Wednesday, 12 February 2014
What goes up sometimes comes down quicker!
If everything in life (climbing) went according to our plans we wouldn't learn a thing and in turn we wouldn't be prepared for the next time similar events occur. Today was one of those days for Dean and I out here in Rjukan. We made a decision that disappointed us, frustrated us and made us sad but at the end of the day we're happy with the decision we made and it was the right one...ultimately we are still here and alive to climb another day!
For the whole our trip Dean had kept quiet (until 4 days ago) that he was keen...very keen to get Juvsoyla a 3* WI6 route at the head of the Upper Gorge done after spotting it last year. So since that point on I've been trying to psyche myself up into giving it ago, having never climbed a WI6 route before. With the climbing we experienced yesterday I was also running out of excuses. Even the conditions, weather and temperatures 'seemed' to be in our favor.
Walking to the route this morning, down from Vemork Bridge into the Gorge, not a lot was being said by either Dean or myself as we trudged past the awesome routes we had done yesterday, now a distant but happy memory. We kept following the well trodden trail all the way up the valley to the point where the 'Snow Gully' which leads to the route starts. It was soon apparent that the easy walking we had so far encountered was about to stop abruptly . The snow underfoot was soft and deep and the higher we made our way up the gully the deeper it got. At one point I thought I was going to be defeated by the snow alone. Each time I placed a foot it felt like the snow holding it was about to collapse and on many occasions it did...no form of weight distribution was helping unless I was belly to the snow in a wallrus (a small one) like movement, swimming (more like drowning) my way up the slope. Reassuringly Dean was also suffering and finding the going tough.
We reached the point where the gully steepened and the true climbing started. Dean started the lead and was instantly aware that the ice wasn't very good taking many swings of his axes to make them stick and his foot kicking away the top layers to get any purchase. I have started to become aware when things are not going well for Dean, I guess this is part of being tuned into your climbing partner, as he ascended I could tell he wasn't happy. Of course you keep quiet wanting him to make his own decisions about the route. The route deteriorated the further he ascended going from slushy crusty ice to rock with very soft snow on it. Just before he was due to take a leftward traverse, Dean noticed an Abalov (an anchor in the ice made by threading cord through two holes made by two long ice screws angled to intersect with each other), he clipped this as an immediate runner but was then shut down by the lack of usable ice. After a look down I knew I had to give him the option and uncharacteristically for Dean decided he back off. An Abseil bumslide as far down the gully as we could manage put us at a point where we could swim down to the well trodden trail. We both took a last look up at Juvsoyla almost within touching distance, knowing we wouldn't get another chance to try her again on this trip.
As a consolation we climbed Bakveien a supposedly 3* WI4 next door to the fantastic Nye Vemorkfossen we had done yesterday...Unfortunately for us the route was short lived and made us question its 3*'s? Okay so it was a good way to get to the top without having to trudge our way up the slope leading to Vemork Bridge.
All in all it was a kind of adventurous day and as I have already said we were happy with the decisions we made. Maybe the hardest battle of all is the battle going on inside your head...am I being a wuss, am I just intimidated, am I making excuses about the snow/ice quality or am I just making sensible mountaineering decisions?
Last day on the ice tomorrow...who knows what we'll get up to.
Conditions: as above.