Semi-winter conditions on Siluetten

Getting some proper winter conditions this weekend looked too be a marginal affair but Anna and me were more than keen to try our luck. Hemsedal the natural place to poke around in high places. On Saturday however I managed just 5m of climbing before backing off due to cruddy ice. The route in question being Øvredalsrenna in Øvredalen. The light trickle of water behind the bad ice meant that much of the ground also wasn't frozen sufficiently. Elsewhere nothing really looked in proper winter nick and so we retired to the local swimming baths to review our strategy for Sunday.


Øvredalsrenna

My 'high point' on Øvredalsrenna

The biggest incentive for sticking around on Sunday was the fine weather forecast. Clear skies and freezing temperatures expected, so potentially a good day to be in the hills. Both Skogshorn and Skurvefjell had looked to be in a semi-winter state on Saturday. Fresh snow had fallen through the late morning and early afternoon but temperatures felt barely freezing. The harder mixed lines on Skogshorn would need to wait if I wanted the full winter experience. Better to lower the bar and finish a route and get the season kick-started on a positive note. Siluetten was the natural choice as I suspected it would be climable in any condition.

We did half the approach with the cat from Ulsålstolen before it got bored. Or maybe it just didn't fancy the loose slippery rocks for the remainder of the climb. A thin coating of snow covered the slopes beneath the cliffs but the cliffs themselves were looked fairly bare. It felt suitably cold at least and the beautiful sunrise that greeted us suggested a fine day in store.

Sunrise

Approaching the route

The summer and winter guidebooks show a radically different line for Siluetten and so I presume the route has many variations. The line that we climbed lay midway between these two described variants.

The lower rock was largely free of snow, and so we were spared the need to unpack the crampons and axes. Just boots and gloves required. Our line up the initial buttress largely involved steep scrambling with the occasional harder move. A strong, chilly wind picked up at the top of the first pitch and encouraged us to traverse a little bit rightwards across broken ground to find some shelter. Fortunatly the wind soon abated for the remainder of the climb.

View towards the central buttress from low on the route

At roughly one third height greater snow coverage was causing the rock to become a little more slippery and so we donned crampons. A short chimney offered a thrutchy crux in such conditions. Particularly with a backpack to further cramp my space.

The awkward chimney

The climbing then became much easier and we were able to move together for the next 100-150m to where the final section of ridge began. The clean sections of rock were snow free but snow lying on the less steep and sheltered ground meant crampons were still of benefit. Our axes were just with us for the ride though. The sunny weather allowed a couple of moves without gloves but these needed to be replaced soon after. The requirement for crampons at least meant we could claim a 'mixed' ascent.

Close to the top of the route

The final section of ridge

We finished the route just after the sun had dipped out of sight and so without lingering we started our descent whilst twilight lasted. We made the error of descending down the Eastern slopes, believing this would be a romp. It had been in May, when many people were skiing the slope, but in November it proved time-consuming and needed both axes and crampons for some steeper sections. We should have used the Milarenna gully in hindsight, which neighboured our route.

Conditions in summary were more alpine than full winter. Worth noting that my idea of full winter mixed conditions is based on a Scottish algorithm consisting of frozen turf, hoar frosted rock, and a sporting amount of snow coverage. It's probably harder to get this full mix on a south facing cliff, where maybe a period of less than perfect weather is going to be needed for such conditions. Hopefully in the next few weeks I'll catch Skogshorn at the right moment to get a good tick in the bag.

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