I think I used up my lifetime’s allocation of partying in my twenties, so going to bed early on new year’s eve was an indulgence, not a sacrifice. My partner Lee and I bounced out of bed at 7am on new year’s day to go and climb an ice line that we’d spotted on the approach to Øvredalen the day before but which wasn’t in the guidebook. The winter so far had seen so little snow that icefalls that usually go unnoticed were suddenly obvious against the bare hillsides. This particular icefall was visible from the Skurvefjell carpark, so I doubt that it was actually unclimbed; still, with no beta available about approach or grades it felt a bit more exciting that normal.
From the car, I estimated it to be about an hour’s approach and maybe three pitches, however we arrived at the bottom of the route surprisingly quickly and realised that, like Father Ted, I’d confused small with far away, and was maybe 80m at most. It was my turn to choose which pitch I wanted and I picked the top one, it looking steeper and more fun, and potentially with better ice.
Bad photo, good belay spot
I set up to belay under the route but behind a shield of small trees, figuring it would give less rope drag but still be protected. Lee set off and did a grand job of a pitch that turned out to be difficult in its poor ice and creative protection. An immense amount of ice and snow rained down but the saplings protected me as I’d hoped, although the smaller pieces pinged off the branches in a surprising number of directions. After a full 60m plus a couple more he was at the belay, and I followed up.
The top pitch
The top pitch looked great from close up, slightly less steep than I’d hoped at about WI3 but with lovely plastic ice that was good for both screws and first time axe placements. At the top I had to dodge a channel in the ice carved out by water runoff, but after that it was just a short swim in the snow to a good tree belay. We abbed back down the way we’d come up, and were back at the car for a late lunch. Sometimes it all goes so smoothly!
An easy abseil