Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Pot of Gold (V,6), Coire an t'Sneachda

We had taken a rest day on Monday due to the 80mph forecast and because Anna was feeling unwell. She had been suffering from a bad cold that had refused to go away for a week and a half. Luckily on Tuesday morning, against the odds, she was feeling well enough to climb, although the shorter walk-in to Coire an t'Sneachda again needed to be the sensible plan.

With the strong southerly winds appearing (in Aviemore at least) to have picked up in the afternoon of Monday we were a little concerned that the current avalanche report would be out of date by the time we entered the coire with windslab increasing. Particularly given the amount of fresh snow that had fallen whilst we were in the Northern Coires on Sunday.

The provisional plan had been Original Summer Route on Aladdin's Buttress but we didn't like the look of the descent down Aladdin's Couloir, which looked potentially loaded (but probably actually ok after seeing the later avalanche report), as did the coire rim above the route. Instead we opted for Mess of Pottage again with the expectation of an easy approach and exit. I had felt fairly steady on the two IVs that we had climbed at the weekend and so was keen to step up a grade to try Pot of Gold. Oddly I've never climbed a grade V in Sneachda despite having climbed over twenty elsewhere.

A buried Coire an t'Sneachda
Anna led the first pitch, which is shared with the Message, through an interesting blocky section to where Pot of Gold exits right.

Anna leading the first pitch
The traverse at the start of the second pitch was banked out, so I cautiously shuffled my feet rightwards. A few metres further an obvious crack led upwards. The hooks were good in crack but a few metres higher the angle eased back and cliff became massively banked out with snow. Endless sweeping ensued with little apparent change in volume of unconsolidated snow in front of me. Sweeping the snow with my axes to find high placements would leave me covered snow, burying my feet in the process along with any foot ledges that I had previously cleared. And so I would again need to clear the same ledges for a second time. This was the general pattern of events, with lots of time dedicated to brushing snow to find hooks, foot ledges, and gear placements. Often I wasn't totally sure what I was pulling on but if it withstood a couple of tugs then it was probably ok. Far more snow than our two previous days out it should be said.

The start of the second pitch had felt a little more serious. Maybe exacerbated by the tough conditions that were causing me to doubt myself a little, what with not having climbed at this grade for a few years. I had found some good nut placements towards the end of the traverse and in the base of the crack but they were susceptible to being lifted in the event of a fall, which would add extra slack to the system. With my right hand half rope already following a tight arc shape from the change in direction popping off accidentally was something to avoid. A short distance up at the crack the route bore left slightly and allowed me to start clipping my left rope with some minor relief. To put things in perspective though there was more than enough gear throughout the pitch. 

I found the second pitch hard and sustained with so much snow and was relieved to reach the belay, although was a little worried what the third pitch would have in store, given this was the crux.

Me on the second pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy) 
Anna, who had little mixed climbing experience prior to this trip with just a few days drytooling, had done remarkably well on our two previous outings but popped off the second pitch midway up. I could see the disappointment in her face. She'd made the mistake of stacking one pick on top of the other only for the lower one to pop off. One of those things you quickly learn not to do again, except with totally bomber hooks.

Anna near the top of the second pitch
The third pitch started where the second had left off with sustained, well protected climbing. Having mounted a difficult step leading rightwards a short distance above the belay I was forced to reverse the moves due to the taut lanyard preventing progress. I had made the schoolboy error of clipping a quickdraw to a rope over the top of my axe lanyards but had failed to notice because of insane amount of snow down the front of me. Second attempt I dug a little deeper and found some massive hooks between some blocks to make the moves a little easier.

The crux parallel cracks through the bulge were tough work due to the amount of snow on the slabby ground directly above. Around four times I needed to pull up over the bulge and then sweep snow on a bent arm, each time reversing the moves back down to the good ledge below. Reassuringly I found the strength and composure to repeatedly go up and down. Eventually I found what felt like some good hooks and pulled through on them with relative ease. 

