Saturday, 1 March 2014


We woke at the ungodly hour of 0430hrs yesterday to begin what was sure to be a very long day. In the end it wasn't all that bad, even though I am feeling quite battered today.

The two hour drive to Hemsedal set for the tone for the day with significant snow falling and roads made of ice.  The weather didn't improve much and we spent most of the day in cloud - so apologies for the disappointing lack of photos/evidence.  A description and photo of the route can be found here, I would say this year is a bit thinner than that photo.

Pulling up at the car parking spot we had scouted earlier in the trip, we realised that we were right next to the logging area mentioned in the guide - not sure how we missed that before, but it meant we were also next to the trail in.  After a hundred yards we decided that snow shoes would be just about worth it and so turned around to get them.  Less than an hour and a half later, we were standing in a wee snow cave on the right of the falls gearing up. I spent the next 20 minutes faffing with string and crampon parts.

Hydnefossen lies above the snow slope
We really couldn't see much but knew that the centre of the falls is the most common route up and began with a bit of a spray cone.  I traversed to the far (wrong, as it turns out) side of it and set up the belay.  The first pitch was a real effort. Not demanding climbing but cold hard ice and it seemed very physical.  The broken crampon felt poor, but then I realised the other one did too and soon I got used to having to kick a bit harder into the brittle ice than we had needed to for most of this trip. A screw came flying off my harness and landed by James. Badmin.  He later dropped one too that we also found. Double badmin, but thankfully no expense incurred.

The route was proving to be a bit of a calf-killer and the hanging belay was no better. Finally a reason to have been wearing knee-pads all week - I slumped into my harness and knelt on the ice.  By the time James arrived I was chuffing freezing. It was one of those days - warm (maybe a tad below zero) and so wet and so cold. I do so prefer cold and so dry and so warm.

The next pitch was supposed to be the crux and soon after leaving the belay I had to clip a screw to change my sopping gloves - a mild cheat perhaps but I learnt long ago that I need to trust my instincts when it comes to cold hands before I pay the price later.  There were some great moves finding my way up through bulges that felt almost overhanging in parts. Yet the climbing still didn't feel very hard. Or even steep - it wasn't until we ab'ed down that I realised how unrelenting it was.  I think being able to see where I was going as I snuck up through the steepenings would have made for a nicer day out but the cloud certainly added to the commitment. At one point a huge thick dinner plate of ice tore off and my left axe popped, only a fraction of a second after my right axe had buried into the ice - one of the closest I have come to falling, for sure.  I ran out of screws before rope and so belayed at about 40m.  Still wet, I settled in for another uncomfortable belay.

The next pitch was shorter and I belayed for the last time, maybe, 20m short of the top. The ice from that point ceased to provide any technical difficulty but looked of deteriorating quality and there was a cornice at the top - I didn't want to back myself into a corner. Besides, I come to Norway to avoid things like cornices. The route was over sooner than expected, but of course it was still almost 4pm.

Two very full 60m abseils saw us back at the base and then the walk out in just crampons was fast - despite a snow bridge collapsing from under me and me nearly ending up in the drink.

So all in all, a fine end to our trip and a great tick.  Spoilt slightly by grim weather only.  The route itself wasn't the epic I had expected and at 'benchmark WI5' I guess that bodes well for my development, or at least me being back to my top form. And ready to hit WI6 next year!

Oh, and the crampons held out admirably.

We fly back tomorrow, but there is no ice to be climbed to today.  I am looking forward to returning, and here's hoping, in a year of good conditions.  But for now, I am more looking forward to seeing the family; Holly has been feeding Willow strawberries!

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