Sunday, May 17, 2015

Hinterlands Traverse

The idea was to make a 2 day traverse starting in Håkvikdalen and finishing at Katterat with an overnight at Lossistua. Our intended route was pretty exciting- sticking in the alpine for about 72 of the 75km route, following a few ridgelines, crossing a couple glaciers, descending a few couloirs and some open faces. The forecast for bluebird weather was encouraging in the planning stage as decent visibilty was going to be a key factor.

The luxury of DNT cabins means that traverses like this don't require lugging a bunch of heavy camping gear along. The 7 gram key effectively replacing the need for tents, sleeping bags, pads, stoves and fuel. So the only difference in my pack contents was some extra food and a sleeping bag liner.

All the gear for a 75ish km and 6000ish metre skimo traverse
As is want to happen, we were forced to abandon our perfectly planned route on day one on account of the weather never really clearing. This was pretty frustrating at the time, but in hindsight its just this sort of forced improvisation which makes traverses like this one start feeling like some sort of adventure.

Day one: a traversing traverse
The bus driver on the 7am bus up Håkvikdalen was nice enough to take us a little bit further than the scheduled route, dropping us off just near the trailhead. A few hundred metres of walking brought us to snowline and we were soon skinning up Sandviktind. There was still a bit of cloud cover about the summits, but we were pretty certain it would clear up within a few hours. By the time we reached the summit of Sandviktind, 1300 metres and two hours later, visibility was down to about 10 metres and our proposed route down the south face, which involved skirting around a cornice and skiing a reasonably steep unknown face, suddenly seemed pretty foolhardy. We waited around for about 10-15 minutes hoping for a quick clearing which would give us an overview so we could start the ski. 

Skinning into the white

 The weather window never came and we made the decision to ski back the way we had come up and figure out another plan. And so began an arduous few hours of traversing through "north norwegian trouble terrain", rotten snow, thick stands of birch trees with interlocking branches- the whole affair was a real drain on my motivation and at one point I suggested to Micke that we just call it quits and head back to Narvik and get an early start the next day and do a longer day trip. We continued on, more in resignation than excitement, from Håkvikdalen over to Skamdalen and up to Nihkejavri and over the pass directly west of Kuniarcohkka and then a traversing descent down to Lossistua. The day involved about 40-45 kilometres and 2800 metres, of which about 1/4 was spent skiing fall line.

This photo shows what much of the terrain for the next few hours looked like...

Proper maze skiing, piecing together patches of snow in Skamdalen.

Finally in the alpine again, skinning up Skamdalsbakken

A murky Kuinarcohkka and our pass on the lookers right.

Day two: the reward
In stark contrast to the previous day, perfect conditions made for an awesome day which was memorable due to the quality of the skiing and the terrific views rather than the lack thereof. We skinned up to Storsteinsfjellet- the highest mountain in the region, and booted up the steep summit slopes. Our hopes of rapping from the summit were foiled by the cliff being about 30-40 metres and our rope not being long enough, so we wandered down the east ridge for about 200 metres from where we could ski the NE glacier. This was a fantastic ski descent, close to 1000 metres of rolling glacier, it ought to be skied a lot more often, but its remote nature means it doesn't see a whole lot of traffic.

Lossistua- our home for the night.

Micke skinning towards Storsteinsfjellet- Kuinarcohkka in the background

Fitting crampons for the bootpack up the slopes to the summit of Storsteinsfjellet.

Looking west from the summit of Storsteinsfjellet

And to the east...

The awesome NE glacier of Storsteinsfjellet

Another skin up the south side of Ristacohkka was followed by a short but engaging ski into the western bowl. Then a final, short climb up to the northen summit. We skied the famed Sørlenning down to Hunddalshytta and then skate out to Katterat for the train ride back to Narvik.

Skinning up Rista, with our glacier descent directly behind Micke

Ristacohkka from the south

Our silly line into the western bowl of Ristacohkka (if you look carefully you can see Micke just below the crux)

Nearing Ristacohkka, the last peak of the traverse

Micke in Sørlenning

Micke making Sørlenning look easy on tired legs

Pretty good ski conditions in Sørlenning for mid May.

 Stats for the day were about 2500 metres and 35 km. The map below shows the route we actually ended up taking.

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