The remainder of the pitch didn't let up but I felt I had broken the back of the route after the crux. Plenty of gear throughout the pitch again. In fact it's a good job the second and third pitches were short because I was out of runners by the belay on both occasions. 

Me at the crux on the third pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
I was grateful that the final pitch up the snowy chimney was a much easier affair given what had gone before. I placed about three runners in order to hastily get to the top of the route but it all felt quite steady in comparison. By the time we were both at the top it was 5 pm, so another late finish. 

Starting the final pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
Visibility was pretty poor on the plateau but good enough to see the edge of the cliffs to our left. Plus there were footprints to follow, which soon became a highway of footprints leading down towards the ski pistes and eventually to the car park. With a good base of snow the descent was easy.

It was good to get Pot of Gold climbed as it's been vaguely on my radar for a few years now. The route as a whole had felt close to my limit in the conditions that we found. Despite my absence from Scottish mixed it was reassuring to know I probably had another grade in me had the snow conditions better.

That's the Northern Coires chapter of our trip concluded. Not much to keep us here now that it's buried. Next destination is <tbc>.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Seam (IV,5), Coire an t'Sneachda

Anna was feeling a little under the weather on Sunday so we opted for the short approach to Coire an t'Sneachda again. Friendlier weather with a lot less wind and better visibility made the walk-in much more pleasant. Better weather we expected to result in more people but we were in the coire at a decent hour.

Fine weather, but a busy day expected in Coire an t'Sneachda

We headed to Fiacaill Buttress, which looked a little more scoured from yesterday's NE winds, so hopefully better snow conditions. Plan A was the Seam, otherwise something nearby at a similar grade. The buttress was relatively quiet as it happened. Just one pair on Houdini and one pair on Smokestack Lighnin', and of course plenty heading up to Fiacaill Ridge.

Approaching Fiacaill Buttress
There was some wind slab on the slopes directly beneath the route, up to about 25cm in places but localised, so no real risk. My only previous visit to Fiacaill Buttress had been on Invernookie, which shares the same start as the Seam. That had been 11 years ago and didn't help much with remembering where the climbs started. Fortunately an in-situ peg confirmed the whereabouts.

Anna led the first pitch, which contained a lot of unconsolidated powder, no ice and little gear, finishing on a comfortable belay platform beneath the large triangular wall at its left end. 

Anna starting the first pitch
I then led a very short pitch around the corner to beneath the main chimney. I needed to delicately balance my way up a short leaning wall with good horizontal breaks and mount it on thankfully well frozen turf. Then traverse leftwards a short way with a step back downwards on route. I'm not sure whether I took the normal line but from the belay it seemed the most sensible option considering I didn't have full confidence that the turf was properly frozen.

Starting the second pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
Anna seconding the short traverse on the second pitch
Now midway into the climb and it had begun to snow heavily, although there was virtually no wind, so things felt fairly comfortable. A lot more snow than forecast though.

The final pitch was high class, following an obvious chimney. It was fairly sustained but also well protected and never desperate. Plenty of unconsolidated snow needed go be swept but the turf was surprisingly solid throughout. At half height I found myself cramped beneath a roof, which partially blocked the way. With a sling placed overhead I leaned out on some massive hooks and swung left to bypass it. I'm glad I was carrying lots slings as there were plenty of placements between the frozen blocks in the final third. Just shy of the very top a comfortable belay stance was most welcome for the shelter it offered. Definite contender for best pitch of the trip. 
Me on the third and final pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
Anna seconding the final pitch
It was good to finish the route at a decent hour today (3pm), although the progress had been fairly slow again. A quick scramble down the edge of Fiacaill Ridge and we were soon back in the coire basin. Tomorrow is an enforced rest day due to 80mph winds expected. It looks by far the worst day's weather this coming week so I'm happy to spend it in jacuzzis and coffee shops. Thereafter we're not sure where we will be climbing, although the forecast to only be getting colder as the week progresses.

