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Matti A. Jokinen 1932 to 2014

Matti A. Jokinen is said to be the father of Finnish climbing. Born in 1932, he started climbing 20 years later.

“Climbing is not an escape, it is a way of life.”

Finnish climbing began when the medical student Jokinen climbed the Matterhorn in 1954. Returning to Finland, Jokinen found the first local crag, Heaven Cliff.

In 1958, with Walter Gstrein, Jokinen climbed a new route, Via Finlandia, up the Cinque Torri wall on the Torre Grande. Read about the ascent, written by Jokinen, here.

In 1960, Jokinen was the fourth member of a Norwegian Himalayan expedition to the 7,700-metre Tirich Mir. A conflict between Pakistan and Nepal forced the trip to cancel.

Over the years, Jokinen spent time in a number of countries and learned eight languages.

In 1961, the Finnish Broadcasting Company started sending Jokinen to a variety of mountain environments to record the weekly climbers show.

In 1962, Jokinen became the first chairman of the new Alpine Club of Finland.

In the fall of 1963, Jokinen tried to make the first free ascent of the route called Giant. “We had quite short ropes then and made such climbs in two pitches,” wrote Jokinen, “My partner was belaying me in 10 metres height, and I was two metres higher in an overhang, when the piton I was pulling from came suddenly out. It was a two-to-one fall, and the load in my partner’s hands must have been tremendous. He had to let go, and I fell those 12 metres down, where nasty blocks were waiting. I could turn around in the air and tried to steer with the hands towards the only even spot on the ground. There I landed, but unfortunately there were a small stone just where my left knee hit. I felt the hard pain and with my hand I found a hard lump under the skin beside the left trouser pocket. It was the patella bone that had been smashed to several pieces and pulled up there by the muscles.”

Jokinen made a full recovery, but two years later while on Mount Blanc, recording weekly climbers show, his back gave out. He would spend the next 25 years recovering.

25 Years Later

In the winter 1989, Jokinen climbed the northeastern slope of Teide, 3,800 meters. “It was like a rebirth, I could scramble in the mountains again,” wrote Jokinen.

Forty years after he made the first ascent of Via Finlandia, Jokinen returned and climbed the route again. “I was proud on so much praise and was eager to try the route, which I could not very well recall after 40 years. At the time of the first ascent I was 27 years old and now accordingly 67,” wrote Jokinen, “I could find several rusty pitons, which I had hammered in the rock cracks during the first climb. They were in an astounding good condition. The route was more difficult than I could imagine, and I had great pains to clear the fourth rope length. The lightning stroke near by several times, and the voice of the thunder accompanied our climb towards the wet top plateau of the Torre Grande.”

Jokinen continued to climb for many more years. Read about his career on his website here.

“At first I thought I could not walk, but little by little I continued. I was bruised, but the hurry was over, we marched into the night.” – Jokinen

Finlandia Route on Cinque Torri Wall
Via Finlandia Route on Cinque Torri Wall  (Click on the photo for a top)

Watch the history of Finnish climbing here.

Source: Top photo from Blue Kangoo Films