THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
Rjukan Ice Trip 2014: ParadICE!
Day 5 of Jake's Ice Climbing Series in Norway
We seem to have become experts in wading through waist and chest deep powder, the guidebook stated a 20 minute walk in to an area named “Bolgen”, due to the crazy snow conditions we took a whopping 2 hours meaning we were all dehydrated and sweaty, ready to start the four pitch frozen waterfall, brilliant!
Unfortunately the ice conditions were terrible and as it was Joe's turn to have a lead, he was lucky enough to take on an awful, thin ice pitch with running water behind, a real 'bum twitchingstomach churning' pitch! I got a bit luckier and it was my turn to lead the next pitch, compromising of a fantastically steep ice section, similar in technicality to the previous days WI4 that I lead. This pitch really got my forearms working and after about 15 - 20 metres of climbing I really started to feel the burn in my forearms, coupled with the fact that pretty much all of the blood had drained from my hands along with their sensation, I started to produce noises I'd never heard myself make before! Pulling over the top of the steep section I was greeted by poor, brittle ice and a difficult position to try and create anchors for a belay, then came the next obstacle, "HOT ACHES", otherwise known as "SCREAMING BARFIES"! This is when the steep, cold climbing causes you to loose circulation to your hands making them numb and extremely cold, before the blood returns and the MOTHER of all pains bares its teeth. The only way I can describe hot aches is by getting you to imagine someone driving hot needles into the tips of your freezing cold fingers!
Jake leading the steep and sustained second pitch
With the blood back in my hands and my brain focused on more important things I chucked my down jacket on, shouted to Joe to start climbing and then dived into my "happy place", where I think of as many warm and comfortable things as possible!
2 more pitches of poor ice lead us to the search for the abseil point, a tree with climbing grade cord and a small steel Maillon (a steel carabiner with a screw up lock) to thread the rope through so that you can retrieve your rope after abseiling down on it. The light was fading so we attached our head torches to our helmets and began the laborious task of sorting ropes and abseiling down 3 full 60 metre rope lengths. As soon as the sun goes down everything begins to completely freeze, ropes, gloves, your fingers, and the worst of all being your carabiners! I had to fight my abseil device carabiner to open after the first abseil, almost risking that winter climbing mistake of putting something metal in your mouth! Trust me, all those 'myths' about body parts (especially tongue and lips) sticking to cold metal surfaces are definitely true!
For once, the deep snow was in our favour and we were able to slide and almost jog down the slopes making our descent time only about 20 minutes!