Dammen, Valdres

I bought an ice cream the previous day as a silent protest towards the latest bout of warm weather. Hemsedal was looking in spring condition with little snow in valley. Even the ski pistes were developing green patches. It was time to leave. If we had brought our rock shoes with us then I think would have managed a rock route on Skogshorn or Skurvefjell no problem. 

Our plan was to relocate to Espedalen, where over last month the warm spells looked to have been more moderate, although the latest one looked have been just as bad. The day's strategy was to drive in that direction until something wintry presented on route. Then hopefully we would get some climbing done, although we anticipated needing to lower the levels of ambition. 

Hydnefossen looked in terrible shape as we left Hemsedal. Midtlinja had totally collapsed and was now running water, and routes further left were in no better shape. It was evidence of just how destructive the latest wave of warm temperatures at higher altitudes had been. It was also further confirmation that we were making the right decision with relocating. 

Hydnefossen in terrible condition

Fortunately there was a lot more snow cover as we dipped into Valdres. Along the E16 tree branches were still white with frost and temperatures seemed to be keeping to below zero. Unfortunately a thick fog was limiting our ability to properly assess conditions but around Bagn in particular it seemed generally cold and stable. Furthermore the small blobs of ice along the road looked dry and compact.

Out of curiosity we made a short detour to check out Stavedalen. Temperatures climbed from -3 in the valley to +3 as we climbed through the band of cloud and popped out into clear sunny skies above. The south facing ice at Stavedalen was not surprisingly in poor shape but at least it gave me a reference point of conditions for when planning another visit this winter. Clearly there was no need to rush back in any great hurry.

Stavedalen in lean condition

We hadn't been able to see the ice routes around the dam near Bagn from the E16 due to fog but it seemed a definite cold hole and worth further investigation.

We didn't fancy taking our car partway down the 1km approach road to the barrier due to the road's moderate steepness and snow/ice cover. Instead we parked in a lay-by a few hundred metres down the road.

The way to the ice routes followed a ploughed track for 2km beyond the barrier that was easy on foot. The first small icefall named the 'liten foss ved kraftlinje' in the online Valdres guide looked to be in condition but too short to be worth stopping for. Further along the track another route called 'Gul fossen' looked in good nick, as did another fall a little further along. We were keen to continue to the tallest route in the area known at 'Dammen' though, which sounded the most impressive.

Gul Foss (WI3)

Ice between Gul foss and Dammen

The first glance that we got of Dammen suggested the start was too chandelier'ed and steep to contemplate. The waterfall was much broader than I had expected though and with a little more exploration around its base we found a climbable line up the left hand side.

Dammen. We climbed the ice at the far left.

The ice was wet but easy to climb and fine to protect. Harder than the quoted grade WI3 in current conditions but probably still only WI3+, as there were some good resting points. Maybe WI4 if it were Rjukan! There was still some wet chandeliers to deal with but they be easily skirted. My first pitch was only 30m to the top of the steep section but an obvious isolated tree was the logical place to make a belay.

First pitch of Dammen
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

The steepness on the second pitch slackened off but ice became more of an unknown quantity. Hollow sounding ice and plenty of silent water running behind it encouraged Anna to stick to the right edge of the fall where the ice seemed thicker.

Anna leading the second pitch

Two easy abs from trees brought us back to the base of the route, capping a good day's climbing. Given the warm weather the previous days we found pretty decent ice conditions, although we had fully expected to have to drop a grade in order to get something done. The area seemed a good place generally to head for when searching for trapped cold air during rapid warming so can see me making a return trip at some point.

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