2019 - Year in Review - part 2 - Ski Traverses and Lots of Granite
So I meant to post this in March but 2020 distracted me. This is a continuation of my 2019 Pre Covid review. If you are intersted in the first part of this post it can be found here
Picking up where I left off! After many years of moving around to different places I finally feel like I’m beginning to settle down and build a community in Tromsø. This became really clear to me this summer when I suddenly need a place to live and all of my friends just took me in. After a quick phone call Manu drove into town and we moved all my stuff into my friend Manu’s basement on the 15th of May. I had to guide on the 16-17th of May before I drove to Narvik to meet Manu and Kaj for a big ski traverse. Kaj had drawn up a route that started at his house in downtown and ended in Sørfjord. I hope to write a more detailed trip report later, but we called the route the Haute NOT. It’s a play on pronunciation. If you pronounce Haute very poorly it can sound like “hawt” which again is poor pronunciation of Hot... And it was very warm on this traverse, plus I brought my jean shorts which are quite hawt! The whole traverse ended up being 189 KM long with 16000 meters elevation gain. We skied 21 summited different peaks over 1000 meters and stayed at 6 different NOT(Narvik og- omgegn turistforeningsens) cabins.
It was great to turn off my phone for a week and just be in the mountains. The mountain landscape in the border region between Norway and Sweden is different than the normal coastal mountains of northern Norway. It was also good to spend a week with Manu and Kaj in the mountains here in Norway to make sure our personalities worked well together before we bought our tickets for a 6-week trip to South America. After the Haute NOT I went back to Lyngen to finish up the a few final days of guiding before my summer began.
After working all winter, I was excited to take a break for a while. I started by heading to Lofoten with Johan for a bit of climbing. A few other climbers from Tromsø and Bodø were there as well so we had a social time at the camp at Kalle and managed to have a few good days of climbing despite touchy weather. In addition to repeating a bunch of classics we each tried out some offwith routes. Luckily, I didn’t trust Johans rack beta and I was able to borrow a few extra extra-large cams from Jonas and Eik.
I took a big whipper onto a number 5 camalot trying to figure out the moves to Vågårisset. In the end I was able to do all the moves, but I didn’t send. Hardest part seemed to be climbing around the cam without kicking it out of the crack. Probably easier to shuffle one cam above you in the crack but that feels to easy, will have to come back some other time! After patiently belaying me we rappelled back to the base so Johan could have a go at Lofoten reality. Despite a really impressive fight where he almost sent the roof crack he ended up falling too. He must have been upside down for 10 minutes on lead trying different beta before he finally gave in. Luckily we were under the roof as it started to pour down on us, but we still got soaked as we rapped down and had to bushwhack back to camp.
After a few days in Tromsø, Jørgen and I headed to Chamonix for the two weeks of what was the best climbing trip of my life so far. I have spent a little of time in the Chamonix valley in the winter many years ago, but this was Jørgen’s first time here and my first time in the summer. With the rack ready for all kinds adventure we had booked an apartment in Chamonix sud for the first week of the trip leaving our itinerary open for the second week. The plan was to acclimatize, adjust our plans to the weather and climb whatever was in condition. All in all, the weather was outstanding, if not too hot! Though I had some ambitions of doing some 4000 meter peaks or some more mixed lines, because of a heat wave we ended up rock climbing the whole trip.
There was a storm on the evening we arrived, and the weather forecast was a little unstable for the first day, so we decided to begin our acclimatization on the Aiguille rouge. Knowing we had a good long term forecast we decide to continue with a gradual acclimatization by taking the Aiguille du Midi up and did a quick trip on the Cosmiques Arete. We thought we had been waiting in long lines but only later that week did we realize how few people were on the route this day. Climbing in Tromsø we are usually happy to see people when we were out climbing as crowds are never an issue! We had been warned about the crowds, so that night we had dinner with Magnus, Cecilie and Isaac who were happy to give us all the beta on how to be first in line on classic routes like the Rebufat Baquet (200m 6b) on the south face of the Aiguille du Midi. The next morning, we got the first lift, harness on, racked up, ready to race to the base of the route. Though we were first on the route we soon had several parties climbing behind us and two parties rappelled down over us… Bienvenue a Chamonix! Despite the crowds we had a fantastic time on this classic route, a highlight was definitely rappelling of the top of the route down to a balcony of tourists. From here it was a short walk to have another beer before we took the gondola down to town.
Starting to feel acclimatized we headed up the aiguille du midi lift again. This time we were going to overnight at the Cosmiques Refuge, so we had more time to climb and not have to stress about making the lift back to town. We headed over to the Points du lachenal where we climbed the Contamines Route ( 250m 6a+). It had the crack symbol in the guidebook so we knew it would be good! We got a little off route at first before we made it back on route before the crux pitches. I think it was all the bolted anchors and the rockfax topo, we probably should have gotten the French guidebook. Nonetheless the route was fantastic! We rappelled back down the route and headed back up the glacier to the Cosmiques refuge. I took my phone out to call the refuge to let them know we were a little late for dinner and I guess I ended up dropping it as I realized my phone was missing when we got to the refuge. We ate dinner first and Jørgen agreed to go back out to find my phone. Amazingly we found it on the glacier just as it was getting dark. The next day we had an early start so we could make it over to pointe Adolphe Rey, climb a route and walk back to the midi lift. We wanted to climb the bettembourg/thiverge (200m 6b) but there was an Italian couple who were slowly aiding the first pitch when we arrived. Instead of getting stuck behind them we climbed the Voie Salluard (200m 6a) just to the right. On the way back over the glacier we really felt the heat. We were probably a little too cheap when it came to buying water from the Cosmiques Refuge and we hadn’t brought a stove to melt our own. Dehydrated we made it back to the lift.
