Rjukan: Day Six

Feeling refreshed this morning after a relaxed day, a long sauna session and an enormous meal yesterday, we headed down into the depths of the upper gorge to tick the classic Rjukanfossen.

We’d been led to believe that the approach involved multiple abseils, but in reality it’s a cruisy slope of fifty-degree névé at the moment and was therefore an easy downclimb providing straightforward access to a secluded part of the gorge.

The natural amphitheatre of this bowl at the end of the gorge is a big sink for cold air, and with the temperature up at the road already being -4, it was pretty frigid down at the bottom and we were glad to get moving.

Matt heads up P1 of Rjukan. Note Lipton in the background. Photo by Caspian James.
Matt heads up P1 of Rjukan. Note Lipton in the background. Photo by Caspian James.

The first pitch of Rjukanfossen provides straightforward climbing, but the ice is currently quite brittle due to the low temperatures and was dinnerplating all over the place. Once the ice narrows off, the route heads into an atmospheric chimney with a column of ice reminiscent of Vanishing Gully on the Ben. A cosy belay in a cave slightly above this marks the end of the second pitch, with just fifty more metres of straightforward ice to climb to the top.

Matt comes up to the cool little cave belay on P2 of Rjukanfossen.
Matt comes up to the cool little cave belay on P2 of Rjukanfossen.
Ed leads off on the second pitch of Rjukanfossen. Photo by the guys opposite on Lipton.
Ed leads off on the second pitch of Rjukanfossen. Photo by the guys opposite on Lipton.
Ed heading up P2 of Rjukanfossen. Photo by Caspian James.
Ed heading up P2 of Rjukanfossen. Photo by Caspian James.

The route was good, and deserving of its three-star rating, but definitely not deserving of its WI4 grade. Probably more like WI3, and not a hard WI3 at that. Definitely well worth doing though – an iconic route with great positions and atmosphere.

From the top of Rjukanfossen, we climbed back down into the gorge down the approach gully. Before long we were jolted from the monotonous down-climbing by the furious roar of fifty tonnes of water ice smashing into the floor just around the corner. A guided party were being taken up the savagely difficult Lipton, when the crux free-hanging curtain had detached with the guide on it. He was experienced enough not to have placed any gear in the curtain itself, and fortunately got off lightly – getting some good air time swinging back into the left hand wall, and losing both his tools that were stuck in the now detached curtain. The team rappelled swiftly back to flat area of ground at the start of the route, which was so filled with debris from the collapse that it was now literally a metre higher than it had been when they’d left it initially. It was a sobering reminder of how unpredictable a medium ice is, and of how many factors in ice climbing are completely outside of the climbers’ control. The guide on the route was experienced enough for sure, but lucky to come away unscathed nonetheless.

After a good while spent gawping at what had just happened and making sure that everyone involved was alright, Matt and I went for a quick trip up Verdens Ende, a cool little route with two interesting pitches interspersed with 100m of mellow terrain. This little interruption ruins what would otherwise be an excellent route. The first pitch provides steep, featured technical climbing, and the last provides either some interesting climbing sandwiched between fat ice and a huge overlapping fin of rock, or an airy finish up a steep cigar. The cigar finish was a dripping, chandeliered mess today, so we opted for the original finish.

Throwing some shapes on the engaging first pitch of Verdens Ende. Photo by Caspian James.
Throwing some shapes on the engaging first pitch of Verdens Ende. Photo by Caspian James.
Matt about to begin the infuriating 100m of mellow snow slope between the two interesting pitches of Verdens Ende.
Matt about to begin the infuriating 100m of mellow snow slope between the two interesting pitches of Verdens Ende.
Matt heading up the brittle last pitch of Verdens Ende.
Matt heading up the brittle last pitch of Verdens Ende.

Ed and Caspian attempted Blindtarmen, further down the gorge, but were turned back by atrocious ice conditions halfway up the route.

Back to the gorge for more fun tomorrow!

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