Sunday, 15 January 2017

Espedalsrenna (WI4/M4), Espedalen

Plan A had been an attractive two pitch WI4 called Skoroa, which was fairly high on the hillside, however from the road it looked worryingly steep for the grade and reminiscent of Grøtenutbekken's crux pitch in the upper half. Matias and I didn't bother to march up the hill to check whether it was within our abilities. Espedalsrenna was the natural substitute. It was only a single pitch but it got two ice creams (the equipment of stars) in the guide, plus I do like a good gully. If the climbing was over too quickly then we could always go to Helvete afterwards.

View of Skoroa (WI4) from the road. Looked steep for WI4!
We very carefully parked the car so as not to get it stuck in the snow as had happened yesterday. We blocked the drive to a hytte in the process but clearly nobody was visiting for the weekend.

We messed up the approach by following by tracks into the trees just north of the parking area. The tracks brought us to beneath the larger ice route of Sprenabekken again, which then meant a moderate traverse along the hillside via some fairly deep snow to reach our desired route. We actually found two routes, since there was an obvious independent ice line to the right of Espedalsrenna.

Matias at the belay beneath Espedalsrenna to his left
Espedalsrenna reminded me a little bit of the first pitch of Bakveien in Rjukan in the way it curved around the corner out of sight. The style of climbing, sunny aspect, and the high setting over the nearby broad lake reminded me equally of an ice crag just south of Alta called Solisen

The steepness throughout the route was not that great but the neighbouring leaning roof made the climbing cramped if not careful. Often I would need to jointly climb and traverse steeper sections rather than mounting them directly, else be lured under the roof. It maybe made the route slightly more technical and sustained for its steepness but still felt fairly easy for WI4. There was also no expected mixed climbing on the route unless stepping on a rock counts as M4. Maybe we had better conditions compared to typical, or those of the first ascensionists. 

Espedalsrenna was great route and generally in excellent condition. Despite being one pitch it was better than any given pitch on Sprenabekken from the previous day. The ice at the start of the route was a little wet and higher up it became surprisingly hard. So much so that on a number of occasions I struggled to get to threads of my ice screws to bite. It felt pretty hard as well when a block unexpectedly bounced off my lip. The sheltered roof also meant no snow on the bulk of the route, which came as a welcome relief after the previous day's snow clearing exercise.

The route was close to a full sixty metres but no need to break it into two smaller pitches as suggested by the guide. The top twenty metres was a gentle gradient and relatively straightforward, with just a moderately steeper last few metres. An easy abseil from the tree belay brought us back to the base of the route.

Easy ground in the upper half of the route
Matias then led the route to the right whilst I belayed in bright sunshine, no wind and around -15 degrees. Fine weather. It was around WI3+ with an interesting finish trending right at the very top.

Matias leading the bonus ice to the right of Espedalsrenna
We finished in good time, which gave me a chance to check out the ice further down the valley in daylight during the drive home. Earl Grey was looking better than last visit but there was still an absence of ice in the middle section that looked potentially problematic. Earl Grey and Skoroa seem the obvious routes to return for maybe I'll wait for a little beta to lure me back first, else wait for another year with more reliable conditions.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Sprenabekken, Espedalen

I had visited Espedalen just before Christmas but the multipitch routes were in terrible condition following a number of warm weather bouts and inverted temperatures. Part of the second pitch of Sprenabekken in particular was clearly running with water from the roadside. On that occasion we had settled for a cragging day at Helvete. There looked to be some excellent routes to return for though once conditions improved, so I placed it on the 'to do' list for January. With generally colder, more stable temperatures since the New Year a return visit seemed in order.

It was my partner Matias's second day on ice this season due to university work taking up much of his free time. Sprenabekken seemed well suited as only the second pitch of three involved any real difficulties, and with a fairly short approach we would hopefully have it boxed off in good time.

View of Sprenabekken from the road
Fresh snow had fallen on Tuesday and Wednesday but the approach was fairly easy despite a good volume of fresh powder. We slightly lost our way after following some partially filled-in tracks but a short traverse along the hillside brought us swiftly beneath the ice.

Sprenabekken at closer quarters
We started up the left side with the general plan to slowly traverse in towards the steeper ice on the right side, ensuring the belays were not in the line of fire. The first pitch was a steady affair and Matias did a good job of leading nearly a full rope length. The ice was a little wet in places, and intermittently coated in a crispy layer of snow that needed to be cleared to find better ice beneath. The belay itself was particularly wet underfoot and not somewhere I wanted to hang around. At least the belay screws looked ok. 

