Espedalsrenna (WI4/M4), Espedalen

Plan A had been an attractive two pitch WI4 called Skoroa, which was fairly high on the hillside, however from the road it looked worryingly steep for the grade and reminiscent of Grøtenutbekken's crux pitch in the upper half. Matias and I didn't bother to march up the hill to check whether it was within our abilities. Espedalsrenna was the natural substitute. It was only a single pitch but it got two ice creams (the equipment of stars) in the guide, plus I do like a good gully. If the climbing was over too quickly then we could always go to Helvete afterwards.

View of Skoroa (WI4) from the road. Looked steep for WI4!
We very carefully parked the car so as not to get it stuck in the snow as had happened yesterday. We blocked the drive to a hytte in the process but clearly nobody was visiting for the weekend.

We messed up the approach by following by tracks into the trees just north of the parking area. The tracks brought us to beneath the larger ice route of Sprenabekken again, which then meant a moderate traverse along the hillside via some fairly deep snow to reach our desired route. We actually found two routes, since there was an obvious independent ice line to the right of Espedalsrenna.

Matias at the belay beneath Espedalsrenna to his left
Espedalsrenna reminded me a little bit of the first pitch of Bakveien in Rjukan in the way it curved around the corner out of sight. The style of climbing, sunny aspect, and the high setting over the nearby broad lake reminded me equally of an ice crag just south of Alta called Solisen

The steepness throughout the route was not that great but the neighbouring leaning roof made the climbing cramped if not careful. Often I would need to jointly climb and traverse steeper sections rather than mounting them directly, else be lured under the roof. It maybe made the route slightly more technical and sustained for its steepness but still felt fairly easy for WI4. There was also no expected mixed climbing on the route unless stepping on a rock counts as M4. Maybe we had better conditions compared to typical, or those of the first ascensionists. 

Espedalsrenna was great route and generally in excellent condition. Despite being one pitch it was better than any given pitch on Sprenabekken from the previous day. The ice at the start of the route was a little wet and higher up it became surprisingly hard. So much so that on a number of occasions I struggled to get to threads of my ice screws to bite. It felt pretty hard as well when a block unexpectedly bounced off my lip. The sheltered roof also meant no snow on the bulk of the route, which came as a welcome relief after the previous day's snow clearing exercise.

The route was close to a full sixty metres but no need to break it into two smaller pitches as suggested by the guide. The top twenty metres was a gentle gradient and relatively straightforward, with just a moderately steeper last few metres. An easy abseil from the tree belay brought us back to the base of the route.

Easy ground in the upper half of the route
Matias then led the route to the right whilst I belayed in bright sunshine, no wind and around -15 degrees. Fine weather. It was around WI3+ with an interesting finish trending right at the very top.

Matias leading the bonus ice to the right of Espedalsrenna
We finished in good time, which gave me a chance to check out the ice further down the valley in daylight during the drive home. Earl Grey was looking better than last visit but there was still an absence of ice in the middle section that looked potentially problematic. Earl Grey and Skoroa seem the obvious routes to return for maybe I'll wait for a little beta to lure me back first, else wait for another year with more reliable conditions.

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