Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bjøberg Renna and the Bat Cave

Haven't posted in a while, so I'll start a few weeks back and then catch up. I was really sick the week after easter and missed three days of work. But when Gregers called me midweek and asked if I was game for Hemsedal I managed to cough up a phlegmy 'uh, okay' before passing out again. Ane provided me with some illegally imported, heavy-duty-American-drugs on Friday (i.e. Nyquil/Dayquil; Norwegians are prudes) and I was set. Pop the green ones at night, the red ones in the morning and you're ready for most anything.

Conditions were a lot more springy since the days are getting so long, and we opted for touring both days. Saturday we decided to go up and ski Bjøberg Renna (=couloir) which was near the tour we did a couple of weeks before. We got a late start and the snow had become freakishly soft, but we managed a combination of skiing and steep postholing up the couloir. I was coughing up some pretty fancy stuff by the time we got to the top though, so we decided to just ski the thing and skip the summit.
In between coughing fits on the way up.

Gregers skiing down.

On Sunday I was feeling quite a bit more lively and we decided to go for a really cool one that we have been staring/drooling at all winter. It's called the 'Bat Cave' and is a crazy narrow, crooked, several hundred foot long, 50 degree couloir that you can see from the 'trailer park' where Gregers has his camping wagon. It's sexy. From below it doesn't even look possible to climb--just a hockey-stick-shaped crack in the cliff--but the guidebook said it was skiable so we decided to go check it out. So we skied up through the woods, crossing several sets of moose tracks and then finding our way to the base.

We climbed up Batcave on the left and skied down the one on the right.

We traded our skis for crampons/ice axe and started up. It was a pretty cool feeling to climb up such a tight couloir, with the tall cliff sides and narrow band of snow. At the bottom we were also getting really excited about skiing the thing. Conditions were hard and frozen, but not too icy and it felt like we could get an edge in with the skis. But as we made it up to the middle we had to rethink our plan, since there had been water flowing over the snow and the middle/upper parts had a few millimeters of water ice glaze over the hard snow. Not good, since any fall could quickly become disasterous as you accelerated on the ice layer. Oh, and the runout was long and do to the crooked shape of the couloir, a little 'bumpy'. Anyway, the real deal breaker for skiing down came a little bit higher. Right at the Steepest part, above the worst run out, the 'snow' narrowed to a 4-foot-wide pile of solid water ice from some water dripping off the sides. We just laughed and said F.T.S.

We climbed over ice and the rest of the way to the top, where we popped out on a flat rock in the sun. Fancy. Ate lunch there and watched two skiers come down a steep face above us. It was in the sun and looked really nice and soft, so we decided to ski around the back side to the summit and then drop it on the way down. Turned out to be lovely, with smooth Spring corn and some fun features to play on. To get back down we skied the next couloir over from Bat Cave, which was tamer (low-mid 40's?) and with a safer runout. The snow was hard there too but it didn't have any water ice over it and was enjoyable, if a bit loud, to ski.

Hey, let's go up there... Skied next to the left edge at the top and then traversed over to play with the little cornice...
Lovely Corn.

Clear for landing?

Nope. hahahaha

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My little shanty

I have moved into the little house on Nøtterøy (nuts island, haha.) It can really only described as, well, 'cute'. Will only be living here for two months though since the owners want it for guests in the summertime.

That little window looks out over the Oslo Fjord

This will be so much nicer during the week for my job, since it's only 5k's away on a bike trail vs. 1.5 hours on the train from Oslo. To keep the Oslo connection though I have made an agreement with Gregers whereby I can rent the extra room in his apartment for really cheap and stay there a couple of nights a week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

And because I have nothing better to do with my time... are some more skiing pictures :-) From that tour up Bjøberg a couple weekends ago. It was really a nice one because it was fresh, light powder combined with low avy danger so we got to ski some pretty steep stuff. fast :-)
pretty typical landscape once you get high up around hemsedal: endless, white possibilities and nice snow, but not so spikey.

and me nearing the bottom.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Just in from an incredibly good week skitouring in the Sunnmøre alps region of Norway. We were 13 people altogether and we stayed in cabins right on the Hjørundfjord in a tiny and extremely scenic village called Sæbø. It was mostly stormy weather and avalanche city while we were there, but we got out skiing every day except one and managed to get to the top of several peaks and find some enjoyable skiing on the way down. Some highlights:

