By Chad Peele
After numerous days of traveling, scouting and climbing, a down day was sounding pretty good. We decided that Eidfjord was just too “dead” to enjoy and that we should have a mellow day of climbing instead. Luckily for us, we had the perfect route to explore. On one of our last scouting missions, when we climbed “Goldmember,” we drove past a perfect steel-blue waterfall that popped out of a rock cleft. As we had been searching for longer routes, we initially didn’t give this waterfall much attention, but due to its location and size, we were fairly confident that it had not been climbed. For today’s purposes, this would be the perfect ice to tackle!
We woke up and had a casual Norwegian breakfast which, for me, included espresso, bread, meat and cheese, while others (I won’t mention any names) added in caviar out of a toothpaste-style tube. As we filled our bellies and drank “just one more” cup of espresso, we let the day warm up a little while we discussed our options. The more we talked about our climbs and the more ice we saw, the more difficulty we all had referring to the correct climb. Sometimes in a heated “what should we do tomorrow talk,” our conversation sounded something like this:
“We should go do that big ice climb tomorrow.”
“The shield across the fjord?”
“No, the big long one next to Will’s route.”
“You mean that white one with the heinous approach?”
“No, the blue one with the approach that wasn’t so bad.”
This would go on and on, sounding very similar to a Monty Python sketch until we finally started making up route names. Not only did it help us correctly identify routes, but it also allowed for endless hours of jokes and movie talk. The route we were heading to today was named “Blue Steel,” in honor of a pretty funny movie and its bright blue look.
As we drove to Blue Steel’s location, I wondered how long the route would end up being and what grade it would be. Climbs have been pretty difficult to assess in regards to length and grade from the road, and we were on a semi-rest day. As Blue Steel came into view, it looked much mellower and shorter than I originally thought. From the base of the climb, it appeared to be a solid WI 4 and a full 70-meter pitch of ice.
I racked up screws and draws while feeling super-psyched to get on it. Leaving the ground, the ice felt cold and brittle, but that was now becoming par for the course here in Norway. After 20 feet or so, I placed my first ice screw and moved past it to start into the meat of the first steep section. I swung my tool and heard a loud “POP,” followed by several seconds of “CREEEAAAK.” Eyes wide, I watched as a fracture ran horizontally across the ice right in front of me. Although mentally unnerving, I knew that it was just tension releasing from the cold ice. The climb itself was well bonded to the rock surface and there was little to no chance of this thing collapsing on top of me. Putting the freaky sounds behind me, I powered up the first steep section, placing several screws, and moved onto slightly lower-angled terrain, where I could rest my forearms and calves. After several more screws, I began to enter into the final steep headwall before the top of the route.
The final section was an opaque white color and I could see the icicles and jagged ice dripping down towards me. It looked aerated and not too solid. So much for “blue steel,” I thought. As I assessed the ice and my intended path, I glanced down at my harness. Although I didn’t really think that I was “over protecting” the route, I only had two screws left. I guess I just didn’t bring enough for this length of a climb. So now the big question was, do I place a screw here to protect this next funky section or run it out and hold onto both screws to build a solid anchor for my partner? After a moment of thought, self-preservation won out, and I placed one of my last two ice screws into the best ice I could find and began to climb.
As I delicately hooked and slotted my tools into the opaque ice, I could hear the hollow whumps and rattles of “bad” ice echo around me. If I was unsure before, I now was very confident and psyched that I had placed some protection not too far below me. Slotted tool after slotted tool followed by delicate feet brought me to the rollover and, 15 feet later, to the top of the route. I drilled my last ice screw into the smooth blue ice, attached myself to it with the climbing rope and yelled “off belay.” I pulled my rope up through the ice screws below so that I could freely drop it back down to the base of the climb. Another ice screw was tied to the end of the rope and I pulled it cleanly back up and fortified my existing single screw, creating a “bomber” equalized two-screw anchor.
We were now back on track and I settled into the cold belay, knowing that coffee and theInternet weren’t too far off. You gotta love rest days!
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