South West Shoulder of Ristinden (862m), Lofoten, Norway, 24th April 2011

This is an absolute stunner. Another peak you can gaze at while sipping on your coffee in Leknes. There’s a steep couloir straight down the middle (for another time, ski buddy required), skiing the ridge all the way down or skiing the shoulder which is what I opted for. A mouth-watering prospect.

Ristinden and its shoulder

Ristinden and its shoulder

And unfortunately that is going to be how it remains until I’m next in Lofoten this time next year. For some reason I didn’t feel quite right about this one beforehand, some of it being irrational and due to the fact that I was going to solo this and some of it perhaps not.

The snow was again on the sparse side on the start of the climb up and again I didn’t use skins.

The intended climb up in red and the same ski down

The intended climb up in red and the same ski down

There was a lot of water coming down the mountain in the form of streams and there were a few marked on the map for this mountain, so I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary other than, yes, the snow was melting. There was a fair bit of sluff and pin wheel activity too.

I took this one late in the day (16.30), reasoning that the south facing climb and ski would be softer and in the process of refreezing by the time I got to it. Which it was but the face was in a lot worse shape than I thought.

This face starts out mellow and gets progressively steeper. It’s 40 degrees (measured with inclinometer) half way up the face and still had a fair amount of steepness to go maxing out where you enter the south face from the shoulder (I’m guessing that must be 50 degrees). I didn’t get any further than half-way up the face. At that point, I was confronted with some big fissures in the snow pack, just waiting for more heat (or weight) to set them off.

Nasty cracks in the snow pack

Nasty cracks in the snow pack

More big, nasty cracks in the snowpack

More big, nasty cracks in the snowpack

Not a nice feeling……. That was my cue to bin the route and head back down. So this will be another mountain for another day. This route has had its day for this season.

Temperatures are unseasonably warm for this time of year, not only in Lofoten but all over Norway, so take extra special care and enjoy the remainder of your season.

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Guratinden (581m) – Bulitinden (5??m) Traverse, Lofoten, Norway, 23 April 2011

Or at least that’s what I called it.

This little mountain is right on the doorstep to Leknes and you can see it from the parking lot of the shopping centre. It’s pretty much West-North-West facing. The couloir on Bulitinden originally caught my eye and I tried to get up there with Angelita the previous day but we chose an inefficient route with lots of bushwhacking through thick trees. When we got to the face, it hadn’t quite thawed AND I started climing the wrong couloir!

So back to the drawing board….. and up Guratinden first instead. Way better route and it starts close to the road to Sennesvik and you can come back out to the same place to pick the car up too. Sweet!

Bulitinden & Guratinden from left to right

Bulitinden & Guratinden from left to right

I took this one solo and bootpacked up the couloir due to the spring corn but you can probably skin up with better snow earlier in the year. Once you’re out, you’ve gained around 400m, so most of the climb is already done. Then it’s just a traverse over to Bulitinden. I didn’t get the skins out once for this trip. Guratinden was a bit patchy on the snow front to be honest. Although, I have to say, if this mountain had more snow on it and it was earlier in the season, I would have felt very exposed on the top and probably not made a bee-line for it’s summit. Moss bed surface and a big open expanse of convex snow.

Backside of Guratinden. Nice run down to Sennesvik...?

Backside of Guratinden. Nice run down to Sennesvik...?

Look down to Sennesvik between Gura- and Bulitinden

Look down to Sennesvik between Gura- and Bulitinden

It’s straight-forward to get across to Bulitinden from Guratinden. Finding the couloir entrance on Bulitinden, on the other hand, wasn’t. There are three possible entrances (only two of which went) and there is a big roll-over and the mountain just falls away. I knew the couloir went from the summit but you always have your doubts and I didn’t fancy getting cliffed-out. Luckily, I had the option of calling a friend, in this case, Angelita! Unfortunately for me, she couldn’t see me through the binoculars, so I took the plunge and got it right (take the entrance from the summit). The couloir was steeper than I thought, around 45 degrees and around 250m long, west facing and nice and soft snow in the evening sun.

