Loftet (2170m), Norway, 20th January 2012

I headed up to Jotunheimen again with old friend, Jørgen, in the hope of finding an improvement in conditions to be able to ski something a little more interesting further in the Leirdalen valley.

As the road is closed for the winter past Leirdalvassbu, the options are pretty limited so we plumbed for Loftet which forms the first peak on the west side of the Leirdal valley from the road. The face is north north east facing depending on which particular line down you take but on all accounts very similar to the couloir I wanted to ski further down the valley.

As the road is closed at the moment, we had to skin up around 15mins before climbing the mountain proper. It’s a pretty straightforward skin up although it was icy in some places. There is still clear evidence of the Dagmar storm and rain affected snow which has refrozen to ice in places although it had filled in again in many others.

There’s not really much of note to this tour to be honest. We got there pretty late which meant coming down as the light was starting to fade but we were lucky to get beautiful weather.

We skinned up and skied down the same line to get us back to the car. It’s a pretty even gradient the whole way up and down. A nice cruisy tour for any standard of skier.

We were up and down again in around 4 hours with 1200m of vertical gain from the car. The conditions up lead to some conservative skiing on the way down, expecting to bottom out on a hard, icy layer but that didn’t always happen. Too late after the event!

A nice cruisy tour to get the legs going. Needless to say the conditions weren’t encouraging enough for me to want to check out the couloir I had in mind. I cannot imagine conditions improving anytime soon to be honest. The slightest wind is blowing the snow away and temperatures are in the -10 to -15 range making it difficult for the new snow to bond to the hard icy layer. Or maybe the couloir is nice and protected… Hmmmm. I shall persevere.

Want to see more splitboarding in Norway…..? Click here.

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Sweetgrass Productions: Forrest Shearer. Really Nice Clip

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Gaustatoppen (1883m), Norway, 8th January 2012

I must have been to this mountain about 5 times now, this being the first time since I started this blog. It’s about a 2.5hr drive from Oslo and the closest decent mountain from Oslo I’m aware of.

It’s really easy to get to too which also makes it a pretty popular tour although there were only about four other guys on the mountain today. From Oslo, you just have to head towards Rjukan (a town with its own story to tell) and a few km before you get there, you turn off left and follow the road which takes you to the Gaustatoppen ski resort. As you start to get to the top, the road forks. Keep going straight on (not left) and after a few hundred metres you arrive at a gate blocking the road. The skin starts here and follows the road up a way until a few outhouses where you can pick you line to skin up.

Gaustatoppen (1883m). Taken from the road before gaining altitude.

From the car, the vertical gain is around 950m and I was on the top in around 2 hrs. I had thought about lapping this one more time but that thought was put paid to halfway up and  confirmed on the way down. The snow was bullet!

I started slipping pretty badly on a few sections on the way up and had to bootpack up for a few hundred metres before putting the boards back on. The way down was not much better to be honest.

I thought I would try out the first obvious couloir from the big tower (you can just about see it on the picture). There is a bit of a convex role at the entrance and these always make me a bit nervous for avalanche no matter how stable things are, especially being solo. Absolutely nothing to worry about. It was bullet!  Maybe I should rephrase that. Not quiet bullet. You could make an impression in it if you punched it but my board didn’t leave very obvious tracks. It’s a pretty steep entrance. I’m guessing around 45 degrees but it soon mellows out to around 40 degrees and then keeps mellowing from there.

At least the surface of the snow in the couloir was smooth. I couldn’t say the same once I was out of the couloir. Sastrugi everywhere and this time it was bullet and icy with a couple of mm of powder. Not nice at all. Survival snowboarding really. I didn’t open it up until a joined the skin track on the way down and you cannot really open it up there anymore anyway as it so mellow.

I’m guessing the rain from Christmas time is still a major factor here. This mountain is quite exposed and any new snow is probably just being blown away at the moment. I should really have just boarded down the way I skinned up to be honest.

So….. not great snowboarding but a good day out in the pursuit of fitness.

Want to see more splitboarding in Norway…..? Click here.

