Presten Couloir (500m), near Henningsvær, Lofoten, Norway, 5th April 2012

The weather continued to be unstable today, so we decided on a couloir again for best visibility. I saw a youtube video on the Presten couloir a couple of years ago and Luca saw it recently himself, so we thought we would go and have a look.

I found very little info on the couloir other than the youtube video but it turns out that it’s pretty easy to find. Driving from Leknes to Henningsvær, you can find it just outside of Henningsvær in an area which is popular amongst climbers in the summer and looks like this:

Where we parked the car for the Presten Couloir

The couloir is a little bit further on from where I’m taking the picture and easy to see.

Luca with the Presten Couloir disappearing in the background

Unfortunately we didn’t find the couloir in good condition. It looked amazing but when we got on it, the rain affected snow was in clear evidence with light fluffy powder on top. There was lots of sluff in the couloir where it had purged which made for pockets of avy debris and exposed, icy rain affected snow.

Luca on the first section of the Presten Couloir before the crux

The gradient on the lower part of the couloir is never more than 40 degrees, so we knew that section of the couloir was skiable in those conditions and hoped that it might get better as we climbed. There is a big fallen boulder in the middle of the couloir (the crux) which is easy to pass both up and down. We had crampons and two ice ixes for the climb which were definitely needed  for this section in the condition we found it.

Luca just before the crux on the Presten Couloir

The snow just above the crux was also very hard and icy and it would definitely be wise to board this section with both ice axes to arrest any fall or loss of control or just simply down climb.

Looking back down the Presten Couloir just before the crux

Once passed the crux, the couloir gradually steepens to around 45 degrees and up to around 50 degrees as you start to top out (all gradients were checked with the inclinomoter). The condition of the couloir didn’t improve as we climbed and we were unsure whether it was skiable. Having had a serious fall on ice before, this is not somewhere I like to be, so we decided at the worst we would climb to the top, enjoy the clouds and then downclimb.

Luca climbing the Presten Couloir after the crux

Just as we were nearing the top (probably 50m below the top), I released a slab avalanche on 50 degrees. It wasn’t particularly big (crown of around 30cm) but big enough to take us both off the face and start falling down the couloir. I managed to self arrest around 50m from the crown and Luca fell around 100m toma-hawking and finally coming to a stop.

As soon as I got on that section of snow, I just knew it was going to go and then it did. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to shout “Avalanche”. Then I got snow in my mouth and down my wind pipe and was struggling for breath when I finally managed to stop.

Luckily, nothing more than a slightly twisted knee for me and a bruised elbow for Luca. And then a hasty retreat down the couloir.

So, the long and short of it is that this beautiful couloir is not in coniditon at the moment due to all the rain last week. And a word of warning….. While we were down climbing, it started snowing heavily. All the snow from the side walls sluffs into the couloir. We were protected under the rock at the crux but there was surprisingly large amounts and they came much quicker than I would have ever thought.

For more trips reports in Lofoten and for more trip reports in Norway.

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5 Responses to Presten Couloir (500m), near Henningsvær, Lofoten, Norway, 5th April 2012

  1. Fred Alpiski says:

    Hi Paul-

    Nice couloir, nice fright……

    Looks like you know your way around Norway. I planning some ski trip there for the end of the month (Jotunheimen/Lyngen). How can i contact you to check a few facts?

    Thanks.

    Happy Easter !

    Fred

  2. seb says:

    sympas, le paysage est chouette et assez rare, skié juste au dessus d’un lac, avec un peu d’élan tu plonges!

  3. Blim says:

    Paul.
    What happened to your Gopro in the presten couloir?

    • Paul says:

      Hei Jørgen, it wasn’t my Gopro but Luca’s. It has the footage of the fall on it. Are you going to be heading that way in the summer at all? He’s asked a few local people to go and have a look for it when the snow clears so they can send it to him. A new Gopro will make a big dent in his wallet as he snowboards more than he works ;) He would be very grateful. Will check out your blog. Like the snowboard ;)

  4. Blim says:

    Funny.
    I was skiing the couloir late April and found the camera. Watched through the videos when I came home. However only thing I could figure out was that you didn’t speak Norwegian, and that I would be hard to locate the owner.

    A friend of mine told me that he had read something about setting up splitboard for hardboots on a blog of a guy that use to ski in Lofoten. Some day later I was searching the web to find that article when I found your blog and realized you had been skiing the couloir…

    Send me an e-mail, and we’ll find a way to get the camera back to Luca :-)

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