Borrasbekken (WI4) & Nussurabekken (WI3), Transfarelv, Alta

Borrasbekken looked a stunning route when viewed at a distance from the E6. It trailed down the hillside like river of ice and begged to be climbed. It would need a fairly long approach through flat forest but it looked worthy of an early start.

The major topic of conversational during the walk-in was the snow pack. Lots of surface powder but deep down there would regularly emit a loud, deep cracking sound that would radiate outwards. Whole plates of snow around us would subtly sink. Clearly all was not well with the snow pack and descending Borrasbekken by any means other than by abalakov felt a scary prospect.

Forest approach

Closer inspection of the base of the route indicated that unfortunately it wasn't quite in ideal condition. The first pitch looked much harder than its listed WI4 grade. Hard for WI5 in fact. The lower part was a conglomerate of icicles, poorly filled-in, and offering little in the way of protection. Climbing at the limit of my ability AND on poor protection was too big an ask and so reluctantly we walked away knowing conditions had dealt us a poor hand.

Borrasbekken from the E6
First pitch of Borrasbekken
Icicle formations
The upper half of the route looked in excellent nick

We therefore followed up yesterday's failed attempt at a regional classic with a non-attempt at another regional classic. At least we had put ourselves in the position to be lucky. The ice on the lower part of Borrasbekken looked as though it was screaming for a moderate thaw in order to consolidate a little. Maybe mid-February is too early for optimal conditions this far North, where there is less daylight and more persistent cold temperatures.

Nussurabekken was the only other route in close proximity and therefore the natural plan B. It extended up the hillside in three sections of ice with large breaks in between. Typically WI3 but currently the first pitch again looked desperate for the grade. About WI4+ I would estimate. Lean and steep but aided with some good rests. Less than perfect ice for screws but at least allowing some strong natural hooks to substitute. At the very top I lost my nerve, where the angle eased back. The ice repeatedly fractured in multiple layers, shedding themselves deeper. Lacking confidence to pull over the top I clipped to a high axe and rested. Then proceeded to siege my way from the icefall by clipping a sequence of screws to my harness higher and higher whilst wildly hacking at the brittle layers of ice. Deeper and deeper I hacked, searching for some sort of solid bite until eventually finding the confidence to pull myself over the top. Anna looked equally unimpressed by the time she joined me at the belay.

Nussurabekken... WI3
Abseiling from Nussurabekken
The following two sections of ice on Nussurabekken

Anna: Can we go now?

Lee: Yes!

There was no more discussion on the matter. We waved the white flag and set about ab'ing back down the pitch. The following two pitches looked par for the grade but the walking distances between them, combined with the high finish, meant we would be finishing the route in the dark with just a couple of daylight hours remaining. We decided to end the fiasco and run away... or as best we could manage given the deep snow conditions.


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