I led the first pitch, which weaved around initially before popping out on easy angled broken slabs. Normally I would scamper easily up this sort of slabby terrain, primarily using my feet with my hands merely an accessory, however the high winds caused me to over-grip and climb in a slower, static fashion. Often I needed to wait for the winds to drop before making the simplest of moves.
I was fully expecting Anna to suggest that we bail at the top of the first pitch and I was more resigned to agree. Smaller climbers definitely have a bigger say in windy conditions since they are the first to be blown away! To my surprise though she was happy to lead the next pitch. Clouds raced over Anna's head as she led the second pitch with the winds only increasing with height. The rock was at least warm and pressing my face against it whilst belaying was moderately pleasant.
|Anna leading the second pitch|
At the top of the second pitch we were both equally ready to head down. With good weather expected for the rest of the long weekend there seemed little point in forcing the route on this occasion. The bolted belays with in situ karabiners at least made retreat an easy affair, although the bleached white cord linking the hangers looked well past their sell-by date and so we cut it. I at least learnt a new trick from Anna during the retreat about how to uncoil ropes from the harness whilst abseiling in high winds, thereby avoiding the ends of the ropes from being swept away along the face.
|Anna starting the descent with ropes coiled|
Ironically it was two years ago to the day that I was hit in the eye with a block of ice on Skogshorn whilst soloing Kruttårnet - Lettvinten, ending up in the back of a helicopter at the base of the crag. With a second 'Did not finish' in the bag clearly 25th May isn't an auspicious day me to be attempting anything on Skogshorn.
|Den republikanske terroristen follows the slabby ground to the right of Lanciakaminen|
|View towards the central buttress of Skogshorn|
|Anna leading the first pitch|
My line trended ever so lightly rightwards, following a faint edge, before I moved back left at the top of the pitch towards a steep corner. With my nearest gear a good distance away I needed either gear or good jugs. Fortunately I found the latter. I never did find the belay bolts but managed to make do with a sling over a half-buried spike and a hex jammed beside a large block directly above it.
Once Anna had joined me I dropped a small rock from the belay and it fell straight to the preceding one, so who knows where the bolts lay. Maybe my error had been to move leftwards at the top of the pitch, although had I maintained my current course then there looked to be a risk of encountering seepage.
Failing to find the abseil point effectively ruled out abseiling the route, given the lack of reliable alternative abseil points on offer. At least I was confident that we were in the general vicinity of the 'line' at any rate due to the tower on our right serving as an approximate reference.
|Anna near the top of the third pitch|
|Me leading the fourth pitch|
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
The sixth and final pitch looked an easy affair, although made more complicated by some large channels of seepage, which needed to be avoided where possible. The best option looked to be right in front of me up an easy chimney. It was dripping wet in the middle part but the holds looked generous. The guidebook described a pyramid of rock fifty metres higher that I should aim for but no such thing was evident to me. With no obvious line I simply ploughed upwards following the line of least resistance whilst avoiding wet areas. Easy climbing but in a fine setting. The view back to Anna's belay was particularly spectacular. I finished the pitch a short way left of the belay bolts. With no anchors I simply sat down in a pile of rocks a couple of metres back from the edge, positioned my feet so that they would offer some resistance, and declared myself safe.
|Me leading the start of the sixth pitch|
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)
|View back to Anna's belay from midway up the sixth pitch|
We managed to descend on rock for the large part with just a couple of short sections of snow on route - aiming to the right of Skogshorn's silhouette.
|Skogshorn's silhouette during the descent|