Descending from Fiacaill Buttress

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Hidden Chimney Direct (IV,5), Coire an t'Sneachda

I've missed Scottish winter climbing. I've missed the weathered cracks, corners and chimneys and rimed rock. For me there is nowhere better to climb in winter than Scotland

...when the conditions are right.

I've even missed the freezing belays, spindrift, upland gales and other general unpleasantness. They're all things that contribute to Scottish winter feeling a full-on experience and ultimately a more rewarding one.

Few climbers visit Scotland from Norway. Many would say I am travelling in the wrong direction. At least if Scotland looks diabolical then I can cut my losses and not get on the flight. A win-win scenario, and with flights fairly cheap it's a worthwhile gamble.

There was little sign of winter ahead of our trip. In fact it only arrived the day before we did. But it definitely arrived. Temperatures on Cairngorm's summit had been around 5 degrees on Thursday, then below freezing and dry in the coires on Friday. It was now Saturday and snow was expected. When and how much was a little unclear, as was the expected state of the coires upon our arrival. Would the turf refreeze before the snow arrived (probably not) and would the cliffs still be black or now white enough for fair game? Worst case scenario we would walk in and walk straight back out.

At 7am we had not started our continental breakfast at the Edinburgh Airport Travelodge. Once on the road the snow on the hills lining along the A9 to the south between Perth and Aviemore suggested the snow had a head start. By the time we were at the Cairngorm Mountain car park it was 11am and it was clear that winter was back.

A headwind blizzard was blowing strongly during the walk-in to Coire an t'Sneachda, meaning it was heads down and hoods up for parts of the way. Occasionally looking up to correct our line. Fortunately visibility was good enough to spy wintery looking conditions on all the buttresses.

Anna walking into a headwind on the approach
Our plan A was Hidden Chimney Direct, as we would have the option to abseil from the top of the first (main) pitch if running short of time. Plus the Mess of Pottage had the shortest routes and shortest approach, so it was a no-brainer. We knew the area would be busy and so our biggest priority was to avoid any queues and get a clean run with our limited time. At least turned up late it is easier to see where the bottlenecks might be. Fortunately the only other team on the route were a good pitch ahead of us, so no worries there. Plus hopefully there would now be a little less snow to clear.

Mess of Pottage
After a three year hiatus from Scotland I was straight back into it. Just a couple metres above Anna's belay some firm pulls on well hooked axes were needed to gain some awkward high foot ledges. Maybe the crux moves, or at least that's how it felt. That or maybe there were a few cobwebs to clear away. The remainder of the pitch was a more slabby angle with good foot ledges and lots of positive hooks in the cracks in the steep left hand wall. Plenty of good gear as well. Little evidence of the previous party remained, with lots of continuous sweeping needed to uncover the banked-out foot ledges. I had forgotten how slow climbing can be on these sorts of routes. After what seemed a good while of inching my way up the route I looked down to see my belayer a mere 15m away. 

Me on the first pitch
The pitch was snowed-up rock for the large part. Just some unfrozen turf on the easier ground below where the route kinked left, although there was no need to pull on it given the leaning gradient. The SMC guide described some thin moves at the top of the pitch in the absence of ice but the moves felt pretty easy thanks to a bomber hook between some rocks that also acted as a stein pull. An excellent pitch.

Anna at the top of the first pitch
It was 3pm by the time we were both at the top of the pitch. There was the option to abseil from the large block, as many choose to do, but it felt as though we needed to continue up the regular line of Hidden Chimney to properly complete the route. Anna led the easy ground leftwards, that is shared with The Slant, to beneath the final gully/chimney from which the route takes its name.

Anna on the second pitch traverse
Despite the modest grade III rating the final pitch was a surprisingly tough proposition. Partly due to the winds, which had switched to a northeasterly direction, leading to a strong updraft of snow in the gully. Regularly I struggled to look down at my feet without my eyes watering from the volume of snow being blown upwards. In fact I could feel my eyebrows starting to rime up. The winds were particularly strong at a large bulging chock stone at the top of the pitch, which lacked neve, ice or frozen turf above it in order to pull through on. Instead I needed to climb a couple of metres to the right and then traverse towards the block from where I could bridge it more easily. I waited what seemed like minutes for the winds to drop enough for me to look at my feet in order to pull through on the final moves. At least no cornice to contend with. By the time we were both at the top it was 5pm. Last into the coire, last out of the coire.

