Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Sunnmøre Easter, part 1

Spending Easter in a tent didn’t seem so appealing when we rolled into the remote parking area at midnight. Audun, Zoe, Ingeborg and I hustled to pitch tents on the wet snow near the car, jacket hoods drawn against the drizzling rain.

Breakfast at our campsite
A much more appealing scene met our eyes when we awoke the next day. Rays of sun illuminated the sharp mountains that peaked out of the valley ahead of us, beckoning. We blearily packed up our camp and the tower of gear necessary for winter camping, clicked into our skis, and set off up the trail. There wasn’t much snow at this altitude; the dirt road we skinned up was barely covered.

Mishap struck a little way up the trail, when my sled suddenly lurched backwards and I discovered that one of the bolts holding the sled onto the hip belt had worked loosed. We spent 10 minutes scouring the trail we had just skinned across before I finally moved forward and discovered the bolt had been hidden under my sled. Securing the bolt with duct tape, we continued.
Dragging a heavy sled into the mountains.

It was a beautiful, but I struggled with the sled. In addition to the camping gear, I was dragging 7 kg (15 lbs) of goat kid for grilling later in the week. Every time I stepped forward, the sled slid before halting, creating a choppy rhythm. Dragging the sled was fine as long as the trail was relatively flat, but we were gaining altitude.


The wet snow from the evening before had transformed into a hard crust in the morning chill, and my skins didn’t always give me the traction I needed. I sometimes nearly slide backwards, and needed to throw all my weight into moving the sledge up the hill. Eventually I begrudgingly (“I don’t need help you know!”) allowed Audun to help me by pushing the sled on the steepest passages.

I was glad to see the lavvo (large, teepee-like tent) appear in the distance, and even more glad to arrive at the collection of tents where we would make our camp for the next few days. It had taken us 3 hours to slog the 8 kilometers to camp. Sixteen people would make up the Easter base camp, and most of them had headed out for a day trip already.
The base camp appears in the distance.
Not wanting to waste the day, we had a quick lunch and headed up one of the likely-looking slopes above our camp with a few stragglers from camp, Kaspar and Daniel. We skinned up a small knob that overlooked the edge of the Brekktind glacier. The surrounding peaks were sharp, likely needing ice axe and crampons if not ropes to ascend, so we turned. The descent from the knob was choppy. New snow in the past couple of days had melted in the warm weather and then frozen overnight, creating difficult, crusty conditions.
Nice snow at the beginning of the descent at least. This didn’t look near so elegant a few hundred meters later.

Life in camp was refreshingly simple. When you camp on snow, everything takes more time. You can’t just pitch the tent, you have to dig a space for it. Even going to the bathroom requires more unzipping and unbuckling. We had the lavvo as our living room, and when the rest of the skiers came back from their tour, we all squeezed in to eat and trade stories until the sun set and the sleeping bags beckoned.
Guro and Sigmund, cooking in the lavvo.
The next morning was, if possible, even more beautiful than the previous, and everyone had a singular goal on their mind: Slogen. William Cecile Slingsby, the renowned English mountain climber who spent significant time in Norway making first ascents of various peaks, famously considered Slogen Norway’s most beautiful mountain.

Slogen beckons.

The entire group from base camp set off for Slogen, except Zoe who was feeling sick and Daniel, who stayed behind to grill the goat kid. The first section of the climb was fairly mellow, and I raced ahead with Sigmund, Kristin and Kaspar, who held a steady, fast pace up the hill.

After traversing a mellow slope, the route up Slogen climbed a steeper bowl before reaching a shoulder from which a long, exposed ridge lead towards the summit. The ridge was broad enough to zig-zag upwards, but on every right hand skin turn you had a long glance straight down into the valley hundreds of meters below. Several in our group grew tense and unsure about continuing. I prefer to combat the discomfort of exposure by moving past it as quickly as I can, so I surged ahead. 
Zig-zags up the ridge on Slogen. Not picture: shear drop into the valley on the left side.
By the time I reached the saddle with less 100 vertical meters to the top, our large group of skiers was spread out across the mountain. I had lost track of Audun, who had stopped to fix someone’s broken binding. He and I had discussed skiing off the steep top face earlier in the day, but I wasn’t sure that I had the mettle to do it alone. None of the others in my group saw the fun in skiing off the top, so I decided against it, and boot the last section to the top. 
Breath-taking view from the top of Slogen.
Kaspar, Ingeborg, Guro and I reached the summit together and celebrated with a few photos before headed down. As we booted down, I realized that the perspective from the saddle had tricked me into thinking the line was much steeper than it was. I should have just gone for it! I berated myself.
Ingeborg and I celebrating on the summit of Slogen. Photo by Ingeborg
I passed Audun heading up with the rest of our group as we headed down. We had started to ski down the main face by the time they reached the top. Audun, Sigmund and Kenny found an insane line down the main face, dropping a couple of small cliffs on the way and whooping in enthusiasm as they slide down to where we stood. I was envious; should’ve waited for them at the saddle!

Ingeborg, Kenny and I climbed up an unskied slope on the way back to camp for a bonus descent. We slid back into camp, grinning ear to ear, before deciding to go for another lap on a north-facing slope before dinner.
Kenny, Ingeborg and I on unskied powder during our extra lap on Slogen. 
Six of us broke trail up towards Norde Smørskredtind. We near made it to the top, and probably wouldn’t have turned if it weren’t for the promise of grilled goat below. The weather was so beautiful, the sun perfect and the day long.

A sextet of skiers breaking trail up towards Nordre Smørskredtind
As a consolation prize for not reaching a second summit for the day, we got first tracks down an unmarked face in perfect powder – unheard of at Easter time in Norway! I skied like the wind on the way down, darting around small slough avalanches that came with me and trying to ignore the growing fatigue in my legs.

Kristin dives in.

Skiing down from Nordre Smørskredtind, with Slogen in the background.

That evening we feast on grilled goat, and reveled in what a fabulous day it had been.

Daniel grilling the goat while Sigmund looks on

Kristin with a meat-and-cheese appetizer.

 - The Wild Bazilchuk


(Audun should be credited for the majority of the photos in the this post.)

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