Day 2 of our ice adventures can be described with one word: spicy.
But lets start from the beginning.
The plan of action for today was to explore the area directly behind our accommodation. It’s so close, (1.5km to the base) that it’s a no-brainer. The side of the mountain has a number of good-looking lines, almost none of which is described in the guidebook.
The first, and most obvious line, seen in the above picture turned out to be a no-go. It’s actually the only one with a somewhat detailed description in the guidebook (in that area) (out of the 5 lines we saw today). The route is named Pollelva and graded WI4. Unfortunately, the amount of snow accumulated at the funnel above the narrow cleft would make it very dangerous. Bringing binoculars paid off.
We continued the path and turned our eyes on the other 4 lines seen. The guidebook doesn’t give any details, other than the fact that they are there.
The first from the left is the line that Paul and I ultimately did today.
It caught our eye due to its interesting chimney start, and a wide curtain of ice above with relatively low avalanche danger above that. As all ice climbers know, ice always is steeper than it looks… More about it later.
As the short path ended, we put on the snowshoes and started going up towards the climb. And that was one steep approach… Forget about broken trail or anything like that – it was as virgin and onsight as they come.
Con, Aidan and Niall continued further to explore the 4th line (there turned out to be another one – the 4th one seen on the picture is actually 5th) . Con promised to give details of their adventure at a later time. I guarantee it will be spicey too!
After not so long the slope has gotten quite steep, to the point we had to take off the snowshoes, and continue without.
I decided to be a littele bit more useful and took lead on breaking the trail. A step at a time 😉
When we finally got to the base we were happy to see that 1st pitch was fully formed, and seemed quite amenable, at around WI3.
While P1 was not hard, it was composed of slushy snow, making it hard to place protection. No problem to Paul, he took the lead and finished it in no time with ice screw belay at the flat enough platform at the top of the pitch.
P2 was a different story. As steep and as long as they get, albeit there seemed to be a shortcut available, on the right-hand side. This would mean however climbing on questionable quality frozen snow.
Paul decided to tackle the line head-on, going to the left-hand side (so he wouldn’t be climbing directly above me).
P2 turned out to be 30m long and ended with half-hanging belay. We thought it to be WI4+. No steps or hooks, steep and sustained (but not exactly WI5).
The view from that point was already incredible – and we were just approaching half-height point.
It was at this point that I got quite severe hot aches. Just something that has to happen for me at some point. I guess part of the game. Never a pleasant sensation.
After a quick recovery break, we quickly re-stacked the ropes, and Paul was on his way up again. This pitch was also around 25m long, at around WI4.
While I had no problems (fitness-wise) following him at any point, it was clear to me at this point that I’m so out of practice that my head game isn’t just there for leading those grades. There are no prizes for injuring oneself, and with Paul being happy to cruise up, we let it be that way.
Top of Pitch 3 was a ‘nice’ mini-cave with another screw belay. This time however the surface was flat, giving a comfortable stance.
Getting out of caves always produces spectacular photos, and this time it wasn’t any different.
The first part of P4 (WI4+, 50m) was – steep, sustained and had no hooks or steps whatsoever, producing quality climbing. 2nd part of it was much worse, being more wet made placing protection challenges.
Also, the belay situation wasn’t exactly clear – as Paul wasn’t sure if we’d have enough rope to make it to the trees on the right-hand side of the pitch. Luckily the math worked out in our favor – and with few meters to spare I promptly followed.
Way down was fairly straightforward – we used the trees on the right-hand side (we mostly climbed on the left-hand side of the falls). Other than a clusterfck of rope tangle on the first abseil, it went smooth without rope’s knot getting stuck anywhere.
Descent in total was 3, almost full rope lenghts abseils.
- from a tree at the top of P4 – 50m to the level of the cave
- from a tree to the top of P1 55m, to top of P1.
- abalakov ice thread from top of p1, full 60m to the end of the rope, top of the ascent slope.
From there a long walk down the steep slope to the path.
Since we don’t know the route’s name, but definitely must have been climbed in the past, we just called it L1, WI4+, 145m.
P1 – WI3, 40m
P2 – WI4+, 30m
P3- WI4, 25m
P4 – WI4, 50m
The climb was amazing, and at least this year, the far right hand side of it gives even more challenging and steep climbing – especially by the top – where a stunning pillar has formed. Unfortunately (or luckily?) it was all wet and fairly thin at this point in the season.
Tomorrow we are likely to go back to that area and try one of the other lines there.