Thursday, 27 February 2014

Lazy days

The second rest day in a row as final preparation for Hydnesfossen. It's not like there is much other ice around that's safe to climb.

James challenged me to go out in my robe in public. I was proud to accept

I have also bolstered my cord powered crampon retention system. I think it's pretty sound.
A web of reassurance

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Melty, melty, snappy crappy

Yesterday saw us have a second, and successful, attempt on Langåni. Just.

There was a lot of umming and arghing about how safe it would be after the recent weather, and from across the valley we spotted a mighty crack running through the top pillar.  It looked though that there were in fact two pillars, the right hand one looking more likely and without a crack, so we decided to walk in for a closer inspection.  The climb had definitely suffered and required some excavation for decent screws, but all in all it wasn't too bad.

I chose an easier line up the first pitch, having already climbed a harder variant, and from there it was straightforward ice until the final pitch, which saw me leave a damp cave (which led to much grumpiness from James) for a long and lonely lead, weaving my way up the final steepenings - a cracking pitch (which I think I enjoyed a lot more than James due to the aforementioned grumps).  In the pitches below I had already spotted some significant cracks which looked some days old, and James reported that there was a loud crack when he was in the cave.  This may all sound pretty alarming, but despite common misconceptions, I am actually pretty conservative when it comes to safety and I was confident the climb was sound. That said, with the deteriorating ice, we decided to try to walk off. Mistake. An hour later we were back at the top of the climb ready to abseil down it.  I doubled up on every abalakov (safety first, people!).


Mash up

I have a love-hate relationship with this climb because, what should happen on the walk down? again. My bloody crampon broke. This time the main connecting bar. WTF people, WTF?  Much cursing ensued.

Great design
In a bid to avoid a 5hr round trip driving to Fagernes to get a replacement, I have have cunningly fashioned the below:

Yes, you see that correctly - I have tied my crampons together with string. Not a bit of gaffer tape in sight.  All in time to attempt what may be my hardest climb yet, Hydnesfossen tomorrow.  Will this backfire? Well, a poor workman blames his tools, but what if those tools are broken? We shall see.

Hydnesfossen may be our last climb of the trip - the whole area is getting a pasting - terminal melt has definitely set it.

A few tonnes of liquid nitrogen and it's good to go
Now for a far more interesting picture. Willow, in attack pose:

Hold me back mummy, I have had enough of these paparazzi

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Short days and lots of rain

We have just had a couple of shorter days with a return to Langåni on the cards tomorrow. It is very rainy and warm now though so there is a major thaw in motion. Hopefully, Langåni will be high enough to withstand it.  Thankfully, the hire car does indeed have unlimited mileage, cos, jeez, we are doing a lot of driving.  Here is a bit of a photo dump from yesterday and today.

Another walk-in, only an hour, but still
We think this may be Heggfossen
High on the WI4+/5 crux - felt pleasingly straightforward
A rare photo of me and James, at the base of today's route with may or may not be The Stonner (WI5/5+) 
Setting off on the main pitch, again, quite straightforward

Friday, 21 February 2014


Disappointment washed over me like a wave. Again
On Wednesday we took a mighty long drive to find some friendly but steep ice to rebuild our skills on.  Golsjulet is similar to Krokan in Rjukan and did the trick.  Even here in 'The Freezer' it is a thin year though.

On the way there we stopped at this 12th century church. That is some seriously old wood.

Who would live in a house like this?
Let's go through...  the keyhole... (we couldn't, i't was locked)
Yesterday we heard via Daniel on UKC that Langåni was in condition, so another epic drive and an hour's slog saw at the base of this mighty fine (and reportedly 250m) WI5 icefall.

After all our whinging, it actually dropped -21 on the drive over. It was a balmy -11 where we parked

This man does not like walk-in
The first and last pitches looked to be the hardest and the first saw me fighting with horrid baked cauliflowers (that may sound strange to those who haven't encountered these nasty ice formations) before stepping out on to some seriously steep terrain. Pumped out of my mind, but not in doubt of the outcome, I arrived safely at the belay.  The second pitch was more straightforward, although I did choose a steep line for a part of it.  Then this happened...

Oh crap
The front wire bail snapped on my left crampon.  Ludicrous that this takes the full force of kicks really when you think about it.  Furious and annoyed as I was, at least I managed to cope with it on ground that really was a lot steep than that photo makes out (after a few seconds of 'sheeeeeet!').  And it would have been a lot worse had it happened on the crux of the first pitch.

Damn shame as we were on course for a decent day out and I think would have made the top okay despite it looking quite spicy.  We plan to return.