Matias leading the start of the first pitch
The second pitch of Sprenabekken proved a time-consuming affair. The first half was technically easy and followed a gentle slab in the direction of the steeper ice. Much of the slab was covered in a top surface that needed to be entirely stripped in order to find better ice. A thin layer of hard icy snow covered a semi-consolidated layer of icy snow, which covered 2cm of air, beneath which lay decent (ish) ice. The layer of air meant everything above it was highly prone to cracking and collapsing and so it all needed to be cleared.

View of the second pitch from the belay
I probably used the back and sides of my axes more than the picks during the first half of the pitch to beat and break up the surface ice. The whole process of excavation was actually quite satisfying and absorbing though given the predictability of the layers and it was quite easy to clear relatively large sections at a time. An irrational thought briefly entered my mind that the entire suspended sheet could unexpectedly avalanche in one fell swoop but this felt unlikely in practice.Progress was rather slow and workmanlike - the loose equivalent of gardening a rock route on lead.

The human brøytebil
The layer air, above which everything needed to be stripped
When I did use my picks they bit easily into the excavated wet ice below, although it wasn't great for screws. Instead I needed to rely on sporadic slightly steeper ice that were not covered in the rubbish ice.

Once in closer proximity with the steeper section it was clear that I needed to take it at its slackest angle at the far right. Other parts were dripping wet and out of the question. A couple of hard but hollow ice screw placements along the base was my only consolidation. An axe strike into the slabby ice beneath the steep wall caused water to spurt gently upwards like a burst water pipe indicating the amount of water pressure below. The route evidently had a strong flow of water that probably didn't appreciate the numerous aggressive warm spells over the previous month. The mixed ice conditions actually reminded me a little of when I climbed Rjukanfossen many years ago, which similarly had also had similarly unusual conditions and much running water below. 

Midway into the second pitch
The steeper climbing on the second pitch. The only dry ice was the slacker ice at the far right end
I had hoped the ice conditions would improve once it became a little steeper, however there was still much rubbish to clear on the flatter surfaces. At one point the ice was no more than 10cm thick, beneath which flowed water, and so needed extra care. The steeper ice was also often brittle, meaning the top surface needed to be hacked away to find better ice deeper down. One small pillar barring my way in particular needed full demolition after the first hit over the top of it caused the whole pillar to turn pale. Another party appeared at the bottom of the route around this time. Not surprisingly they kept on walking!

Screw protection throughout the pitch was mediocre, which made good sticks all the more essential. At least the climbing was not particularly sustained or pumpy so I could be extra patient in achieving these. There were also plenty of good rests on ledges left behind after the excavation of softer ice. The guide description gave the route WI3+/4 but by our line it was no more than WI3+ with the steepness often moderate. Some of the ice formations were still in quite an early developmental stage but bridging back and forth to avoid the steeper or chandelier'ed sections made things more interesting.

Matias above the steeper ice at the top of the second pitch
The final pitch was an easier affair with about 20 metres of actual climbing followed by the same distance walking. I made the mistake of putting my foot in water ankle deep right at the top though.

Not the best conditions in summary but perfectly climbable and still enjoyable. The easier than expected climbing was a little bit underwhelming however. The unusual ice conditions definitely added a degree of esoteria though and made the route maybe less easy to forget in the process. Needless to say the route is thoroughly ploughed for the time being, provided you stick to the same line. 

We abseiled from a large tree beside the route, along the true left side of the ice, and over a short rocky cliff to another tree. After our second abseil we only just managed to pull the ropes down. It needed Matias to prusik himself to the pulling rope and put his full body weight behind it to get them moving. In hindsight we should have used cordelette around the tree in question. A short third abseil then brought us to beneath the ice.

View of the crux ice during the abseil
In the UK there is a saying that some things come in pairs, for example buses in rush hour, and this was true with respect to car problems. The last time I had visited Espedalen we had experienced wheel problems and then a flat battery. A matter of metres from the last incident, and in a different car, we again had wheel problems. Firstly the car became stuck in snow, then the snow chains broke but luckily just in time for us to shift the car back onto the road. Evidently the broken chains had caused some minor damage to behind the wheel as now a constant grinding noise emanated from the it. I don't know much about cars but the car was steering ok and braking fine and there was no smell of burning so we just continued as normal, albeit with slightly higher levels of anxiety. Climbing to continue as normal the following day. 

