For Information, maps, trailhead and route descriptions, click HERE.
Day 1, Sep 9
This trip was a successor of last autumn's trip across Opptakshaugane. Tungestølen was once more the meeting point, and the team members were Bjørn Eirik Hanssen, Ragnar Aasgaard and myself. Bjørn drove in from Oslo, Ragnar from Bergen and me from Ålesund. Bjørn and I met in Sogndal. and we drove together towards Tungestølen, merrily chewing on a DD pizza. This would be my 2nd trip with Ragnar (Opptakshaugane last year) and my 4th trip with Bjørn (Meneseggi, Store Skagastølstind and Kyrkjetaket. Excellent company, both of them.
It was dark when we arrived Tungestølen 20:45PM, and it was raining. I expected to have my tent up within minutes, but it wasn't meant to be. Apparently, I must have done something wrong while clipping on the inner tent when I last cleaned it, which prevented me from getting the tent poles across. Darkness, combined with a slightly impatient Bjørn resulted in a broken pole. After mending the pole with tape, and clipping OFF the inner tent, I finally got the tent up. After clipping on the inner tent, the tent was operational 1 hour after arrival. Bjørn will probably never let me forget this incident. In any case, a lesson was learned.
Ragnar arrived a bit later and although it was dark, he made the same observation as we did; there was sheep poo A L L over the place. The tents would need detox, once back home.
I had prepared well for this trip. Every single item had been carefully picked and packed. Although "traveling light but comfortable" may be a contradiction, this is what we aim for. The only open question was the choice of boots. It was raining (light) this Saturday morning, and I decided on plastic boots until the others told me that they would wear leather boots. It wasn't a decision I would regret, but I could never have done a lengthy glacier walk with these Scarpa SL boots. Great boots, though. This was my 8th pair in 8 years. But waterproof, they're not.
We left the campsite 09:35AM. Although it was raining light, the weather deeper inside Austerdalen looked promising. By 11:35PM we were on the glacier, facing crampons issues. I hadn't expected to use my old out-of-order crampons, and they didn't sit as tight as they should. Ragnar had tougher issues. His simply didn't fit his shoes and fell off. A weird, but creative solution was put in place. Bjørn was probably thinking "amateurs!" as he headed alone towards the Odinsbreen glacier.
With no snow, Austerdalsbreen seemed as a fairly safe place to walk unroped. We continued unroped into the icefall and crevasse area. There was no point in using ropes at this stage. Infact, unless someone belayed me, I would REFUSE to be part of a rope team here. To me, it was crystal clear that if one fell, all of us would fall. We would be much better off, on our own, taking it easy while doing the right things. Substitute the ice with rock, and you have a terrain that many will scramble unroped.
We found the perfect entry point to the mountain rigde. Bjørn had done this trip two years earlier, and his knowledge was very valuable. The icefall looked "insane" when we looked back on it. It seemed almost "impossible" to gain the mountain ridge if we had gone too high on the icefall. Soon after entering the mountain ridge, we had to set up belay for passing an extremely airy spot. Obviously, based on the remaining bolts, this section was once secured by wire. Whether the wire had been removed because of its age, or for other reasons, I don't know. But it seemed a bit "suspicious" about why this was so. Better not elaborate...
After a strenuous, but very enjoyable walk & scramble, we entered Kvitesteinsvarden 16:25PM. We were all in the mood for establishing a campsite. While plan A had been to descend directly down to Tungestølen the next day, plan B involved walking the main glacier towards Opptakshaugane and descend Midtnovi or Nystølsnovi. This would be a long hike and meant that we would have to walk until sunset. We voted to stick with plan A and found an ideal spot for the tent, sheltered behind a wall. After one hour's work, the ground was level and the campsite was established. We certainly hope that others can take advantage of this great spot, on this rocky and windy mountain ridge.
After dinner, Ragnar and I decided to take an evening stroll up to Austerdalsberget. After a fast .. stroll .. we reached the top 18:35PM, 20 minutes after leaving the campsite. What a panorama! The weather had been great since morning, and it is unfair to attempt to describe the views just through words. So I won't try. Ragnar's North Face dome-tent was well suited for 3 persons and everything was just comfortable. On top of everything, we had water few meters away from the tents. One pond for dishing, and one pond for drinking water. It wasn't running water, but clear as the day. No problems.
