Sunday, September 2, 2012

In defense of late summer skiing... (Illustrated with some photos from Frostisen in late August)

Its three months since most skiers here in Norway called the season "done". Most people I speak to about skiing at this time of year are incredulous and more often than not I actually find myself defending these outings. Ha! People don't know what they're missing out on!

Some locals laugh and roll their eyes at the prospect of skiing in late August thinking that the amount of effort involved in the approach hike doesn't really balance with the payoff in turns, others consider the idea of skiing short summer lines as being contrived and others still are simply more focussed on enjoying more traditional summer activites like mountain biking or climbing. In my opinion this third view is the only real valid excuse for not skiing in mid summer.

Firstly, hiking in the summer time is widely accepted, no one really finds the idea of walking around in snowless mountains absurd. Skiing at this time of year can simply be viewed as an extension of hiking: you enjoy some views in the mountains and get a bit of excercise (perfectly reasonable right?), but then instead of tramping back down hill once you've reached the summit you get to ski! And for anyone out there who thinks that ski gear is too heavy- lighten up! My typical setup for these outings weighs about the same as many people who choose to hike with monster day packs complete with stoves and thermos.

Secondly, in terms of this sort of skiing being "contrived", well call me overly excited if you want but I think 700 metres of vertical (about what you can expect for late summer touring in northern scandinavia) is totally worthwhile. Maybe its got something to do with my upbringing in snowpoor Australia, then again many people are satisfied with that amount of vert in mid winter conditions.

Anna doesn't really need any of the above points explained to her, so she makes a great partner for this sort of outing.

We left Sør Skjomen around 10am and hiked up on a muddy access road and then through fields of heather, at about 1050 metres we were able to swap over to skis and link up a few permanent snow fields separated by bands of rock. Around 12.30 we finally crossed the morraine onto the glacier proper, and were greeted with some pretty stunning views. The mountain gods were smiling down on us with bluebird skies and travel conditions were near ideal. A lack of familiarity with the glacier caused up to rope up for the enitre ascent, but any crevasses were super obvious, either way it was good practice for roped skinning.

We threaded our way between crevasses on the SW Face then had lunch on the northern ridge, looking out of a sea of peaks in Ballangen which aren't skied all too often on account of the lengthy approaches which they require.

The summit logbook was all soggy from the last rain, but peeling back the pages carefully we were surprised to see that the last people to have made an entry in the book was an entire year before.

We enjoyed about 500 vertical metres on the decent skiing down the steeper SE face then skated back across the flat section of the glacier, smiling the whole way after another great summer ski descent.

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