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Mælumsåa

Stig and I had in effect done a day and a half's climbing the previous day so were now due for an easier day. Both the energy levels and psych were a little depleted. The single pitch route called Mælumsåa sounded the ticket as it was even closer to our accommodation than Bjørndalsbekken, plus Anna and her partner Bjørn Erik had climbed it the day before so we knew it was in good condition. The trail to the route would also be bashed of course.

The route
Despite being just a single pitch it was almost a full rope length and felt like a proper route. The ice was an improvement on Bjørndalsbekken in that there was no wet ice low down, and brittle ice high up was less of an issue. I took an interesting line, initially up the right side, that was quite easy to begin with but then ramped up more steeply to 80+ degrees. It was probably the crux, although easier than yesterday's, maybe partly due to a few helpful hooks from the previous day's ascent. Also a few cheeky ice screw placements in existing holes. Small things to be grateful of when feeling not the freshest. The ice wasn't great for screws through the steep section but I had made sure to lace it a little more below this point to compensate. 

On the crux
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
At mid-height the ice ran out on the right side and the the curtains to the immediate left looked too hard (for me) and poorly formed. This initiated an exciting delicate traverse leftwards along the base of the curtains until easier ground in the centre of the icefall could be reached. It was a traverse of 8m at a guess? Half ropes were a blessing, although I still needed to avoid screw placements around the middle of the traverse to keep them running roughly straight and free of drag. I managed to kick some decent steps into the soft ice beneath the curtains to compensate, and where the curtains separated low down to form small pillars, the shelf behind presented some solid axe placements. 

Once past the traverse the final ice to the top was of moderate difficulty. The line was around WI4, although a tad easier than yesterday's route due to the difficulties being less sustained. 

Stig near the top
We were back at the bags for 13:30 and lunch. Enough time remained to climb another line in theory but in practise the motivation levels had dropped due to flagging energy and psych. Climbing the same icefall again via a different line felt a little contrived as well. There looked to be a more sustained line up the middle, via a faint chimney, which looked fun but more of a line of strength. No doubt good training had I been game. As it stood, I was thinking more about a hot chocolate. Plus some cake to accompany. 

The descent
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Bjørndalsbekken (WI4)

Ice conditions! The routes close to Sjoa had some of the best ice that I had climbed this season. It was far from perfect but much more homogeneous, fatter, and less damaged than the vast majority of routes to date. Bjørndalsbekken was just a short drive from where we were staying and so found its way to the top of our list. Little snow made the approach fairly easy in all respects.

The route from the approach
This was Stig's first proper ice route of the season (his only previous route this winter being 'Ut i vår Hage' on Skurvefjell, which had lacked any ice). The (optimistic) plan was that I would lead the easy first pitch to give him a chance to warm up and find his ice climbing skillz, and then it would be over to him to lead the steeper second pitch, which proved to be the crux.

The ice on the first pitch was rather wet and soft. Not ideal for monopoints, particularly if there were similar conditions on the steeper ground to come. The ice curtains above the pitch were running with water but the right side of the fall where we were headed looked much better. Fortunately the ice firmed up with height.

Me leading the first pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
The second pitch was actually pretty tough I thought, and at half height Stig stopped to make a belay due to a combination of rapidly depleting screws and rapidly increasing lactic acid in his calves. Once I had joined him at the belay the 80+ degree ice formations above, shaped like chanterelle mushrooms and full of air, looked rather intimating. No doubt the ice would provide lots of good hooks but it looked weak and susceptible to spontaneously fracturing underfoot. Plus quite likely no reliable screw placements. Around the corner to the right the ice looked similar angle but a tad more filled in and undoubtedly our best option.

Stig starting the second pitch
The weak ice above Stig's belay
My axes found their mark pretty easily but the footwork was hard because of the early stage ice formations didn't offer much in the way of compact ice to tap my crampon points into. Instead I relied on small natural ledges, which felt a little insecure at times. Screw placements were indifferent, often hitting pockets of air. Consequently I found myself closely lacing the section of ice through mistrust of what I had placed beforehand. I found the climbing pretty pumpy but under control. It wasn't dissipating through shaking out but it wasn't getting significantly worse either, so I just pressed on. 

