Overraskelsen (WI4), Oppdal

Yesterday's morning drive had indicated a lack of ice formation in the Oppdal valley. This I presumed related to dry months a preceding winter, rather than through lack of cold temperatures. There appeared to be routes in condition higher up the hillsides but the massive dump of new snow with winds the previous day had left us wary about venturing anywhere near deep snow and particularly wind slab. West-facing aspects sounded the safest bet - reinforced by the cornice rimming much of the opposite side of the valley.

A route called Overraskelsen, between Bjølla and Kongsvollfossen, sounded a good option and looked to be in condition from the road. It lay not too far above the E6, meaning not too much wading on the approach. The route consisted of three pitches of discontinuous ice climbing stretching up the hillside but looked a suitably adventurous outing.

We waded through the knee deep snow to the start of the route from where Anna led some short steps of ice to beneath the first steep section. The guidebook stated WI3 but in current conditions it certainly warranted WI4 and proved to be the crux of the day. The right side of the icefall looked to be the weakest aspect but this finished beneath low hanging tree branches, which repeatedly upset my axe swing right when I was on the steepest ground. I frantically pruned them back with my gloves and pulled through on the frozen turf above the ice.

The first steep section
Beneath the blocking tree
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

It was then maybe 150m to the next major section of ice, via a couple of moderate steps. The walking between ice wasn't hugely detracting from the route as it actually heightened the adventure and built the anticipation for the next pitch.

The ice was proving to be very hard and nowhere was this truer than on the second major section of ice. Often the ice would dinner plate and skate down the icefall and zip over my belayer, who was fortunately tucked under some steep ice out of harm. Sometimes my axes would bite perfectly first time and also offer perfect monopoint placements for my crampons subsequently. The pitch was graded WI3 and felt about right for the grade.

The second section of ice

The final pitch of climbing was maybe another 80m further up the hillside. The route's name translates as 'The Surprise' and, given the difficulties on the first steep section, I was moderately concerned as to what it might involve. The pitch was only 15m high but graded WI4. Of course if it was also a grade harder then it would prove quite an undertaking for me.

A steep pillar guarded the way but fortunately on its right hand side there was the dihedral described in our guidebook, which looked fine for the grade in current condition. By now dusk was close at hand so I was keen to gear up quickly and move. As the route steepened the ice accepted my axes at first attempt, my tips biting easily into natural slots in the ice. Towards the top I found a wild bridging move off some neighbouring rock, and then solid frozen turf above the ice. A good final pitch to a really good route.

Beneath the final pitch
Heading for the dihedral (out of shot)
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

I belayed Anna from a tree off to the right which offered the only opportunity for natural protection. By the time she joined me it was 16:20 with light diminishing quickly. We attempted the described descent further North but the snow was dangerously deep and bottomless and on open 40 degree slopes. I repeated sunk to my hips before turning back. We instead opted to abseil and down-climb the route, which was a straight-forward affair, given the number of sturdy trees lining the route. No need to shout 'rope below' on this route I thought...

Sunset from the top of the route
Torch light descent

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