Friday, December 20, 2013

Mørkholla season premiere

Lots of moody, changeable weather over the past week has seen some rapid changes to the snowpack around Narvik. From skiing pow one day, followed the next day by sastrugi and then a day of isothermic spring style glop before a fresh storm gives us more powder.

Yesterday gave a nice window in the weather and I squeezed in some fun skiing at higher elevations around work. First up was a lap in Mørkholla with Trond. The entrance is quite a friendly affair at present, just a steepish (45°) roll over followed by some wind buffed pow lower in the bowl interspersed with a few patches of crust in exposed areas. The lower elevations are far less wind affected and offered the best turns of the day.

Lotsa sastrugi above treeline on S and W aspects

Trond and his panoramic ghost near 2de Toppen

Mountains, fjords and some pretty colours in the sky

First lap for the season in the local favourite Mørkholla ("Dark Hole", so named because it doesn't get any direct sunlight 'til early spring)

This little chutelette on the backside of 2de toppen is getting ripe.
This was followed by another solo, headlamp-illuminated lap on the backside of Linken in the early twilight of a mid-afternoon polar dusk. Then work. Then back out again in the evening for a bout of technical, interval skinning with a few of the local fellas.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

An all-time start to the season

I arrived back in Norway three weeks ago to the best early season conditions I've ever encountered. My first ski of the northern season on November 21st (after arriving back in Narvik at midnight the night before) was a lap from Linken which usually isn't filled in until mid January. There were 1000+ metre ski descents to be had without only a few easily avoidable rocky patches. I was stunned.

quite a bit of snow so far in northern Norway- this is from a cat cutting at the local ski resort
And then it started snowing again! For two weeks straight regular snowfall topped things up and made for some terrific skiing. Daily laps in untouched snow so early in the season are not to be taken for granted.

A few rain events created some short term instabilities, but were essentially key for locking the snowpack down and ensuring that it wasn't blown willy-nilly in subsequent storms. Currently the conditions above treeline are seriously wind affected, with stiff wind slabs and sastrugi being predominant. With a bit of searching though, there is plenty of fun skiing to be had at higher altitudes, the best snow however is around the treeline in more sheltered areas.

views over town
more views over town

I've been getting an average of ca. 6000 metres of skiing per week since arriving back, much of it on tours I usually wouldn't contemplate until much later in the season. The light is kinda tricky at this time of year, with darkness descending at 2pm it is vital to have a fully charged headlamp if you are heading out after work. Unless you're lucky and have clear skies, which means you get to skin up under the Aurora Borealis. The faint light also makes photography problematic, especially for someone like me who is typically just using my phone camera. On the occasions when I make it out during daylight hours, the soft arctic glow of the sky at this time of the year makes for a pretty stunning atmosphere.

Yesterday I got in a great outing: I met a herd of reindeer at 1250 metres, skied one of my favourite lines down to Forsnesvatnet and got in some practice at replacing the cord on my Aliens without gloves in -15c temps.

local reindeer and a glowing sky

the backside of 3de toppen

plenty of wind affected snow up high

my line for the day: the diagonal ramp in the centre of the image

Beisfjordtøtta massif