Looking back up the couloir on Bulitinden

Looking back up the couloir on Bulitinden

Views from Bulitind looking west

Views from Bulitind looking west

Views from Bulitind looking west

Views from Bulitind looking west

There’s not a lot of skiing to be had on this to be honest but the weather was great and it was just great to be out. Once you come out of the couloir, you want to try and stay in the most immediate little valley and ski down as far as you can (no real obvious way to describe it). There was a fair amount of bushwhaking the way I went but I followed one of the streams and came out at a wide path which took me all the way back to where the car was parked. No fuss at all.

The whole tour took 2.5hrs (incl. 30mins break) and was around 650m vertical gain. With more snow, you could probably speed up the exit some too.

Nice tour and it you don’t like the couloir on Bulitinden, you can just ski down from the col.

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South Couloir, Stornappstind (740m), Lofoten, Norway, 20th April 2011

I’m probably pushing the point here a bit having already posted about this mountain yesterday (click here if you’re interested) but I got some nice photos today which was an achievement considering the changeable weather here, so I thought I’d write another quick post.

South Couloir, Stornappstind

South Couloir, Stornappstind

I saw the obvious south couloir yesterday and decided a quick solo trip was in order today. It’s about 250 to 300m long and a sustained 40 degrees (maybe a bit more) for the duration. I thought bootpacking up the couloir was probably the best option as I wasn’t sure how obvious it would be to find the entrance if I went up the normal route on the west face. We certainly didn’t come across it when we went up there yesterday and I didn’t fancy the pfaff of trying to find it anyway (although looking at the above picture, it looks easy to find after all). And it’s always good to climb what you’re going to ski in my opinion if you can. By the way, the couloir entrance is lower down than the summit.

Needless to say, I got the whole palette of weather; from sun to cload and sleet to rain and then back to sun again. It’s proabably not a bad thing that the mountains are on the smaller side here, as the weather is so unstable sometimes that you don’t want to be commited on anything big.

Views towards Flakstad before bootpacking up the couloir

Views towards Flakstad before bootpacking up the couloir

When the sun did decide to make an appearance, it was 12.00 and I was half-way up the couloir. South facing, hot and feeling quite exposed. There was a good amount of snow in the couloir and the snow seemed nicely cohesive but I couldn’t bannish that feeling of unease. Either way, I made it to the top and was rewarded with some lovely views.

 

In the couloir

In the couloir

More nice views from the top of the couloir towards Skottind and Napp harbour

More nice views from the top of the couloir towards Skottind and Napp harbour

More nice views

More nice views

The couloir was in good condition despite my earlier unease. Although the bootpack up felt like a small eternity, definitely a nice descent. Tired now. This little bootpack kicked my arse. 900m bootpacks at altitude used to be all part of the fun. I find that hard to imagine this year on that evidence ;)

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West Face of Stornappstind (740m), Lofoten, Norway, 19th April 2011

I thought I would get this post out on the day, if only because you are the only other person in Lofoten wondering what the conditions are going to be like when you go up Stornappstinden tomorrow….. And you happen to be checking for conditions tonight.

This was my first outing on the snowboard in Lofoten and what a day it was too! The weather wasn’t particularly nice. It was blowing a gale. It had rained a few days previously, so the snow wasn’t particularly great. But Angelita’s parents’ house is at the foot of this moutain, you’re surrounded by the sea (at least once you get to the summit) and you’ve got the whole mountain (and all the other mountains within view) to yourself.

I know so little about these mountains; that combined with its far-flung northerly location (above the Arctic Circle) and the feeling that lots of these faces have been deprived the tickling sensation of skis and you just want to get after it…..like a kid in a sweetshop! None of the peaks are particularly high (around 700m to 1000m for the most part). But that just means you can ski two in a day! And it doesn’t get dark until around 22.00, so you can ski one in the morning, cruise Leknes in the car with the tunes banging like a proper townie and then go and ski another line later when you get bored. Leknes definitely does not have the feeling of being a ski town, so you’re never going to be fighting for lines in this part of Lofoten.

