Mari Augusta Salvesen

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Mari is top all-round climber from Norway. Despite being well known for her appearances on The Wide Boyz YouTube channel, her competencies extend far beyond thrutching up obscure Peak District offwidths (at which, it must be noted, she is excellent). Be it hauling on big walls, keeping her cool on run-out trad, powering through hard boulders or tackling winter ice, Mari excels in almost all climbing disciplines, approaching any challenge with good humour and fierce determination in equal measure.

Growing up in Bergen, Mari was first introduced to climbing at 16 when she accompanied her mother on a climbing course at the local climbing wall.

"I placed my feet really high, like I still do," says Mari. "And I remember not climbing to the top because whenever someone did that the group would start clapping their hands, so I was too shy to top out."

Soon after this introduction, Mari’s brother and father started climbing too and the sport became a hobby the family would enjoy together from time to time.

"We eventually began climbing outside, which I remember felt a lot more rewarding," continues Mari. "There was more to it than reaching for coloured holds, there was wind and exposure and [it] presented a challenge I yet hadn’t experienced with indoor climbing."

Enjoying the elements and the multi-dimensional nature of real rock, Mari found herself drawn to climbing outdoors and when she went off to university at 19 to study chemistry and environmental engineering, she took climbing with her.

"It became more and more connected to my identity," says Mari. "Climbing with people my age and that were filthy strong brought competitiveness into climbing, which I hadn’t experienced before. As a very competitive person that was pretty much a game changer. Not necessarily beating others but beating expectations."

Surrounded by motivated friends in Rogaland, Mari became focused on bouldering. She quickly learned how to train and approach goals strategically, which led her to progress rapidly through the grades. 2014 is the best example of this dramatic progression: Mari started the year bouldering 7B+ as a new personal best and finished with a send of Misanthropie (8A) in Fontainebleau in a single day.

"At this point I also started climbing more on my own," says Mari. "Learning to find motivation to get out on projects alone at inconvenient times and in uncomfortable weather has formed me to be the climber I am today."

Mari pausing just long enough to place gear on Ronny Medelssvensson at Jøssingfjord © Øyvind Salveson
Mari pausing just long enough to place gear on Ronny Medelssvensson (9 [8b trad]) at Jøssingfjord © Øyvind Salveson
Glory Hands (8/8+) at Jøssingfjord © Lars Audun Norse
Glory Hands (8/8+) at Jøssingfjord © Lars Audun Norse

Despite her focus on bouldering, Mari also spent time learning the ropes on longer trad routes and ice climbs with her brother, and as she became more experienced she started to seek out more adventurous climbs. In 2017, after sending Flying Vikings—a classic trad route in Jøssingfjord graded 8+ (7c+ equivalent)—Mari had, what she describes, as a "moment of confidence" and decided to book a trip to Yosemite. There, she partnered with fellow Norwegian Paula Voldner to attempt Freerider (5.12d) on El Capitan. The duo, who were both new to big wall climbing, spent several days and nights on the wall in their quest to reach the summit.

"Even though it did not all go free, it was a big milestone for both of us to manage to push through and top out in wind and rain on the last day," says Mari. "This trip gave me the momentum to seek out more hard and long trad routes."

Mari returned to Yosemite the following year to climb El Capitan via The Shield (A3) with partner Pete Whittaker, something she describes as a "romantic five-day outing". Mari and Pete also spent time closer to Mari’s home, establishing new trad routes. Mari has trad first ascents to her name up to 8+ (7c equivalent) in difficulty, including Røverdatter (8/8+) in Vinddalen, and Kaninkoker (8/8+), Raller Road (7-), and Rævkrok (8-) at Jøssingfjord.

Growing confidence on trad and with projecting led Mari to undertake her most mentally challenging project to date: the steep and relentless splitter crack Ronny Medelsvensson (9 [trad 8b]) on the Profile Wall in Jøssingfjord.

"It was a goal that I was almost not able to say out loud," admits Mari. "The Profile Wall in Jøssingfjord is quite spectacular, and all of the routes are hard. Every time I walk up to the crag it humbles me."

After many weekends of projecting, Mari sent the demanding crack line in May 2019, making the fourth known ascent of the route.

"Trying the route with confidence that I belonged there at that wall was a more challenging process than the actual physical bit," she says. "And I must admit that it was not purely a positive experience, but an important one."

