Norwegian Mountains, Møre og Romsdal
Last Wednesday, I got one of the best TEXT messages in 2014 (apart the ones from my girlfriend, of course...) It read (translated); "Hi Arnt, how about Kvanndalstind this weekend? Ole".
But let's rewind a bit; I've met Ole André Lukkedal only once before, and that was on the highly memorable Gjuratinden trip in May 2012. Since then, we've become FB friends and chatted occasionally. He missed a chance to visit Kvanndalstinden with his regular wild bunch earlier this year, and he has only waited for his turn since then.
Apparently, he must have thought that I would be a somewhat trustworthy mate on the safe end of the rope, so when the question came up I was in a hurry to sort out two important questions; a) could Anne look after my dog Karma and b) could my colleague Morten take my on-watch duty at work? Both issues were solved quickly and I could report back to Ole that Saturday was a go! The meeting point was Venjedalen and the meeting time was 6am.
On Saturday evening, I took the 8:30pm ferry from Hareid and drove the long way to the trailhead in Venjedalen. To my surprise, I didn't sleep well in the car. I normally do, but the combination of a fierce wind (shaking the car) nervousness and excitement made me twist and turn restlessly into the late hours of the night. The nervousness was related to my knee and not the climb. The knee had become inflammated and resting on Friday didn't seem to be enough.
I got up before 5am, had breakfast and became familiar with Anne's backpack - which I chose to borrow in the last minute. Ole arrived a bit before schedule, and by 05:50am we were on our way...
It didn't take long before I realized that I would be in for a hell of a day - both positive and negative. The knee was aching already before we had reached 1000 meters and I had been stupid enough to forget to bring pain killers. Oh well...
It was nice to chat with Ole. He is excellent company and has been on some pretty awesome trips with his regular wild bunch in the past couple of years.
We both had anticipated a HOT autumn day and had even thinking about hiking in shorts. But the wind was quite cold and I was glad I had brought plenty of clothes in the backpack. Reaching Olaskarsvatnet felt good, as I could now walk with a straight knee. But only for a little bit...
The next "milestone" was to cross the Venjetindan ridge north of point 1257m. And after a little while, Kvanndalstinden came into view. Holy cow, it looked impressive! I took it for granted that the fog would have disappeared by the time we got up there.
The glacier seemed steeper than I had anticipated, and the closest part of it seemed downright steep from my viewpoint. My old crampons from early-2000 were just as sharp as my tooth brush and I had limited faith in their capability on blue ice. Hence, I suggested to Ole that we should enter the glacier closer to the mountain, as it looked less steep there. In hindsight, this also seemed like the best place to cross the glacier - as there were not so many crevasses here. Also in hindsight, I should have brought proper hiking boots - on which I could fit my new and sharp crampons...
The plan was to enter the main ridge at the lowest point and we decided to stick to it. We left the crampons and ice-axe at the foot of the obvious scrambling route up to the ridge. While the scrambling was easy enough, I didn't look forward to the descent. Not quite sure why, but I suppose I felt that it was a bit slippery up there.
On the ridge
After a short scramble, we reached the Venjetindan - Kvanndalstinden ridge. The view towards Store Venjetind was just phenomenal! I can't wait to set my foot on that peak! We then continued for 0,3km along the ridge with easy scrambling before reaching a section where it felt quite obvious to use a rope. It was a very short pitch (20 meters) and the lower part was merely scrambling. But the upper part had a crack with a question mark written on it. Better to be on the safe side...
Ole headed out and found out that the crack was indeed negotiable (although it was possibly among the 3 points of the overall route - including Torshammeren - that stood out from the rest). YDS class 4 (Norwegian 3) - I reckon.
After this climb, we continued unroped across a very enjoyable section. Ahead of us was a characteristic spire (in lack of a better word), which we had to pass on the right-hand side. This implied crossing of a few ridges and couloirs and I recalled Odd Arne's storytelling about the wild bunch' epic slash nightmare trip to Kvanndalstinden, which had both extreme avalanche danger and a stuck rope as ingredients. Now I could definitely understand what he was on about...
