Sunday, 4 October 2015

Den Hvite Stripa (n6), Andersnatten

I was more apprehensive about Den Hvite Stripa than any route for a long time. The crux pitch I understood to be very bold, with just a couple of bolts on the crux pitch and no possibility for supplementary gear. A bold n6 grade would probably equate to something like UK E2 5b, and so right on my limit. The lack of an adjective grade with the Nordic grading system meant this was just an educated guess though.

Den hvite stripa (the white stripe)

How big would the run-outs be?

Big enough to pass my belayer on the way down?

Where did the actual crux moves lie in relation to the bolts?

One thing I did know was that my slab climbing abilities had only slightly improved in recent years and so felt close to a plateau. Now or never.

I lost the paper, scissors, stone contest. 'Lost' in so far as my partner Sten would lead the first pitch leaving the crux second pitch to me.

The first pitch

Just mounting the short wall at the start of the second pitch in order to gain the slab seemed an ordeal. Where were the hand holds? Maybe it was the nervous anticipation of what was to follow. Some high crimps ultimately gave me the leverage to throw a high leg and rock over. How short people would manage I am not sure. Better technique maybe?

I had envisaged some heart-stopping, sweaty-palmed, marginal slab padding with too little friction to contemplate a reversal if things became a bit too spicy. The only way would likely be up. In reality things were much more steady. The rock was surprisingly featured with plenty of small crimps and only a few moves relying on blank slopers. Plenty of time to consider each move in turn. The three bolts were nicely spaced, with always a bolt to focus the attention upwards rather than worry about what lay below. The first bolt was easy to reach, and the third bolt spanned what was maybe the hardest section. The fist pump at the end of the pitch was as much about overcoming my personal fears as it was about the actual difficulties.

The crux second pitch

My personal opinion is that the technical difficulties of the pitch are at the easier end of n6. Maybe even n6-. As a comparison I would say Ich hatte viel bekummernis at Vardåsen is maybe a little harder and certainly has poorer protection low down. The pitch was certainly not 'bold', with the worst case scenario being some brief backward peddling. 'Gripping' would be a more appropriate word. Three bolts doesn't sound much but then the pitch is only around 20m. The lack of any truly bold routes in the general Oslo/Drammen area maybe makes this route a comparatively serious affair by local standards I guess. Or maybe it's boldness is just a thing of myth. Etive Slabs it is not.

The start of the n6- third pitch was protected by another bolt and contained a single move that was probably as hard as anything on the second pitch. Add to that the fear of blowing the onsight with a single unexpected slip... Then the difficulties eased back as the holds increased in size.

The third pitch

I had read little about the remaining pitches, although knew that the profile of the climb became steadily steeper. They were in fact a beautiful affair with big features needing athletic moves to link. My favourite sort of climbing. Perfect rock with with hardly any vegetation. Flakes, corners, small roofs, traverses, all a real joy with nothing massively hard.

Start of the fifth pitch

One thing worth pointing out is that the fourth pitch does not follow the roughly straight line shown in the latest Oslo guide. It is actually a big S-shape and so rope drag proved more of an issue than expected. The former Oslo guide actually shows the pitch in a truer form.

The top of the route brought to an end a fine adventure before an easy abseil down the neighbouring Den Svarte Stripa installed us back at our starting point. I'd say this is one of the best multipitch trad lines that I have climbed since arriving in Norway. The delicate slab pitches low down contrast beautifully with the more agile pitches higher up. I'd put it up there with Mot Sola, which is maybe slightly harder.