Here is a link to a video of the easter trip we went on this year. Was a good time despite changeable weather and illness.
List for ski mountaineering trip in the alps incorporating a race.
- race suit
- warm socks
- glacier equipment
- glacier rope
- sunglasses x2
- thermal tops x3
- thermal bottoms x2
- race first aid
- insulated trousers
- waxing iron and wax tools
- shell bottoms
- gore tex shell jacket
- light insulation
- wind proof jacket
- wind proof race bottoms
- insulated shorts
- chocolate + gels + nuts
- large foldable bag
- via ferrata
- duct tape
- race pack
- ikea bag
- steel crampons
- alu crampons
- small waterbottle
- large waterbottle
- first aid
- light ice axe
- heavy ice axe
- sports drink
- peanut butter
- skin glue
- pole basket spares
- ear plugs
A few weeks ago I completed my first new route. A long slab route in the
Snillfjord area of Norway on a mountain called Glashylla. The route is technically very easy apart from 2 harder moves, however protection opportunities are limited and the quality of belays is variable and requires some creativity along with some small cams. Recommend only doing this route on guaranteed dry days.
Although I doubt anyone will repeat this route, what follows is my attempt at a route description.
Assuming you live in Norway and specifically Trondheim, drive to Orkanger then
get onto FV 714 and drive to Krokstadøra. About 2-3km after Krokstadøra you
will see the slab on the left hand side and a sign to Berg. Pass the sign and
park on the left. See included map and photo of parking.
From the parking head up through the forest along a ‘knut liten’ path. Head up
and right. The route does not start at the base of the slab but a little
higher. Refer to the map below for a rough approach route.
The hammer feature described at the end of pitch one is actually a 2m step
which runs diagonally from left to right.
Pitch for pitch
Pitch 1 (80m)
Start where marked on the map which is not at the base of the slab. Would be
cool to start at the base and then link up with this route.
There is a grassy corner which you start on follow this up 5m then climb onto
the slab. Watch out for loose rock around the corner. Climb straight up the slab, there are a couple of corners on the
right hand side which take cams.
After you get to some parallel cracks head left towards the step up a diagonal
corner. Follow this up to the step where there is a bush on you left hand side
and a small horizontal crack which will take small cams.
The pitch is approximately 80m so if you have a short rope you can find
another belay anchor and split the pitch or do it alpine style.
Pitch 2 (50m)
Climb over the step (3c) and onto another slab. Head up parallel cracks and
into another corner system. At the top of the corner there is a crack and a
mid sized bush belay.
Pitch 3 (65m)
Climb onto a ledge (flatter slab) then onto slab again and onto another ledge
before a steeper slab step. Go right and then left to overcome this and belay
at a large corner. If you extend the pitch more there is a tree further on
which would make a better belay.
Pitch 4 (50m)
Follow the corner to the left, past some trees then onto another slab. Belay
from a tree at the top of this slab. Good belay.
Pitch 5 (50m)
No protection, blank mossy slab. If the second is feeling brave you could solo
this. At the top of this slab trend left into a group of bushes / small trees
where you can belay.
Pitch 6 (40m)
No protection, blank very mossy slab. Again you could solo this, belay is
limited at the top and a sitting belay in the grass is the best I could find.
To the top
Easy walk to the summit of glashylla.
There could be potential for an abseil descent on lookers right from some
trees but this is untested. The descent we took is shown below.
Essentially, follow the ridge to the left then right down to a reentrant which
forms into a gully forested with birch trees. Follow this gully down and then
go straight down through the forest keeping close to the line of cliffs on
your left. Once the forest starts to flatten out go left back towards the car.
You might pop out at a field where you should be wary of hunters which have a
few hides places around the field for picking off deer, elk and weary
I would like to draw the worlds attention to an amazing modern tool. The blue ikea bag. These things are hard wearing, lightweight, large, relatively water resistant, and most importantly FREE! (If you are an IKEA family member where membership is… FREE!)
A short list of things I use my IKEA bags for.
- Washing basket
- Rope bag
- Lightweight secondary kit bag on holidays. (useful on car deployed ski mountaineering), fits into your luggage really easily.
- Daily use on car enabled adventure activities.. orienteering, cycling, skiing.
Walking any distance with them is annoying however, and stuff does tend to fall out. However, they are still an epic improvement to my daily logistics and at the price tag of FREE I am a happy man.
What do you use your IKEA bags for?