Top of the route at dusk
Visibility was pretty good on the plateau so we opted to follow the coire rim northwards rather than dip back into the coire. We might have saved a little time initially but the exposure to the strong cross winds and scoured rocky ground probably made the descent harder overall. Anna must have slipped over about ten times. Eventually we quit the high ground and dipped back into the mouth of the coire. A clear sky and bright moon at least meant navigation was easy. No need for a head torch, which I had accidentally buried under the ropes and hardware at the bottom of my rucksack. Not many cars in the car park upon our return but given our late start it felt a bonus to have got a route climbed. Plus it had been a good opportunity to suss out conditions for the following day. Good to be back in Scotland.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

A 'Rest' Weekend... In Valdres

28th-29th January
[Edit] Ok climb with Stig but nothing too hard or long

That was my calendar entry for the immediate weekend. The following weekend I would hopefully be off to Scotland for a week of climbing and so wanted to be fresh for that. Some easy climbing wouldn't do any harm though I thought, provided not too much travel or days too long. Maybe a good opportunity to explore somewhere new.

We headed to Bagn, where there looked to be a number of moderate multipitch options. In particular, the routes south of Bagn sounded interesting, although I had dismissed the possibility of climbing at Stavadalen as knew the south facing routes would be in a terrible state. They had been in a terribly skeletal shape when I had recce'd them a month prior.

We headed to Dammen area on Saturday, which I knew to be a reliable area from a previous visit just before Christmas. In particular a WI3 called

Gul Foss

looked worth the return visit. As the name suggested the ice was golden in colour and looked a little bit like candle wax at medium-close quarters. We parked on the main road, as with my last visit, although the access road on this occasion looked easily drivable.

Stig let the first pitch, initially up a steep 5 metre section before the angle slackened. Then slightly steeper ice near the top of the pitch whilst traversing towards the belay tree. We found some brutally brittle ice that tended to delaminate over a greater and greater area rather than simply dinnerplate, and by the time I had reached Stig's belay the ice below us looked the scene of a drive-by shooting. I led some moderate ice on the second pitch, needing little more than half a rope length to reach the top. The route involves two pitches according to the online guide, however the total length was only just over 60 metres. One very short abseil followed by one very long abseil returned us to our bags in good time for lunch. And to the shattered ice that now littered the surrounding floor.

Gul Foss (WI3)
Stig leading the start of Gul Foss
Me close to the intermediate belay
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
Me on the second pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
With plenty of daylight remaining we set about finding another route climb. We spent a lot of time trying and failing to locate the route known as 'Fossen bortafor Dammen' further along the valley, eventually to conclude that it hasn't formed this year. To make the most of our time though we climbed


, which I had already climbed just before Christmas. It looked in better nick now at least, with more ice build-up and less wet ice. It didn't climb better though, and despite my second pitch lead being standard WI3 I struggled with the brittle ice conditions. Particularly with getting my front points to bite. Instead they tended to chip away at the ice so that I never really gained purchase. Twice my mono points spontaneously and unexpectedly skated on the holds I had chipped -  something that had not happened all season. At least the ground was not very steep so merely a momentary annoyance. 

Dammen (WI3)
Stig leading the first pitch of Dammen
Me starting the second pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
Temperatures first thing in the morning had been well into minus double figures, which I think was colder than forecast. What's more (although I'm guilty of not checking as regularly as usual) I think these temperatures had dropped from just above freezing a couple of days prior, so maybe this contributed to the ice's brittle nature.

