Saturday, 28 February 2015

Hesthåggån, Oppdal

I can't help but compare the drive into Drivdalen with the approach across Rannoch Moor and into Glen Coe. There's a similar barren expanse before the valley closes in and starts its descent. Oppdal generally looks a lot more Scottish than other places in Norway that I've visited. The hills have a weathered look and comparative bleakness similar to the highlands. The milder temps and chill from the gusting winds during Saturday morning also felt very Scottish but fortunately we were sheltered for most of the day.

The farm tack leading towards Tøftfossen (WI4) was fit for ice skates. Soon we were aborting from this planned objective having seen the size of the cornice hanging over the route. It looked potentially impassable and so better to find another objective whilst the day was young. Maybe one for the early season next winter.

Approach track to Tøftfossen
The large cornice hanging over Tøftfossen

There looked to be plenty of alternative options in the valley and nearby Hesthåggån looked in good shape with plenty of climbing in a localised vicinity. Lots of substantial waterfalls to draw the eye. Some steady routes as well as some harder challenges should we require.

Hesthåggån, viewed from the roadside

We started on Venstre TV-Foss (WI3+). Anna lead the steady first pitch on good ice before the second pitch provided a shock to the system. Maybe a long rising traverse out rightwards would have gone at the grade but this almost looked an escape route. Most of the bulk of ice was located towards the left side but this was steeper and looked more sustained. It was mostly off-vertical until the final few metres so hopefully not too dramatic.

First pitch of Venstre TV-Foss (WI3+)

With just a few metres of height gained the ice was beginning to dinner plate. Largely because it was featureless with natural weaknesses for my axes. I veered leftwards following a faint depression that better accepted my axes but this direction led me beneath draped icicles that were too brittle to climb. I clearer their lower reaches with my axes to find smooth ice suitable for a screw. Many tumbled towards Anna, who unfortunately was right in the firing line. Gaining some wet ice to my left now looked the easiest option. First strike of my axe sent a large block tumbling but fortunately subsequent placements bit with ease. Moving from beneath the icicles onto the wet ice almost felt overhung but once mounted it was a quick pumpy bash to the top. A steep second pitch and all rather dramatic for a WI3+. Closer to 4+ by my chosen line although I only have myself to blame. To my surprise Anna appeared at the belay dripping wet, which was in contrast to me. Evidently I had triggered some drainage in the wetter ice whilst leading.

Sandbagging myself on the 2nd pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
Wet!
Høyre TV-Foss (WI3+), hidden around the corner, was next. It looked particularly impressive and worth climbing whilst in the area. This one was just a single pitch but needed the most of the rope length. Anna made fine work leading it and appeared equally keen to sandbag herself by finishing up the middle of the steep final wall. Another really good climb on another fat waterfall.
Anna approaching Høyre TV-Foss (WI3+)
Start of Høyre TV-Foss

We finished the day on Penis (WI4+), an isolated route at the left end of the crag. A clever play on words, as 'pen is' means 'pretty ice' in Norwegian. Lots of opportunities to climb different lines but the best one looked to be a bowl-shaped icy chimney in the centre. Steady climbing up to this point and then a short section of vertical climbing once in the chimney. Slightly harder than the top of Venstre TV-Foss but equally less sketchy. By the time we were abseiling from the route it was 17:30 in more than adequate light. Spring felt close at hand.

In the chimney on Penis
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

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