Well that time has come when we need to pack our bags and head back to the UK to the glorious weather we are experiencing. So today was the last day of climbing for Dean and I...Opening the blinds this morning the snow had once again come through the night (almost a daily occurrence) making us reevaluate our loose plans. As breakfast came and went we notice the snow on the car melting away giving us some concerns about the quality of the ice we might find today.
It would have been quite easy to drive up to Krokan (again) and complete some of the steeper routes we still had in our sights but we agreed on Rjukan Central and the Tjonnstadberg Area for a change with the idea of having a look at For Alle Menn 3* WI5. Dean was battling with a few concerns after him and his Dad had a mild epic on Klappfoss last year, on the decent to be more precise, but he took a deep breath, smiled and said ''Yup lets do it!'' So at the crack of dawn, ok so it was 9.45 am, we headed out (we were working on the fact we've started climbing really quickly).
Arriving at the base after the nicely warming hike in, two other Brit. parties were gearing up under Tjonnstadbergfossen the classic 3* WI4 route...Dean and I headed further over to the left to the cave at the base of For Alle Menn....What an awesome route it looked, steep with beautiful blue ice up both pitches. It was Deans lead and he was keen to crack on with the first pitch...as I pulled out of the cave on second the angle of the route hit me and I realised at that point that we were going to have to work hard if we were to get the satisfaction we needed after yesterdays disappointment. The route climbs two walls of steepening ice with a short respite after one third height. A little push is required to launch yourself up the last part which terminates at the base of a huge and steep ice column. Dean was staring down at me proud as punch with his belay construction which included two bomber ice screws and a Abalov ice belay. "Safer than the M60 this belay" he says.
A quick change of gear and it was my lead...Dean was babbling on about something or other but I was in 'concentration mode' as I looked up at the REALLY steep ice column above me. The column was around 7 meters in height so I thought 10 moves and I should be at the top....surely I have enough strength for that. I clipped the other Abalov and placed a screw and launched myself (without thinking too much) up the column. Not many people had been up this ice column and the lack of 'in-situ." hooks for my axes worried me a little! Not only did I need strength to hang on I also needed power to swing my axe and penetrate the bullet hard ice above me. After placing two more screws I arrived at the point where the column finished and the snow slope at an easier angle started. Somehow I remembered that I should place a screw as there didn't look like many opportunities above.
As I entered the snow gully above the memories of yesterdays 'snow swimming' came flooding back...I eventually tread water (snow) to the belay tree above and safety! Dean soon joined me praising me for my 'Grande Cojones' and raving about the quality of the whole route. We sorted the ropes for the rap off and descended directly back into the cave we had started in...as Dean arrived I handed him a brew of mint tea and honey and we quickly packed up the rest of our kit, quite content by what we had achieved.
Conditions: The ice on the lower part of the first pitch was 'dinner plating' quite a bit but this improved with height. On the ice column on pitch two it was bullet hard and even difficult to penetrate. The overnight snow didn't make the approach or the easy gully on the last pitch very easy...A little perseverance may be required.
What an absolutely awesome trip this has been and my thanks go out to Dean Dalton who has partnered me all week, never did I have any doubt in his abilities. Ed. Dalton for all the banter and the craic through out the week and to John Beard who completed his first ice trip and shared an emotional roller-coaster with us all.