maandag 14 mei 2018

Winter Fun - part 2

Fiercly standing between endless cubes of salty water are the steep mountains of Lyngen. Trapped on the island they overlook the sea, see the clouds coming and soon feel the soft tickling of fresh snowflakes falling on their shoulders. Officially it's spring, but the snowstorm encloses the area in a true winter feeling. Spring only reveals itself in the morning, when you wake up at 4 AM by the first sun rays hitting the bed. I open my eyes and see the mountains looking back behind the window. Lyngen, my home now, strikes my heart.

Majestic faces are coming out of the clouds. The temperature is rising during the day up to a stunning 12 degrees and the sun starts burning on the slopes with snow. Spring is definately on now. From time to time the mountains are roaring, throwing off their upper layer. I do so too, and the ski tours in t-shirt soon colour my skin. Winter has been long and cold up here, and the dark period left me looking like the snow hares here: completely white.

A group of reindeers nibbling on some grasses gets alerted from the clicking noise of my bindings when I walk up the mountain. They look at me, then run away. All reason to do so: tonight on the menu for the clients is reindeer. From february till May I am cooking for the clients of Ascent Descent, preparing sauna, doing transfers and trying to go out skiing myself as much as possible. For 3 months Lenangsstraumen is my home, Storgalten my backyard.

The sky is green, purple, white. Northern lights are dancing around, playfully hunting after each other. It seems like they enjoy the last moments of being out, before the midnight sun kicks in and steals their show. The white mountains glow up in the moonlight and they look beautiful to ski on. But the appearances are deceiving. It hasn't been snowing for two months now and the mountains have turned into big steep ice rinks. Even on the most gentle slopes (ski) crampons were necessary to get up. As a birthday present, fresh powder arrived in the second half of March, now the season really starts!

Hamperokken, picture by Merrick

High season is definately on. Big groups of people are going up Storgalten, and on the end of the day the mountain looks like a battlefield with all the tracks. For me it means long days in the kitchen, with sometimes short escapes on the planks, into the mountains. Having only limited time to go out has its advantages: condition and efficiency are reaching new levels, and quite often I manage to take over the crowds on Storgalten and get the first tracks down. When I finally had some days free, I couldn't think of anything better than going out skiing, with some Spanish guys this time. Great to be out with friends instead of alone!

Summit of Kavringsfjellet

Finally we got some really nice spring powder, and a happy little Aniek made the best out of the situation and ran around like a puppy on the Lille Galtens the whole day long, grinning like a cheshire cat. That the snowpack was not so deep became very clear when I hit a snow-covered stone and destroyed my ski. Hero of the day Magnus helped me out by borrowing me a pair of his skis, and the next day I had the best tour of the season: up Bjørndalstindan (in the crowds), down the north bowl (escaping from all the crowds), up Kvasstinden and down a fantastic run with deep powder and no single track to be found. For me this tour was the crown of all the tours I did alone this season, a tour in perfect weather and conditions where my skills gained this season came together. The happiness I felt when standing on the summit of Kvasstinden is impossible to describe, so I'll not even try it. In the evening a strong wind came up, destroying the snow once again. With a temperature of above 10 degrees the skiing season felt over. Rock climbing time! A free week was spent in Ersfjorden/Brensholmen/Baugen, climbing in tshirt bathing in the sunshine. Happy I didn't lost all my strength and climbing skills while standing on the skis!

