I had wanted to complete this traverse since Jack, Hallvard and I didn’t manage it in 2009 due to weather conditions, tiredness and access to the mountain restricted due to mine removal in the area.
I reccied the mountain in 2010 with Emily Wall and it looked doable. A rough route description (in Swedish) is very helpful and google translate can also improve the reading experience.
You can actually do the traverse both ways. Vestoppen to Stortoppen has one roped climbing pitch, where Stortoppen to Vesttoppen has 4 pitches. We went Stortoppen to Vesttoppen but saw an equal amount of traffic (guided) going the other way.
There was a party with the mountain guide guiding company that we bumped into. They seem like a good bunch and have seen them guiding around Romsdalen before; they seem to know their stuff. Tor Olav Naalsund has a guiding gig with field productions and I heard him give a good presentation about this last year.
Thwarted from the beginning
We rocked up at Hjerkinn at 10pm on the Friday night, planning to drive into Snøheim and sleep there, with plans for a 7am start. Weather forecast was excellent.
However, there is a new bus service which only runs at certain times of the day, so we had to camp 20km away from where we had initially planned. Max scrounged a duvet from the army camp as he had no sleeping bag. We planned to get the first bus at 8:30 am. Jose then arrived and we briefed him on the shitness.
Saturday morning arrived on the back of many mosquitos and we were greeted by a bus at 8.15am. Shit we thought! Its early! I was also totally full. As were the next 3 buses. We eventually got started the traverse at 10:30am pretty pissed off. We didnt see any wild reindeer; starting 3.5 hours later than planned. Also 150kr between the 3 of us, 300kr return where driving was like 50kr for the car. The snøheim bus is a pilot scheme, fingers crossed it gets binned and that its not just a tourist tax.
If you are considering doing this route, sort out the logistics and ideally get the bus into snøheim the night before or cycle.
Fun and Games
We hammered up to Stortoppen with excellent pace and no rest stops in under 2 hours. At the top with wind increased quite a bit so we had to put lots of warm clothes on. We were surprised at the few cm of fresh snow and how cold it was on the top ridge. We gobbled down some lunch then started with the traverse for real. Some walking along to Midttoppen followed by downclimbing, then scrambling up to the base of the first pitch at Hettpiggen.
Max led the first pitch; a snow grotty start then it opened up with some nice blocks in a wee gully. The climbing was nice and fun and he was up at the bolted belay ledge in no time. The norwegian TV program 71 grader nord came over here and there are 3 bolts left at the top of the Hettpiggen pitch. Apparently they are getting removed so dont rely on them being there.
Following the first pitch, there is fairly straighforward scrambling up to the top of Hettpiggen on loose rock. Following this there is some downclimbing to a sloping plate (platta on the topo). The topo shoes a rappel after the plate but we opted for a short abseil down the plate itself, then the standard abseil. Take some tat with you to avoid relying on what is there at the anchors.
At this point we were moving really well through the traverse and it was going smooth, like clockwork.
The Waiting Game
After the notch between Hettpiggen and Vesttoppen we ran into a DNT Fjellsport (mountain sport) party that were working on the final pitches up to Vesttoppen and the completion of the traverse. They were already on the pitch ahead of us so all we could do was sit and wait, it was about 4pm. At 6pm we got kitted up for climbing.
Ali Babas Pitch
It was my turn to lead up a muddy, wet and snowy diagonal crack. Fun and games and a great introduction to alpine trad leading. It turned out to be fairly desperate and I had a small fall 1/3 of the way up onto a ledge with served to put me into a really intense survival focus. After I had completed the pitch (had to pull on a cam it felt very good to have completed it.
More waiting, waiting for the party ahead of us and Jose who was now spurred into action, led the next pitch beautifully. It was about 9:30pm.. and one of the party ahead had an injured shoulder.
Unsure of the correct route and it being late in the day we sent Jose ahead to scramble away up towards the summit with rope to avoid a potential silly fall. This went pretty smooth and we passed the group ahead of us, it was looking good. Next, instead of traversing out right and onto the summit ridge we decided to climb direct to the summit.
Jose did another sweet lead up here and I followed, hauling up the Norwegians’ rope who had asked for help. Max, rocked up next and some brief smiles about finishing the traverse were shared.
As I belayed up one of the locals it became apparent that they were in need of help, it was getting dark and they had an injured climber benighted close to the summit. Max stepped in here and took control of the situation. We setup a hauling system and brought the injured climber up (he was quite heavy) and then the remaining members of the party. It was now circa 1am, well and truly dark.
We bid farewell to our new friends and the Chilean, Belgian and Scotsman wandered back to Snøheim from Vesttoppen. This was grim and took ages!
Snøheim Matress Madness
We rocked up at the shiny new DNT hut at about 3am and ate the rest of the apple cake. From here grabbed some matresses and slept in the hall. A good nights sleep actually as we were pretty tired after 16 hours!
The next day after waiting for ages we eventually got on the shitty bus back to the cars at Hjerkinn.
All in all a really exciting ridge traverse, the bus system makes access annoyingly complicated.. cycling in is a better plan. Also starting as early as possible in summer will mean you should get the route to yourself.