Starting the crux ice
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
At the top of the steep ice the conventional second belay in the ice-formed cave was too chandelier'ed and wet to take screws. At least I now had half a rope length with which to continue. I traversed easily leftwards along a sloping ledge towards the centre of the icefall, at least now able to place my screws more sparingly. A short steep icy corner allowed fairly easy bridging upwards to another big ledge that was ideal for a belay.

Stig joined me looking pretty exhausted so I gladly led on, following a rightward slanting weakness. After about half a rope length the natural weakness headed back leftwards, directly over my belayer. The ice was now dry but becoming more brittle with height, and so the sensible thing was to make another belay to spare my belayer from being showered with ice.

Start of our fourth pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
Stig near the top of our fourth pitch
Stig had another go at leading, however his calves were soon suffering and so he retreated back to the belay. After some minor faff to generally reorganise the ropes I was off on what would hopefully be the final pitch.

Stig at his high point on the fifth (final) pitch
The pitch was harder than expected. Partly because of the fading light but mainly because the ice high on the route had now become very hard and brittle. I was struggling to gain purchase with my front points whilst the other points were prone to skating on the flatter surfaces. What's more, anything remotely blank or convex promptly shattered in response to my axe strikes. Often I would need to give up and try somewhere else, and sometimes I would find myself getting out of shape as a consequence. Getting my axes to bite into the larger flat shelves was a particularly problem and led to repeated bashing. It made what should probably have been an easy final step into quite an undertaking. I even contemplated making a belay to give myself a break from the repeated hacking. I was pretty tired towards the top of pitch and found myself muttering words of encouragement to myself to keep me going.

It was largely dark by the time we were both at the top of the route. Undoubtedly the best routes I had climbed this winter with constant interest throughout of the route and some pretty sustained climbing beyond the first pitch. It's probably one of the best WI4s that I have climbed in Norway in fact (the guide gives the route WI3+/4 but it was definitely WI4 in current conditions). I'm usually not one for selfies at the top of routes but this one deserved one I thought.

Top of the route
The guide description suggested either an abalakov descent, which we didn't fancy due to the wet ice lower down, or abseiling from trees a little further south. Trees sounded the better option, however the trees beside the route looked sparse and we were little more cautious due to the lack of visibility. We completely overlooked the actual recommended trees to use in the guide's topo! Instead we followed the hillside for a few hundred metres further south to where the trees looked to thicker but in reality we couldn't see enough to really be certain. At a point that 'felt' right we started our abseils but after just 30m we met with an expansive overhanging cliff top with no clear bottom in the dark. The ropes were at least audibly hitting the ground and so I headed into the murk down a free hanging forty metre abseil to investigate. We met with slabby ice below the cliff, which meant an abalakov thread was needed to go any further. My 1kg heavier bodyweight meant that I got to go first. I continued down over another shorter overhang and onto a smaller easier angled neighbouring ice route to the one we had climbed.

At the bottom of the 40m cliff
Towards the end of the abseil I managed to reach a tree above the ice on its far bank. I thought trees would hasten matters but it was more the contrary. At every opportunity the ropes would catch on branches, meaning I spent most of my time untangling ropes and throwing them a matter of metres (generally into the next nearest branch) rather than actually abseiling. The slack angle of the hillside also discouraged the ropes from sliding anywhere but the regular short, severe drop-offs prevented us from simply down-climbing. It somehow took us about two and a half hours to make the full descent and in hindsight we should have just abseiled the route (or read the guide description properly and used the recommended trees, which would only have been three abseils to our bags. At least we were sharing the hut and so were grateful to have dinner on the table in time for our late return.

(A slightly blurry) view back towards our route from the abseils

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Mystery Ice on Såta

The previous day we had seen a worthwhile looking ice line on the shoulder of the east face of Såta. It was clearly visible from the pasture at the very end of the toll road beneath Skogshorn and looked an easy day out for New Year's Day.

Reaching it was a straightforward affair. Anna and I just followed the Skurvefjell path a short way to the small waterfall, and then branched left through the trees for a few hundred metres more until they thinned out. A short trudge up a slope brought us to beneath the route. The approach was shorter than it suggested from the parking area.

East face of Såta. The ice is just left of the centre of the photo. 
The route
The lower half of the route followed an attractive line of seapage before the route broadened higher up and the ice became fatter. The ice looked thin but not too steep, therefore so long as I found some sort of sporadic protection I anticipated I would be happy enough. We brought a small rock rack in case the ice was too thin to protect, which meant quite an ample weight on my harness. 

