Øvredalsbratta (WI4)

It was around +7 degrees in the valley and +1 degree on the summits the previous day so Anna and I knew we needed to go as high as possible. We also knew from before Christmas that the valley ice was already in poor shape. With easterly winds forecast up to around 17m/s with possible snow flurries we expected the weather to feel Scottish. No point in dodging such weather given we planned to visit Scotland in just over a month. Øvredalen seemed the obvious choice due to the high elevation and hopefully some degree of shelter. On a very optimistic note, with the following day in mind, a late start would also allow us to check the minute potential for any mixed conditions developing. 

The rock on Skogshorn looked totally dry from the toll road with only the very tops of sheltered aspects showing any genuine sign of winter. At least there was no need for a pre-dawn start the following day on New Year's Day. The toll road was equally dry and we were able to easily park in the pasture at the very end of it.

A dry parking lot
My first visit to Øvredalen had via knee deep powder, so the approach this time around was like a walk in the park. There was a little pot holing to do places whilst in the trees but once the valley opened out the snow generally lessened, although was still a lot soft from the previously warm temperatures. The wind wasn't that bad either, particularly once in Øvredalen.

Not much snow on the approach
View towards Skurvefjell
Øvredalen
Øvredalsbratta was purely an ice climb in current condition, followed by an easy scramble to exit the route. The well defined channel of ice snaking down the rock looked to me the spitting image of the second pitch of Orion Face Direct on Ben Nevis, which naturally made me keen to lead it.

Øvredalsbratta (WI4)
Orion Face comparisons were quickly forgotten once the climbing was underway though. Much of the ice was brittle, although this had been the general theme for a few weeks now. Some of the ice was close to perfect though with my picks easily biting first time. Often when least expected, such as on blank vertical surfaces. It was a really interesting pitch with a fairly constant level of difficulty. Nearly a full 60m to my belay.

The main pitch of Øvredalsbratta
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
I hadn't bothered to bring rock gear, which made my belay a bit more challenging. Just a sling over a loose block, frozen in place but probably less than half my body weight. Plus a good seating position on an upwards slope with which to create some resistance, a bit like a bucket seat. Two feet pressing against some rocks in opposition (admittedly one of these was the frozen block but at least everything was acting in opposition). My axes planted in neve behind me. It actually all felt pretty solid.

My sling'ed belay block
Anna did a second pitch of sorts, which was more of an easy scramble to where we could gain a snowy ramp descent. I was amazed by how little snow was present in the upper part of Øvredalen.

The upper part of Øvredalen looking very dry
Our casual start meant no time for another route. Øvredalsrenna however looked completely different to when I had climbed it early in the season in November 2015. The short mixed chimney at the start now completely banked out with ice. A friend who climbed it the following day described the route as being "like butter, but no ice from halfway up the gully".

Øvredalsrenna
A pretty easy day all in all. I didn't anticipate visiting Øvredalen so late in the season but it's good to keep getting stuff ticked despite some pretty miserable conditions.

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