I got a last minute entry to the highland cross; an exciting and classic charity duathlon which runs from the west coast to the east coast in the Highlands of Scotland. It is a race which I have wanted to do for a long time but never got round to it. I was keen to do the race but had only done a minimal volume of training beforehand… My general fitness is pretty high so I figured I could just turn up and do well. All the skiing would see me through. How wrong I was.
Basically I made a schoolboy error at the start of the race and ran too fast for the first 15km. When I got to 20km I began to feel empty in my legs and had to push very hard the last 10km. The speed from my legs just disappeared and the feeling of going backwards was a reality.
I eventually got to the changover in a poor 2:48 and onto the roadbike it was. I quickly realised that if I pushed too hard on the bike I would cramp up in my calf muscles and had to get off the bike once. This lead to a 90min cycle split, taking me into the finish at 4:18. My target time of sub 4 was a long way off.
This was my first badly executed race in a long time… thinking I could run with the leaders at a fast pace over such a long distance with minimal long distance running training was stupid.
I will be back to run the highland cross; hopefully next summer with more running and cycling specific training!
The exacting, complex, highly difficult and dangerous version that tells Vim you want to encrypt the file when you save it looks like this:
vim -x filename.txt
Once a file has been encrypted by Vim once, you never need to use the -x option when opening that file again; Vim will automatically recognize it as an encrypted file and Do The Right Thing. Using the -x option when opening a file that has already been encrypted by Vim should not hurt anything, though.
Because Blowfish is a symmetric key encryption system, the same key is used for both encryption and decryption. When Vim opens a file for the first time with the -x option, the first thing it will do is ask you to give it a key you can use to encrypt and decrypt the file, with this prompt:
Enter encryption key:
After entering the key, you will then be asked to confirm the key, to ensure you did not mistype it.
Enter same key again:
After that point, Vim will act exactly the way it always has, as far as the user can tell. When you save and exit the file, there will then be an encrypted file containing the secret data you put in it. When opening the file with Vim again, the editor will ask you to enter the key needed to decrypt it for you; once open, you can again edit the file just as you would any other, and when you save the file again, it will be encrypted again.
I have been interested in doing this race since 2011 from when I was in an ancient hotel in Arolla which had loads of cool historical photos about the race. The idea of doing a large chunk of the haute route in one go seemed very appealing. Ski mountaineering racing equipment is the most efficient way to travel up and over snowy mountains. Once you get used to it, the skinny skis can also be really fun to ski. (Not as good as snowboards / fat skis but not as bad as you might think.)
I managed to recruit 2 local trønder-australians for team mates and along with my Australian roots (none) we entered under the name Team Australia. After we eventually got a confirmed entry the training began. Lots of local races, some not so local and Richard went for the odd jog!
The team consisted of:
Luke “the boot destroyer” Campbell
Richard “I dont need to train” Wood
Alastair “my arse hurts” Brunton
We arrived at Zermatt the day before the race and checked into our hotel and went to get our equipment checked. This went without problems – the swiss army were ultra efficient and it was surprisingly quiet at the kit check. We got chatting to some local guides and soldiers finding out that Team Australia had legendary status. Aussies.. skiing and rando racing! WTF!
Luke got his carbon pieces from Pierre Gignoux on the morning before the race and managed to rebuild his boots at the last minute. This was after previously rebuilding his scarpa f1 race carbon boots after breaking them also.
As we were due to start at 2315 we spent some time trying to sleep and last minute ski and skin waxing.
Difficult questions were asked like, How much fluid should I take? What gloves should I take? Which windproof? Do I change socks after running section? What am I doing? I asked a Major about feeding stations and he totally lied to me saying that there were none. Later in the day at the race briefing there was a slide in the presentation named ‘Feeding Stations’. Here is a photo of me looking at the Major thinking.. “You are speakin shit pal.”
We started at 2315 from Zermatt with our running shoes on and ran for an hour to stafel where we changed to skis and ski boots. We left the running shoes behind as they were going to be recycled. Richard’s shoes were full of holes and we weren’t sure how well they would recycle!
The skins were insanely fast after the pure flouro baking that we had done earlier that day. We skinned up through the darkness, first to Schonbell where we put the rope on and up to the summit of tete blanche where my hands got super cold! Doh remember warm gloves for next time.
Skiing downhill roped up was exciting. After trying it in Saas Fee a couple of days before, we thought we had it nailed. That was until Richard crashed whilst we were skiing at a good pace downhill. He was at the back and systematically took out Luke and subsequently me which consisted of an extremely viscious yank which just missed my balls and resulted in me breaking the toe piece on a binding meaning that it would no longer lock!