Something remarkable happened Sunday morning in that it snowed fairly persistently. There's been hardly any snow for weeks. We spent Sunday morning driving up and down the E16 collecting Autopass points whilst vagely looking at possible ice hidden in snow clouds before settling for the prominent broad ice just south of Bagn called


. It's graded WI3-4 depending on the chosen line. In better conditions it looked as though many lines would be possible, although in current conditions the only continuous ice was up the middle. 

The first pitch began with easy WI2 slabs for the first 40m before ramping up for ten metres or so. I tried to climb a short section of 80 degree ice but after some persistent demolition I backed off at half height due to the ice being too brittle and fissured. I had to traverse further right instead to where the ice was slacker, now dealing with huge amounts of rope drag as a consequence of my sharp unplanned change of direction. What's more I dared not put any more screws in for fear of further increasing the rope drag. An uncomfortable belay on slabby hard ice awaited, where my left a crampon repeatedly and spontaneously slipped whilst belaying Stig up.

Stig then lead a short second pitch around 30 metres before belaying beneath a second short steep-ish section. Fortunately the ice was much more pleasant to climb and once beyond this easy angled ice led all the way to the top. I had been under the impression the route was west facing based on the simple map in the ice climbing guide. Closer examination of a proper map indicated it was south-west facing though, which maybe explained the poor conditions that we found.

Mission statement for the weekend completed though. I had come expecting a mixed bag of ice conditions and that is what we got. I've visited the areas north of Lillehammer forva number of successive weekends so it was good to switch to somewhere else and inject some variety. We managed some fun climbing regardless and, as hoped, nothing too demanding ahead of the Scotland trip. 

Leite from the parking spot
Me on the moderately steep ice that I backed off from
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
The ice I backed off from
Stig seconding easy ground on the first pitch
Stig near the top of the first pitch
Stig leading the second pitch
Me on the second pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
About to start of the final pitch

Monday, 23 January 2017


Rob was due fly home in the evening, however we had until around 2pm to climb. Hunderfossensøyla looked a good bet as the routes were short but there were enough of them to keep us occupied. Also nothing too hard as we were both feeling a little tired.

The approach to the top of the cliff took less than ten minutes. We needed to abseil into the routes, which lay along the side of a wide riverbed, but with the easiest route being WI3+ we didn't expect any dramas in trying to escape. The main two lines at the ice crag were the left and right hand variants. The right one was steeper, with the ice stopping a good way below the top of the cliff, and we had no rock gear, so it seemed sensible to start with this. The plan being to climb to the top of the ice and then abseil from a couple of ice screws, which we would later retrieve on abseil.

Rob abseiling into Hunderfossensøyla
Hunderfossensøyla from the riverbed
I found the route quite pumpy because the knobbly ice formations strongly encouraged me to use the features for my crampon points, which were quite spaced low down. Some of my footwork was more what I would expect from a mixed route. I got a few easy slots, likely from climbers the previous day, but often needed multiple axe swings to get the picks to safely stick in the brittle ice. A couple of good ledges to the right allowed some partial rests. Plus with the route being quite short I could place ice screws at will. Even with rock gear the dry tooling section at the top of the ice didn't look that appealing as the rock looked flaky and loose. Given the drytooling part is graded 'M?' I suspect not many people bother with it. Rob then led the route sport-style with my screw runners still in place. Climbing the right hand line first worked out well, as soon after it was bright lit by sunshine and quickly looked wetter as a result.

Rob leading the right hand line
Next up was the easier left hand variant, which Rob led first. Again the ice finished below the very top, although from here it was much shorter and easier to escape. Again Rob ab'ed off from the top of the ice. Brittle ice, and wet sections that quickly filled in, meant that on my lead there were surprisingly few 'free' hooks available, and so it felt like a proper lead. Climbing above the ice mainly involved pulling easily on and slinging trees, whilst trying to avoid unstable earthy ground. Then some solid axes into the frozen ground at the very top. 

