Flagetfossen (WI3+), Hemsedal

Getting the car stuck on 10 degree ice wasn't the ideal way to start the day. Temperatures in Hemsedal had rocketed in recent days, peaking at around 6 degrees, leaving sheet ice on many of the side roads. Performing a simple 3-point turn had left my wheels spinning on an upward slope with a barrier immediately behind the car. Fortunately a couple of climbers of Cambridge appeared at just the right moment to lend some weight to the back end and shift the car from its predicament. They were planning to climb the same route, which meant for the first time this winter we would have company on the route. Only once the car was properly parked were we able to admire the beautiful sunrise to the East.

Sunrise over Hemsedal

Prior to the warm spell the temperatures had been low so I was anticipating plenty of climbable ice. Particularly in light of the fine climbing that I managed during my last trip to Hemsedal three weeks ago. Temperatures had dipped below zero the previous day but probably not enough to halt the running water I thought. With all this in mind it seemed sensible to be a little bit more conservative with objectives. Flagetfossen seemed a good choice given the short approach, sheltered setting and ability to place rock protection in the event of thin ice.

I had tried and failed to find the route during late November, largely as a result of overlooking the coordinates in the guidebook. Funnily enough our premature trail into the woods looked to be getting repeat ascents, emphasizing the importance of not trusting those that went before you to know the way. With coordinates entered into the phone the approach this time was remarkably easy.

The route

"THIS IS AWFUL!"

Anna's initial comment a short way up the first pitch was not particularly positive but at least she wasn't deterred. An initial ice step was flowing with water down its centre and immediately left the ice was saturated. It dinner-plated readily, or possibly more to the point fell apart. Fortunately the initial ice step wasn't a representation of the route as a whole and immediately afterwards the conditions improved and became a drier affair. Easy climbing led to steeper ground and then a belay on the right at 50m where the ice readily accepted a couple of long screws.

The wet step
Top of the first pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

Things remained largely dry for the second pitch, which continued up a brief steep section before easing back again. Steeper ice spanned the centre of the upper fall and looked enticing but I chose to follow the easier icy chimney to the left-hand side, which I hoped would provide more character. The chimney was fun to climb, with as much bridging and back-and-footing as my arms desired, without any great technical difficulty. It was wet towards the top but this was easy to avoid.

Top of the chimney

Anna led a final pitch up ever decreasing ice, with little in the way of gear. An optimistic nut low down, a poor ice screw at halfway, and a sling around a tree towards the top was all that was on offer but at least the gradient was easy for the large part. We made an easy descent from trees to the base of the route. Considering the 3+ grade, the route was technically easy but the difficulty was offset by wet ice low down and the thin ice high up. And of course I can always return for the steeper finish up the centre of the fall...



Ab'ing the route with the chimney to the left
Another view of the route

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