I only needed the lock function to ski uphill and since it was downhill all the way to Arolla I decided to try and fix it there.
The descent to Arolla was great fun, lots of nice dry glacier powder for the first section to Col de Bertol then we got to take the rope off! Down towards Arolla it got quite technical with a fair amount of rocks sharking out from under the powder. Then we hit the Arolla pistes and it was exciting to hammer it down the skare. (norwegian for refrozen snow)
We got to Arolla and I borrowed an army issue pen knife to fix my binding, and refuelled on hot tea and snacks. We all then crashed a little after the excitement of the previous 5 hours and the prospect of skinning up another 1200 or so up to the col de riedematten. Richard felt a little bad here and suggested we just skin up instead.
I felt really good going up here though and pushed a little but when I got to the beginning of the boot pack I felt terrible and forced down a filthy energy bar. I almost puked but kept it down.
Whilst climbing up the boot pack the sun came out and hit the face of Pigne d’Arolla which was an amazing sight and one I will remember for some time.
After the exciting down skidding on fixed ropes we reached the notorious lac des dix traverse. Here you can either skin round the lake or skate round it with your skins off. Its a 10km section so you can either lose or gain a lot of time in this section.. We lost time. Richard quickly realised that skating was better and committed to this. Luke and I kept switching between skins on and skins off which lost us loads of time. The problem with the skating is that it is on an uneven skin track and knackering! I think we lost about 20mins here.
Choppers started whizzing around all over the place. From army choppers to smaller media crews.
Another feeding point at la balma saw some more hot sweet tea, water and food. Next was the ascent up to rosablanche.. Luke and I both began to feel pretty terrible here and pushing up to the summit was really one of the hardest things I have done.
When we got to the top to the rosablanche couloir we were met by Rob, Max and Hanne and they applied us with coke, chocolate and large helpings of support to carry on. We chatted to them for 5 minutes or so which was really cool.
The descent to the final climb was nice powder with a lot of straighlining potential which made for a good time. I employed Richard to tow me up the final short climb to le chaux which helped a lot. A wee final boot pack and the climbing was over!
A fun descent on Verbier pistes was relaxing followed by mud and rock skiing down into town. No major scratches but definitely a few. But hey.. they are making new pairs of skis everyday!
The run to the finish line seemed to take forever and my skis were bashing off my helmet constantly. I think I will make a hook for ski attachment as I think this will make it better.
Woohoo! It was over; we did it in a time of 12 hours 12 minutes which was a little longer than we hoped to do but still satisfied nonetheless! We were 11th in our class which was not bad for some kangaroo loving southerners. Results are here
After the race I really enjoyed relaxing, having the odd beer and the odd snus. We tried going on a local tour in the ferret valley on the Saturday but were fogged out and grassed out. Video evidence of grass skiing is below
Rob was a little sad to not be able to get some more good skiing and as we sat in the fog waiting for the weather to clear he made a break for freedom into the unknown. We didnt think we would see him again but luckily he turned round and joined us again.
Max and Richard left to continue their trip to Chamonix and ski Mt Blanc!
Some dude has put together a headcam video of what it was like to take part in the PDG this year. Have a watch if you are keen to see what it was like.
The big race in Italy is called Mezzalama in which large sections of the race take place at over 4000m. This will make acclimatisation a big part of the preparation and it looks more gnarly than PDG. Hopefully Team Australia will make their mark there also!
The aim of this trip was to acclimatise to skiing high in the Patrouille des Glaciers race happening the next week. We opted for a relatively high, small swiss resort called Saas Fee not too far from Zermatt where the race would start. We planned to ski some 4000m peaks, stay in some high altitude huts and rest in our apartment in preparation for the race. We stayed here
Peaks which we skied:
Allainhorn 4027m: Afternoon tour from the ski area, we got a row for starting a little late but it was a top tour with deep deep powder.
Strahlhorn 4190m: I sat this one out and waited at the Brittania hut whilst the Richard and Luke hit it late in the afternoon.
Rimpfischhorn 4199m: This was the epic of the trip. We started early from Brittania hut, skied at dawn up the glaciers to reach the col feeling tired but in good form. Then we climbed up the wrong couloir towards the summit and had to retreat back down. My lightweight fully aluminium race ice axe felt more like a toy than anything useful. Note to self: Aluminium ice axe picks suck. We then found the correct route and it was a good introduction to alpine style mixed scrambling over 4000m.
