Saturday, March 15, 2014
Working for the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI), we were delivering the 6 day Level 3 Mountain Safety Course. On successful completion of this course Instructors can lead groups off piste but within the confines of the resort boundary or patrolled area.
We spent the six days skiing off-piste in some pretty warm spring like conditions, while looking at a variety of course related topics. The main areas being: avalanche awareness, leading groups off piste, transceiver searches (pictured), skinning and snowshoeing, navigation and personal off piste skiing/fitness etc.
Despite the warm conditions we did find some good transformed powder high on north facing aspects along with some good spring snow when timed correctly. It's fair to say that there was also a fair bit of breakable crust, and chopped up crud to test ourselves with as well...
Thursday, February 27, 2014
We spent the first two days at the popular ice "cragging" venue of Krokan. This area sports loads of single pitch icefalls varying between 10 and 30 metres, allowing plenty of climbing to be achieved in a day. It is also one of the highest venues which has been vital in the last few days.
Here we ticked routes from WI3-WI5, before visiting for a second day for some dry tooling and mixed climbing from M4-M7, in the famous 'Fission Bowl'.
The temperature dropped a little on Tuesday and we decided to visit the Upper Gorge to climb 'Bakveien' WI4 and 'Sabotørfossen' WI5 once again. Both failed to dissapoint with good ice (but wet) for the most part.
Next up was a visit to Sector Ozzimosis, which although limited allowed Dave to lead some routes at around WI3 before finishing on the classic 'Ozzimosis' WI4. We also spent some time practicing placing screws from a good position and building 'abolokov' anchors to use in the future.
Resting the arms today, in preparation for our final climbing day in Norway tomorrow. Just so happens to coincide with the anniversary of 'Operation Gunnerside' raid on Vemork 71 years ago.
For those visiting Rjukan in the next week or so, here is a conditions update:
Krokan: High so has survived the thaw reasonably well. Care needed at the base of the routes as the track is being washed out by the river. Kjøkkentrappa, Topp, Gaustaspøkelse, Bullen all ok but wet. Smaller pillars have cracks or have collapsed. Jomfrua and Fyrstikka both have holes in them as the ice starts to degrade.
Upper Gorge: Bakveien, Sabotørfossen both ok, bit thin at the top of the former. Nye Vemorkfoss isn't recommended, rotten ice, lots of water flowing and large holes affecting stability. Juvsøyla, was still there last time that I looked but melting at the base could be an issue as well as wet sluffs from the slopes above the gorge. Lipton, I haven't seen for a while and suspect that it may good if it has survived these temperatures, but it does need to get colder first. Trappfoss, was insulated by snow prior to the thaw and as such the ice is in poor condition. Definitely not recommended at the moment. Rjukanfossen was in poor (thin) condition.
Vemork: Not recommended at all at the moment. Ice is poor and degraded.
Lower Gorge and Rjukan Centre: Haven't been there for a few days. For Alle Menn was cracked and detached from the rock and as such could be prone to collapse. Tjønnstadbergfossen looked thin.
Ozzimosis: Limited but the route Ozzimosis remains in good condition. Savada ok despite the holes!
Monday, February 24, 2014
With some experience of mountaineering and climbing in Scotland, we decided to head straight out to Rjukan Centre climbing the classic line of 'Tjønnstadbergfossen' WI4. This gave us ample varied pitches from WI2 through to WI4 combined with an abseil descent.
Conditions were fairly good despite the constant snowfall, and relatively mild temperatures.
Next up was a visit to the 'Upper Gorge' one of the areas which makes Rjukan so famous. Here we climbed a variety of pitches, but the highlight was an ascent of 'Bakveien' WI4. The second pitch of which has a slightly Scottish feel on snow ice.
Tim climbed this confidently and it was an obvious choice to take in the Rjukan classic 'Sabotørfossen' WI5. This is arguably Rjukan's version of 'Point 5' Gully on Ben Nevis. This yielded to some determined but good quality climbing, especially on the final steep pitch (the start of which is pictured above).
This week I have been joined by Dave and Jaimella just as the temperatures have soared, fingers crossed for some improving weather for the final week. Check out Ice Climbing in Rjukan on Facebook for updates...
Monday, February 17, 2014
Arriving with Kris, Karen and Derek we found unseasonably warm conditions combined with massive and frequent dumps of snow. Route choice was limited and the treat of avalanche was ever present in the steep sided Upper Gorge.
Gradually conditions have consolidated, and the conditions are getting slightly colder. It remains to be seen how this will affect conditions, I suspect that some routes will become unstable as the ice is detached from the rock and tension in the ice will increase as the temperature drops.
Our visit to the crag yesterday was delayed as we ended up digging a Norwegian local from an avalanche in his garden. A considerable volume of snow had avalanched off his roof burying him ~3m down alongside an adjacent building. Luckily, due to a rapid response from the local fire and rescue service in Rjukan and some passing climbers he was retrieved successfully. A positive story but not how we had intended to start the day..!
Despite the tricky conditions we have enjoyed some great climbing at Krokan and in the Upper Gorge climbing Kjøkkentrappa WI4, Topp WI5, De kaller meg fjård M7, Gaustaspøkelse WI4, Bullen WI3, Jomfrua WI4, Fyrstikka WI5, Bakveien WI4, Nye Vemorkfoss WI5, Sabotørfossen WI5.
Check out the Ice Climbing album on Facebook for up to date photos from this week...
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Gavin and Alex were pretty keen to make the most of it though and I joined them in Fort William for two days climbing and mountaineering.
On Monday we made steady progress up the Zig Zags on Gearr Aonach before heading towards Stob Coire nan Lochan. The snow was deep and the going hard but we made good progress in the conditions.
Not much evidence of people climbing in the corrie due to the deep snow and avalanche hazard. Scabbard Chimney and Spectre have both been popular as they are slightly easier at the moment with good neve.
Tuesday saw widespread snow to low levels and we decided to head to Glen Coe in search of an objective that could be accomplished in even more snow. North Buttress was an obvious choice with an abseil descent rather than taking the potentially loaded slopes above. Unfortunately for us a minor injury in the car park meant we diverted to the Ice Factor instead! Gavin is pictured above doing some training on steep ice for next time...
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
With a couple of days guiding planned with Gavin and Alex I had just one day spare to get a route in. Luckily Keith Ball was around and we hatched a plan to head into Stob Coire nan Lochan in some fairly wild weather on Sunday.
Breaking trail into the corrie we eventually made it up to a gearing up spot and viewed a totally plastered crag. There was no doubt that any of our chosen objectives would be in condition, and with no excuses we jumped straight onto 'Inclination' VII,8.
The route yielded to some determined digging for gear and belays and some great climbing by Keith up the crux wall, especially in the conditions with lots of spindrift. Brief video here on Vimeo - https://vimeo.com/86490146
Friday, February 07, 2014
As such it was essential to take a flexible approach, and this week has been as varied as it has been fun. We started off with a days skiing on Les Grands Montets, with an introduction to off piste skiing and the essential skills of transceiver, shovel and probe use. The next day we headed over to St Gervais getting in some ski touring in great conditions. The summits if the Aiguille du Midi not to mention Mont Blanc were shrouded in cloud all day while the foehn was active in the high mountains.
Following this we switched from skis to travelling on foot, climbing in Cogne and in Chamonix for the remain days. Conditions in Cogne are good, but some careful route choice is required following some big dumps of snow. Approach to many areas isn't easy at the moment with some hefty trail breaking required.
Now frantically packing to head back to the UK for some Scottish Winter and Rjukan ice climbing...