Congita on Tunga 7a+, picture by Stefan

Sitting on the veranda in Lyngen I am slowly getting sunburned. In one week time a lot of snow has melted, and it's necessary to boot pack to the snow. I am skiing some gullies I didn't ski before, but my head is already in Bohuslän. One more week of work and then I'm off, off to Sweden for 3 weeks of trad climbing! I am very grateful for what I learned here in Lyngen, both about the work and the skiing. I met great people, made beautiful tours and got to experience Lyngen at its best and worst. But hey, that's how good relationships work, and it's good to know that Lyngen will always be there for me. These mountains, rising up from the sea, stole my heart. Thanks for this season everyone, it was a blast!

woensdag 28 februari 2018

Winter fun

In December I finished my bachelor, but instead of throwing myself immediately into another study or work, I decided to enjoy some free time and improve my winter climbing skills.
So far the winter here has been fantastic. Starting off with a bit hard times in October, it was great to escape Tromsø in November for some ice climbing in Alta. By teaming up here with Torgrim, we got to make many meters in just two weeks and thanks to this I could enjoy a steep progression curve.
Back in Tromsø there was a big bunch of powder and the skiing was great. Suddenly it felt like everything was possible to ski down, and I felt like a hero on ski's. We skied down the Rambo couloir in Katfjordeiret, a line I never thought I would manage to ski. More of that please later this season!
But first: getting some sunshine (and rock climbing) in the Costa Blanca. I was happy that despite a lot of ice climbing and skiing I somehow kept some sports climbing skills and the 7c's went down still pretty easily. Despite climbing hard, the focus was on climbing a lot and that was what happened. Rest days were filled with ridge traverses or long multipitches, climbing days were filled with loosing as much skin on the rock as possible.
Back home in the North the snow got terrible, time to escape to Alta again! After a hard first day getting used to shivering again, Torgrim and I managed to climb about 7 new lines in 5 days, all super fun.
Tastes like more and back in Tromsø I filled my days with trips to the Kroken crag, making meters and getting more and more confidence and speed. I led my first WI6 in Nordkjosboten, a beautiful steep pillar in a stunning area.
With Merrick I climbed Smorstabfossen, a icicle in Grøtfjorden that was not really formed so we had to dryool in 3 pitches to get to the ice (WI6 in guide but in these conditions M6, WI4).
Then on another beautiful day Monsterfossen saw an ascent, climbing it together with Richard. A long approach but then 4 pitches of great ice, WI5(+).
Somehow the weather stayed cold and clear, and while all the skiers were complaining about the conditions, I was having the time of my life. Grøtfjorden was up next, some alpine climbing there with Florian. Slowly my body was getting tired, but the psych was too high and the weather too good to take a break. A day to the Kroken crag I'd now call a rest day, not a training day anymore.
Then Torgrim came with the idea of climbing an unclimbed long line in Lyngen, cool! We approached in the evening and my body felt tired, but the line looked cool and Torgrims psych was infectious. After a short, cold night we started climbing early. Starting off on hard snow we managed to make fast progress, until the terrain got steeper and the snow deeper. I got scared, my body felt wasted and motivation was far away. Just under the summit after about 1300 meters of climbing we got stuck below some steep loosy rock climbing. We decided to call it a day, and after 22 hours of being on the mountain we were back at the tent. No summit, but still a new route and a great adventure!
The week after, my body felt wasted. Good timing since I had my first working week in Lyngen, cooking for Ascent Descent. A week with just cooking, eating, sleeping and skiing a bit on icy slopes. The psych for climbing was quickly coming back, and at the end of the week I was feeling strong and fit again. Ready for trying Ultima Thule on Blåmann! With big heavy backpacks Merrick and I hiked up to the wall. The climbing went slow, but it was great. Thinks worked out perfectly and we had loads of fun. Until the jetboil stopped working... We didn't had any water anymore so giving it a push was not reasonable. We bailed from halfway up the mountain, but not before promising to get back on to it later!
Now after Blamann, my body is teaching me some anatomy, making me feel all the places where muscles are. From on the beginning of March till the end of May I'll be working in Lyngen, crossing my fingers for good skiing conditions, or hoping to find some good ice/alpine climbing partners. It feels like winter has only just begun!

dinsdag 13 februari 2018

Recap 2017, prospecting 2018 (climbing-wise)

2017: The year I moved to Norway, where I finished my bachelors, stopped with the Expedition Academy, made many new friends and developed myself in countless ways. Climbing-wise a lot changed: by moving to Norway I missed out on all the National competitions. Instead, I spent all my free time hanging on some granite rock or hammering my axes in ice. I learned how to climb up cracks on Baugen, how to aid up routes on the little big wall of Blamann, I got to climb steep ice and did first ascents around Alta, I manage to climb 8a on granite (proving myself that I can climb hard on granite too) and I got second at the European Student Championships. I got psyched, I got scared and I kept on learning the whole season. My aim for myself is to become the most allround climber I can be, feeling strong on rock, ice and plastic.

