16 February 2009

Extended winter fun weekend

Had three old friends from the UK visiting last weekend. Simon, Mike and Dave came to climb ice, drink beer, and catch up. They flew in to a snow storm on Thursday evening arriving at 1.30am, two hours late. Getting to bed at 3am we had a bit of a late start on Friday morning when we headed towards Voss and climbed in a new spot called Bergensdalen. The weather was stunning blue skies and there was a fair bit of fresh snow.

There was even ice outside the window of the Lair and the fjord was frozen

We found the valley almost by accident and traipsed up through the woods to the hillside. The trek up was not as bad as I had imagined although Dave pointed out that was because I wasn't breaking trail! Got to the bottom of a very nice looking route, two pitches, just off vertical in the first and a bit more broken up in the upper. Dave opted to lead the first pitch which turned out to be much steeper and more sustained than it looked - a great lead. I followed up and then ticked off the top pitch while Simon relaxed at the base and Mike took some amazing photos. I topped out just as the sun set and we scurried back to the car and drove to Hemsdal, bumping into Katharine, Cecilie and Lyndsey in Voss.

Me cranking steep ice in Bergensdalen (Photo c. Mike Hutton)

Dave topping out as the sunsets on an awesome day

We had booked a cabin just south of Hemsdal and when we arrived there, Sandy and Rich were already settled in with a big fire going. Headed to bed after a couple of bottles of wine and some pizza.

Simon "I'm in semi-retirement" Dale

Cabin near Hemsedal, note the very scary looking WI6 in the background

Next day was super-cold (-15c) and we headed south to a new venue. Had directions which turned out to be spot on and we found it no trouble. It was a small gorge with several fat, steep ice falls and a couple of mixed lines. There were also some other people climbing there - shock horror! including to crazy french guys climbing some very radical mixed lines - lots of dry tooling and icicle smashing and a couple of Norwegian guys, doing what they do best and hogging the easiest line with a top rope.

Rich (top) and Sandy (bottom) on some great steep ice near Gol. Temperture -12c

Because the obvious warm-up (is that the correct term when its -15?) was taken I opted for a mixed line which turned out to be fairly easy, despite the fact that the ice was very brittle and there was a gnarly step sideways at the top. Then moved on to a steep line straight up the main fall. Wasn't sure if I could do it, but doing something seemed better than freezing to death and in the end it went fine. Pretty sustained but fairly straight forward. The day wore on, everyone except "Simon, I am in temporary retirement", ticked a few routes in between standing around and shivering and chatting. A good day and a good spot to know about - but bloody cold.

Dangerous stuff this ice climbing lark

Headed back to the cabin and meet up with the ladies who had been skiing. A big chilli was made and a considerable amount of wine was consumed. At one point a bottle was being opened every ten minutes! Eventually we stumbled off to bed.

An evening of fine food and wine

Next morning it was dumping fresh snow but at least it was warmer. We cleaned the cabin and headed to rjukenfoss, just outside of Hemsdal. A small gorge with a load of lines, all fairly straight forward but good fun. At first glance it looked a bit disappointing and choosy. The water in the pool had frozen and then the level had dropped, Shattering the bottom of many of the lines and making them look rather suspect. There was even discussion about whether we should cross the pool, but we did and it was fine. Geared up and everyone picked off lines and Simon even came out of retirement to bag a sweet route up the middle of one of the falls.

Rjukenfoss near Hemsedal. Ice fun for everyone

Then we headed back to the Big B. Driving conditions were pretty crappy and it was carnage on the roads with all sorts of cars in ditches, up hedges, in gardens etc. We had a few slides but nothing to bad, making it back in time for an evening of extreme sports vids.

By Monday both Dave and I felt opted to abuse all the fresh powder that had fallen. Drove to Myrkdalen and Simon and Mike headed to climb ice while we went to the ski centre. Had an awesome day of fresh powder and absolutely no people, except a small group of Japanese (how odd is that?) who predictably never went off piste. The weather was pretty shitte as was the visibility, but the powder was excellent and we carved it up, hardly stopping all day and grabbing the last t-bar with jelly like legs.

...and after the climbing they went and played in the snow - day at Myrkdalen

The boys stayed at the lair while I went to work on Tuesday and then headed back Tuesday eve. It was great to see them and great to climb ice. Found some excellent new locations, did some good lines and I can safely say that the rat is fed and back in his box, at least for a couple of weeks.

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