Rjukan: Day Three

After the Vemork pipes incident on the walk out yesterday, we decided to continue the theme of combat climbing with a speculative mission into the seldom-visited Lower Gorge.

This turned out to be a pretty shocking decision, and after some time spent powder-wading, tripping over concealed branches and logs, and following misleading footprints petering out into cliff-barred dead ends, we eventually found a proper path and skated down sketchily with the aid of an ancient fixed rope.

Finally on the riverbed after searching for the path down into the Lower Gorge... Blue skies overhead!
Finally on the riverbed after searching for the path down into the Lower Gorge… Blue skies overhead!

The guidebook proved less than useless, only providing details of four or five different lines despite there being a fair bit of ice around. Unfortunately, what ice there was was either fairly overgrown or covered in snow. Matt and I climbed the WI5 variation to Swiss Army while Ed and Caspian opted for an unknown line that could potentially have been Pentium? Who knows. We left after one route, dejected. Instead, we headed to Krokan, hoping it might not be as crowded as last time.

Matt heading up steep, brittle ice first thing in the morning on Swiss Army.
Matt heading up steep, brittle ice first thing in the morning on Swiss Army.
Heading back up to the car after Swiss Army. Photo by Caspian James.
Heading back up to the car after Swiss Army. Photo by Caspian James.

Krokan turned out to be fairly crowded for a Monday, with teams hogging a lot of the classics with their top ropes. Top roping is a much less marginalised style of ascent out here compared to the UK, which can be frustrating at times. It’s great to see people out enjoying the ice safely, but it’s infuriating when teams leave their ropes dangling down lines when they’ve gone elsewhere, or don’t offer to let you lead once they’re finished, and instead just lap the same route again and again, hacking out steps and ruining it for people who actually want to lead it. Rant over.

We all gave the proverbial finger to one such team of top rope tough guys and nipped up Jomfrua while they wobbled up next to us, crampons skating and tools ripping. The route provided great climbing on cool, three-dimensional ice – pulling onto the ledge at half height was tricky with wildly dinner-plating ice, but generally the route was in good nick.

For the main course, Matt and I both led the classic Topp, which provided a nervy run out off the deck, where the pillar was too thin and detached to swing tools or kick into, let alone take any safe ice screws. At half height, the route leans back and the climbing becomes less strenuous, but the ice was more brittle and required good technique and a cool head.

Matt on the final steep wall of Topp. Photo by Caspian James.
Matt on the final steep wall of Topp. Photo by Caspian James.
Photo by Caspian James.
Photo by Caspian James.
Throwing funky shapes low down on Topp. Photo by Caspian James.
Throwing funky shapes low down on Topp. Photo by Caspian James.
Myself heading up Topp. Photo by Caspian James.
Myself heading up Topp. Photo by Caspian James.
Nearing the Topp. Photo by Caspian James.
Nearing the Topp. Photo by Caspian James.

In the fading light, Ed and I decided on a sneaky trip up Gaustaspokelse, an interesting little route with a butch, undercut finale due to a lot of the pillars that had been growing being kicked off by traffic over the season. I ended up getting more pumped negotiating this little section than I did on the whole of Topp, which is a grade harder!

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In the meantime, Caspian led Kjokkentrappa with Matt, before Matt took advantage of the fact that we were the last people at the crag, and went for an uncharacteristically un-crowded ascent of Bullen. Satisfied with our day’s climbing, and with darkness now starting to fall, we headed back to the car. More updates tomorrow!

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