Mystery Ice on Såta

The previous day we had seen a worthwhile looking ice line on the shoulder of the east face of Såta. It was clearly visible from the pasture at the very end of the toll road beneath Skogshorn and looked an easy day out for New Year's Day.

Reaching it was a straightforward affair. Anna and I just followed the Skurvefjell path a short way to the small waterfall, and then branched left through the trees for a few hundred metres more until they thinned out. A short trudge up a slope brought us to beneath the route. The approach was shorter than it suggested from the parking area.

East face of Såta. The ice is just left of the centre of the photo. 

The route

The lower half of the route followed an attractive line of seepage before the route broadened higher up and the ice became fatter. The ice looked thin but not too steep, therefore so long as I found some sort of sporadic protection I anticipated I would be happy enough. We brought a small rock rack in case the ice was too thin to protect, which meant quite an ample weight on my harness. 

After leading Øvredalsbratta the previous day the first pitch, which looked the poorer of the two pitches, naturally fell to me. Gaining the initial ice step proved no easy task as the soft snow beneath it collapsed with ease, causing me to progressively dig myself into  a hole. Weak ice at the lowest extremities didn't help matters and made it hard for my to get crampon points high enough. Once I had found good high axe placements the only thing for it was to perform a sort of mini pull-up in order to get my feet to a point high enough where I could kick into good ice. 

Ice quality didn't really improve. Lots of thin ice, brittle ice, weak hanging curtains, soft snow, and newly formed 'collapsy' ice on top of soft snow. Not surprisingly a fair amount of debris fell down the route. Anna's belay was safely tucked behind a line of small trees, although occasional ice still managed to ping off their branches in random directions little like a pin ball machine. Another high foot manoeuvre left in order to mount another another partially melted curtain. More soft snow...

Protection was pretty terrible as well. A lot of thin or hollow ice that was poor for screws but a couple of trees lining the route to sling. No rock protection. Runners at times felt a long way below me but the climbing wasn't steep or sustained enough for any serious concern.

A short steep section breaking left led to my belay stance. With more confidence in my ice screws and less brittle ice to contend it would have been nice to have climbed this ice via a more sustained line. As it was I took the line of least resistance, gaining the steep section where at its most shortest. Partially dodging it really. A solid tree belay on a comfortable ledge at least. My pitch was a full 60m but we could probably have moved the initial belay up 10m (maybe at the expense of shelter), or made my first belay stance 10m lower (the large ledge looked more comfortable though). 

The ice on Anna's pitch was much more homogeneous and better quality, although the pitch was only short. It climbed the broad ice at the top of the route, beyond which lay a good tree belay a little further up the hill. 

Finale ice

Top of the route

The views from the top of the route were spectacular towards Skogshorn and its surroundings. It was worth doing the climb just for this vantage point. What's more we had been totally sheltered from the fairly strong northerly winds by the higher peaks of Nibbi et al.

I'd say it was a good climb but with the first pitch in poor condition due to the recent warm weather bouts. The last one being only two days prior. It's an aesthetic first pitch that I suspect is often fatter, given the amount of ice higher up the route. I've seen it formed early in the season so suspect it's probably best before too much snow arrives as some sections of the first pitch will become quickly buried. Give it a week or two more of dry cold weather and maybe the ice lower down will be better. The route is around WI3 and with a fairly short approach it was an easy day (we were abseiling the route by 1:30pm).

I've no idea if this is a first ascent. It's fairly obvious but I imagine it also spends many winters buried to some extent. I've not got around to emailing anybody yet. Any info welcome.

Two abseils in a plumb straight line from the top belay brought us to the base of the route. Maybe this will be the last route that I'll do in Hemsedal for a while. I've climbed a lot of routes in the area now and have spent a fair number of days in Hemsedal at the start of the season also. A lot of the routes remaining on my 'to do' list need mixed conditions to some degree, or are south facing ice routes and probably not in good condition right now. Better to chase conditions elsewhere and then return when there is a bigger carrot on offer.

View to Skogshorn and surrounding from the top of the route

Rappelling the route


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