Sunday, April 28, 2013

Exploring new lines in Sør Skjomen

Micke has a knack of finding choice lines in the Narvik region which don't feature on most skiers radars- skiing with him usually entails a fair degree of uncertainty about whether or not a line will "go", usually it does. And this is exactly the sort of thing which differentiates a great outing from a good one- setting out without knowing entirely what the day has in store.

Plans were layed for a tour on Friday in Sør Skjomen which Micke described as containing "something steep and most likely never skied before", nothing more needed to be said before I signed up.

Sweaty skintrack up from Skjombotn

Skiing from the rounded 1329m point of Meraftesfjellet down towards Middagsvatnet

Micke ripping some sun affected pow on the first descent

After another quick 300 metre ascent we reached our main objective for the day, a 600 vertical metre couloir on the NE face of Middagstind. We were happy to discover that the entrance wasn't corniced and while the line wasn't as steep as expected the aesthetics were superb.

Huge, towering wall on the left, steep rock studded slope on the right- the line reminded me a lot of the nearby Gagnesrenne.

The snow was a mix of packed powder on top of an old crust in some places and old avy debris in others

Jan Eirik 



The apron at the base of the couloir even offered some pretty views over the fjord

Jan Eirik

We rounded out the day with a few kilometres of hiking back to the car- a tiny price to pay for such a stunning outing.

Days like this are a great reminder of just how many unexplored lines there are in the nearby mountains. Living in Narvik, its wonderful having peaks like Tredjetoppen which offer a convenient and safe bet in terms of having decent skiing but not requiring much of an investment in either time or energy- every ski town has its own "Tredjetoppen", its the peak which you visit when you want to squeeze in some skiing before work at 9am, the peak which you know so well that you can navigate up in a whiteout, the peak where you bump into aquaintances halfway up. The Tredjetoppens of the world are fantastic and I love 'em, but its all these unknown lines like the couloir on Middagstind which get me fired up and psyched for getting out into the mountains tomorrow.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Skiing solo on Senja

My folks visited me here in northern Norway last week and I took a few days off work so that we could drive up to the island of Senja. Over the past few years I've heard many reports of it being one of the most beautiful and dramatic locales in all of Norway, and it totally lived up to expectations. Its kind of like Norway in miniature: wild mountains, deep fjords, fickle weather and locals who speak bizarre dialects which makes communication problematic.

The island is blessed with some of the finest looking couloirs in Scandinavia and I'm looking forward to getting back there in the future to explore some of the steeper lines which it has to offer.

On Tuesday I was eager to burn of some energy with a quick trip and decided to have a crack at Breitind, the highest peak on Senja at 1010 metres. Skinning started by the road, which was hugging the fjord- it was amazing to see that there is still close to half a metre of snow at sea level in Senja, here in Narvik there is nothing below 200 metres.

Mefjord and me.

Breitind's SE face
Some typical early spring "mashed potato snow" down low turned in packed powder above 500 metres. I didn't have a real map with me, but a low res. image on my phone gave me a rough idea of the route ahead, and once I wrapped around the pass just south of the peak the rest of the route was obvious. I skinned up and across some old avy debris to about 900 metres. From here I booted up a disconcertingly shallow snow pack 'til I was about 10 metres from the summit cairn. I decided not to continue on the exposed rock scramble which led the final metres.

Looking down from my high point

Monday, April 15, 2013

Skiing from Storfjellet's West Summit

Thursday promised decent weather and with work not starting until 3pm I joined Micke, Anna and Einar to ski the west face of Storfjellet's west summit. After mentioning the day's plans to some buddies at work, and being met with responses along the lines of "... you're never going to make it back to work in time", I rushed out the door wondering inwardly if our schedule was indeed overly ambitious...

We drove to the regular trailhead in Stublidalen and started skinning up the snowmobile tracks through the forest and then putting a track of our own in above treeline. After a few days of strong winds it wasn't surprising to find that windboard was the predominant type of snow and on a few occasions I found myself wishing for ski crampons.

Einar skinning towards the project of the day.

We followed the regular route: traversing above the lake on the southern facing slopes and continuing to the pass just south of the main summit. From here we departed from the regular route and instead followed the ridge in the opposite direction.

Skinning away from Storfjellet's main summit.

 Micke nearing the West summit

The last 20 metres to gain the ridge were steep snow climbing, but we were able to make our way up without crampons or axes and were greeted with an immense view over the surrounding mountains and fjords in perfectly calm weather. It would've been nice to hang around for a bit and enjoy the setting but the clock was ticking... the time was 1:30 pm, we had an hour to ski down in order for me to make it to work on time.

Micke started tentatively skiing down the face towards a rollover to view the rest of the line, the rest of us following not too far behind. Micke reported that the skiing below the rollover looked so steep that it seemed we had started down the wrong part of the face. So we booted back up to the ridge and headed further towards skiers left until we found our intended descent route.

The skiing was variable, with a windboard that was supportable for some turns and breakable for others, down lower there was a decent band of drifted powder. The line itself (once we found it) is certainly a local classic, much more sustained and involving much more fall line skiing than the regular descent from Storfjellet's main summit.
The arrow shows our line (and my lack of skills with photo editing).
If you look carefully you can see our tracks.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Farming pow in Evenes

While the rest of the world is in the grips of spring with thinning snowpacks and heavy snow, the skiing here in northern Norway is getting better and better. On monday I headed over to Evenes with Martin, Andrea, Bjørn and Anna to ski Litletind and Stortind. Perfect blue skies and stable pow reminded me why this is my favourite time of the year.

 Bjørn skinning through Renskvannto on the approach

Skinning up the ridge of Stortind gang style

The view from Stortind over the fjord to Gnarvik

Summit vista from Litletind