After leading Øvredalsbratta the previous day the first pitch, which looked the poorer of the two pitches, naturally fell to me. Gaining the initial ice step proved no easy task as the soft snow beneath it collapsed with ease, causing me to progressively dig myself into  a hole. Weak ice at the lowest extremities didn't help matters and made it hard for my to get crampon points high enough. Once I had found good high axe placements the only thing for it was to perform a sort of mini pull-up in order to get my feet to a point high enough where I could kick into good ice. 

Ice quality didn't really improve. Lots of thin ice, brittle ice, weak hanging curtains, soft snow, and newly formed 'collapsy' ice on top of soft snow. Not surprisingly a fair amount of debris fell down the route. Anna's belay was safely tucked behind a line of small trees, although occasional ice still managed to ping off their branches in random directions little like a pin ball machine. Another high foot manoeuvre left in order to mount another another partially melted curtain. More soft snow...

Protection was pretty terrible as well. A lot of thin or hollow ice that was poor for screws but a couple of trees lining the route to sling. No rock protection. Runners at times felt a long way below me but the climbing wasn't steep or sustained enough for any serious concern.

A short steep section breaking left led to my belay stance. With more confidence in my ice screws and less brittle ice to contend it would have been nice to have climbed this ice via a more sustained line. As it was I took the line of least resistance, gaining the steep section where at its most shortest. Partially dodging it really. A solid tree belay on a comfortable ledge at least. My pitch was a full 60m but we could probably have moved the initial belay up 10m (maybe at the expense of shelter), or made my first belay stance 10m lower (the large ledge looked more comfortable though). 

The ice on Anna's pitch was much more homogeneous and better quality, although the pitch was only short. It climbed the broad ice at the top of the route, beyond which lay a good tree belay a little further up the hill. 

Finale ice
Top of the route
The views from the top of the route were spectacular towards Skogshorn and its surroundings. It was worth doing the climb just for this vantage point. What's more we had been totally sheltered from the fairly strong northerly winds by the higher peaks of Nibbi et al.

I'd say it was a good climb but with the first pitch in poor condition due to the recent warm weather bouts. The last one being only two days prior. It's an aesthetic first pitch that I suspect is often fatter, given the amount of ice higher up the route. I've seen it formed early in the season so suspect it's probably best before too much snow arrives as some sections of the first pitch will become quickly buried. Give it a week or two more of dry cold weather and maybe the ice lower down will be better. The route is around WI3 and with a fairly short approach it was an easy day (we were abseiling the route by 1:30pm).

I've no idea if this is a first ascent. It's fairly obvious but I imagine it also spends many winters buried to some extent. I've not got around to emailing anybody yet. Any info welcome.

Two abseils in a plumb straight line from the top belay brought us to the base of the route. Maybe this will be the last route that I'll do in Hemsedal for a while. I've climbed a lot of routes in the area now and have spent a fair number of days in Hemsedal at the start of the season also. A lot of the routes remaining on my 'to do' list need mixed conditions to some degree, or are south facing ice routes and probably not in good condition right now. Better to chase conditions elsewhere and then return when there is a bigger carrot on offer.

View to Skogshorn and surrounding from the top of the route
Rappelling the route

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Øvredalsbratta (WI4)

It was around +7 degrees in the valley and +1 degree on the summits the previous day so Anna and I knew we needed to go as high as possible. We also knew from before Christmas that the valley ice was already in poor shape. With easterly winds forecast up to around 17m/s with possible snow flurries we expected the weather to feel Scottish. No point in dodging such weather given we planned to visit Scotland in just over a month. Øvredalen seemed the obvious choice due to the high elevation and hopefully some degree of shelter. On a very optimistic note, with the following day in mind, a late start would also allow us to check the minute potential for any mixed conditions developing. 

The rock on Skogshorn looked totally dry from the toll road with only the very tops of sheltered aspects showing any genuine sign of winter. At least there was no need for a pre-dawn start the following day on New Year's Day. The toll road was equally dry and we were able to easily park in the pasture at the very end of it.

A dry parking lot
My first visit to Øvredalen had via knee deep powder, so the approach this time around was like a walk in the park. There was a little pot holing to do places whilst in the trees but once the valley opened out the snow generally lessened, although was still a lot soft from the previously warm temperatures. The wind wasn't that bad either, particularly once in Øvredalen.

