Easter adventures

Easter was late this year, and with a fickle winter many of us wonder if there would be any snow at all by the time late April rolled around. But the stars aligned, and Easter gave us both sun and snow.

We kick-started spring skiing on the classic Fløtatind in Øksendalen. There was not a cloud in sight, but the parking lot was full as Audun, Vibeke, David, Marianne and I strapped our skis on our packs to following the receding snowline uphill.

Me and Vibeke in spring skiing garb. Photo: Audun

Rotterdam had forced me to rest for most of the previous week, and I enjoyed just being outside once again. The ascent and the summit were a little crowded for my taste, but by taking an alternative route of the top we found dry snow that was mostly our own.

{Strava - Fløtatind}

I claim powder on Fløtatind in April! Photo: Audun

The next day we set a more technical objective - Grøvelnebba. The trekk out of Innerdalen was snow-free for nearly 300 vertical. It was hard work - I wasn't used to carrying such a heavy pack, or hiking in ski boots.

David in the forest above Innerdalen. Photo: Audun

From  snow line, we ascended a mellow slope to a ridge which commanded majestic views of the mountains and fjords around us. As the end of the ridge was the pointy summit that we proposed to climb. We left our skis at the drop in to the steep east face, and continued up the rocky, icy tower on crampons.

Climbing the face of Grøvelnebba. Photo: Audun

It was exciting to face the unknown - we had been unable to drum up exact details about how much people protect on this climb, probably because it varies greatly with the conditions. We didn't protect the route up, but agreed that a rope was in order for the descent of a particularly icy gully.

Snow and vertical rocks near the summit. Photo: Audun

Unfortunately, we left the rope behind after we presumed the technical part was over, only to realize that you have to go over one top and descend, via a sort step, to get to the true summit. We were eager to ski the east face while the sun still shone, and decided that the first top would be enough for today.

Our summit of the day (not technically the highest point). Photo: Audun

The lower flanks fell into shadow and froze over as we skied them. Timing is everything in this game.

David in a shadowed couloir on the descent from Grøvelnebba. Photo: Audun

With the weather forecast still perfect, we decided to take on another big classic, Skjorta. Skjorta is actually the neighbor of Fløtatind, but is more often climbed from the next valley over, Øksendalen. We were headed to Åndalsnes anyway, and so decided to stop in Øksendalen on the way.

The climb up Skjorta was incredibly icy despite the sun, and I ended up boot-packing the last 400 vert, cursing my lack of ski crampons.

Vibeke takes in the view on the icy ascent of Skjorta. Photo: Audun

Luckily, Vibeke and Audun had paid attention when we planned our trip, and knew about a south-facing descent variant. The conditions were perfect, wet spring snow, the kind of conditions where nothing feels steep.

Descending the south face of Skjorta. Photo: Audun

I'll just omit the part of the story about bushwhacking in patchy snow through the forest to get back to the car.

{Strava - Skjorta}

Audun and I moved on to Åndalsnes, into a large AirBnB we had rented with ten other people. A wide variety of plans were laid that evening, but we had our eyes on one prize: Hesteskotraversen, the horseshoe traverse. The route traverse a stunning ridge between the summits of Søre Klauva, Klauva and the iconic Kirketaket.

We woke to (surprise) another sunny day, but fumbled the earlier start we had planned when Audun and I took a wrong turn on the way to the parking lot. We were still earlier than most; Norwegians are not adherents to the alpine start.

Skinning up Søre Klauva, with Kirketaket (which would be our third peak of the day) in the background. Photo: Audun

After navigating a maze of patchy snow through the forest, we were presented with one long climb to the first summit of Søre Klauva. I was feeling sluggish, the three long days of ski touring had put weights on my legs. When we reached the summit ridge, I felt vertigo as strong gusts of wind blasted us, and decided to throw my skis on my pack for the final push to the summit.

Luckily David (ever hungry) called for a break before the summit. As soon as I started to eat I started to perk up. It's hard the keep up with the caloric load of multi-day adventures. Still, as we booted done the ridge I started to wonder if I should bail at the saddle and take an easy day. But the route was too tempting, the conditions to good. Today was the day.

The final, windy ascent of Søre Klauca.

It was on the next climb that the French, Sandra and Paul, caught us. I had shown them the route the previous day on a map, and they had decided to start behind us. It was quite comical in a way, them on their tiny carbon skis, gliding serenely past us. I felt heavy and slow, which (as you might guess) is not my favorite feeling.

We carried on, dropping down the steep, hard-pack back side of Klauva and traversing around to a col. Paul and Sandra had skiied far down the other side, put the skins back on, and were already headed up towards us as we prepared for the final ascent to Kirketaket.