Of course, the next worry was fixing them.  I was expecting to have to buy a whole new set of 'poons after trawling every shop in the area, but thankfully the first shop we tried sold me the bail off his display model.  £16 rather than £160 - think I have been let off lightly.

Today we had a bit of a lie in, then debated the relative salinity of Norwegian fjords, pondering the ingress of seawater versus the outflow of fresh water from the hills. Turns out the freshwater floats in a layer above the brine. Who know? Anyway, I digress, we decided to do a short climb that by the time we got there had a party walking in to it. That was all the prompt we needed (despite there being plenty of other lines next to it) that we would advance our rest day and get bang on it tomorrow. Until then...

(This trip, I am mostly using James' photos, so credit and thanks blah, blah)

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Don't try this at home, kids

But before we get into that, yesterday…

One of the caverns in the longest road tunnel in Europe at 25km

We drove to Hemsedal in search of certain ice and after a bit of scouting and waiting for the shop to open so we could buy the guidebook (not the greatest, it must be said), we decided on Haugsfossen - a nice short route of two pitches that we did in one. We also did Indre Haugsfoss next to it.  Going at WI4 and 4+, they seemed pretty easy, which is promising.  We also had company, the first time in over six weeks of climbing in Norway (excluding Toby who we purposefully met) with two chaps climbing nearby.

We then took a look at Hydnesfossen which may be, and, I say this in a whisper, our main objective for the trip now. It’s a beast.

Driving back we took a look around Upper Lærdalen and found at least three more good routes to climb. So at last, things are looking up!


Today we chose Seltunfossen, a large WI4+/5 that is quite close to the E16 (sort of like a motorway, but lamer, but then again, the Norwegians put roads where we wouldn’t dare).  It has a long approach climb before the falls steepen up - maybe 200m of WI2-3.  We semi-soloed this (yes, I have made this term up, basically I didn’t put much pro in) on one rope.  On arriving at the base of the start of the route proper, I asked James where the second rope was.  Which brings me on to the title of this post…

Little do I know the distinct lack of ropes that is about to present itself

Don’t try this at home, kids!

One should probably not attempt a 150m WI4+/5 on one half rope, tested to only 55kg. But hey, I is not one.  After about ten minutes of James apologising, I set off. The climb was pretty straight forward with three full pitches of steepish but sticky ice with great footholds.  An encouraging result as I was sure to climb well within my capabilities due to the slightly flimsy rope.  The big worry, of course, was the descent - 30m abseils would make for a very late night.  We took a gamble and headed off left and up and hoped we could fight our way down through the trees.  We could, and it ended up being probably not much longer than abseiling with two ropes.

On the way home, James couldn’t get the cruise control to work. Until he realised it required being in fifth gear. He was doing 75 in third. Okay, I’ll be fair; it was 75kph.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Nick on ice on ice

Let me start by using a photo to express my current mood:

This is a waterfall 

So, we have arrived in Norway. It's hot. Well, too warm anyway. The potential out here is staggering. Potential is of little use right now though.

Today we scouted around and most areas were found to be wanting. A good freeze would bring a lot back, but that's not on the forecast.

Going up high we drove to 'magic lake' that was at about 1000m. Above it, a soaring cliff band, that was...  completely devoid of ice.  James was so sure.

Shrew by the lake - is this magic?

Turning around we decided to climb one of the smaller icefalls near the road - hardly world class, but at least there is a few days worth of stuff up here if push comes to shove. I was thinking how to describe my feelings while climbing this, and I think it can be best summed up as 'preoccupied with the discomfort of not having climbed much ice for a while'.  My body knew it was easy, my head knew it was easy, but it didn't feel easy.  We have taken to naming climbs we do, just for our own reference - not to claim an ascent of something with a name somewhere that's been climbed many times - James proposed Advanced Brain Decay after our usual first-route-of-the-season faff. I then needed reminding how to use a belay plate (it was new and borrowed so not quite as dumb as it seems).  I still think Advanced Brain Decay is better suited to a WI6 mega route than a 40m WI4 next to the road.  We may use it properly one day.

Terrible feet
So the plan is to check out one other higher altitude option and then we have Hemsedal - we are fairly sure there is stuff there, but it is a long drive.

On our return to the cabin, this was waiting in my inbox, and cheered me up a bit.  Without my calming influence, Willow woke up a lot earlier than normal this morning apparently!

Up in Lyngen, where we have climbed before, the scenery is stunning, but there aren't the classic narrow fjords that you imagine - here there are vertical walls rising straight out the sea.  There is no doubt in my mind, that in a good year, this is where it is at.  This is not a good year.

Vangsgaarden Cabins in Aurlandvangen

It must be whisky time now. We are in Norway, so it's Japanese whisky, obviously.