Sunday, 1 February 2015

Back to Golsjuvet

Matias and I were staying in Gol, so the natural place to visit on Sunday was Golsjuvet for a proper work-out on some steep ice. Last visit I had lead a couple of WI4s, so this time I was keen to try something harder, albeit on top-rope if necessary. Steeper the better was my thinking.

Golsjuvet

The two main columns on the right hand side of the crag were the centrepieces of the venue. Hovedsøyla Venstre and Hovedsøyla Høyre. Both sustained WI5s, however the left one looked to offer more features and variety with the main difficulties looking to be lower down. The ice on both pillars looked to be recovering from a warm spell with superficial fragile transparent ice over parts. The left column however looked to have enough dense matter to offer adequate protection and worth a go on lead. It would be at the limit of my leading ability and so I needed to be conservative with protection. No warm-up necessary... good to get on with it whilst the psyche was plateauing and there were no onlookers (just in case I should become a gibbering wreck).


Hovedsøyla Venstre (left) and Hovedsøyla Høyre (right)

Things began steadily. Then a bulging cruxy section a short way up pushed me out and necessitated linking a few quick moves until back on vertical ground. Pumpy! Maybe I was a little bit too frantic and aggressive. My last screw beneath the bulge was almost halfway back to the ground so, with as much as composure as I could muster, I threaded another screw. Quite serious in retrospect.

The next few metres were steeper than anticipated but a number of distinct rungs offered some strong hooks and good ledges.

I followed a slanting line of weakness towards the left edge of the column, during which the angle eased back a little. This didn't help matters hugely as I now needed to swing my axes more in order for them to bite. In my current pumped state this was not for granted. At least now I could take my time a little more and choose my resting spots.

Much of the ice in the upper part was in pretty poor form. Particularly on the left side but on the right it was better. I would need to traverse back across and through some of this crud, which meant patiently chopping the top surface to find some reliable ice beneath. My arms were feeling frankly trashed by this point. Lots of shaking out and recovery time required. Contending for slowest lead of the season. Questioning whether I had the strength to finish the route. Ultimately I managed the moves out right, only for my calves to initiate uncontrollably shaking. Not what was needed... I dropped my heels as much as possible and told my myself to calm down. Another screw to settle the boat...

The final moves were no more than WI4 gradient but no push-over when the tank is in the red. I worked my way a higher and placed another screw. My thirteenth and last. Just a matter of meters from the top so it was time to push on. I moved quickly, feeling the pump rising but fortunately enough reserves to finish the route. I was so tired that I sling'ed a tree on route to the chain belay, just in case.

It was climbing right on my limit in retrospect and certainly my hardest lead on ice. I'm glad I went straight for the onsight rather than rehearsing on top-rope as I would probably have bottled it.

Matias climbing Hovedsøyla Venstre subsequent to my lead

Some of my quickdraws were already encased in a layer of ice by the time I came to abseil. Rather indicative of the current conditions...

The refreeze is on!

I made a repeat ascent on top-rope, this time following the centre of the pillar for the entirety. Much more smoother and less pumpy so I need to better understand why. Familiarity, relaxation, composure, controlled aggression, smoothness all factors no doubt.

Next up was Hovedsøyla Høyre. The ice looked in poor condition so leading was out of the question. Lower down the ice presented almost like lily petals stacked upon one another. Probably fine for climbing but the broken nature suggested real challenges with finding adequate protection. Lots of clear, brittle ice in the upper half to contend with as well.

A short distance from the ground a 'petal' broke unexpectedly from under my foot and I felt vindicated for opting to top rope. Apart from a couple of these fractures the climbing generally felt steady in the lower half, although needed attention not to swing too aggressively with my axes due to its brittleness.

Matias climbing Hovedsøyla Høyre

Ice conditions expectedly became very challenging in the upper half due to its the brittle, fissured surface. My axes penetrated through this but my crampons experienced greater difficulty with finding ice stable enough to weigh-bear through. Particularly on my left side, which upset my balance a somewhat. My lack of good foot placements meant consequently I was over-gripping. A few metres from the top I was forced to move left away from the centre and into a grove where the ice improved markedly. Another pumpy outing. A lot more sketchy than the first route but still good training. Second time around on top-rope didn't feel much easier...

With a total of four ascents and 100m of WI5 under my belt my forearms were telling me to go home. Besides there didn't look a huge amount of ice to keep me. The WI5s either side of Normalveien looked climbable but not in great condition. Better to save it for another day when the psyche has been topped up again.

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