Rob leading the left hand line
Some pretty awful climbing at the top of the left hand line
Elsewhere the two remaining routes looked a little fissured and unconsolidated to contemplate leading, although would have been fine on a top rope. We were now out of time anyway, and so the last chore was to retrieve the ice screws from the right hand line. Drytooling my way out on top rope still looked a tricky proposition - partly because the ice screw placements were a long way left of natural corner to escape up. Instead I abseiled back to the ground, Rob dropped my the rope ends, and I climbed up the left side again. Climbing concluded in good time.

After some worryingly warm weather forecasts in the week leading up to Rob's flight to Norway we found some really good conditions on the whole for the four days that he was here. Perfect blue skies, hard frosts, and little wind. We managed some really good climbing and certainly made the most of what was on offer I think.  

The walk-out

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Adventure Part 2: OL-traversen

At first I misread the name to be Øl-traversen ('The Beer Traverse'), which was one of the things that first attracted me to the route. OL-traversen ('The Olympic Traverse') is still an excellent route name and presumably in connection with the Olympic ski slopes at Kvitfjell directly opposite.

I really like traverses! Partly because of the level of exposure relative to the grade, and also because of the head games involved as a result of traversing sideways from gear. The hand drawn topo and notes for the traverse was out of format with the rest of the guide, which suggested not many repeats. The route as a whole looked an adventure, which naturally attracted me to it. 

After a long outing at Sørstulen the previous day, an easy approach for this outing was most welcome. The hillside looked fairly dry from the road but the ice in the upper half looked passable, although a lot thinner than in the guide. There were a few variations in the upper half so hopefully one of them would go.

The upper pitches viewed from the road
Thin ice conditions but we were confident that a line would be possible
The first pitch was steady WI3, and so a good warm-up, although I could feel some tiredness in the limbs from the previous day. Brittle ice made it slightly harder than typical to get my points to stick, but where the ice was thin and discontinuous the frozen leafy hillside poking through was far more accepting as a substitute. Then towards the top of the pitch the ice temporarily stopped and I found myself clambering leftwards over/through a tree in order to reach the tree best suited for the belay.

Rob organising ropes beneath the first pitch
Climbing through the tree near the top of the first pitch
Rob was getting the 'good' pitches today, which meant his leads were the second pitch (the traverse) and the fourth pitch. Whether the traverse would be the good pitch was yet to be seen as we knew it would be loose to some degree. A fairly obvious traverse line lay just above the belay, at about 1/3 height of the large pine tree described in the guide (note that the topo shows this to be more like 1/2 height), and so we were confident this must be the way. Really there looked only be one possible line as above, and below, the cliff looked too loose to contemplate. No sign of the loose block described in the guide near the start of the traverse, so presumably it fell off. With little sign of snow or ice on the pitch so Rob packed the crampons and axes and removed his gloves.

A little bit of back and footing between suspect rock and the tree was needed to gain the traverse proper, although the moves were easily protected with slings around its trunk. Once on the traverse proper Rob looked a little nervous but cautiously started moving in the direction of a large suspect block somewhere between 5-10 metres to his right. Some gear either side of it possibly calmed the nerves. Then some more delicate moves to reach a tree at about 3/4 distance, crossing a snowy patch on route, whereby Rob needed to drop to his knees on to stop himself slipping underfoot. Finally a tricky bridge across a corner to reach a final tree on a large belay platform. The only runners being around the suspect block and the tree in the corner. His steady, quiet progress had made it look technically not too difficult, which was reassuring for me on second.