After slowing descending to the col (I was less comfortable than the other 2 and asked for a belay over a few exposed sections) we rested and drank some sorely needed fluid. From here we made the rash decision to ski to a town called Tasch instead of back the way we came. Point to points man! Its where its at Some interesting skiing with crevasse and serac management followed through a full range of snow conditions. From the most rotten snow you could imagine to firm avalanche debris complete with bit of trees.
We skied for as long as the snow lasted but were still circa 500m above Tasch! It began to rain and we walked down an endless grass slope and road down to the railway station were we bought overpriced tickets for a 100min journey back to Saas Fee. It was an epic but would recommend not skiing to Tasch in spring.
We then rested and dealt with bad weather. We spent time in the apartment and ate lots of food and drank lots of tea. It snowed 100cm in 30 hours or so and we had a few silly powder runs in extremely deep wet snow.
The PDG was pushed back a day due to the weather and I was secretly happy to be able to rest a little more pre race and rest my weary legs.
Overall, Saas Fee seemed like an OK resort with lots of easily accessable backcountry at high altitude. In terms of the resort, we didnt find the locals very friendly and when the ski resort closed for the season the town totally emptied. Saas Fee is purely 100% a resort now. Nothing else.
I packed my stupid amount of baggage into the passat and off we went to Zermatt to get ready for the Patrouille….
For easter this year we opted to visit northern norway again. Easter is a great time for a ski tour and as it was a late one we hoped there was still powder to be had in the arctic north.
It was decided to make this a 2 week trip as it would be great training for the patrouille des glaciers a race happening a few weeks later.
For the first week it was only Anne-Grethe and I and we decided to centre ourselves around Tromsø. Tromsø is a cool wee city built on and around an island; with loads of great ski touring mountains a short drive. For the first few days we stayed in the booking.com hotel elisabeth. It was snowing when we arrived so there was some storms to deal with the first couple of days, followed by some lush powder.
Tops which we skied were Ullstinden in northern fastland; lille blåmannen on kvaløya (excellent), kjølen on the outskirts of Tromsø, Skitntind on kvaløya (best run of the season), Gråtind (kvaløya), Buren (kvaløya bad snow for me). Snow and weather were quite variable but we had one amazing day and a few other great days.
For the second half of the week I opted to pop my AirBNB cherry and stay here it was a nice spot and a pretty good base for ski touring. Kvaløya actually gets a lot of snow per year and the decent sized mountains are skied by locals rather than european holidays makers. This gives it a slightly different vibe to lyngen. Ski touring as a lifestyle rather than a holiday.
For the second week we met up with a crew from Trondheim and booked a house through MIT Fablab. I started the week with a world cup race in ski mountaineering at Blåtind back near Tromsø (laksvatn area). It was my chance to beat superstar Kilian Jornet in a race. Alas it wasnt to be and I battled with with worlds best to finish a convincing last place.
Following this it became a battle with the weather to get some skiing in. We tried our best and did OK. I need to go back to Lyngen with stable weather and ski some of the classics which have been on my list for far too long!
Mountains which we skied were
- Store Kjøstind (retreat from below top ramp due to unstable snow and warm weather)
- Kjellvågtind – On Uløya made it to just below the summit in zero visibility, followed by fishing excitement when I caught 7 fish!
- Powder lines in Kvalvikdalen
- Kvalvikdalstind – Made it to the top of the glacier due to high winds, good skiing.
- Rørnestinden powder laps good powder snow, not ideal visibility.
- Fastdalstinden solo – Evening tour made it up high until blown away. Excellent snow.
- Fastdalstinden 2nd attempt – Morning tour, blow away half way up another ridge.
- Kavringstinden sunset tour – silver lining tour, late in the day with finally good weather, powder and sunset.
The more time I spent in Troms the more mountains I notice. It really is endless up here and it can be difficult to get good stable conditions to ski a lot of the mountains here. So basically the mountains are excellent but the weather is often shite. Fingers crossed for a trip there in the future with some of the big classics in the bag.
Home we flew to Trondheim where I had 16 hours to sort out equipment and travel to the alps!
Have recently got an entry for Patrouille des Glaciers, a ski mountaineering competition organised by the swiss military every 2 years. A preview video from 2012 shows what it might be like!
Will be training and skiing a lot on skinny skis this winter in preparation.