Flatanger with Adam Ondra

The view from the Hanshelleren cave is hard to comprehend. Looking out to sea, the Norwegian archipelago stretches far into the distance; wooded islands pepper a deep blue sea, blurring the line between land and water. The occasional classic red or yellow Scandinavian house nestles amongst the pines, quiet and modest. To the right, looking up the coast, the district of Flatanger’s pale wheat fields make a patchwork among the forests and bays.

But a climber’s cry comes from above, or from behind - all size or scale is lost. Spinning around, the cave is appreciated in all it’s glory. It looms, towers, consumes: a gaping mouth ready to swallow the entire world. Over 100 metres tall, over 70 metres of roof, over 100 metres wide. It’s the biggest cave I’ve ever stood in, and it’s absolutely massive.

As if the size alone wasn’t enough, the cave is also ideal for climbing - particularly the hardest routes in the world. The granite is high quality, clean and crisp. The folded, featured nature of the rock gives cracks and corners. The left wall of the cave is perhaps 80 metres high and gently overhanging, giving plenty of mid- and high-grade sport routes. But Flatanger’s concentration of the hardest sport grades (9a+, 9b, 9b+...) makes it globally significant. One of the main reasons is down to one man: Adam Ondra. He’s bolted and climbed many of these lines, and is working on the future... 

In early 2016 I entered an online writing competition advertised by Tendon, an outdoor company from Czech Republic, who also sponsor Adam Ondra. My piece described the voices which run through my head when I’m climbing; sometimes encouraging, willing to give everything; sometimes scared, screaming to quit.

I thought nothing more until I learnt the competition had closed, but they asked, ‘would I like to be entered into the “Follow Your Quest” competition? You can win a week’s climbing in Flatanger with Adam Ondra.’ 

‘Sure,’ I thought. ‘Why not?’

In July, Tendon called me and announced the winner from Poland was unable to make the dates of the Flatanger trip. I checked with DMM (who also make ropes) to ensure there was no conflict, and then happily agreed to go on the trip. 

Together with Lukas Abt (a marketing employee at Tendon), Ondrej Simko (the photographer) and Adam Ondra, I’ve just had one of the best sport climbing trips ever. We spent the week climbing in Hanshallan (Flatanger’s main attraction), hanging out and sharing the psyche. Before any of us started climbing, Ondrej would say ‘focus,’ Lukas would say, ‘ok, ok, ok!’ Adam would be ready to spray beta on request.

The boys improved their English, I learnt some Czech swear words, and we all sent some projects and had a laugh. Lukas is an enthusiastic and energetic climber. Ondrej is a natural and hard-working cinematographer. Adam is obviously one of the best sport climbers in the world. And I’m... the winner of a writing competition. It was surreal to meet Adam, and a pleasure to climb with him for a few days. He’s relaxed and humble, eager to share knowledge and stories, and incredibly strong to match. I belayed him on a link-up of several routes through the middle of the roof, and the 70 metres of climbing put me in no doubt of his ability as the future.

There were many other climbers staying in Flatanger, so the atmosphere in the giant cave was always positive and lively. In-situ draws and an abundance of strong climbers ensured there were always people offering beta or letting you have a go at their projects.

My climbing highlights include onsighting my first 7c, redpointing two more 8as, flashing 7c+ and having a punt on an 8b. Flatanger is certainly a place to perform! Watching Adam, Seb Bouin and the Swedish Erics try their projects was also super inspiring and contributed to the success. Lukas also climbed a few of the 7c+s and Ondrej flew the drone around like a jedi.

Thanks to Tendon for the trip, Lukas, Ondrej and Adam for their friendliness and encouragment, and Flatanger for delivering the goods. Thanks also to DMM for letting me go on the trip!

Be sure to check out the video made by Ondrej here.


Accommodation is either camping (popular) or in a shared house at ‘Climb Flatanger’ - the place to stay for Flatanger.

It’s Norway, so it can rain every day - but you can still climb almost everything in the cave in any weather. Our shared house was fantastic and even had fast wifi.

Flatanger is approximately 3 hours drive from Trondheim, or 9 hours from Oslo. Hiring a car is strongly recommended. The walk-in is only 20 minutes, though.

Norway is expensive so bring as much as possible with you. There’s a supermarket about 10 minutes drive away.

Note: there are several different airports operating out of Oslo, so check which one you fly to. Ryanair operate out of a different airport to most airlines!

You’ll need a long rope (80m was ideal) and as many draws as you can find. 20 or 25 is best if you want to project a few things.

There’s a proper toilet in the cave too, which is a great thing to see if you’ve ever climbed in Catalunya.

Rest day activities include beautiful hikes, swimming, some WW2 history and fishing.

Tom LivingstoneComment