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Road Trip – Isfjorden/Jotunheimen- Norway – 28th to 30th December 2011

The first post of the new season and it’s a bit of a wishy washy one to be honest. Failed attempts on a couple of peaks, bad conditions but a great three days away nonetheless.

I’ve decided to call a failed attempt on a peak a “reccy” instead, as that is what it really is. Checking things out and lessons learned for the next attempt. Anything to help lessen the frustration ;)

The snow came late to Europe and Norway has been no exception. But when it came, it came in abundance. Or at least that’s what it looked like looking at the snow reports and from hearsay. Then Dagmar (a hurricane à la Norwegian) came along over Christmas with warm temps and rain.

That’s unfortunately how I found Isfjorden on the West Coast of Norway, just outside of Åndalsness, a 6.5 hrs drive from Oslo. A long drive through the usual, “hilly” mountains before you come to Trollveggen (highest vertical rock face in Europe) and the mountains get serious and beautiful. I wasn’t quite sure which face was Trollveggen but it turns out I was looking at the wrong one, just one door down from the face I should have been looking at which was shrouded in cloud. Another excuse to go back that way!

The wrong Trolllveggen!

The wrong Trolllveggen!

I didn’t really have a plan on going to Isfjorden which is always a bit of a mistake when time is short. I’d heard of the usual suspects like Kirketaket but that was it. So I thought I would try and do something on the first mountain I saw which had skiable lines and that was this one just above the town of Isfjorden:

Snortungen (1193m) & Isfjorden

Snortungen (1193m) & Isfjorden

I wasn’t sure if this was a little ambitious for the first tour of the season and the second day on the board but you won’t know if you don’t try so off I went. The problem with touring at this time of year in Norway is the short days. What looked like a fairly straight forward approach turned out to be a shitty bush whack in shitty rain affected snow, so time and uncertainty got the better of me and I binned it before I got to the fan of the couloir.

I had hoped to spend all three days in Isfjorden getting to know the area but it looked like it had rained pretty much to the top of the mountains before I arrived and more rain was coming the next day ( 29th Dec) and a lot more the next day, so off I went to pastures new, hoping to wrestle a bit of snowboarding out of the few days I had.

Waking up to the pitter patter of rain on my tent the next morning, my decision was confirmed and I headed to Jotunheimen with a pit stop in Bjorli for a couple of hours of piste skiing (a really small resort with a couple of runs).

It turns out they had just closed the road (N55) for winter the day before I got there which meant I wouldn’t be able to get into the area. Things were conspiring against me. I could get some way up the road though to the road that turns off to Leirvassbu and Loftet mountain.

Looking towards Skagsnebb at 9am

Looking towards Skagsnebb at 9am

I’d had my eye on a little something in Leirdalen which again might present me with a few timing issues due to the short day light hours, as indeed it did. I took the wrong approach which didn’t help and lost a lot of time but at least found the best way for next time. A failed attempt but a successful reccie ;)

Conditions here too were not the best. It looked like it had rained pretty high up (at least 1500m. As high as I got.) and refroze. It was boiler plate with a 10cm light and fluffy layer of powder on top and deep pockets of accumulated snow if you were lucky enough to chance upon them. I did on a few occasions and it was blower powder!

There was a big avalanche run out too which I can only imagine was from warmer temps and rain. The debris was boulder size and much more like the warm, wet slides you see at the end of the season. Something to bear in mind as this layer forms the foundation for other snow layers later in the season.

Avalanche in Leidalen (West facing)

Avalanche in Leidalen (West facing)

Looking north in Leirdalen as the light fades (3pm)

Looking north in Leirdalen as the light fades (3pm)

So, on paper a pretty unsuccessful trip. But then what was I expecting having no knowledge of Isfjorden and just generally challenging conditions. Off paper (if you can say that), it was a fantastic 3 days away with me, my car, my splitboard and my tent. A fantastic sense of freedom that I haven’t felt for a long time which has got me well up for the new season!

And things to look forward to: Lofoten, Chamonix and Pakistan!

Want to see more splitboarding in Norway…..? Click here.

