Sunday, 17 May 2015

Return to the Alps.

After Norway I was back in the country for a day, before packing up my skis again (well strictly speaking I had never unpacked them), and heading off to the Alps. Myself and Louisa headed to the Bernesse Oberland area of Switzerland for some more ski touring and a few peaks.

After flying out and driving through Switzerland, we arrived in Grindelwald late in the evening. The weather forecast was good, so we headed up early the next morning.

Day one; Get train up to Junfraujoch. Be inspired by the North Face of the Eiger on the way up. Ski across the glacier and skin up to where it got too steep to skin. Continue on foot up the Jungfrau (4166m). Had sore heads as we were not acclimatised. Descend and then fall flat on my face when skiing down the glacier (this really did not help my headache). Continue down to the Konkordia hut.

Day two; Cross the Altesch Glacier, the ice here is almost a kilometer thick, and then randomly bump into an old flatmate of mine from Wales. Head up Kransberg (3666m). Ski down the way we had come up, and then back across the Altesch Glacier and over a col to the Finsteraarhorn hutte.

Day three; Get up early, the snow is very hard, so use a combination of boot packing and skinning to the Hugisattel. It was pretty chilly up here (-11.4 degrees C when I measured it). Continue on foot to the summit of the Finsteraarhorn (4274m). Ski about 1200 metres back to the glacier and head back over the col to the Konkordia hutte.

Day four; Skin up the Ewigshneefeld in some pretty poor weather (winter ML style navigation required)  to the Monch Hutte. Sleep lots.

Day five; Weather a bit better, but the forecast is poor. Climb the Monch (4105m). Ski back over to the Jungfraujoch, and back down the train. Decide I should go and climb the Eiger at some point. Drive over to near Chamonix.

Day six; The weather is poor, so have a rest day.

Day seven; A morning skiing on the Gran Montets in some mixed weather.

During trip we climbed three 4000 metre peaks, skied some nice (and some not so nice) snow, and shuffled about on some big glaciers. A pretty successful trip I thought. In fact I enjoyed my time in the bigger mountains enough that I am thinking of returning this summer to re-launch my alpine climbing career.

 Looking down the ascent route from near the summit of the Jungfrau. I liked the shape of the glaciers.

 Louisa near the summit of the Jungfrau. Not a bad view.

A cup of tea on the helicopter platform below the Konkordia hutte. The Aletsch glacier behind. Cloud can be seen bubbling over the Jungfrau in the background. 

 The decent from the top of Kranzberg (3666m). Our skis were left about 100 metres further down, The ski down to the glacier was nice.

Louisa throwing shapes on the summit of the Finsteraarhorn. 

 Snowy mountains, sunshine and big glaciers.

Heading up the Monch as the weather starts to close in. 

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Arctic Adventures.

In mid April I headed off on a trip to the Lygnen peninsular of Arctic Norway. At about 69°N this was the furthest North I had ever been, and my second time in the Arctic circle. This area has been growing in popularity for ski touring over the past few years, and I can understand why. Beautiful mountains, deep fjords, and good snow cover down to the beach make it a great ski touring venue. 

We went as a group of five; myself, Louisa Reynolds, Martin Moran, Jonathon Preston and Robin Thomas. We hired a cabin on the peninsular, every day for a week or so did a day tour in different part of the peninsular. We did quite a lot of skinning uphill, with Martin calculating we did almost 11000 metres of ascent (and therefore descent) during the week. We experienced some quite varied conditions. Weather wise we had just about everything, sunshine, snow, wind, and rain. Equally the snow conditions were quite mixed, powder, sastrugi, windcrust, suncrust, nice spring snow and slush. Looking at the statistics for Tromso on the excellent Norwegian weather website (, it was unusually mild for the time of year when we were out there. Anyway, somewhere that I would like to go back to. 

I won't go into the details of what we did each day, but the pictures below should give a idea of the trip (although with more emphasis on the good weather days as that is when I had the camera out).

 Typical Lygnen terrain, dwarf birch and pine forest at lower levels, impressive mountains all around.

The big decent. Jonathon heading off down the big couloir from Store Kjostinden. We skied to the edge of the fjord in the background, a descent of over 1200 metres.

Louisa on the beach at the end of the big descent from Store Kjostinden. Nice!

Nice snow and scenery on the descent from Storgalten. (skier in the bottom left of the picture). We did get a bit lost in the birch forest lower down, but that added to the adventure.

The serac band on Jiekkevarri. According to Martin (the wisened mountain guide), seracs only collapse at night. This one seemed not to know that rule, and gave us an exciting moment two shortly after this picture was taken when a large piece dropped off.

Steep and difficult skinning through the ice fall high on Jiekkevarri. Shortly after this a bit of boot packing was required.
The summit of Jiekkevarri, the highest mountain in the area, and the second most prominent Norwegian mountain apparently. Anyway it had a very flat summit, flat enough even for some summit yoga. 
 Looking back up to the summit of Jiekkevarri. We had ascended the mountain from the other side, skied down to the col, ascended another peak, and then had a long ski down back to the road.

Jonathan and Martin skiing down the wide couloir on the descent from Jakavarri. 

Jonathan near the top of a pointy peak (that I have forgotten the name of) on the last day. The weather was quite Scottish, and we were rained on as we approached the car on the descent.