The ridge to Kirketaket was the coolest part of the day - it had look quite tough from afar. It turned out to be only moderately exposed on the right side (the sheer drop being on the left), so I felt comfortable moving up it. Calories and time in the sun had wiped away fatigue and I motored up the ridge.

The summit ridgeline to Kirketaket. Photo: Audun

Paul and Sandra, like eager dogs brought along for the trip, did laps up and down the face of Kirketaket while we took a break to eat some more and take in the view. When we finally descended, the upper part was icy and moguled (Kirketaket being one of the most popular peaks in the area), the middle part was perfect spring corn, and the lower part rotten and slushy. There was no perfect time window for that face on that day, but we had made most of it.

{Strava - Hesteskotraversen}

Vibeke, Sandra, Paul, Audun and David are all smiles after descending Kirketaket. I didn't get to be in the picture because my jacket was a different color than everyone elses.

The next day, I was waiting for Dad and Zoe to arrive drive in from Trondheim and decided to put in a morning run with Paul. The trail to Nesaksla started right behind our AirBnB. It was only the second time I had run since Rotterdam, although this felt more like power hiking.

Ascending Nesaksla. Photo: Paul

Keeping up with Paul on the climb was relatively hard - he's an accomplished trail runner. It felt good to push uphill. But when we headed down, my quads stopped cooperating and locked. In the week afterward, I wonder what caused it. Was it a combination of lots of skiing with my first run with significant vert of the season? Was it an echo of my quads locking at the end of the marathon? Or, more likely, some combination of both?

Paul at the summit of Nesaksla.

Dad and Zoe arrived in the afternoon, and we headed to Venjedalen to ski a small top called Hurrungen. The air was hazy, the day less clear than the rest of the week. Still, we could see the dramatic summits of Store Venjetind and Romsdalshorn up the valley. I motored uphill on a borrowed pair of carbon randonee skis.

Zoe headed up Hurrungen, with Romsdalshorn barely visible in the background.

The descent provided perfect afternoon slush. Hurrungen was an efficient summit, allowing us to get in 900 vertical in a (relatively) leisurely three hours.

{Strava - Hurrungen}

Dad on the descent, Store Venjetind in the background.

With many of the possibilites around Isfjorden explored, most of the house headed for various peaks in Innfjorden on Friday. The snow line was high, and although Dad, Zoe, Audun, Erika and I hadn't settled on a peak until we arrived at the parking lot, west-facing Hesten was the clear choice as the snow line was lowest.

Zoe and Erika makes their way up through the trees. Photo: Audun

We ascended first through a maze of brushy trees, zig-zagging endlessly to find the best route. Above tree line, the wind came in gusts. The temperature varied accordingly, from t-shirt weather when only the sun beat down to jacket time when the wind came on.

Audun and I on the summit of Hesten.

It was windy on the summit was well, but not so much as to destroy our enjoyment of the view of the surrounding mountains and fjords.

Audun and I saw a couple of guys drop into a couloir directly below the summit, and decided to give it a try. The couloir was south-facing, and although the upper part was a bit icy, the further I skiied down the more rotten the snow became. I had to make many stops on the descent - my legs were fatigued.

{Strava - Hesten}

Coming off the summit couloir of Hesten. Photo: Audun

I was tired after a good week of skiing, but when our friends Kenny and Sigmund dangled a cool, albeit hard, objective at me, I couldn't very well say no.

Store Trolltind (literally Big Troll Peak) sits a the top of the Troll Wall and is accessible via a long climb up to a glacier and a striking, narrow couloir. As all good adventures do, this one started with a bushwhack of epic proportions.

Skiing?! Photo: Audun

We booted 900 vertical up through the forest, putting our skis on once prematurely but finally walking all the way up to Norafjellet. Sometimes it's about the process, sometimes it's about the goal. This one was about the goal.

Sigmund, me and Kenny on the way up Norafjellet. Photo: Audun

Finally we got to put on our skis and ascend the Adelsbreen glacier. The couloir was constantly in our view now, a reminder of the challenge coming. A distinctive vertical white stripe in an otherwise rocky face, it narrowed out at the bottom and the opening was obscured by the curved rock wall. Would there be snow filling the whole couloir?

Kenny, Sigmund and I examining Store Trolltinden. Photo: Audun

As it turned out, no. We reached the base of the couloir, put on our crampons and began to climb, but soon reached a vertical ice step. The step was only 2 or 3 meters high, but was a no-go without protection. Hours of work to the get to the base, hours of psyching myself up to ski a steep couloir, and we had to bail near the bottom.

Me and Sigmund in the couloir, the ice step above us.

Honestly, the ski down wasn't great either. But we had gone for the adventure, and that was what we got.

{Strava - Store Trolltinden}

Suffice to say I went home with a pair of pretty trashed legs, and we all know how that went.

- The Wild Bazilchuk