There’s nothing particularly special about this route…apart from the fact that you are skiing in Lofoten!! A nice short ski tour and a nice pitch on the way down (parts of it in the mid to high 30 degrees). According to my watch, the trip up was 750m and we were up and down again in around 2hrs. Just in time before it started to lash it down.

West Face of Stornappstind

West Face of Stornappstind

If you drive west from Napp for a couple of km, you come to Nappskaret car park which is where the tour starts. Once you’ve located the summit from the car park, it’s really straight forward route finding to the summit. You can either ski the South face or the West face which is what we did.

Stortinden: looking towards Flakstad

Stortinden: looking towards Flakstad

We managed to get the skis on from the car and skin most of the way. The snow was pretty hard and frozen when we got onto the West face proper and without ski crampons, we boot packed the last few hundred metres to….almost the summit. We turned round about 20m from the summit as it was turning into boiler plate ice from the ridiculously strong winds and I started to slip backwards and couldn’t kick in any steps.

Angelita book packing up...

Angelita book packing up...

Good ski down and all the way back to the car. Nice first tour to get a feel for conditions.

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Another wicked Video from the Dolomites.

Dolomiti from Felix Hentz on Vimeo.

Where did my season go……?

You can find other really nice videos here.

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More Xavier de la Rue and couloir skiing in the Dolomites!

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Xavier de la Rue in Alaska

My favourite rider by far. Great style, strong and fast.

You can find other really nice videos here.

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Val Mesdi (2950m), Dolomites, Italy, 19th February 2011

Val Mesdi…… Wow!! What can I say about this one. Pretty bloody amazing to be honest. It has got to be an absolute classic in the Dolomites and definitely a jaw-dropper from start to finish. Thank God there were no flies around.

It’s one of the many routes you can do after taking the lift up from Passo Pordoi and I cannot recommend it enough. Nothing extreme or nasty about it. The entrance to the valley might be a little on the steep side for some (probably high 30s in degrees but it soon mellows and leads you into the valley itself.)……sheer rock walls all around you. Really, really beautiful, almost to the point where the skiing becomes secondary….but only almost.

Sigurd at the entrance to Val Mesdi

Sigurd at the entrance to Val Mesdi

Sigurd skiing down the couloir from the entrance

Sigurd skiing down the couloir from the entrance

It probably takes around an hour to get to the entrance from leaving the Passo Pordoi lift (didn’t pay much attention to the time so that could be a little off but close enough). Just like Canale Col Alton, you have to head for Piz Boe and then keep skinning looker’s left (looking from Passo Pordoi). It should be pretty obvious. When we were there, there was an obvious skin track all the way across the base of Piz Boe which leads you to the entrance of the couloir. If you end up at the Boe refugio (which was closed when we were there), then you’ve gone the right way.

Looking back up the couloir to the entrance

Looking back up the couloir to the entrance

Just before the valley opens up proper

Just before the valley opens up proper

Mid-way down the valley

Mid-way down the valley

There are a few nice couloirs skier’s right when you ski down the valley. I will certainly have to check them out when I go back… and I will go back!

Nice couloir for another day!

Nice couloir for another day!

Spagetti Western or what!

Spagetti Western or what!

You’ll know when you start to approach the exit, as the descent starts to get narrow. Head skier’s right and follow the tracks down or mogul field as it was in our case. You’ll come out onto a track with just enough gradient to get you back onto the slopes in Colfosco.

The exit from the valley

The exit from the valley (most obvious line)

An absolute cracker! Skiing the Val Mesdi takes as long as you like but no more than 20 mins if you’re in a hurry. Once in Colfosco, we got a lift down to Corvara again and a taxi back to Arabba where we were staying. EUR 30 for the taxi for two if you’re interested. You can take the lifts back but they were closing when we arrived.

