Norway – January 2012

Norway has been a black spot on my mountaineering map. It’s a big country with loads of mountains and it’s situated relatively close to my home but I’ve rarely visited there. I’ve tried to gather some information about climbing there but untill now I can’t have said I’ve known much about Norway. In 2005 I was ice climbing for a week in Rjukan and in 2008 we did the winter ascent of Ultima Thule on Blåmannen with Saku and Adrian but that was just about it.

Mongejura: South Pillar (Sydpilaren) (6a+, 900m), November 13th, 2010

Last winter the situation got better as we visited Romsdalen in November with Johannes Kärkkäinen. That trip we tried the South Face of Mongejura (6a+, 900m) and climbed a couple of hudred of meters of an ice fall called Olmåa (WI4, 900m). We didn’t top out either of them but they both were good fun. I liked more the Mongejura and Johannes liked the ice climbing.

The 2010 trip was my first weekend alpinism attempt with loads of planning errors but it was a good start. We had a gas stove and had big problems with finding a proper gas canister. We had too little time and we also underestimated the driving distances of Norway. Nevertheless we managed some climbing and got the first glimpse of the very long winter climbs of Norway.

Romsdalen: Ølmåa (WI4, 900m), November 14th, 2010

This year I had bought many new guide books for Norway and I had invested loads of time on researching what else would be fun in winter. I was now climbing with Teppo Saarenpää and we both like going big on mixed terrain. We wanted something with both WI4/WI5 and M4/M5. If possible with 1000m or more altitude difference.

Romsdalen I knew had this but the weather had been above freezing all winter and we had to think something else. We thought Romsdalshornet (1550m) could have been a good alternative since it was higher up but the short term weather forecast looked bad and it was no option. Another big motivation for us was the Storen in Hurrungane but the weather didn’t look good there either.

With no knowledge of any other good objectives we agreed on an ice tour with three or four long ice falls with short approaches. We planned on doing the Jukulkula near Otta first, then Langåni (WI5, 250m) near Vang and finally Grøtenutfossen (WI5, 250m) in Hemsedal. If we had time left we would visit Rjukan before flying back home at 6 PM on the last day.

Otta: Jukulkula (WI4, 270m), January 6th, 2012

Jukulkula was just as we wanted. Fairly steep all the way and sustained for the grade. We both thought it was slightly harder than the Trappfoss (WI4, 200m) in Rjukan but all in all very similar. The parking spot also made a very nice bivy spot. With the short approach there was no need for an alpine start either.

Once we got down from the climb and checked the weather the plan changed instantly. They promised one good day for Hurrungane and there was no question what we would do. We started driving towards Turtagro. We both thought we had done enough ice climbing for this winter and we wanted something with little bit of more adventure in it.

Hurrungane: Skagastølstindane, January 7th to 8th, 2012

Prior to our trip I’d read something about Hurrungane but I couldn’t say I actually understood anything about it. I had a hunch the Sognefjell mountain road was closed during winter and that was the case. I had also read somewhere the road from Songdal was open to the Turtagrø Hotel (884m). Other than that we had no idea how the approach or the scenery would be.

We arrived at Turtagrø around 10 PM and set in for the night on the parking lot. In the morning we had no hurry since had to wait for light to get some clue about the directions. With the help of a couple of photos and books we reasoned the right direction and started hiking. Since we had packed the gear for ice climbing we didn’t have either skis nor walking poles with us. Once we started hiking we knew this was going to be a tough day. Snow till the knee on top of crust. Every fifth step the crust broke under our weight.

After about 3 hours of hiking it was 3 PM. It was not really dark but we knew we weren’t going to make it to the Hytta på bandet (1758m) before dark. What would have been a three hour hike in summer had taken us three hours and we were not even half way. And we were totally knackered. Three hours in deep snow is quite a different story than three hours on summer trails. We thought about bivying right at that place but decided to continue. After about 100 meters of hiking we saw something we thought we would never see in such a place. A very well kept red Norwegian house. We took a look at the name on the door and it said “Norsk Tindeklubb”. After a very short conversation we decided to bivy. Later we found out the hut is called Skagadalshytta (1350m).

Next morning we woke up with clear blue skies. It was very cold and putting on shoes was hard work. The fingers were freezing after few seconds of bare hands exposure. Knotting shoe laces took me at least three tries before I decided I just have to tough it out. It was probably something in the range of minus 15 to 20 celsius and quite a bit of wind. It was clear we weren’t going to top out Store Skagastølstind (2405m) with these conditions and our physical condition. It seems browsing the web or playing with an Ipad doesn’t help much with hiking in deep snow.

With no real objective we chose to get as high as possible with as little work as possible. We had a look around and went for Nordre Skagastølstind (2167m). Just below the summit boulder I got to touch the rime which was the highlight of the trip for me. I don’t know if does it but I hope it transforms into mushroom ice with a couple of freeze-thaw cycles. Next time we’ll be in Hurrungane later in the season. Most likely in late February.

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