Murekløve (WI4), Hemsedal

Murekløve had looked in fine condition when I had last visited Grøndalen but on that occasion I had favoured the classic Vøllokula. Naturally Murekløve was on the short-list for this weekend. Something a little bit more mixed was also under consideration, however routes such as Ønderdalsdiederet and Teigafossen were holding too much snow to make any proper judgement as to their condition and wading through deep snow for a closer look naturally didn't really appeal. I was a little bit wary of Grøndalen's SW aspect, however the ice on Murekløve looked to be in decent enough condition, although the easier pitches looked to be partially submerged under snow. Elsewhere neighbouring Nystølfossen looked to have melted-out a little since last visiting but Vøllokula was particularly fine. In the main valley Grøtenutbekken was also still looking in excellent shape.

Murekløve from the approach - first pitch largely hidden by the trees

Approaching Murekløve took nearly 1.5 hours due to deep snow, although we were always making steady upward progress.


Wading

The first pitch climbed a relatively sustained slab that culminated in a short wall. It was by far the hardest climbing on the route with a much easier gradient to follow. The ice was maybe a little bit thinner than expected, smooth, and starting to show early signs of sun exposure. Generally fine for climbing though and easy to protect. With so much climbing in recent months I was more than happy to take the back seat on this occasion and offer up the main pitch to my partner Matias. It proved deceptively steep, subtly ramping up with height. On second I looked down at midway to see the ice dropping away at a surprising rate. A half grade easier than Vøllokula I would say though. A good pitch.

Matias leading the first pitch

I definitely got the duff lead... The second pitch was largely buried in snow and what ice exposed itself needed little encouragement to dinner plate. Often cleanly on first strike and without warning. Somehow most of it missed my belayer. The snow on occasions was deep enough to prevent my front points penetrating the ice, which meant a little care required in light of the snow's semi-consolidated state. On the plus side I did at least manage to run the rope out nearly the full length, followed by some faffing time trying to find decent ice for a belay.

Second pitch... the ice disappears

Back to the ice... The third and final pitch was much better with less snow cover. At least apart from the final section, which needed the top surface clearing to find something better. Matias ran the rope out full length to the top of the route from where we made three rapid abseils from trees lining the route. Then back to the car by sunset to conclude a steady day's climbing.

Final pitch... the ice is back

The route was likely in better condition a few weeks ago before the heavy snowfall but  given our desire to get a long-ish route done of moderate difficulty it was probably as good as was on offer... apart from Vøllokula of course. Plus it would contrast well to the planned cragging day to follow.

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