Over the next few years Mari sought out more hard trad routes and, often in the company of Pete, set about tackling alpine trad routes on the tallest rock faces in Norway during the short summer seasons: Kjerag in Lysefjorden, Storpillaren in Lofoten, Vestveggen at Store Skagastølstind, Store Blåmann in Tromsø, and Troll Wall in Romsdalen—the tallest vertical face in Europe. Mari and Pete documented their ascent of Norwegian Route (7+) on the Troll Wall in a YouTube video.

Mari making the first free ascent of Rævkrok (8-) at Jøssingfjord
Mari making the first free ascent of Rævkrok (8-) at Jøssingfjord.

In addition to pursuing projects at home in Norway, Mari has also spent time in the UK—often crotch-deep in gritstone cracks—and has some impressive ticks to her name, including the intimidating and bold Master’s Edge (E7 6c) at Millstone. She also made the third ascent of Gobblers Roof (E7 6c or f8A) at Harborough Rocks in Derbyshire in a single day with some "clever beta" and made the first female ascent of the burley horizontal offwidth Ray’s Roof (E7 6c) at Balderstones in Staffordshire.

"On the onsight I was convinced I could go feet first the whole way," Mari told Natalie Berry of UKC about her ascent of Ray’s Roof. "[I] spent probably an hour trying to smootch my bum around that lip, lost a shoe, bled out, cried a bit...it was a total catastrophe."

In 2020 Mari set herself the challenge of flashing The Dirty Dozen: a ticklist of Brimham Rocks’ greenest and dirtiest offwidth climbs ranging from severe to E6. Mari succeeded in her challenge (impressively flashing the short but punchy E6 Gigglin’ Crack) with light-heartedness and good humour. You can admire her crack technique and hear all her best jokes in this video.

Mari in her happy place.
Mari in her happy place.
Mastering the offwidth horizontal crack of Ray's Roof (E7 6c) at Balderstones © Mike Hutton
Mastering the horizontal offwidth of Ray's Roof (E7 6c) at Balderstones © Mike Hutton

In order to stay motivated and active throughout the year in Norway, Mari considers it essential to be an all-round climber. She is a competent ice and winter climber, having climbed up to WI5+, as well as an experienced skier. She also keeps her motivation high by finding local projects she can work on throughout the year, after work or in inclement weather. In spring 2020 she claimed the 8A roof boulder Tunge Tider and the following year a "British style run-out trad route" Hvalfangst Hurra (9- [8a equivalent]).

"This route is what I imagine British sea cliff climbing must be like, and the grade E8 describes it better," says Mari. "The crux comes after a decent run out above a roof, and conditions are tricky. This was my after-work clogging project until I found a belay and sent it first redpoint go, I would not have liked to try that fall anyway.

"A funny episode from working the route was when I rushed out after work on a warm summer day, stripped down to my knickers because it was boiling hot on the wall, abseiled down the route and then realised the rope was not long enough. The overhang makes the abseil free hanging, and I had not brought an ascender. So, in my knickers on an exposed sea cliff, I had to improvise a prussic with the sling on a cam and campus my way back up the rope."

Challenges and adventures like these, as well as the physical climbing itself, are all part of the appeal of climbing for Mari.

"There’s so much joy in a challenge, regardless of it being a hard boulder or alpine days in miserable weather," says Mari about why she is motivated to climb. "

I like the discomfort of it, because I know it will end, and I like the struggle, because it keeps surprising me what I can do when I enter that mode. I can get angry and climbing allows me to be angry and use it purposefully.

The stillness of remote places also inspires me, being alone and irrelevant in big landscapes, and to look up on massive big walls and think that I can get up there by own power blows my mind."

Mari, who has a degree in chemistry and environmental engineering and is a qualified English and science teacher, lives in Bergen and teaches access techniques for working at height.

I love it,” says Mari, “both because the work is fun, but also because I work for a company where my climbing experience is valued.

When she’s not working or climbing Mari spends her time and energy on practical tasks:
"[…] having had a lot of old cars, trying to fix them almost involuntarily turned into a hobby of mine. I enjoy it, but it can definitely also be the most frustrating thing. I’m also fascinated by photography and writing, and periodically get stuck into that. Apart from that I do what most Norwegians do—skiing."
 

Winter climbing in Jotunheimen
Making the most of the winter season in Jotunheimen.