Saturday, 14 February 2015

Øytunfossen (WI3), Alta

Expecting to see the Northern Lights whilst in Alta was looking an optimistic affair, given the extended periods of snowfall since our arrival. At least we had witnessed them clearly during our inbound flight whilst above the clouds. The snowfall probably peaked during Saturday morning when it escalating into a moderate blizzard, culminating into some of the flattest light conditions I have needed to drive. Now I understand the need for the red markers at the side of the roads.

After two days of failure it seemed sensible to lower the bar a little and make finishing a route the priority. A 150m WI3 route called Havørna sounded a safe bet. Particularly with it's one minute approach and other routes in the immediate vicinity. Surely an easy mission? As it turned out the 883, which branched from the E6, didn't look recently ploughed so we were again scratching our heads for a plan B.

Fortunately from the this point in the trip the weather began to clear up. We drove back to Kløftan to try a one of the easier regional classics. Øytunfossen (WI3) looked great from the road. Well formed and inviting, resembling a scaled-down Rjukanfossen, progressively broadening with depth. Our route description indicated a 5 minute approach but maybe that was very late season with running shoes because it took a good 30 minutes through the deep snow to reach the route.

Øytunfossen from the road
Gearing up. Car in the distance... 5 minute approach?

The ice on the first pitch was a mixed a affair. Hollow, crusty frozen snow on top of easier angles that needed stamping through, then wet ice on the steeper parts. Water was running despite temperatures of around -6 degrees. More so when Anna started puncturing the ice with her axes. One of the ice screws runners was already submerged in ice by the time I came to remove it. Evidently the icefall had a strong flow of water.

Anna leading the first pitch
A submerging ice screw

Second pitch the ice became drier and accepted my axe placements first time. Still some hollow icy snow to stamp down immediately above the belay. Then some steeper climbing, maybe half a grade harder than expecting. Our first route completed in three days...

Me leading the second pitch

The volumes of water were rapidly freezing over everything, creating a sheet of ice around the ropes. It shattered free with some forceful belaying but it wasn't just the ropes. Carabiner gates were freezing shut. Anna appeared at the top of the route with axe leashes covering in a thick layer of frost, resembling a couple of snowy dreadlocks. Thankfully we were not flying that evening, else our baggage might have been overweight.

Snowy dreadlocks
Blue skies from the top of the route

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