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The Change

The Story of The Change

This is the story of the world's first 9b+. But not only that because Change is so much more to me than just a number and one of the world's hardest climbs. I wanted to start this post with a quote about change. I found plenty of them including quotes from Gandhi or Socrates, all of them absolutely true and inspiring (just look up “change quotes“ if you want to see for yourself). But none of them seemed to fully fit what I wanted to say. So, I guess - it is better to tell my own story of change, and well, also the story of the Change.

I was just about to finish high school.

I was free and ready to go for my own routes. Ready to take a drill into my hands and step into the unknown. And, as it soon turned out, also to step into the unknown realms of difficulty.

It was spring 2012. All my life so far had been about dedicating time to climbing and school. It was hectic but I have never regretted it. In a way, I had been already living the dream back then. Even though the discipline was harsh and I missed some things that were so important to my classmates, I had accomplished a lot of things. But in terms of climbing, I had always been only a “consumer“. I had climbed many amazing routes all around the world but mostly already existing routes. Simply because making first ascents takes a lot of time which I just didn’t have because of my school.

That finally changed when I finished high school. I was free and ready to go for my own routes. Ready to take a drill into my hands and step into the unknown. And, as it soon turned out, also to step into the unknown realms of difficulty. At that point, all the hardest routes in the world had the maximum grade of 9b (5.15b). It was time to step up the game.

In June 2012, I set off for Norway…

...to check out an amazing cave I had only known from pictures. It was just a couple of hours from Trondheim and I knew I had to go there from the moment I saw its picture for the first time. When I saw it with my own eyes, I was just overwhelmed, definitely not disappointed, quite the contrary, excited.

An endless sea of perfect overhanging granite just waiting to be bolted. I was not the first person to climb in the cave but there were only very few routes. It felt amazing. Going up the roof where nobody had ever been before, trying to find the holds... I spent a lot of time inspecting the cave from the ground, and that’s when I saw the line...

I was extremely relieved that when I bolted it, I knew that the route was possible. Right away, I knew I was going to call it the Change. Normally, I don’t name a project until I send it. But this time, it just seemed right.

The project had a potential to be a great change in terms of difficulty of sport climbing, the hardest route in the world at that time. Also, it was a great change in my life as I just finished high school. It meant a change for Flatanger as a climbing area as well because soon it was going to attract many more people. And lastly, the style of climbing changes a lot as you climb upwards. From brutally powerful and steep, to vertical and then less overhanging and pumpy.

I had a feeling that this project could be something else, something different from what I did in the past. It was harder than anything I had done before. And, it was obvious that this was not going to be a question of a few days like many other hard routes for me. Time to change.

And from that moment, the long process started.

Doing something easy does not really make any impact on your life. That’s why a challenging goal is what really motivates me, or frustrates me. Or both - you can hardly have one without the other.

Figuring out the moves, trying to make links from bolt to bolt, giving it first real goes, refining the beta, getting frustrated, dealing with the frustration... It’s hard to put into words those five weeks when I worked on the route. Sometimes I hated the process, sometimes I really enjoyed it.

The challenge is what I liked about it the most. Doing something easy does not really make any impact on your life. That’s why a challenging goal is what really motivates me, or frustrates me. Or both - you can hardly have one without the other.

My motivation is partly driven by desire to succeed but also, even more importantly, by frustration. Because motivation only plants the seed but to make it grow and to keep motivation up is always the crucial thing. That is why I had to change my frustration into motivation. Easier said than done. And the hardest thing of all is to believe in your goal, in yourself.

With Change, I started to believe...

...that it was possible after the first week of work. But it was frustrating to be patient and wait for the day when everything would be the way I needed it to be. Dry conditions, I perfectly rested and ready to give it 100 %... With every attempt on the route, I was beginning to feel more and more pressure.

October 3 was a rest day. I was in a bad mood doubting whether I could send the project that season. Conditions didn’t seem too promising either, and I was getting kind of tired of the whole thing. Physically and mentally. But then in the evening, a tremendous wind came up from the west, and that was exactly what I needed. Favorable wind bringing dry conditions to help me send the route. All night, I listened to the wind howling outside, and had a smile on my face. I knew this was the change I needed to send the Change.

The morning was like every other morning, I had some oats for breakfast and set up for the cave. I tried the moves one more time and went straight for the attempt. And it went great. I fought through the whole route and I just did not let go. The power of mind was simply stronger and I finally clipped the chains of this beautiful route.

The Change has become the epitome of hard sport climbing. The first 9b+, still one of the hardest routes in the world and the most important climbing achievement so far. It has helped Flatanger to turn into a world-famous climbing destination.

But most importantly, the Change and the process of working on it changed me. And in an entirely positive way, no matter how much of a struggle it was. Thanks to the Change, I matured. And I will definitely never forget the route because - “change is inevitable, progress is optional”. This is the quote I like the most. I am glad I chose the right option back then, and I will always try to.

The Change - Hanshallaren Cave, Flatanger, Norway
date: / grade: 9b+ (5.15c) / lenght: 55 m / pitches: 2

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