In 2018 I hope to continue my learning curve, and since I have one of the best playgrounds in my backyard now with a fantastic inspiring climbing community, I think great adventures are ahead.

Hope to see you in the mountains!

Best of 2017:
- Blamann winter attempt
- 8a on granite
- Blamann summer success
- 2nd place at the European Student Championships
- Rambo couloir down on ski's (first couloir on ski's :D)
- Ersfjordtraverse
- Many many many beautiful routes in the Dolomites

Goals for 2018, list will get updated every now and then):
- Climb WI6 (done)
- Climb Blamann in winter (tried - bailed halfway)
- Ski the Godmother Couloir in Lyngen (bailed due to avalanche risk)
- Free climb Blamann in summer (done almost free)
- Climb 5 routes 8a or harder
- Climb Storpillaren and Stetind (Lofoten) in summer (done)
- Podium place National Championships

vrijdag 8 september 2017

European University Championships 2017 - Split (Croatia)

The European Student Championships are a big event organized every 2 years for pretty much all sports, combining topsport with parties through deep in the night. In multiple cities are different sports, and in July I headed to Split (Croatia) for the student championships Sport Climbing. It became a bit of a long read, but it was also quite an extraordinary competition. Read below why :-)

Together with old good training partner Pieter, we represented Wageningen University (although Pieter is actually studying in Eindhoven. Long story short: you could only participate in a team of the same university, not as individuals of two universities). At the same event also the sports basketball and volleybal where taking place, giving a total number of 400 participants. I felt like a small puppy, not just because all those basketballers and volleyballers are so tall that I felt small, but even more because all the experiences kept on surprising and amazing me. This was maybe the best but definitely the weirdest competition I've ever had so far. I had a great time.

Hungry I arrived in the late evening in Split, where Pieter already waited for me. All day I had been looking forward to a good dinner, so we made our way to the canteen. For vegetarians, they didn't had a lot, but I was very pleased with the vegetables even though they looked more like pig-food. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was all included in the competition and served by this canteen, so we hoped the food would get better as soon when the competition starts.

After dinner we had to wait for quite some time for our accreditation, nothing more than just checking our passport and student card but they really needed some special person for this. It was already late when we could finally go to bed. The next morning I had to wake up early, as the bouldering qualifications started in the early morning. Happy not to have to climb in the biggest heat of the day and excited to start I went to breakfast. They had white bread, some cornflakes, milk and cheese. It just felt completely in line with everything else: the big boring concrete buildings, the endless phone calls when you asked a volunteer a question (after waiting several minutes and at least 5 phone calls later the conclusion often was that they didn't knew and it would become clear later on), the lack of airconditioning, ... . From the outside the whole event looked perfect and gave it the feeling of the Olympics with a lot of glitter and glamour, from the inside it sometimes felt a bit amateuristic. Somehow it gave me a bit a Eurovisie Songfestival idea, I still couldn't really explain why.

There were 8 boulders, for which you had two hours time to climb them. For each boulder you had a maximum of 5 attempts. You could choose yourself when you wanted to try which boulder, and this freedom made it a very relaxed and fun start of the competition. I was happy to top 3 boulders and managed to get 5 bonuses, putting me in a 13th place. Not enough for finals, but that was also not what I expected to reach.
I supported Pieter a bit, who had his qualifications right after. Then I went back to the canteen at the campus and I was surprised to see a big warm lunch, that was definitely better than dinner the day before. If they keep this improvement-line up, we'll end this week with haute-cuisine! In the afternoon we went back to the boulder gym to watch the finals and then we had to hurry to be in time for the opening ceremony, maybe the best example of the glitter and glamour outside of the event.