The Company: a really fun mix of people, only one of which I knew from before. My brain is a little tired after the mix of languages, accents and dialects that were flying around. We had several extremes of the Norwegian dialects represented with Tommy from the South, Marianne from the far North, the Oslo people, and the spicy local dialect. And then we had the Swedish girl, the Icelandic guy who understood Norwegian but spoke mostly New York English, Andrew the South African/Norwegian, Glen the Englishman/Norwegian and of course me. Kind of cool that with such a mix everyone still understood (almost) everything.

Our failed attempt at a timed, group, jump shot...

The Avalanches: There were a lot of them. Several times a day there would be loud rumbling as they crashed down the mountains. I witnessed three large ones, including two that plunged over a 1000ft cliff above our cabins. Really incredible to witness from safe places!

We didn't see this one go but the aftermath was pretty cool when we got to the summit.

We were very careful about where we skied. By sticking to the right aspects, not skiing under large cornices or avy-prone slopes, and even staying off certain (really cool, damnit) mountains altogether, I feel like we skied with very low avalanche risk the whole time. We had to laugh on the second to last day though, because while we were digging a pit test on our mountain a huge avalanche crashed down to the valley floor from the mountain just across from us. It was on a completely different aspect though--the one that had been windloaded--and we knew to avoid slopes of that aspect anyway.

The most Norwegian day ever: We spent the day skiing to and from the summit of a very nice mountain jutting right out of the fjord. Afterward we were stretched out on the porch of one of the cabins with beers when Marianne asked if anyone wanted to go on a boat/fishing tour in the fjord. I was a bit skeptical as she disappeared down to the dock, but half an hour later she came back and non-chalantly announced that she had found a nice older couple with a boat that would take us out and show us around. I guess that North-Norwegian dialect really works for charming one's way onto boats. What a little sjark-hore.

Another half hour and were were standing on the deck of a fishing boat in the rain, surrounded by crazy sweet mountains and fishing for cod. Hallvard caught two (the smug bastard) and we took them home to make 'Mølja', which sounded maybe a little too Norwegian but turned out to be pretty good once I got over my prejudices about eating boiled liver sauce and fish eggs.

Tommy enjoying the rainy boat/fishing tour

Birthday tour: My birthday was on Wednesday. It turned out to be sunny weather, and we set out for what would definitely be my favorite tour of the trip. The views were shit-your-pants-amazing in all directions, and from the top we stood straight above the fjord and could see out to the Atlantic. Well, that's what I'm told anyway--I could hardly be bothered to turn and look that way with all of the sexy, pointy, glaciated mountains to be gawked at in the other directions.

The happy birthday song was sung enthusiastically at me in Norwegian and English on the top before being treated to a really fun and fast line 3500 ft down to the car. Later the sneaky devils busted out cake and Norwegian moonshine and more singing and general merriment ensued. A damn satisfying birthday for sure :-)

Ålesund: Thursday was bad weather and I went with three of the guys to check out the city of Ålesund. It was an hour and a half and a ferry ride away from Sæbø, but is by no means far from its share of sexy mountains. It's also one of the coolest looking cities I have ever been to, with nice buildings, pedestrian streets and restaurants all surrounded by beautiful, snowy mountains that stick right out of the fjords. So, uh, why don't I live in Ålesund??

And if you turn around you see a fjord and snow-capped spikes :-)

Bygdafest! Our social little North-Norwegian came to the rescue again with the tip that there would be a special, once a year 'after ski' for easter ski tourers. It was across and up the fjord where there were no roads, but a boat had been arranged to get skiers there and back for the party. So at 9:30 we shuffled down to the dock and hopped on. I didn't really know what to expect, but it turned out to be a blast! There was one large building with tables, and people had come by boat from all around for the once-a-year party. All of the smiling faces we had seen skiing down the mountains earlier in the week were there, plus a good crowd of locals of all ages. Oh, and lots of beer, singing/accordian/guitar and dancing.

Here are a few more pics and I'll put the rest on facebook.
Hege approaching the summit.

Nice weather eh?

Fjord og Fjell :-)