Rob near the start of the traverse
Near the end of the traverse
Then it was my turn to remove my gloves. Seconding the traverse probably wasn't much easier but probably less mentally taxing, knowing it was possible for Rob and therefore hopefully for me. Gaining the traverse was simple affair with the slings overhead, but once these were removed then my next points of protection would be the gear either side of the suspect block. Immediately I needed to commit to using a smaller suspect block underfoot, which naturally made me wary of removing the last sling from the tree. After some reorganisation I managed to fashion a new sling placement to protect me stepping safely onto it. Then it was time to remove the sling and head in the direction of the large suspect block. Falling was obviously out of the question as I would pendulum underneath it and load it. Rob would have had the same situation on the far side of it of course. Once at the large block the only way to really bypass it was to layback off its back edge and walk the feet around. At least I would be unlikely to end up underneath it now were it to dislodge it. Probably the thinnest moves were just beyond the block, although the edges and crimps were always positive for the hands. At one point I instinctively reached for my chalk bag when feeling a little gripped, of course to immediately realise I wasn't wearing it on a winter route in -5 degrees. I managed to cross the snowy patch without resorting to using my knees, which was a minor victory, although struggled to read the moves around the corner, where there was the need to step down to slightly lower foot holds. In the company of slung trees I felt much more at ease though.

Rob at the belay on the far end of the traverse
It's really hard to grade the difficulty of the pitch in the conditions we found. Technically it was only around n4 with a little snow to contend with (compared to the quoted grade M5 in the guide). If I tried to apply a UK adjective rock grade to the pitch then it becomes really difficult. There's lots of suspect rock but HOW suspect is really difficult to quantity, given nothing is outright loose. If I could hit everything with a sledgehammer and then rewind the clock then I could probably give the route a grade. It's obviously not a pitch to take a fall on and test what little gear there is, and definitely a pitch where both climbers need to be equally confident and adept. For me it was still type 1 fun though. 
I'm not sure of the rock type incidentally, but the edges and more solid sections reminded me of basalt, whereas the looser sections of the cliff (away from the traverse) almost reminded me of shale. 

The unusual nature of the route continued and soon we found ourselves moving together along much easier, albeit moderately steep and frozen, hillside wearing alpine coils. Not something I usually do below the tree line.

The continuation of the ice was fairly obvious once beneath it, although it was not in great shape. Two independent lines were normally possible, with left line going at M3 & WI3/4+ and right line at WI4. Right had sounded more interesting and consistent, without a graded line of weakness and strength. Clearly it wasn't in condition though as the start was dry (although it might have been possible to traverse in from a short way up the left branch) and the steeper ice towards the top looked patchy and weak.

The left line looked a good substitute, although the thinly iced rocks lower down suggested gear might be hard to come by. It proved to be the case with merely a few saplings slinged in first half of the pitch. It seems I missed a solid large nut placement though, maybe because I had all too casually ruled out rock gear in my mind due to the ice conditions. There was just one steeper awkward section to contend with so the seriousness was kept in check, although the rest of the pitch maintained interest. In many places the ice was just a few centimetres thick. Just thick enough to moderately chip into, but still thin enough for the rock to retain its features and demand that features be properly used. Towards the top of the pitch mediocre ice screw placements started to become available, although I needed to climb close to a full length of rope before any adequate ice presented for a belay. Even then I was right in the middle of the ice and in the firing line for when Rob started his next pitch.

The thin ice pitch above the clouds
Rob's final pitch started quite steep but that marked the last of the difficulties. He needed to lace the ice to begin with to avoid a potential fall landing on top of me but at least not too much ice rained down on my exposed position. Soon Rob had moved a little left, which allowed me to relax a little more and take in the wonderful views of the freezing fog in the valley and setting sun over the ski pistes of Kvitfjell directly opposite. The WI4+ finish described in the guide unfortunately looked in too poor state for either of us to fancy leading it, so we bypassed it to the left. Then some easy bush walking above the ice and soon we were on flat enough ground to dispense with climbing gear. A pretty epic day almost concluded.

Start of the final pitch
Sunset over Kvitfjell
Fortunately the descent was a straightforward affair as just a few hundred metres north along the top of the cliff we arrived at a DNT marked trail that led all the way down the hillside, leaving just a short walk back along the road to the car.

What OL-traversen had lacked in classic ice and mixed climbing it make up for in the adventure department. Not let down by the traverse not being in 'mixed' condition. I think I even climb the route again were I to see some fatter ice conditions on the upper pitches. Particularly given the different finishing options available in the upper half.