We were brought to the middle of the city centre, and dumped between thousands of tourists (it is high season now). each country got a flag, and then we had to wait. We waited for a while, then we started to joke around when things were taking long before starting and just when we got some beer in our hands they told us that the ceremony would start. In a hurry we all had to make a big line of countries and then we marched via a small street into a big square. There was a podium we had to pass and while passing they said the name of the countries and the universities. The complete square was filled with curious tourists.

The next day were the lead qualifications and we took the bus to get at the gym. Unfortunately the busdriver didn't knew where to go to, so we ended up somewhere else. "No stress people, we have google maps and will figure something out" was the reaction of the organization. Just in time for Pieters first route we arrived at the gym. Fortunately he was not so affected by this and climbed both his quali's very well. Also my routes went pretty good, and with a surprising 4th place I placed myself for the finals the next day!

In the evening the speed competition took place, and I was curious how slow I'd be. It turned out to be very slow, the fastest girls took about 7 seconds, I needed 18 seconds. Surprisingly enough I still made it to the final, which is a kick-off system: the winner goes to the next round. I lost without any chance, and headed back to the campus to prepare myself for the official dinner. This took place in a romantic villa located in a forest just next to the sea. Instead of pig-food we got luxurous tapas and it all felt like we were movie stars. I feel more at my place like a dirtbag climber, but experiencing this was definately super funny.

On the picture with the officials - they went on the picture with everyone

There was one big thing I was really missing in Split, and that was climbing outside or at least swimming in the sea a bit. Fortunately a plan was made to do some deep water soloing the next day in the morning before finals. I couldn't imagine a better warming-up and it was great to do some deep water soloing! Relaxed and full with psyche I was well-prepared for the finals. The climbing went good, and I managed to fight my way up until the crimps got really small just before the top, and I fell off. Happy with my performance I watched the other girls, and saw them falling of before me. Only Jessica from the UK managed to get as far, and due to countback she took the first place. Super surprised I received the silver medal.

zaterdag 15 juli 2017

Update: Blåmann

Back in Tromsø the winter slowly came to an end. We got some good weather periods, in which we could finally go climbing outdoors in the rocks. The quality of the granite is superb and the variety big: you can enjoy some well-bolted sportsclimbing, multipitching on your own pro to even big wall like climbing on Blåmann. The rock features flakes and cracks in all sizes, as well as small crimps. Some late snowfall in the end of May made it at a certain point hard to decide whether to go climbing or skiing. Bad weather periods were sometimes badly needed to catch up with uni. In this period of the year there is also the midnight sun, messing up all your orientation about day and night but giving you all the time you have to play outside as it never gets dark anyway.

The midnight sun, just above the clouds

Slowly more and more snow disappeared and the climbing season was definitely on, spending every single day with good weather (meaning: no heavy rainfall) outside. Also on Blåmann the snow was melting, and at a certain point the wall looked free of snow and free of ice (as far as you can see that). Only a stable good weather window was lacking. With less than a week of time left in Tromsø before leaving for the summer holidays, Patrick and me decided to give it a shot. The weather forecast said that it might rain a bit in the night, but for the rest there was only little wind and not too cold. We packed our gear and hiked up to the base of the wall. We started climbing around midnight and climbed through the night, fixing the first 70 meters of rope. In the morning we were done with that and took a nap on the base. The next day we jumared up the fixed rope, with the goal to go in one push to the summit.

