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The Vengetind Traverse

Posted in mountaineering, climbing, norway

Actually it’s not so bad sleeping here, I thought to myself. This ledge is pretty flat, we have some food still, and though I can hear the wind raging on the other side of the ridge, it’s still here. We’re both in good spirits and the lights of Romsdal down in the valley are very pretty. Shame I didn’t pack those extra leggings though…

Based on a fantastic forecast for Romsdal, I skived off work early on the Friday and picked Espen up en route. We arrived at the NTK hytta as the sun was setting, and we were lucky enough to get a spot in a bunkbed room. We were up and out before dawn the next morning, with our sights set on the Vengetind traverse, a 2km long ridge taking in three main summits which we expected to take a good 12-15h. Most of the information I’d found about the ridge had people doing it south to north, but since it was already September, with limited daylight, I figured north to south would let us maximise daylight on the ridge, and we could do the long, flat circumnavigation back to the car in the dark.

Vengetind ridge The Vengetind Massiv

We parked at the lake and were pretty quick on the ascent, roping up when the terrain started to steepen. We pitched a couple of sections, but otherwise the climbing was easy enough that we just moved together. The sun was shining and we got to the top of North Vengetind at 10am, after just 4h. As I stood on the peak, I got one glimpse of the ridge stretching out in front of me before the low clouds swept in. I generally like to be able to stand back and see where I’m going, but I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult, we just had to follow the ridge to the end.

After the north summit we downclimbed a little then traversed the Gallery. We were a bit unsure where it should be but found it almost immediately - a loose ledge system that was wide enough to walk along but that would be catastropic to fall off. We went carefully, I watched every footstep.

The ridge A rare moment of clarity on the ridge

Between the north and the middle summits was one of the sharpest skylines I’ve ever seen, culminating in a knife edge so sharp it took me a couple of minutes to work out how to pass it (and, if I’m honest. to work up the courage to swing my legs over the precipitous drop). We stood on the peak at 2pm, having slowed a little, but still ok for time.

After the middle peak, things kind of went a bit sideways. The route finding became complex and tedious; the ridge at this point was vertical on one side and a 100m high, 70 degree slab on the other. Finding the right height to traverse the slab at took a very long time, going forwards until it became impassible, then backing up a bit and downclimbing or abseiling. Visibility was still very low, and around each bend came a new challenge.

Low cloud Increasingly low visibility

At about 6pm we passed a pair doing the traverse in the opposite direction; they’d also parked at the lake but set off four hours later than us. We’d been vaguely aware that we were behind schedule up until this point, but now it was glaringly obvious that we were going way too slow. For the next couple of hours we went at top speed, but the difficult terrain and low clouds was still working against us.

Somewhere around the south summit the sun started to hang very low in the sky, and we spied a couple of gullies off the east side of the ridge that looked like they might dump us down onto the plateau. Two abseils through looser and looser ground brought me to a kink in the gulley that I hoped concealed an ease in the angle. As I got close enough to see round the corner, I realised that from here was a few hundred meters of near vertical choss. I shouted up to Espen not to bother coming down, and we scrambled back up to the ridge again.

Dusk Dusk over Romsdal

Just under the skyline, it was twilight. On the far side was a glacier, but neither of us was psyched to try out an unknown and possibly crevassed glacier in the dark and fog. The way ahead was the same giant jigsaw puzzle that we’d spent half the day on; trying to find a route down in the pitch black would be somewhere between painfully slow and potentially dangerous. On the plus side, where we were right then was calm and still, mostly flat, it wasn’t snowing at this point, we were well dressed and had food and water remaining, plus we had an emergency foil bivvy bag with us. Sleeping right here was an easy decision to make.

As we cleared away the sharper rocks, we wondered if the people in the hut would be worried about us. They were all pretty friendly, but we didn’t have anybody’s number. We decided that the best thing to do would be to call the police (who handle the mountain rescue calls) to let them know where we were and that we were fine, and didn’t need rescuing (I let Espen the native Norwegian do this bit). As we settled down for the night we saw the rescue helicopter out visiting at least a couple of other mountains nearby, which made me extra glad we’d called in - I’m relatively sure they would have seen us with the infrared camera.

Bivvy Bivvy selfie - still smiling

The night passed for me in short dozes, where I dreamt of being back climbing the ridge. We’d agreed that if it started to rain or snow we’d move into a sheltered but uncomfortable cave we’d spotted round the corner, but honestly we were both so tired that I’m pretty sure we would have just pulled the bivvy bag up and gone back to sleep.

As dawn broke we packed up camp, and got going. I briefly tried to find a route that followed the ridge down to the plateau, but it wasn’t obvious so we dropped down to the bergschrund on the east side and followed that for a bit. Now that the sun was up and the clouds were gone the glacier actually looked super easy, so we cracked out the crampons and ice axe and strolled down to the boulder field. As we descended to the high lake, we passed a couple walking in to climb Kvanndalstindan. They were surprised to see us going in ‘the wrong direction’, but when we explained we’d slept up there they immedialy offered us the food they had, which was incredibly sweet of them. We still had half a dried sausage and a load of chocolate left, so we didn’t take anything off them, but I was touched at their thoughtfullness.

The glacier Escape down the glacier

The long walk past Olaskarsvatnet and then down to the valley again was easy and well-marked, although the steep path down the side of the waterfall would have been a bit spicy had we done it in the dark as we’d planned. We picked up the car and were back at the hut just before midday, to a warm welcome from the other guests. As we’d thought, they had rung the police when we hadn’t showed up the night before, but had been reassured to hear that we’d called in first.

Despite the trip taking about twice as long as my upper guess - 30h in total - it was still a fun adventure. We both struggled to route find, and in retrospect I think taking the ridge south to north would have been easier. We’ll certainly do it that way around next time! Aside from that, I think we did pretty okay, and I can’t say I was especially worried at any point. But boy was I tired on the drive home.

Map B marks the bivvy

Anna spends all of her free time exploring the outdoors, including winter climbing, trad climbing, mountaineering, skiing, and hiking. If it's an adventure, she's happy.

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