Norwegian Mountains, Nordland
Strandåtindan traverse, July 10 2009
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The day had come for the Strandåtindan traverse. The weather wasn't as nice as the day before, and my feet were quite sore after a speedy descent from Eidetinden. Besides these insignificant matters, I was very excited to be on my way to this fabulous mountain. I sent a warm thought to Nordland Turselskap, who had gone an extra mile in making this trip happen while I was up in the north. Moreover, there would only be one guide and two clients on this trip. A big contrast to the 3 guides and 10 clients party on Stetinden in 2007...
We met at the Låter trailhead at 8am. The guide was Kenneth Mjelle, and the other client was Trygve - a 70-year old retired doctor who had done quite a bit of climbing over the years. Together with a very experienced mountain climber and a doctor, I seemed to be in good hands. However, I was hoping that Trygve's professional expertise wasn't needed on this trip...
8:10am, we were on our way. I knew the path quite well by now, having done it twice the afternoon before. Being the obvious rookie in the group, I volunteered to carry the 60-metre rope. At Låtervatnet, we turned right and followed a path up to the ridge. After a very airy corner, we began preparing for the climb.
The first obstacle was a 5-metre wall and I wondered how on earth I should approach this. Kenneth climbed it as if it was a ladder, while I fumbled around, looking for handholds. Strandåtindan is said to be easy climbing. Indeed this is true for mountain climbers! Pure will got me up this section, and Kenneth assured me that the climbing would get easier after a while. Not that the pitches would be easier, but that I would (sooner or later) get the hang of it.
The next wall was equally "hard", and once again - will, more than skill was applied in order to get up. Trygve climbed with ease. And Kenneth just walked up these cliffs (it seemed). And he was not even bothering with climbing shoes! I was beginning to psyche out, knowing the hardest part was yet to come. I wanted to climb just as well as they did, but then - I'm no climber and nothing comes for free in the mountains. But I wasn't doing poorly either. I didn't fall, and I wasn't pulled.
Then followed a lot of walking and scrambling until we reached the top of Vestre Strandåtind (11:05am). Store Strandåtind's western ridge looked intimidating at first glance, but then I noticed that the greater part of the ridge only required scrambling and walking. However, Halls Hammer - the route's crux - looked horrendous. My psyche was at rock bottom.
In order to get from Vestre Strandåtind and to the col below Halls Hammer, we had to complete three rappels, ranging from 10 to 30 metres in height. I'm quite OK with rappels, but these rappels were bumpy, mainly because of the thick rope which didn't glide well through the stitch plate. We had lunch below Halls Hammer. I didn't have high hopes about being able to climb this wall, even though a huge rock would make the first part quite easy.
Watching Kenneth lead was a big help. I tried to memorize his moves, which served me very well when it was my turn. I tried to think positive. This was a 5- route, and I'm failry sure that I've climbed slightly harder pitches. Once on top of the huge rock, I struggled to get onto the wall itself. There was one particular handhold I wanted to get a hold of, but I couldn't reach it. So I had to jump for it. As soon as I was on the wall, the climb went OK. It seemed that I had finally found the hang, even if my move from the wall and to the outside corner won't make it on the front page of Style-Climbing Magazine (should there be such a thing)...
There was now only one climbing pitch left to do, and Kenneth had been eager to get there before the rock got wet. It had been raining lightly now and then, but it looked as if more rain was moving in. There are no belay points on this pitch, and I imagine that even experienced climbers don't like wet slabs where you can't set running belays. But the rock stayed dry, the climb went well and the rain didn't set in until we reached the main summit, 2:35pm.
After a short break on top, we began our descent. Trygve and I chose to wear hiking boots from here on. The rain had made the rock extremely slippery, and climbing shoes did no longer give us any advantage.
Trygve and I were looking at 4 rappels, while Kenneth would have to do 6 (because two of the rappels were longer than 30 metres). For practical reasons, Kenneth wanted to lower us down the first two sections, while we would do the final two rappels by ourselves. The first "rappel" was quite interesting - vertically into a chimney. Quite a bumpy ride it was. But fun, of course.
The first rappel from Store Strandåtind
Eventually, we made it down into the basin between Strandåtindan and Seta, and we were back at the Låter trailhead 6:10pm - 10 hours after leaving. The trip went smoothly from beginning to end. Many thanks to Trygve for being a good climbing partner, to Kenneth for excellent guiding and to Nordland Turselskap who made this trip happen.
I spent one more evening at "Bryggen" on Kjerringøy, enjoying a very nice meal and a few well-deserved beers.
I left Bodø the next morning with lots of good impressions. First and foremost, the spectacular nature. I knew that this region has awesome mountains, but I just hadn't seen them properly before. Secondly, the Strandåtindan traverse itself. If I were to look for a place to confirm that my vertigo is once and for all history, this had to be that place. Not at any point during the trip did I feel uncomfortable, other than the "fear" of not being able to climb as well as I wanted to. But the climbing went well too, and serves as an inspiration to continue visiting the sharper side of the rock...
The first set of pictures were taken with a Canon EOS 450D + Canon EF-S 17-85mm IS USM F 4-5.6.
(Full size images)
(Images scaled down.
To the traverse
Up Vestre Strandåtind
Down Vestre Strandåtind
Down Vestre Strandåtind
Up Store Strandåtind
Down Store Strandåtind
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