Saturday, 27 April 2013

Lofoten adventures - no more Fishy Tales

The last 2 weeks have been very frustrating - good weather during the week while I have been working for Petzl, but poor conditions at the weekends... in the meantime lots of big descents have been getting skied, not least the first repeat (29 years later) of Stefano de Benedetti's line on the East face of the Aiguille Blanche de Peuterey - followed a couple of days later by young Brit gun Ben Briggs nipping up for a solo repeat - good effort!

So to ease the FOMO I have sorted through the last few days worth of photos from Lofoten:


THE classic peak of the Lofoten islands for ski touring, this aesthetic summit had barely been skied this winter due to unstable conditions, but as the snowpack had improved greatly over the weekend this was high on our list. The direct line up the first steepening involved a short section of water ice up a narrow couloir, nice to get front points and axe working. Here, Will is just exiting the ice section back on snow again:

Nearing the summit pyramid of Geitgaljern - unfortunately a large group of Germans and their guides were out today (20 people seems quite a lot to me!) so it wasn't quite the wilderness experience it might have been!

Bit of a Scottish feel to things near the top, with heavily rimed rock:

The last 80m to the summit are up a narrow 45º snow tongue between rocks and ice to a small but perfectly formed summit... sadly the clouds had rolled in by this time so the (apparently) amazing views were hidden - on the South side the mountain drops almost vertically down to not far above sea level! - We will just have to come back another day...

Fortunately only a handful of the germans decided to come to the summit, so after a short wait for them to climb we dropped in - perfect deep powder, shame we couldn't see more to really let loose.
Chipie trying to spot the line between the rocks and ice, not so easy in the cloud when everything looks white from above:

Perfect snow though:

The majority of the big group had already started skiing and there was a proper bunfight on the go with bodies & skis everywhere and lots of people skiing very close together - not ideal on steep powdery slopes. We waited for a propitious moment and blasted by and clear of the danger... Lower down I hung a left to ski a steep line I had spotted between some water ice bulges and a rock rib, finding perfect deep soft powder, while Will & Chipie lined up a little ice-skiing (move over Xavier de le Rue!).


A gentle run down past some cross country tracks took us back to the beach and the car again:

For our last full day in Lofoten we headed West again, spotting some objectives for a future trip on the way:

Himmeltind was our first port of call, with 800m of fun-angled North facing slopes:

Don't ask (because I don't know..)!:

A stunning, atmospheric day, with snowy squalls interspersed with bright blue skies:

And despite near gale force winds on the summit ridge, perfect, perfect powder:

A stunning place to ski:

All the way to the beach:

Back at the car I suggested a change of location to the other side of the island in an attempt to escape the high winds on the ridges - this turned into a major result - we parked up beside Kira's place and set off for Kangerurtind - round 2 for me on the North-West slope - but quickly diverted to nearby Tindeltinden (I believe this means 'Peak-y Peak', though a native Norwegian speaker may correct me on this...) and what turned into the run of the trip for me. Making the most of the last minutes of a blue hole I did a super-fast turn around and dropped into a line of perfect thigh-deep powder - skiing slightly blind the line just kept on opening up, even through the lower crag section, amazing! Chipie & Will hadn't been quick enough on the draw so we sat out the squall and then they skied down. At this point Kira appeared with his dog Kaisa in tow so we all headed for Kangerurtind and finally got a chance to open up the guns on what is a fantastic slope - what a way to end the day! Back at the car at 7:30pm it certainly felt like we had made the most of the conditions...
No photos sadly as my memory card had finally been filled up :-( Fortunately, my memory stills works fine (for now) and I will remember those runs for a long time.

And that was it - a windy day on Strandtinden on the way back to the mainland gave us our last fix of Norwegian powder, until next time!

** Note ** I will most definitely be running another trip here in Spring 2014 - get in touch for more details!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Presten couloir (Fishy Tales part 5)

After a week ski touring in Lofoten with Ian, Mark, Nick and Mike it was time for a switch. The venue stayed the same, but the players were different. Having dropped the guys off in Evenes I promptly picked up Will, who had arrived on the same flight, and we headed back out to Lofoten, picking up Chipie en route, having made his way by boat(s) and bus from Tromso...

With little time but keen to make the most of the stabilising snowpack and the current spell of good weather we needed a relatively short objective for an evening session and the Presten couloir seemed perfect for this - roadside, 500m high, with the steepness starting almost from the car door:

The Presten couloir is at centre of the picture above - the big rock buttress to the right is the Presten or 'Priest' itself and is home to some high quality rock climbing.

Easy access by definition... park in the layby at the bottom of the couloir, open your car door and start climbing!

The first 100m of the couloir are skinnable in good conditions, but soon the angle kicks up and skis go on the pack:

The higher you climb the more impressive the scenery becomes:

Will breaking trail up to the narrows just below half height - often the crux of the couloir (and a mixed/water ice step) this was completely filled in with snow:

The top 300m of the couloir remain narrow, with the angle hovering about the 45º mark (though I have seen clinometer-measured quotes of 50...) - the last 30m to the col were a little scratchy, with a very thin (to non-existent) covering of snow over frozen grass and moss - fine on the way up, 'interesting' on the way down...

Will about to negotiate the frozen grass and moss section at the top - a delicate start to the descent!

Chipie in the upper section the couloir - steep and tight here:

Will threading his way through the boulder choke section:

Atmospheric skiing in the couloir with rock walls towering on either side (Chipie is in there if you look closely!):

Happy campers in the evening sun!

Chipie pulling the new freestyle move: "air to beach"

5 minutes drive took us to the Climber's Café for a pint of very expensive beer to celebrate mopped up with Mateo's fine cod stew!

Lofoten adventures - Fishy Tales part 4 - Justadtinden

Last day's skiing for the guys today, and fortunately the weather gods were merciful and gave us the best day of the week to finish up!

Kangerurtinden and Justadtinden were the targets today, however blocky snow on kick turn corners and a reasonably easy snowpit failure meant we turned away from a very tasty looking Kangerurtinden NW face - lots of snow up above, convex and 40º - not the best combination with an unstable snowpack...
Justadtinden was a more than acceptable alternative though, with amazing views on the way up and great powder on the way down - perfect ski touring!

The view from the summit is probably up in the top 3 views I have seen on skis... one picture can't begin to do it justice!:

Nick on the summit slopes of Justadtinden:



A fantastic way to end a great week!
Thanks to Nick, Ian, Mike and Mark for making the best of the bad days as well as the good days and accepting some tough calls on conditions. Thanks also to Jonas, Johanna and Sjur for some top local info, and to Matteo and Joaquin for feeding us exceedingly well!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Lofoten Adventures - Fishy Tales part 3 - Stornappstind West face

With the forecast looking better for the next few days, but snow stability still questionable we headed way out West for our 5th day in Lofoten to Stornappstind:

A steady skin from Nappskaret took us up to the West face, where numerous kick turns and then a bit of bootpacking up the ridge took us onto the gentler summit slopes:

Incredible views from on top:

The snow wasn't bad either! Mike in action here:





The main pitch of the West face gave a fantastic leg-burning descent - one shot, top to bottom, in fantastic powder!:

The guys seemed reasonably happy with the descent...: