Wednesday, 2 March 2011

rjukan, day 2

“Grading ice climbs has become simple for me. They are: Easy, Hard, I Can’t Climb It, or I Won’t Climb It.” – Joe Josephson

Today I’d half hoped to head for one of the routes above Rjukan Center, but an extremely poor night’s sleep led to not waking up particularly early and hence a bit of a lay in and thus a lazy breakfast before making the decision to head out to Krokan for an ‘easy’ day and a bit of conditions scoping.

Ice formations are a little different to those of the last time I was here (February 2010), and it would seem that a fair few of the routes at Krokan have not formed as well as they had on my previous visit, so unfortunately we were a little disappointed by what we found. We did however decide to have a go at a route called Gaustaspokelse, a 3 star WI4 I had previously seconded…this time I took the lead.

Thin. The route was far thinner than I’d seen it before, and despite looking pretty friendly and innocent from below, it turned out to be far steeper in the top section than I’d anticipated. In fact, the top 4 or 5 metres were actually slightly overhung…

P1000090 Looks innocent doesn’t it? (Top couple of metres out of shot)

I made a mistake.

I underestimated the route, I went into it feeling cocky – I didn’t expect the ice to be as steep as it was at the top. I expected a simple ‘hook-fest’. I expected it to be easy…this was my mistake.

I did not expect to have climbed myself into the danger zone, and yet, suddenly, there I was – back in a place I had once vowed NEVER to push myself to again. There I was, hanging on, my arms steadily weakening as the pump clock kept ticking, with no gear to safeguard me if I fell, and no strength left with which to place any...

A flash of realisation that you're going to end up in the hospital if you blow it, knowing that you ARE about to blow it...

My legs were shaking. I was bridged out between ice and rock, an island of salvation in the sea of my rising panic, but my legs were starting to shake. I was losing it.


Fear is an amazing catalyst – looking down between your legs at an ice screw placed from a ledge that now eagerly awaits the inevitable impact once you blow it, you’re picturing the fall, hearing the crunch as your body meets itself, tasting the blood in your mouth… and then suddenly you’re simply gritting your teeth and fighting. Onwards, upwards, you’re hitting hard and true, using the rush of adrenaline to push beyond the danger zone, climbing back to safety, to solace in the trees above…

Yes, it’s all a bit melodramatic, but in all honesty I did scare myself and I did come very close to blowing it on this route. It took me a good few minutes to calm down after I reached the trees and belayed Dave up to me. Being able to walk back down rather than abseil was a merciful relief as my nerves were shot and I just wanted to sit down and enjoy a nice civilised cup of tea!

Let’s see what tomorrow brings.


  1. Good to see you're scaring yourself silly!

  2. Sounds like you earned that cup of tea...