Vøllokula (WI4), Hemsedal

I had parked the car beneath Vøllokula last month but had been slightly scared about the prospect of climbing the initial intimidatingly steep pitch in less than perfect conditions. I had been laid up through much of the autumn with a pulley strain and was lacking the mileage that breeds the confidence to back oneself. With a few more weekends under the belt the car was parked beneath the route again and this time the psych was there. From a distance the route looked in fine shape and completely free of snow.

In close proximity the ice formations on the initial vertical section looked in less than optimal shape after the recent thaw but there was ample ice. The left side of the fall looked the most favourable for screws, with the possibility to bridge the first few metres. I inched my feet up either side, finding easy first time axe placements. Then as the bridging moves subsided so did the good axe placements. All too readily my axes would crack the ice and cause it to change colour without actually gaining purchase. Rather than dinner-plate, the area would simple radiate outwards in the direction of my other axe. With a screw placement close at hand and no natural rests forthcoming, the best thing looked to be to push on hastily with as much delicacy as possibly. As the steepness eased back the ice became difficult to gain purchase, requiring repeated chopping motions, which built the pump.

Climbing the initial vertical columns

Only once over the top did I realise the upper half of the pitch was no pushover either. It looked to have some good intermediate rests but this disguised the general steepness. The problem was that my arms were feeling the effects of what had just gone and not making great effort to recover despite some vigilant shaking out between moves. I worked my feet higher, letting them do the work where possible, whilst seeking out rests. Cruelly the ice started to break up again as I was reaching easy ground but by then I knew I had the pitch in the bag.

Near the top of the first pitch

Anna looked a little weary upon joining me but generally cool. Only when part way up the second pitch did the cogs start to fall off due to fatigue. The defining moment possibly being when she lost her temper with one of her axes for becoming stuck in the ice. She belayed after 30m, after which I finished the pitch up some fine ice in the centre of the fall. The first pitch but notably steeper but the interest certainly remained throughout the route. Were it not for the preceding pitch I'm sure Anna would have otherwise cruised the second pitch.

Anna starting the second pitch
Top of the second pitch

We rap'ed from a small tree to midway and then Abalakov'ed from there to the ground. It rounded off another fantastic weekend in Hemsedal. Many of the routes in Grøndalen are now looking in really good shape, and maybe beg for another visit before the end of winter.


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