleek brilliance of it, and held on to it for dear life.

Natalia crimping hard on Denizen in Hueco Tanks. Photo by Andy Wickstrom

In fact, that’s the only word that remained in my memory, so I had to pull some serious resources to fully reconstruct the original sentence. Let’s run an experiment, and see if you have the same inhuman ability to sniff out this truffle of thesaurus.

Ahhh, no scrolling, you dirty pig.

(I actually love pigs, so no offense to other pig-adorers, it was just too good to pass up)

“I realize that this is probably not the quality that you are used to, so I can’t offer you great coffee, but would you like some mediocre coffee?”, said Kenneth shuffling closer to the mini-Darth-Vader of a coffee maker hiding in plain sight on the counter.

If the blinding aroma of this word hasn’t hit you by now, there is no hope for you, I got you.  Here’s what my brain heard, verbatim: “blah blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah COFFEE, blah blah blah blah COFFEE?”

This is a picture of coffee if you haven’t seen one.

This is a true mover, a true climber, and a compassionate, kind human, who understands and can empathize with the most basic, primal needs of other dirtbags climbers. Gym managers – get woke! And then wake up others! With coffee!

Our after-flight tiredness retreated like a worthy opponent sensing the loss of the battle (to be clear, that retreat usually leaves an invisible, but almost palpable feeling of “I’ll be back”, which lingers like the fart that you set free conditional to its auditory and olfactory neutrality, but the conditions are largely ignored).

We are not farts, so we didn’t do much lingering, just enough to finish our coffee, and were soon on the bouldering walls. Even climbing spaces conform to the Scandinavian hygge, I don’t know how they do it. Ever felt “cozy” working a boulder problem indoors? Even if you answered “yes”, I bet a Scandinavian climbing gym could turn that fuzzy feeling a notch up. Like, offering you warm woolen socks instead of climbing shoes and light candles while you climb (not really, but I enjoyed visualizing this).

Klatrefabrikken in Stavanger, Norway.

Working at a climbing gym, rarely does one trek out of their way to other facilities exploring the sets. And it’s a pity, because yet again am I reminded of the distinct delicious flavor of the fun embedded in the unpredictability and just plain difference in route setting styles. Especially so in a different country. Both Kenneth and Sander (remember the savage hero of the Norway: part 1 (but not quite) post?) are managers, and experienced “climb-makers” at the “Place Where Climbing is Made”, and seemed to take special pleasure in getting us (both Jonathan and I have set routes back home) to climb their boulder problems, and then to try and do weird moves (you don’t want to know). And then it got really weird. I’m not sure you’re ready for it. Maybe I shouldn’t.

Still want to know? Hm, ok, well, I have warned you. It’s on you now.

The memory is really blurry here. But then, as one of my favorite authors says, “memories, like men, lie”.

It was a “weekly setter’s challenge” climb. I stared at it, and, like a Nietzschean abyss, it stared right back. Unblinking. Ungraded. Useless for any “way above my pay-grade” excuses. My excuse arsenal depleted, I had only one choice left. I just threw my body at it. Like some of the best friendships, the relationship with this boulder started with some friction.  However, with some give-and-take strategies, not without occasional tension or embracing, we became good buddies.

Most climbers end up maintaining just that level of relationship with their problems, but all four of us are also heavily influenced by our parkour practice. We took it to another level creating a new problem by eliminating a foothold here, and a handhold there, and why don’t you flip from over there.

You know how when you’re in midst of something and you’re having a really great time, you tend to subconsciously disregard the most basic, primal needs of a human body. No, I am not talking about coffee. Things like hunger, and thirst, and sleep, and … erm … waste disposal? And then it hits kind of all at once, and you’re not sure which one to attend to first?  Yeah, that’s when you pack shop up faster than Jackie Chan escapes a lioness, and remind yourself that you are a survivor, and nothing will stand in the way between you and your basic, primal needs.

Nothing did stay in the way: our walk over to the grocery store was as unobstructed as the view from atop the Preikestolen on a good sunny day.

Preikestolen, Norway. 

While we were stocking up on gastronomical provisions to make dinner, we also found out that Norwegian bakers are required to indicate on the label how much whole grain a bread product contains. Thus, a good “looking” loaf was taken from my hands and replaced with the one that had “98%” on it, indicating its actual wholesome goodness. Sander also threw in a slab of brown cheese, which he asserted was a must-try Norwegian staple. He insisted on paying for it because he was certain that we would not take to it and he would have it all to himself. [Oh how devastatingly wrong he was – but about that later].

Dinner was delicious, company – mint, bedtime preparations – uneventful, and then morning came. I call it “fifty shades of brown”. Eww, get your mind out of the gutter! Delicious caramel colour of the coffee, the dark sandy colour of the whole grain bread, and yaaaasssss, all of the brown cheese. I can easily understand Sander’s logic when he put his money on us not liking this blend of caramel and semi-soft cheese, I wouldn’t serve to just anybody. But Jonathan and I are a weird bunch, so we tend to both like weird stuff, and attract the same.

Brunost. A.k.a. brown cheese. Photo taken from here (and this link also goes into much more detail about what brown cheese is)

Speaking of weird, the part after part 1 began on a strong note of weird. Want to find out?

Well, I guess you’ll just have to wait. What a cliffhanger. (Spoiler, it ended up being more of a slab-percher).



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