The path was (surprisingly) easy to follow (dry rock surely helped...) but if you have a very low tolerance for heights, this will not be your favorite playground. Fortunately, I've come a long, long way since I decided to fight my vertigo in the cliffs below Ulriken some 15 years ago...
Looking back on the ridge, I noticed two climbers in a ferocious speed - heading our way. They had still some distance to catch up, but with that speed it would be a matter of minutes.
The next milestone of the trip was arriving at the foot of Torshammeren. The sight of it wasn't intimidating at all, since I had no plans of climbing it. There was no way my knee would give me the extra shove that the final move seemed to require...
But first we would climb Kvanndalstinden. We headed over to the start of the climbing route and Ole asked if we should continue unroped up the first section. I wasn't quite acclimated yet and let him know I would be better off starting out in a rope.
Meanwhile, the two guys turned up and decided to climb Torshammeren while waiting for us to get out of their way. I belayed Ole while watching these two guys climb the pinnacle - swiftly!
When I arrived at Ole's belay point, I was annoyed with myself for suggesting the rope. This was easy climbing, although the initial climb was indeed steeper than the rest. The scramble/climb reminded me of Fingeren terrain.
Ole had brought two walkie-talkies and I found this very useful. Not only because we've never climbed as a pair before but also because the wind made it occasionally impossible to hear each other. Then the two other guys came crawling up the wall like spiders - and disappeared just as fast as they came. Worse - it didn't take long before the first one came rappelling down the face. And although Ole stepped aside and waited while they passed, I never felt Ole was climbing slowly. Hence, my curiosity about these guys was growing by the minute!
It was very cold while waiting for Ole to arrive at the summit and I was very happy when he reported that he was up! And man - it was a great feeling to reach the top of this beautiful peak! I mean - this wasn't exactly Mt. Everest, but I do feel that mountaineering offers moments where our vocabulary falls a bit short...
We arrived on the summit 12:40pm - approx. 6 hours after we left the car. The knee was in a poor shape and I realized I would have to limp all the way down. But for this kind of experience, it was well worth it!
After pictures, it was time for lunch. Lesson learned - crispbread is not the ideal choice for lunch, especially not with a 60m rope on top of it. That said - the remaining pieces were sensational ;)
We signed the summit register and learned that the spiders had names; Eirik Tryti and Olav Storli Ulvund. Enough said! Post-trip, I heard through the grapewine that one of them had said that he had met two guys with walkie-talkies. Apparently, his comment was something like "A smart thing to do, given the wind". Ha ha ... I'm sure they laughed all the way down to Venjedalen ;)
The worst rappel of my life...
40 minutes later, it was time to head down. The weather had improved, but the wind was just as strong, if not stronger. When we tossed the rope down the south face, it got wings and flew over to the north face! We ended up shoving the rope away from the rappel point and I volunteered to go first, as I did not want to be responsible for causing the rope to jam when we pulled it down.
This was the worst rappel of my life. First of all, I haven't fully taught myself the French prusik and was still using a prusik above the ATC - a technique that was approved amongst climbers in the 16th century. But I've always used this technique and if the rappel rope isn't too thick, this works like a charm. But Ole decided to use a rope that was too thick for my prusik, something I discovered as I headed down. The prusik was extremely hard to move and I feared that it would jam any minute. But at least I had a knife in my pocket...
Secondly, the rope was constantly in a big mess below me, and every time I tried to untangle it and push it down the face, the wind lifted it and wrapped it firmly around some knob - for the most part out of my imminent reach...
Then there was a small overhang where everything went wrong at the same time; the prusik jammed, the rope tangled up and the wind sent me in a pendulum and I crashed into the wall. The palm of my hand felt burnt and the rest of it was aching from the close encounter with the face.
Then I noticed a guy sitting on a knob on the other side of the rappel route, observing me. He had this Omigod... look on his face. I shouted "stand back! inexperienced climber coming down" and smiled to underline the irony/truth. "We all have to start at some point", he replied. I watched my self-esteem in free fall below me...