DO IT!!

Want to see more trip reports from Italy….? Click here.

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Canale Col Alton (2950m), Dolomites, Italy, 19th February 2011

Finally…..! My last proper post was over two months ago. And no…it wasn’t because I’ve been so busy skiing that I just haven’t had time. I haven’t really been skiing. Well, there has been the odd bit of resort skiing but nothing really interesting enough to write about.

The start of the season in the interior of Norway has been pretty tragic. The odd powder day in Hemsedal, touring around Hemsedal on a 50cm base and skinning up the local 300m slope in Oslo (Tryvann). All a far cry from my seasonnaire days where mountains and routes were a plenty and just outside the door!

Needless to say, I was pretty excited at the prospect of going to the Dolomites in Italy for a couple of days. Only two days skiing but definitely better than nothing. My first time there and I don’t know why it has taken so long. For someone who likes couloirs, this place is a mecca. And just stunning mountains to boot.

It hasn’t snowed here since Christmas but just a day before we arrived, we got a nice covering of around 40cm and spent the first day with some locals, finding our bearings and skiing the slack country on Marmolada and getting a feel for how the snow was settling.

All good and day two we took the lift up from Passo Pordoi to check out some lines. This lift is in the town of Canazei and gives you access to so many off pistes runs. I don’t think I have ever been on one lift that opens up so much terrain and variation with so little effort. We were spoilt for choice and changed our minds more than once on the way up and when we got there! But we plumped for Canale Col Alton, (canale being Italian for couloir).

Canale Col Alton with Piz Boe in background

Defintely a good warm up run and the steepest thing I’ve skied all season (which isn’t saying much all things considered). It’s around 40 degrees with a few sections of 45 degrees and south west facing. There had been two turns in it before we got to it (at least we knew it went ;)). It takes about 30mins to get to once you get out of the lift on the summit of Sass Pordoi and very easy to spot as long as you head for Piz Boe. Bit of a role-over in the entrance which always heightens the suspense.

Entrance to Canale Col Alton

Entrance to Canale Col Alton

But an absolute stunner of a couloir. Perfect blue skies, good snow and a great line. Not much else you could ask for.

Sigurd in the upper section of the couloir

Sigurd in the upper section of the couloir

Sigurd halfway down

Sigurd halfway down

Exit of the couloir

Exit of the couloir

Once you’re out of the couloir, you end up in Val Lasties which opens up nicely for a bit of charging.

Out of the couloir and entering Val Lasties

Out of the couloir and entering Val Lasties

Once you’re into the valley it’s just a question of following the fall line down to the left (as in picture above) for another 700 vertical metres of skiing (my guesstimate). Val Lasties is very accessible and consequently pretty popular as far as routes go in this area. So it was no surprise to find a very icy mogul field on the way down (this is a little couloir right next to the north face of Sass Pordoi) which led to some good old bush whaking before we came out at Pian Schiavaneis (an outcrop of buildings next to a road). The good thing about this run is that you can get right back to the resort without having to hitch. When you get to Pian Schiavaneis, there’s a trail which runs alongside the road and then crosses the road further down and you’re back at the resort. Nice! One word of warning….. get the superski pass. We got the Arabba-Marmolada pass and it doesn’t cover the two lifts you need to get back to Passo Pordoi. EUR 6 for a single up. No big deal but still…….

And another good tip… buy the book “Freeride in Dolomite” by Francesco Tremolada. Indispensible if you come to ski here.

Want to see more trip reports from Italy….? Click here.

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Cool Video on Greg Hill’s quest for 2m vertical feet of self-propelled skiing in a year….

2 Million With Greg Hill from FD Productions on Vimeo.

I was fortunate enough to get some turns in with Greg last season in Revelstoke. Lovely guy with a passion for numbers!

You can find other really nice videos here.

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