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Peele and George Celebrate First Ascent of “Goldmember”
Posted on February 23, 2010

Chad Peel on Goldmember

By Chad Peele

After several days of climbing in Rjukan, we drove due west to a small town named Eidfjord. The town sits directly on a fjord, with rocky peaks dramatically rising out of the coastal waters. Here, Caroline and I spent our remaining time in Norway exploring less-travelled valleys in search of unclimbed waterfall ice.

As we settled into our cozy cabin on the waterfront, we discussed world-renowned Canadian ice climber Will Gadd. Will was currently in Eidfjord and we were all curious to find out where he was exploring and what he had climbed. The following evening, we shared a glass of scotch with Will and his party and viewed photos of valleys and climbs they had visited. In one of the photos, Will showed an amazing waterfall that they had just climbed. Although their route was amazing, our eyes drifted to a streak of yellow lurking in the background. Deep in the gorge was another waterfall that appeared to be a golden hue around two pitches in length and looked very worthy. After discussing the route, we all agreed that it would be our first route in Eidfjord, especially knowing that there was no information on this route having been climbed previously.

The next day, we awoke in the dark, loaded up in “White Thunder” and made our way along the waterfront to the end of the road. From the van, we found the trail breaking timely and difficult as we moved through snow-covered talus and frozen moss. Two hours later, we were at the base of the climb and things were looking good. Although still a very noteworthy route, the climb was not as steep as it appeared from the previous night’s photo and from the road. We were expecting multiple pitches of solid grade WI 4-5 route and instead found several pitches of WI 3+ to WI 4.

As Caroline and I racked up quick draws and ice screws, the wind picked up and snow started to swirl around us. From the ground, we guessed that it would be two 70-meter rope stretchers to the top of the route. As I was jazzed about the upper pitch, Caroline started out on the first section and picked her way up, encountering cold and brittle ice as she went. I watched the winds encase Caroline in snow as she disappeared up the ice and chuckled to myself, “Just another sweet day in winter ice climbing.”

I heard Caroline yell “off belay,” quickly followed by “on belay.” I gave a couple of quick arm swirls in a failed attempt to send blood to my fingers and started off. The climbing went quickly, as I found it quite easy to follow in Caroline’s pick placements. Due to the cold air and icy temperatures, the ice fractured easily, making it difficult for the lead climber as each pick placement took multiple swings. It was the opposite for the follower, as the leader left huge divots and holes to hook into, making the climbing easier.

Once at the belay, Caroline quickly gave me her remaining gear and we discussed the likelihood of this route going down in two pitches. We felt it was looking like a solid three pitches now that we were en route. I embarked on pitch two and was instantly engulfed in swirling winds and snow.

Aside from the snow, wind and cold temperatures, the climbing was quite good and I enjoyed the movement and moderate nature of the climbing. As I ascended up the second pitch, plugging screws as I climbed, I moved left into a nice cave that had formed in between the ice and the rock wall. This was a sweet sheltered belay spot and I was happy to get a little relief from the weather. As I belayed Caroline up, I enjoyed the views of the valley below us and even though the weather was nuking pretty hard, it still held a magical and calm beauty.

After a quick re-warm session, Caroline was more than ready to tackle the last pitch. As she transitioned out of the cave, the climbing looked super-cool, and I could hear Caroline cheerfully commenting on the quality and steepness of the climb, as she pushed higher and higher up the dark yellow column of ice. As the rope movement slowed down, I knew she had arrived at the final belay and I began to prepare to follow the pitch. After hearing that I was “on belay,” I traversed out of the cave and started up, following Caroline’s pick holes as I climbed. As I moved up, the weather started to calm and I could see blue sky above. I removed the last screw at the lip of the steep ice bulge and stepped over the top onto a nice frozen creek bed and saw Caroline smiling with satisfaction at the climb. The skies opened up into patches of blue and we could see the expansive summit of the peak rolling out in front of us. This was our “first” first ascent in Norway, and Caroline and I were psyched at the quality and aesthetics of the climb.

Due to the yellow nature of the climb and previous gut-wrenching laughter and jokes, we decided that “Goldmember” was a fitting name for our Norwegian first ascent.

Now the only question was, “Which route should we do next?”

Author: - Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

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