A 'Rest' Weekend... In Valdres

28th-29th January
NO CLIMBING! REST!
[Edit] Ok climb with Stig but nothing too hard or long

That was my calendar entry for the immediate weekend. The following weekend I would hopefully be off to Scotland for a week of climbing and so wanted to be fresh for that. Some easy climbing wouldn't do any harm though I thought, provided not too much travel or days too long. Maybe a good opportunity to explore somewhere new.

We headed to Bagn, where there looked to be a number of moderate multipitch options. In particular, the routes south of Bagn sounded interesting, although I had dismissed the possibility of climbing at Stavadalen as knew the south facing routes would be in a terrible state. They had been in a terribly skeletal shape when I had recce'd them a month prior.

We headed to Dammen area on Saturday, which I knew to be a reliable area from a previous visit just before Christmas. In particular a WI3 called

Gul Foss

looked worth the return visit. As the name suggested the ice was golden in colour and looked a little bit like candle wax at medium-close quarters. We parked on the main road, as with my last visit, although the access road on this occasion looked easily drivable.

Stig let the first pitch, initially up a steep 5 metre section before the angle slackened. Then slightly steeper ice near the top of the pitch whilst traversing towards the belay tree. We found some brutally brittle ice that tended to delaminate over a greater and greater area rather than simply dinnerplate, and by the time I had reached Stig's belay the ice below us looked the scene of a drive-by shooting. I led some moderate ice on the second pitch, needing little more than half a rope length to reach the top. The route involves two pitches according to the online guide, however the total length was only just over 60 metres. One very short abseil followed by one very long abseil returned us to our bags in good time for lunch. And to the shattered ice that now littered the surrounding floor.

Gul Foss (WI3)
Stig leading the start of Gul Foss
Me close to the intermediate belay
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
Me on the second pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
With plenty of daylight remaining we set about finding another route climb. We spent a lot of time trying and failing to locate the route known as 'Fossen bortafor Dammen' further along the valley, eventually to conclude that it hasn't formed this year. To make the most of our time though we climbed

Dammen

, which I had already climbed just before Christmas. It looked in better nick now at least, with more ice build-up and less wet ice. It didn't climb better though, and despite my second pitch lead being standard WI3 I struggled with the brittle ice conditions. Particularly with getting my front points to bite. Instead they tended to chip away at the ice so that I never really gained purchase. Twice my mono points spontaneously and unexpectedly skated on the holds I had chipped -  something that had not happened all season. At least the ground was not very steep so merely a momentary annoyance. 

Dammen (WI3)
Stig leading the first pitch of Dammen
Me starting the second pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
Temperatures first thing in the morning had been well into minus double figures, which I think was colder than forecast. What's more (although I'm guilty of not checking as regularly as usual) I think these temperatures had dropped from just above freezing a couple of days prior, so maybe this contributed to the ice's brittle nature.

Something remarkable happened Sunday morning in that it snowed fairly persistently. There's been hardly any snow for weeks. We spent Sunday morning driving up and down the E16 collecting Autopass points whilst vagely looking at possible ice hidden in snow clouds before settling for the prominent broad ice just south of Bagn called

Leite

. It's graded WI3-4 depending on the chosen line. In better conditions it looked as though many lines would be possible, although in current conditions the only continuous ice was up the middle. 

The first pitch began with easy WI2 slabs for the first 40m before ramping up for ten metres or so. I tried to climb a short section of 80 degree ice but after some persistent demolition I backed off at half height due to the ice being too brittle and fissured. I had to traverse further right instead to where the ice was slacker, now dealing with huge amounts of rope drag as a consequence of my sharp unplanned change of direction. What's more I dared not put any more screws in for fear of further increasing the rope drag. An uncomfortable belay on slabby hard ice awaited, where my left a crampon repeatedly and spontaneously slipped whilst belaying Stig up.

Stig then lead a short second pitch around 30 metres before belaying beneath a second short steep-ish section. Fortunately the ice was much more pleasant to climb and once beyond this easy angled ice led all the way to the top. I had been under the impression the route was west facing based on the simple map in the ice climbing guide. Closer examination of a proper map indicated it was south-west facing though, which maybe explained the poor conditions that we found.

Mission statement for the weekend completed though. I had come expecting a mixed bag of ice conditions and that is what we got. I've visited the areas north of Lillehammer forva number of successive weekends so it was good to switch to somewhere else and inject some variety. We managed some fun climbing regardless and, as hoped, nothing too demanding ahead of the Scotland trip. 

Leite from the parking spot
Me on the moderately steep ice that I backed off from
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
The ice I backed off from
Stig seconding easy ground on the first pitch
Stig near the top of the first pitch
Stig leading the second pitch
Me on the second pitch
(Photo by Stig Jarnes)
About to start of the final pitch

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