The first pitch, as the wall is north facing, you have only sun during midnight. Happy with the midnight sun! Picture by Patrick

The first pitch (the one we climbed during the night) was the most difficult one, and some (potentially?) loose rocks made it a bit sketchy. Small cracks were leading up, but without ice in them we could make much faster progress than in winter. The second pitch was a rather short one, and actually a bit harder then I remembered it to be. The aid climbing process sometimes felt frustratingly slow: finding a place to put some gear, do a good bang-test to see if the gear your placed is solid, put the aiders in the gear, walk them up without getting everything tangled and highstep as high as possible. I started skipping a proper bang-test, especially when I could see a nut or cam was good, and slowly but steadily we continued climbing up. Patrick took the third pitch, climbing about 45 meter to a stance. I jumared up with the backpack, and what a hell of a job that was! Completely exhausted I reached the belay.

Jumaring, what a struggle! Picture by Patrick

Happy to be climbing instead of jumaring I climbed the fourth pitch, again about 45 meters and again to a hanging belay (don’t expect luxurious ledges in the first part of the route, bring a belay seat instead to make it yourself comfy). The next pitch should lead us to a big ledge, and oooh we were looking so much forward to it. Patrick speeded up the pitch, climbing almost a full 80 meter, but no ledge became in sight. Instead of a comfy ledge, he had to belay from a dripping overhang. I continued, and about 25meter further there was a dream ledge. It felt big, it was in the sunshine and it was flat. We enjoyed the ledge for a moment, after which I continued climbing up. The aid climbing was not so difficult now anymore, and after another 40 meters I reached again a ledge. With the knowledge that the summit was within reach now and having the comfort of the ledge and the sunshine, I forgot already about the suffering I faced while jumaring. Patrick climbed the last 10 meters, after which we could scramble the last part to the summit. We made it! After 26 hours of climbing, Ultima Thule is down!

As the description of the route is quite marginal we decided to make a updated description of the route (in which we put some belays different then how we made them to have a bit more comfy belays and more logic pitches). Hopefully this will motivate more people to accept the challenge of Ultima Thule!

The complete route, open in a new tab to view it (wanted to upload the highest quality here)

Ultima Thule – 315 m
First ascent: Marten Blixt, Geir Andersen and Mikael Nilsen, July 1995
Gear: Triple to quadruple rack from small cams to #1. Double #2 and #3, one time # 4. Lots of small and medium sized nuts. One pecker might come in handy, but try to avoid it. In winter you’ll be happy with a lot of peckers and less cams.

Pitch 1: 55m (Different start than Kvaløya archives 2007 due to rock fall)
Start right of the big overhang 20 meters above the ground, under a small overhang. Pass the overhang on the right to a thin crack in a dihedral. Climb up the dihedral until you can traverse on big jugs to a dihedral on the left. Climb up this dihedral and continue straight up passing a small roof until you reach a belay under another small roof.

Pitch 2: 30 m
Traverse under the roof out to the right and climb up via thin cracks just right of the nose. Make a belay on top of the nose.

Pitch 3: 25 m (could be combined with pitch 2)
Traverse out right to a crack, climb up this crag and follow the easiest line to a slab with a portaledge bolt. In winter with icy conditions going straight up from the belay through a thin crack and traverse right later might be easier.

Pitch 4: 50 m
Climb up low-angled narrow dihedral, becoming steeper and wider. Follow the crag till you reach a small slab at the bottom of the ship.

Pitch 5: 40 m
Climb the dihedral right of the ship until you reach a small bulge in the dihedral.

Pitch 6: 60 m
Continue through the dihedral. Climb out on the left wall through cracks, passing a small roof and following zig-zag cracks. After these head for the crag a bit right to lower-angled terrain until you reach the master ledge. Enjoy the view.

Pitch 7: 55 m
Climb up the right-leaning crack from the middle of the ledge. Traverse out right on jugs to a big crack. Follow this up, passing a wide crag (# 4 cam) until you reach a ledge. Climb up the dihedral on the left side of the ledge for another 10 meter and traverse out left to a big ledge. From here you can scramble out to the left and up to the summit.