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A Skier’s Journey…… Freshfield Icefield by Jordan Manley

Freshfield Icefield: A Skier’s Journey Ep3 from Jordan Manley Photography on Vimeo.

There’s still no snow in Norway!! So what better way to get your fix than to drawl over ski videos. This is exquisite filming from Jordan Manley from last season. Check out his other “episodes” here.

You can find other really nice videos here.

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The Art of Flight – Best trailer I’ve seen so far in 2011.

The Art of FLIGHT – snowboarding film trailer wTravis Rice from tpajak on Vimeo.

Brilliant Trailer!

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Nice trailer of Upcoming film: Solitaire by Sweetgrass Productions

SOLITAIRE: A Backcountry Skiing, Snowboarding, and Telemark Film from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

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Video of the full descent of the Mallory on the Auiguille du Midi, Chamonix

scrub it 01 from julien regnier on Vimeo.

From the guys who founded Black Crow Skis. Thanks to Trey at www.chamonixinsider.com where I found the scoop.

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Jesus Christ……Definitely worth a watch this one!

Reminds me of when I hit ice and fell down the Poubelle in Chamonix….I came out a bit worse than him. Not quite as bad as his skidoo though. Ouch!

And this is what it looked like from the top:

Thanks Lars T!

You can find other really nice videos here.

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Store Smørstabbtinden (2208m), Norway, 30th April 2011

Back to some relatively higher mountains, if only in altitude, after a great week in Lofoten a few weeks ago. I saw this mountain driving back from a litte session of splitboarding at the end of last year (click here) and made plans to hit it before the road closed and access was denied but unfortunately the road closed and I was beaten to it. Funnily enough, Trond who I had hooked up with on a failed mission in Frudalen wanted to hit this one too, so we made plans as soon as the road opened…..which was this weekend!

Store Smørstabbtinden

Store Smørstabbtinden

And the weather is still really hot. I don’t know what the ambient temperature was during the day but 10 to 15 degrees didn’t seem too far off the mark. And the night time temps were around 0 to -5. Needless to say, the freeze-thaw cycle was in full effect and there was definitely no need for early starts. The snow was bullet hard until mid day.

Store Smørstabbtinden

Store Smørstabbtinden

This run is west facing, so it was a good job we waited as late as we did. We set off around 12.00 and were on the summit for around 16.00, enough time for the snow to soften up. I didn’t take too many pics on this trip but have borrowed a few from Trond. To be honest, the hike up is not really very noteworthy.

The tour starts at Krossbu Hotel and makes its way up gently for the first 500m taking a route which goes looker’s left of the mountain and is very obvious. The last 550m gets steeper and we bootpacked all the way up the ridge to the summit. The snow was very firm the whole way up.

Trond on the way up. Picture courtesy of Trond

Trond on the way up. Picture courtesy of Gunnar

Views from the summit looking south. Picture courtesy of Trond

Views from the summit looking south. Picture courtesy of Trond

Finding the entrance to the couloir is pretty okay but you need to get a good fix on it on the way up. The actual couloir itself is around 40 degrees and pretty narrow in the beginning before widening out again. You have to navigate your way through some stones towards the end and then just peg it across the glacier to get back to Krossbu. Keeping speed, I managed to get most of the way back to the car without having to take the board off. As little walking as possible please ;)

And that’s that. Not much else to report on this one. We took a very leisurely 5hrs up and down with about 1.5hrs break along the way. Total up from the car was 1050m. And that is probably my last tour for the season unfortunately.

Not sure what to make of it to be honest. This is my second season away from the mountains on a permanent basis since 2003 and it’s been hard. There’ve been long periods of nothing and mediocrity in terms of boarding and life’s just too short for mediocrity. I’ve struggled to find a ski buddy with a similar background and experience in ski mountaineering and who’s on the same page. Maybe I’ve been spoilt by fantastic ski buddies during my time in Chamonix or maybe there are just so many more in places like Chamonix than in places like Oslo….

Let’s see what happens next season. One things for sure is it can’t be a repeat of this one.

Want to see more splitboarding in Norway…..? Click here.

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