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Senja - a steep paradise

February 16, 2017

Senja has recieved some attention in the climbing community in the later years. A local, Bent Vidar Eilertsen have mapped large areas of the region with help from visiting climbers like Ines papert  who climbed several bold lines on the face of Finnkona and Breitind. I have fond memories from the island, last year Denis Burdet and myself had a great day out at Okshornan outside Mefjordvær. The iceclimbing is also really good, steep and varied. 

 

We set off for Legendary Lodge Senja who had arranged a caravan-site for us and joined Mammut Pro Team Climbers Denis Burdet, Ralf Weber and Nicolas Hojac. Emma was supposed to do an avalanche technician course in Åre this week but due to the accident she could participate in that and instead joined us on Senja for rest and recovery.

The first pitch of the day at Finnkona. Beautiful mixed climbing.

 

The Swiss guys were eager getting into big stuff so the first day we set off for the steep faces of Finnkona on the outskirts of the island. The approach seemed to be longer than expected so I quickly arranged a boat transport to save us some time. We split in two parties, Ralf and I walked towards the north face while Denis and Nico headed straight up for the west face. 

 

Our choice of line was a good one, a steep 375 m route with exiting climbing

probably graded M5, WI6. Summited one hour before dark so we had time enjoying our lunch with glorious views before we headed back to the Lodge for dinner. Nico and Denis arrived one hour later, they had to do a traverse on their line due to a significant "whomph" in the ice where the initial line was supposed to go. 

 

Breitind is the highest peak on Senja and its north face has several steep lines. Espen Minde, the owner of the Lodge joined us the next day where I climbed with Nicolas. Denis and Ralf tried another line but had to retreat due to bad conditions.

 

Our new route was yet again superb, steep alpine ice with some exiting turf and mix pitches. We named the line Surf & Turf, 350 m, AI4, M6. Had a look at existing guide and I am not sure if its done before or not. 

 

The last climbing day arrived. We set sails yet again for Finnkona where we switched routes. Ralf and I set off for the west face while Denis and Nico headed for the north face aiming to do a variation of the route me and Ralf did the other day. We had yet another brilliant day out repeating Deni and Nico's line with some slight variations. Our way to the summit shared many pitches with the infamous " Finnmannen" by Papert/Eilertsen. Steep ice and mixed climbing, around 400m graded WI5, M6. 

Lots of drizzle from the overhanging ice over us made everything freeze and we summited covered with thin ice. As I wore my Nordwand one-piece suit I was totally dry and warm while Ralf was significally colder with separate pants and jacket.  Headed back to the lodge listening to a hit marathon of rock classics from the 80s, headbanging and celebrating in style. 

 

The last day on Senja was spent sightseeing and cleaning the lodge before the Swiss headed back home. Emma and I set off for rehab in Lofoten. 


 

Pictures: Weber, Burdet, Hojac, Minde & yours truly. 

 

Denis, Nicholas and Ralf waiting for the boat at the tiny village Skaland. 

 

 Our lines at the north face of Finnkona. Denis & Nico did the yellow one. 

 

 Heading for steeper terrain. Good ice all the way!

 

 Use a vizor, save some bruises and open cuts. :) 

 

 Ralf getting pumped on steep ice.

 

 Summiting in the blue/orange hour. Eiger Extreme colours. 

 

 The north face of Breitind. Surf & Turf  heading left. 

 

Startup. Could have kept the nuts and cams in the pack for the 4 first pitches. Compact gneiss, poor protection.

 The turf pitch. Brilliant!

 

 Denis and Ralf`s attempt came to a halt here. 

 

 The last mixed pitch. Espen belaying.

 

 Last day, last climb. 

 

 Getting showered by water. Waterdrift ? :) 

 

 Classical view from Senja.

 

 Alpine climbing can also be sunny and truly enjoyable! Denis with a big smile :)

 

There seems to be some confusion on the grading system for mixed- and ice climbing. I am using the overview below (from alpinist.com ) which I find very useful:

 

Mixed Grade:

These routes require considerable dry tooling (modern ice tools used on bare rock) and are climbed in crampons; actual ice is optional but some ice is usually involved.

M1-3: Easy. Low angle; usually no tools.
M4: Slabby to vertical with some technical dry tooling.
M5: Some sustained vertical dry tooling.
M6: Vertical to overhanging with difficult dry tooling.
M7: Overhanging; powerful and technical dry tooling; less than 10m of hard climbing.
M8: Some nearly horizontal overhangs requiring very powerful and technical dry tooling; bouldery or longer cruxes than M7.
M9: Either continuously vertical or slightly overhanging with marginal or technical holds, or a juggy roof of 2 to 3 body lengths.
M10: At least 10 meters of horizontal rock or 30 meters of overhanging dry tooling with powerful moves and no rests.
M11: A ropelength of overhanging gymnastic climbing, or up to 15 meters of roof.
M12: M11 with bouldery, dynamic moves and tenuous technical holds.

Water Ice and Alpine Ice Grades:

Ice climbing ratings are highly variable by region and are still evolving. The following descriptions approximate the average systems. The WI acronym implies seasonal ice; AI is often substituted for year-around Alpine Ice and may be easier than a WI grade with the same number. Canadians often drop the WI symbol and hyphenate the technical grade after the Canadian commitment grade’s Roman numeral (example: II-5).

WI1: Low angle ice; no tools required.
WI2: Consistent 60º ice with possible bulges; good protection.
WI3: Sustained 70º with possible long bulges of 80º-90º; reasonable rests and good stances for placing screws.
WI4: Continuous 80º ice fairly long sections of 90º ice broken up by occasional rests.
WI5: Long and strenuous, with a ropelength of 85º-90º ice offering few good rests; or a shorter pitch of thin or bad ice with protection that’s difficult to place.
WI6: A full ropelength of near-90º ice with no rests, or a shorter pitch even more tenuous than WI 5.Highly technical.
WI7: As above, but on thin poorly bonded ice or long, overhanging poorly adhered columns. Protection is impossible or very difficult to place and of dubious quality.

 

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