THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
Rjukan Ice Trip 2014: ParadICE!
Day 6 of Jake's Ice Climbing Series in Norway- Heading into the upper gorge...
You'd think we'd learn, but we suddenly found ourselves scrambling down and 'hand over hand' abseiling back down into the lower gorge in a last attempt to find the waterfalls we tried so hard to find all week! Trying to cling onto the rope with frozen gloves as I lowered down an icy, rocky track I turned my head and there they were, the lower gorge waterfalls.... BOOM, it was on!
Checking the guidebook with a view of the old Vemork Power Plant near the Upper Gorge
But no, the lower gorge had other ideas for us, in front of us stood the same last obstacle that ended our first attempt, a partially frozen river no deeper than waist high at points, but plenty enough to put you in a bad mood and end your days climbing! The problem wasn't that the river wasn't completely frozen, but that EVERYTHING was covered in at least 3 feet of snow making it impossible to judge what you could and couldn't step on. So, sick and tired of being beaten by the lower gorge I took the lead and started testing the ground ahead, I got to a point where I could see the water flowing and what I was standing on, and the platform across the stream seemed good to stand on, until the ice underfoot cracked and I only just managed to get away with dry legs. Once the boys had quieted down and all the "WHEEYY's" and "OOOOOHHH's" had stopped I gave the jump a go, to my surprise it was solid, brilliant, the guys jumped across and we started to walk towards the base of the first WI4 waterfall, and what greeted us? Another bloody frozen stream, but this time it was about 6 foot wide, was barely frozen and had a light dusting of snow, a real "no go" for all of us. Once again we found ourselves turning our back on the lower gorge with our tails between our legs, backup plan?.... The upper gorge!
Because of all the time wasted in the lower gorge we went for a nice star rated multi pitch route named 'Tracy’s Eyes', I took the first pitch on some very thin ice and built a solid belay underneath a cave and brought Joe up on the second ready for him to lead the second pitch. The second pitch was supposed to follow up a line of ice and out of a steep, ice filled groove in the rock, before setting up a belay on a tree at the top of the gorge.
To descend the plan was either to do a retrievable abseil from the tree (this is where you are able to abseil to the bottom and then retrieve your ropes by pulling them back through the anchor at the top of the gorge), or walk across to the top of a snow filled gully and just walk down back to the bottom of the gorge. After making his way up the ice Joe reached the rock groove, but due to poor conditions it didn't have any ice (something which we couldn't see from the bottom of the climb!) making it impassable, therefore the only option was to abseil off the climb, one problem, the only place to abseil off was a fair way back down the ice! The plan was to make an abalakov thread (this is where two screws are drilled into the ice simultaneously so that the holes they create match up within the ice in the shape of a V, you then thread some climbing cord through this thread, tie the cord together, and then loop your rope through the cord), this way we wouldn't leave any super expensive ice climbing gear behind as an abseil anchor! As I started to climb up to Joe where we were going to build an abalakov thread, he realised that it would be much safer and easier for me to traverse across the ice and rock face (which was, to my luck covered with consolidated snow) where the descent gully was and find a solid tree to bring Joe across to so that we could both abseil off. After a bit of scratching along rock, and a few ‘fruity’ moments where the snow slipped slightly, we were abseiling back down the gully and packing up ready to head back to the car.
Joe traversing across to me where the abseil tree was located
After a bit of a battle of a day we decided to taste a bit of local brew and splash out on a couple of Norwegian beers, turns out Norwegian beer isn't too great, the only description I can come up with to describe the taste would be "wheat biscuits, mashed up with a little bit of cheap honey, mixed into soda water and blended", sounds appetising ey!? ;)