American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Europe, Norway, Tromso Region, Lofoten, Moskenesoy Island, Various Winter Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2009

Moskenesoy Island, various winter ascents. The Lofoten Islands looked to be a wild area in winter. Moskenesoy, the stunningly beautiful and southernmost main island of the group, appeared promising on the map, but we could find no information on winter climbing. My local climbing club warned me not to go, telling me that Arctic winter would be too harsh, but Andy Barrett said he would come, and we arrived in the attractive village of Moskenes on February 28. We rented a cabin from a friendly shopkeeper, who was most surprised when he found we were there to climb. “I’ve never seen climbers here in winter. The weather can be bad for weeks.”

On March I we walked up to Moskeneso Lake and on to the west face of Gylttinden. It was a great day with clear skies as we geared up below the first icefall. We climbed this, naming it Alone in Lofoten (40m, WI3), and continued moving together up the face above (50°) until we reached the final rocky section. We climbed this in three pitches to the summit, completing a 350m route at AD. The view was superb, but black clouds lurked on the horizon. We down- climbed the last three pitches, then descended the south ridge, getting back to the cabin before the weather turned bad.

Next day we checked out the south face of Tinnsestitend directly above the cabin. On March 3, in poor but climbable weather, we moved unroped up the large gully in the center of the face until rocks barred our way. Andy led through these to a big icefall, which I climbed for 30m (the last 8m at 90°) to reach a good belay shortly before it started snowing. We continued up a 50° snowfield, followed by a short 60°ice pitch, to reach a large gully. The snow here was very soft, so I had to climb an exciting rock corner on the left. At one point my axes ripped and I fell. I shouted, but before having time to panic stopped on a ledge just below. I got it second go.

The weather got worse, and we needed to get off the mountain. Climbing 50-60° snow, we reached a narrow 70° ice gully, above which two long pitches took us to the ridge. The weather began to improve, so we couldn’t descend without first following the pleasant crest to the summit. From the top we moved fast down deep snow on the east face and got off the mountain before dark—in time to buy frozen pizza and beer from the village shop. We named our route Pandora’s Box (500m, TD-).

On March 6 we took a boat to the village of Vindstal, above which the peaks sport large, steep rock walls and give you the feeling of being in a big mountain range. Next morning we climbed a 40m icefall, Slush Puppy (WI3), on the east side of Polyhannaren. From the top we continued to the east face of Bisplua and climbed three snow pitches (60°) up the center, until below the summit rocks. Traversing a ropelength to the left got us to the crest of the south ridge, up which we finished to the summit, where we were greeted by one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen: stunning fjords and huge granite walls. The route was 300m, AD+.

During our brief stay we also climbed several short new routes: on February 29, Great Steps (40m, WI3), on the south side of Kolfjellet, and on March 5, after a three-hour uphill walk in deep snow, Sausages and Mash (30m, WI3), Mousakas (40m, WI2), and Baklavas (40m, WI3) on the south face of Gylttinden. The time passed quickly, and I suddenly found myself on the ferry, trying to take our final photos of the islands. It’s a wild place in winter, and I’ll be coming back soon.

Constantinos Andreou, Cyprus

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