Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Route of the trip?

Yesterday we returned into the Gorsabrua canyon in hopes of a WI5 having filled in a bit.  It hadn't but there was a sneaky traverse in from the left so the route was a goer.  My mojo hasn't exactly been firing on all cylinders this trip so I would have followed any excuse to wimp out, but fortunately there was none and I am really pleased we finished the route. The ice wasn't great, hollow in parts, but on the whole it felt steady,  I must admit to resting on a screw at one point but it was that or have a repeat of the 'terminal pump'.

Today we returned to our poor run of luck with James feeling too ill to climb having walked in.  So that plus the Hattavarri avalanche conditions, the moved day off for me feeling ill and the bag dump day for Kitdalen have all diminished our hit rate significantly.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Norway continues...

On Tuesday, we headed into the 'other' canyon - Gorsabrua (actually, not Gorsabrua as that means Gorge-bridge, but it's what the signs say).  Another long walk and another tonne of climbing found.  We did a deceptively steep WI4 after scouting the gorge as far as we could - to a mean looking WI5 we intend to come back for.

Future Target
Next, we returned to Lyngen on the other side of the fjord in search of Leichtfried's Gold Rush, but either it isn't there this year, or he really meant something further south.  Anyway, we found another route that we were cursing on the walk in for being too easy only for it to turn out longer and harder than expected.

Yesterday we attempted a big route that we spotted in 2011.  We actually attempted it the day before but the walk and route were bother longer than we expected so we, riskily, dropped out bags at the bottom of the ascent up to the route hoping snow wouldn't prohibit us returning.  It didn't, and so we did, rising at 4am and walking by 7am.  It turned out to be six pitches, none of which were that hard until the last.  We walked out in the day at the end of a thirteen hour day.

The top pillar involved crossing some horrible ice - layers of ice on crud on ice on crud, each breaking away when hit.  Eventually I managed to get established on the pillar, but I was already feeling the effects of the traverse.  Unfortunately the pillar was no better - fluted and hollow ice.  The kind you swing at and the axe diverts into the nearest hole.  I pushed on up for a few yards but was pretty boxed and the ice to too bad to get a decent screw in.  Eventually, obeying the law of 'never fall' I clipped into an axe (oh, the shame) and rested while placing two poor screws.  Thinking I had recovered I carried on.  For two feet and then my hands just started unpeeling from my axes.  Admitting defeat, I rested again, knowing the pump was terminal.  I placed another screw that was at least weight bearing, and only ten yards from the top of a 240m climb, I retreated.  And yes, you read that right - I abbed off a £50 ice screw.  There was no abolokoving that ice and when you know you need to get out of there, you know.  All in all, it was quite harrowing.

Today has been a rest day (again) - we went otter spotting but to no avail.  We have seen eagles, and even porpoises (from afar) so far though.

Monday, 20 February 2017

I am in Norway!

My longtime absence from the blogosphere shall be broken by the exciting news that I am in Norway, ice climbing! Or at least trying to.

This is day five here and it has been a mixed old bag.  Firstly, I am well out of practice and noticing having not climbed for three years.  Conditions are poor for a normal year, but this is the arctic, so the closer you look the more you see, and realise it is not so bad at all.  Why anyone goes to Rjukan is beyond me.

Anyway, on day one we drove.  All day.  Including north, to the fabled ice-el-dorado of Reisendalen.  Maybe we missed something, but it didn't seem so great to us.  The next day we decided to go back to Hattavarri, where we did our one and only first ascent on our first trip here, six years ago.  It had been warm so going high seemed sensible.  After a two hour walk-in, avalanche paranoia got the better of us and we turned around within site of the climbs (which were formed well).  Actually, it wasn't paranoia and I think we judged things well.  I have made a pact with myself, only ever to be pleased if I turn around due to snow conditions.

Windslab!  Run away!
The next day we walked into a canyon in Skibotndalen (which we thought was quite big at the time).  There were a few shortish routes to go at and we did, at a guess, a WI3 and WI4 - which felt much harder than it should.

WI3 left, WI4 right.  Believe it or not, 60m!
On day four we decided to find the legendary Orndalen canyon, the biggest canyon in northern Europe.  It is truly enormous - the walls must be 500m high.  There a several epic routes in there, but the main prize had, erm, fallen down.  I was secretly quite glad as it looked nails, and we didn't have the time anyway.  I started to do the bottom pitch as the most out-there bit of 'practice' imaginable, but my hands had frozen and the wind had picked up and was dumping snow into the gulley.  So we ran away once more.

Some more pics of the canyon are below - we'll be going back once we've got our eye in a bit more.

The narrowest point

Scale is meaningless!

Today, deciding we just needed some mileage we went to a roadside spot of ice - like, literally, I got sprayed by the gritting lorry.  We did six or so pitches, all apart from the first on top rope.  Stress-free climbing in a not so great setting.

Oh, and comment of the trip so far comes from the Duty Free shop lady when we asked what Johnnie Walker Double Black was (ie what was the double).  She replied "Well, its double.  Whatever the black is, that is double".  At this point James realised he had left his phone with airport security (for safe keeping, innit) so we had to dash off before she could be questioned any more.

To be continued...