After 5 climbing days we decided to take a rest day in the valley so our skin could recover a bit before climbing some more. In addition to the skin on my hands the Chamonix granite had torn through my Tc Pros so I was desperate to find a cobbler to get them resoled. Then we took the montvers train like proper tourists to try to escape the head down in the valley. The next day Derek drove from Leysin to climb with us. As a party of three we headed up to the Pilier rouge on the Aiguille du Blatiere. We climbed the L'eau Rance d'Arabie (250m 6b+) which was our first Voie Piola of the trip. We decided to block lead. After a round of rock paper scissors it thwat decided that Derek would lead the pitch that transitions straight from snow to 6b slab climbing. Jørgen won the next the next round of pitches including an incredibly handcrack leaving me the final pitches and the bolted offwidth and another easy pitch to the top of the route. This was our last night in the apartment. With the good weather set to continue we decided to head up to the Envers refuge for a couple of days. We stashed our extra gear in Chamonix and took the train. Following the French maps that I downloaded my phone we ended up climbing the wrong ladders up from the Mer du glace. Something we only realized when we arrived at the sign saying that these ladders were closed and really dangerous. We thought it was tricky getting to the first ladders, in hindsight it was obvious they had removed the bottom ladder to make this route difficult to access. We made it up the Envers Refuge and asked the hut gaurdiens for breakfast 03:00 in the morning before starting off on the Le Soleil Rendevouz avec la Lune. An amazing route, 25 pitches, 850m 6a+ up the east face of the Grepon. We climbed really efficiently by headlamp before the sun came up, but we got a little off route after crossing the couloir filled with snow. Once the sun came up it was really hot, and we were baking in the sun. We topped out and began the 25 rappels which took a long time. Luckily, I had cellphone reception, so I was able to call the hut gardiens who kindly put out dinner for us. Though we had a good weather the next day we were pretty exhausted having been out for almost 24 hours, so we took a rest day in the sun making good work of the whisky bottle we brought up. The next day we climbed a route behind the hut before heading back to Chamonix to make plans for our final days of climbing.
After deliberating on what to do with are last few days we decided to head up and try the traverse des Drus. It was another train up to the mer du glace and another long ladder approach up to the Charpoa Refuge. Here we were surprised to meet the hut gaurdien with her 6-month-old baby! The cabin here was super nice and cosy, reminded me of the climbing cabin on kvaløya, only staffed. We got as much route beta as we could before going to bed early. The gaurdien had said that many parties where much slower than they planned, so we decided are goal was to make it down in time to eat dinner in the hut the next day! We woke up at 2:00 am and despite the storm then we decided to start the approach hoping it would clear up as it was our last chance to climb. Luckily the weather improved and conditions where fairly good until we topped out the grand drus when we spend an hour in a whiteout buzzing with static electricity looking for the rappel route. It was a cool old school route, lots of route finding, chimneys, looserock with a few sections of climbing. We had been climbing well on our schedule but the hour we lost looking for the rappel route was cutting into our deadline to make dinner. While we were on the last rappel, I phoned the gaurdien again and said we would be there in an hour where we arrived to a warm dinner and some beers!
We walked out the next day, Jørgen went straight to the airport while I took the train to Leysin where it was good to catch up with some old friends for a couple days before heading back to Norway. While in Leysin I joined derek for a local adventure where we climbed a new Trad route on the tour du Mayen. I don’t climb much limestone, mainly granite trad climbing so it was a proper adventure, even though the route was maybe 60 meters 6b. If you go to Leysin for climbing, you should probably stick to the classic sport routes!
Back in Tromsø I had agreed to work a couple weeks at Friluftsbutikken while the owner was on vacation. Of course, this is when we had some of the best weather of the summer, so I made good use of the midnight sun. Thankfully I have several friends who are up for climbing in the middle of the night, so I had a trip up to Baugen and few days on Storstolpan in between work shifts. Nobody seemd to mind that I was a little tired while selling outdoor gear that week . While it was a great to spend two weeks climbing in the alps, it is nice to have the granite of Kvaløya so close!
I feel like this is beginning to drag on so here comes the pause – in the next round we get the South America Ski Safari ;) and probably the rest of 2019. Hoping to write more but sometimes otherthings get in the way. It took almost two months(two months to write it, 5 more months to find the pictures and post it) before I came with part two. Who has made it this far? Are people intersted in the big picture or would you prefer to read more details abvout shorter trips?