Last, but not least - the 60 meter rope was 3 meters too short for the next rappel point. I was no longer on top of the game and wasn't quite sure what to do. The observer above me suggested that I aimed for a ledge below me and climbed unroped from there. At first, I had no idea what he was on about, but then I realized that this was the belay point for the 2nd pitch and that we could climb down without a rope.
I waited for Ole to finish his rappel and watched him take the rope down without any problems. Then we climbed down to the start of the climbing route. We could see that the observer were joined by 3 others and that they were climbing a route that seemed a bit more advanced than the normal route.
Back at the start of the climbing route, we had a pleasant surprise. Well, perhaps not a surprise - as we knew that Otto Lund, Johan Solberg, Janne Eikås and Andreas Dale were going to climb here today. But definitely pleasant! Some of them are among most notorious peakbaggers this country has to offer.
After parting with the others, we sat course for Torshammeren. As we got rigged, 3 other climbers appeared. They sat down for 5 minutes and continued towards Kvanndalstinden. I belayed Ole up and noticed that the final move wasn't just a no-brainer. Another good reason for me not to try. But then he found the key to success and stood proud on top of Torshammeren.
Watching my happy buddy, I had to ask myself what kind of person I've become? Am I not even going to give this a try? Just chicken out? Because of a bad knee? Hell no! And so after taking Ole safely down, I put on my climbing shoes and headed upwards - belayed by Ole of course.
The pinnacle felt like a stairway, except for the last move. I had to try a couple of variations before I found the key that opened the door to the top. The wind got the best of me, and I was more than satisfied from standing on the lower of the two rocks. A mountain or pinnacle has been climbed if you can put your hand on top! So there...
Two more rappels...
Very high on life, we continued down the ridge - together with the party of four (including the observer) who came down just as we wrapped up from Torshammeren. The route across the couloirs was just honky dory nice and when we got to the very first climbing section, we took a pause and let the other party go first.
Then we rappelled down and used every inch of the 60 meter rope (which means 30 meters of rappel...) Back at the low point on the saddle, we agreed that we might as well rappel down to the glacier. Again, I took the sorting-out-the-rope-along-the-way job, and I regretted deeply not just climbing down unroped. The mountainside was not steep enough to allow the rope to fall down, and so I had to kick it, untangle it, kick it, untangle it. No use in throwing it, as the wind would just lift it up again. But eventually, we reached the glacier and could put the ropes in our backpacks...
The painful descent...
The glacier descent was swift and we bypassed all crevasses by staying close to the mountain. The traverse over to the Venjetindan ridge was a bit more cumbersome than earlier in the day - mostly because of the melting water from the glacier, causing the rock to be slippery.
The descent from the ridge and to the car was just plain evil. My knee ached so much that I almost cried by the time we reached our cars. The time was now 7:50pm and I was in for a long drive back to Gurskøya. After parting with Ole, the only question of interest was if it would be Saturday or Sunday by the time i got home.
It took us 14 hours to climb Kvanndalstinden and Torshammeren. The guides say this is a 9-11 hour trip (not necessarily including Torshammeren) and you don't even have to have any climbing experience. What??? We were that slow? Hard to believe...
My dear, dear Anne...
I managed to reach the 10pm ferry from Sulesund and was home just before 11pm. My dear, dear Anne had prepared a wonderful hot meal, served with a cold beer and a glass of wine. I'm quite sure that I haven't deserved all this, but I take it with a bow and gratitude.
And to Ole...
Over dinner, I gave Anne a resyme. This was for sure one of the very best trips in Møre og Romsdal county, and it would also be very high on my list of fantastic trips altogether. Many, many thanks to Ole for a) taking me onboard on this trip, b) being such excellent company and c) doing such a good job in the sharp end of the rope!
I hope I can write another trip report with your name in it!
The pictures were taken with a Sony Cybershot DSC WX-80 and a GoPro HERO3+ Black Edition
(Full size images)
(Images scaled down.
To the ridge
To the final climbing section
To climb to the top
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