Not much snow on the approach
View towards Skurvefjell
Øvredalen
Øvredalsbratta was purely an ice climb in current condition, followed by an easy scramble to exit the route. The well defined channel of ice snaking down the rock looked to me the spitting image of the second pitch of Orion Face Direct on Ben Nevis, which naturally made me keen to lead it.

Øvredalsbratta (WI4)
Orion Face comparisons were quickly forgotten once the climbing was underway though. Much of the ice was brittle, although this had been the general theme for a few weeks now. Some of the ice was close to perfect though with my picks easily biting first time. Often when least expected, such as on blank vertical surfaces. It was a really interesting pitch with a fairly constant level of difficulty. Nearly a full 60m to my belay.

The main pitch of Øvredalsbratta
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
I hadn't bothered to bring rock gear, which made my belay a bit more challenging. Just a sling over a loose block, frozen in place but probably less than half my body weight. Plus a good seating position on an upwards slope with which to create some resistance, a bit like a bucket seat. Two feet pressing against some rocks in opposition (admittedly one of these was the frozen block but at least everything was acting in opposition). My axes planted in neve behind me. It actually all felt pretty solid.

My sling'ed belay block
Anna did a second pitch of sorts, which was more of an easy scramble to where we could gain a snowy ramp descent. I was amazed by how little snow was present in the upper part of Øvredalen.

The upper part of Øvredalen looking very dry
Our casual start meant no time for another route. Øvredalsrenna however looked completely different to when I had climbed it early in the season in November 2015. The short mixed chimney at the start now completely banked out with ice. A friend who climbed it the following day described the route as being "like butter, but no ice from halfway up the gully".

Øvredalsrenna
A pretty easy day all in all. I didn't anticipate visiting Øvredalen so late in the season but it's good to keep getting stuff ticked despite some pretty miserable conditions.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Birifeltet

Our day was as much about the climbing as it was about getting to the climbing. Morning plans were sabotaged by our car. The plan had been to drive to Birifeltet to break the journey home but after less than half an hour things started to go wrong.

Firstly a slushing noise coming from the back left wheel that sounded like rubbing snow, except it wasn't going away. Peering under the back of the car we noticed a loose piece of rusted metal on the inside of the wheel frame. We took the wheel off and removed it. Fortunately there looked to be nothing structurally wrong with the wheel so we continued on our way.

We found this behind the wheel
At least we would have done, were if not for a flat battery due to leaving the headlights on. We had no jump leads in the car and there was little sign of traffic. For the first half hour the only two cars that past us was the same car travelling in opposite directions, without jump leads. We gave it a little longer and then bit the bullet to call the breakdown company. Of course as soon as we did that a car stopped soon after.

By the time we reached Birifeltet there was only a couple of hours of daylight remaining. It was another cool looking gorge, although with less ice and atmosphere compared to Helvete. There was a lot of ice with no obvious lines but at the left of the crag we found a good looking short line directly beneath some lower-off bolts.

Birifeltet
It was Anna's turn to lead what was a fairly hard pitch around 4/4+. Firstly a steep wall and then a steep narrow pillar. The pillar in particular was quite technical due to its narrow size and weak ice either side, although the sketchiest part was mounting the shelf between the bolts and where the ice stopped abruptly. I had the 'joy' of reaching the bolts after Anna had abseiled from a couple of screws at the very top of the ice. It was best described as gravelly choss, which was covered in a layer of frost but seemed barely frozen. It reminded me instantly of chalk when at its most chossiest. I dug my points in as best I could then tried to move my crampons up the ice a little higher. To make things worse the thinning ice at the very top of the route had a tendency to fracture and chip away. A little high I now found a protruding block amongst the choss that seemed to not be loose and so with all four points trying to pull evenly as possible I rocked over the top of the route onto the shelf and threaded the bolts.

Anna leading the steep lower wall
Climbing the pillar
We climbed the line once more each on toprope, just to the top of the ice, for a bit more of a workout before pulling the ropes down and driving home. 

We did more short routes than I would have ideally liked over the previous week but that was dictated by the conditions. I think we did a good job overall to keep climbing in new places despite the mid-trip warm spell. At least we maintained a good level of difficulty when limited to single pitch, which wasn't a bad thing early season. Hopefully there will be some stable temperatures from this point forward to allow for some longer routes to be climbed.