Naming a route can sometimes be the real crux of a route. The name needs to communicate what was experienced and/or describe aspects of the climb. For example, “The Nose” on Yosemite’s El Capitan gives away the part of the wall the route follows, while Lipton was named after the color of the ice—a dark shade of yellow. Sometimes, a climb is named after the people who completed the first ascent. No matter what the name is, it should always convey some history.
Some routes get named before they are ever climbed. Monday, Feb. 15, we spent the day scoping out routes to climb, to strategize for the remainder of our trip. We took the ferry from Eidfjord and headed north through a seashore village, Ulvik, and farther on to Ossa, a little farmer’s hamlet sitting at the very end of the frozen fjord. From the car, we could see a striking blue line that required a long approach up a steep snow and ice enclosed gully. As we had nothing to compare it to, it was hard to know the scale and length of the route. It climbed a steep wide curtain, kicked back for what could be a whole pitch, and climbed a steep pillar to the top. This was a must-do.
Two days later, having completed Gold Member, we came back to shoot the first pitch. On the approach, I randomly told the rest of the team that we should call the line Mini Me and its neighboring big brother Dr. Evil. The names stuck, and we climbed the first pitch. After a few body lengths of moderate climbing, we ran into a section of overhanging ice mushrooms and on to a dead vertical 60 feet of white rotten brittle unprotectable ice. I tried to place a screw and it cut through the ice effortlessly. I pulled on holds that could break at any point. Eventually, the ice got a little better, but was so dry that it exploded into huge plates of ice around my pick, forcing me to swing multiple times to get a good “stick.” From the top, waves of snow constantly poured down on us, forcing us to look down as the climber above disappeared in a cloud of snow. The pitch is evil, no less. We left a pack full of gear at the base to come and climb the whole route the next day.
The following morning, we woke up at 3:20 a.m. to the creaking sound of our little house in the wind. We decided to commit to the climb and make the early ferry across the now white-capped sea. When we arrived at our destination, it was dark and windy and we couldn’t see the route. We know that winds equal spindrifts, which make climbing miserable and almost dangerous. The windchill factor was another great concern. We headed back and opted for another climb.
Two days later, we left Eidfjord to climb Mini Me. Winds were still strong in Eidfjord, but we were surprised to see that there was no wind in Ossa. This would have been the perfect day for Dr. Evil, but it was too late to start such a big climb. We took our first rest day after the Mini Me first ascent to be well rested and motivated for Dr. Evil.
The next morning, we awoke early to peer out the window and were instantly blinded by the bright velvety blanket of snow shining in the orange halo of the street lamps. It hadn’t snowed since we’d been here. Why now? Why today? This was a real bummer, as Chad would leave tomorrow for Oslo and on to the U.S. This was his last day of climbing in Norway. We decided to rally anyway and brushed five inches of snow off the car and started driving to the ferry. As soon as we left Eidfjord, precipitation increased dramatically. At the ferry, we decided to turn around. We could have gone, we could have tried, but in such conditions we would not have completed the climb and it would have been a waste of time and energy.
While Chad heads home, my husband, Adam, and I have extended our stay for just that reason. If we couldn’t climb it before the due date, we would need a few more days to get it done. Hopefully, conditions will improve over the next couple of days. So far, the doctor has been relentlessly evil, deserving its predestined name. It won’t go down without a fight. But we have five more days to give it hell. Stay tuned!
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