It took some time before I could get some sleep. The roar and thunder from the glaciers were distinct sounds that the brain wasn't used to. On our way upwards, we heard avalanches every 10 minutes, but could not see a single piece of falling ice. The icefalls were just that big.
Day 2 - descent
Rise and uh .. shine 07:30AM. After breakfast and rigging down the tent, we were on our way 08:15AM. The weather was still great, but steaming fog obscured some of the views. We took a somewhat direct course across Lokebreen and roped up before the ascent up to point 1665m. The crevasses turned longer and wilder the higher we got. We agreed to cross one of the longer crevasses, rather taking the long way around. I suspect the other guys were in serious need for some "fun". A fairly uncomplicated crossing was done "by the book" and we didn't run into any further crevasse challenges.
We passed point 1665m and continued unroped towards our descent point. The time was now 11:00AM, and we pondered on how long it would take to descend the remaining 1300 vertical meters. In easy terrain, this would be done in 2 hours. But Bjørn's description of the route - "demanding, but OK" - was not very clear message. Upon request for clarification, he repeated that "positive thinking was required on this route". I had a vague notion about what we had coming.
Suddenly, fog came and visibility was low. Bjørn's ability to guide us down the right route was depending on visibility. We agreed to set course for a river 200 vertical meters below us, and take it from there. We entered yet another large snowfield and had to mount the crampons one more time. Bjørn clearly remembered a snowfield, but the bad news was there were several snowfields. Fortunately, visibility was restored and we spotted a wide couloir - perhaps more precisely - a small valley - down to our left. Once we were inside the couloir, Bjørn started to remember details.
Things went fairly OK until we reached 1000m elevation and the mountainside got steeper. The couloir turned into two deep gullies with a steep ridge in-between. We followed the ridge, holding on to bush and actively using the ice-axe for support. Problems (slab sections, small cliffs, etc.) had to be bypassed along the way. Being in front, I was suddenly "out of bush" and with a truly ugly slab section (seemingly without a logical end to it) in front of me. Bjørn waved the "keep on going" signal, but I refused. This couldn't be right. I suggested we got off the ridge, crossed the gully to our right and took our chances with the ridge on the other side. At least, there was bush.
Bjørn now remembered that this was the correct thing to do, and although the river (at this spot, more a creek) was a bit exposed, the crossing was fairly easy. We continued the descent through dense bush and forest. Bjørn and I descended after the "on your ass, and hold on" principle", while Ragnar prefered the climbing style, hold on to a bush and descend face in. Trusting bush a hell lot less than he trusts rock, he wasn't very happy about this route.
Next, we stood on top of a waterfall with a huge cliff below us. I had noticed this cliff from high above, and noticed a doable descent route further right. Bjørn's suggestion was to go left, and after a minor detour and a minor discussion, we decided to follow Bjørn's route, as he downgraded the rest of the route from "demanding, but OK" to just "OK". Should you ever ask him, Ragnar will never describe the rest of the route as "OK". Me, on the other hand, is quite familiar with dense forest and evil bush. Those of you who have followed my trip reports over the years, know this is true. I have descended terrain like this with a dog in the backpack, and was just happy about the direct course towards the trailhead. This meant that I would be back in Ålesund before dark.
14:30PM, and 3,5 hours after beginning the descent, we were down by the Langedøla river. Bjørn strongly suggested that we should wade the river, in order to get onto easier terrain on the far side. Not in my wildest dreams would I consider crossing that river, and was prepared to fight my way through the forest, the remaining kilometer back to Tungestølen. But then we discovered a perfectly well-worn path which led us directly back to Tungestølen. I smiled to myself while visualising Bjørn wading this river two years earlier...
I was confident that climbing Romsdalshorn earlier this autumn, would be this year's highlight. But this trip ranks equally high. It is hard to describe why, so I won't. It is just the sum of all things. Lessons learned, scenery, the company, the effort, and so on. It was just one of those trips you'll never forget.
To Austerdalsbreen, Sep 9
Across Austerdalsbreen, Sep 9
The icefall, Sep 9
Kvitesteinsvarden & campsite, Sep 9
Austerdalsberget, Sep 9
Across Lokebreen, Sep 10
Descent, Sep 10
Additional pics by Ragnar Aasgaard, added Sep 13
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