3 Reasons To Love Olhava, The Finnish Sanctuary Of Traditional Climbing

I almost want to ask you to stay away from Olhava. The amount of visitors has already left it's mark on the rock, campsite and nature surrounding the most popular crag in Finland. Despite all the efforts to keep the place clean, empty bottles, plastic bags and toilet paper can be found here and there. Comparing to some old photos, the vegetation around the campsite has started to look pretty suffering, too.

So, what's so special about Olhava? Why does every Finnish rock climber try to make it to Olhava at least once a year? Why do tourists from Russia, Austria, Great Britain, Israel and many other countries around the world come there? And why should all the people visiting Olhava do their best to preserve the place?

First of all, Olhava is a beautiful piece of Finnish Lakeland. 
It's located in the area of Repovesi National park near Kouvola. The pond, the forest and even the noisy red-throated loons make Olhava a unique place to enjoy Finnish nature - there aren't too many places like this within a few hour's drive from Helsinki. View from the campsite and from the top of Mount Olhava is admired by climbers, hikers, canoers and geocachers among other travellers.

Mount Olhava
When it comes to climbing, Olhava offers countless meters of high-quality crack climbing. 
Just pick your favourite of around 100 routes zigzagging on the solid granite of Mount Olhava. You can reach some of the routes from the campsite, but most of them are accessed either by a raft or by abseiling. This gives Olhava a special, even a bit adventurous atmosphere. Many Finnish climbers actually insist, that Olhava is the best crag in Finland.

Laatta, broken by many classic cracks, is the most distinguishing area at Olhava. It's a massive, southwest facing slab with a few easy and a handfull of harder trad routes. Eklipsi (6+/6c), Ukkosenjohdatin (6-/6a), Salama (5+/5c), Ruotsalaisten reitti (5+/5c) and Suuri Leikkaus (6/6b) are without a doubt worth their reputation as some of the greatest (if not the best) trad routes in Finland.

Want to climb Eklipsi (6+/6c)? You're going to need something big. The rumor says, that back in the old days Eklipsi was climbed using logs as protection.

What about sport climbing? Are there any sport routes at Olhava? Well, you can find a couple of sport routes as well, but most of the routes at Olhava haven't been bolted. The climbing is done using natural protection such as cams, nuts and slings. On some of the routes there might be an old, rusty piton or a few bolts, but usually people use cams and nuts as well. The lack of trad gear has turned a lot of tourists away, so make sure to take your's with you. Or leave them at home on purpose, if you're into runouts (heh).

Olhava also a significant part of Finnish rock climbing history. Some of the first ascents at Olhava were done in the 1970s, Vekara (6-/6a) being the first route there. Nowadays new routes aren't opened that often, since bolting  and even adding new bolts on old routes is forbidden. Replacing of worn gear is strictly controlled by the Finnish Association of climbing (FCA), too.

And the third reason to love Olhava? All the facilities are provided by the Finnish Forest Administration. 
You can get drinkable water from a well close to the campsite and there's a chemical toilet as well as two fire places. And of course you can go wash yourself up in the lake after climbing. This is great, because you don't have to carry that much stuff back and forth between your car and the campsite. The parking lot is about three kilometers from the campsite, so you really don't want to take anything extra with you.

In case you don't want to carry even a tent with you, it's possible to rent a cabin as well. Some of the cabins in Repovesi National Park are located within a walking distance from Olhava. If you're travelling with small children, a cabin might be a good option for accommodation. That being said, most of the climbers visiting Olhava choose to set up tents of their own. The nearest campsite is just a few meters from the crag.

Honey (4+) is a popular warm-up right next to the campsite. Photo: Tommi Hietanen, edited by: Vilja Jäntti

Now that you're convinced about the greatness of Olhava, I assume that you want to know more general information about the place. Perhaps a map of the area? Driving instructions to the parking lot? Where to book one of those cabins? All this and more can be found on nationalparks.fi. A climbing guidebook is the only thing missing from the site, and that you can look up on 27 crags. If you still have questions, feel free to post them on the comment box below!

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