Lyngen

A few weeks I go, I got back home from the best skiing trip yet. Ville and I spent 7 straight days skiing some awesome snow and good lines in great conditions. We could not have asked for more. Before departing on our trip, the weather had been pretty complicated. There was a lot of new snow, rain up to 700m for three days straight and some nasty persistant weak layers in the snowpack from early season. Slabs and wet snow avalanches were coming down all over northern Norway. It didn’t look too good. But the heavy rain and time did us a favor, a lot of the weak stuff came down and the snowpack stabilized quite well. A lot of rain on the snowpack soaked the snow, made the snowpack almost isothermal and then the cooler front “settled” the snow, almost like raising the “ground level”. Still, we had new snow almost every night, most of it accompanied with light-strong winds which kept us on our toes for the whole trip. North and west aspects seemed to be the most favorable.

We stayed at a house in Lakselvbukt, directly under Lakselvtindane. For three days of the trip, our backyard served as our playground. We skied Tomasrenna on our first day. We turned back at about 1300m due to slabby conditions and a whiteout. Snow was good and stabil lower, we made some good turns in thigh-deep snow down to our house. Wind had produced some local windloading in the wide couloir. Most of the times the snow was good and stabil, but at parts it was quite windloaded and small slabs broke off quite easily. We figured a little more sheltered place might have better snow. We drove towards Jiehkkevarri to check what the approach looked like. On the way, I saw the biggest avalanche debri pile I’ve ever seen. A local told us that a mountainside had slid 3 times during one of the rainy days, leaving the only road towards the northern part of the fjord buried. It took a big excavator 3 days to dig out the road. The snow wall was about 15m high next to the road.

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Ville close to the top of Tomasrenna.

On day 2, we were greeted by clear skies and calm conditions. We decided now was the time to go check out Jiehkkevarri. The main bowl and couloir were south-facing, and we realized it might be a problem. After digging a few pits we declared the snow bomber and made it to the top of Holmbuktinden in just over 3 hours. The top part was quite exposed and hard, a fall there wouldn’t have ended well. The sun was shining full on at the top, with no wind at all (at around 1800m!). From here we could see jagged peaks all over. What a truly magnificent place to be on a weather like this. We started skiing towards Jiehkkevarri (Lyngen’s highest peak), but were hindered by Ville’s frozen skins. Taping the skins didn’t do the trick either. We had to turn back.
Even though we didn’t make it to the top of Lyngen, we still skied over 2000m of ankle to waist-deep powder in sunshine. It was our first day out on skinny randorace skis, which made the skiing interesting. A few tumbles here and there. We were positively surprised how fun it was with them anyhow.

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On the way to Jiehkkevarri

On our third day, conditions were awesome again. We decided to hit “Salamaränni” (Lightning couloir) on Lakselvtindane. The couloir itself is about 600m high, 5-30m wide and ranges from 35 to around 45 degrees. Snow proved to be pretty stable again, at exposed parts there was some windloading but they were quite local. We wallowed in thigh to waist-deep powder up the steep couloir. It took us 1,5 hours to climb the couloir. At the top I realized “s*** I’ve never done jump turns before”. I had switched over from snowboarding 2 months backwards and had probably been on skis on 10-15 days with just a few days offpiste. But Ville showed the way and I closely watched the turns and tried to take it in as if watching a “how to ski steep snow” tutorial on youtube. With the power of courage and stupidity all went well, although a bit slow at first. It wouldn’t have been too pretty to fall at the top.

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Ville skiing Salamaränni

During the next few days it snowed a lot with moderate winds and poor visibility. We resorted to treeskiing and a mellow ridge. A lot of the big faces were windloaded and stuff was coming down on it’s own.

We had a break in the weather on day 6. Ville had called a friend the other day about Øksehøgget. The snow conditions in our opinion didn’t allow for the line to be skied in the normal fashion. Usually Øksehøgget is accessed from the top of Tamokfjellet by rappelling down 15m or so to the start of the couloir. The approach to Tamokfjellet had some avalanche-prone terrain and aspects so we decided it would be best to access it from below. From the bottom we could see that there was no cornice at the top. Good news. A few pits later at the start of the couloir, we again noted the snow to be quite stabil. Again there was some local windloading here and there, but nothing too bad. This line was steep, and super narrow at the top. The snow changed drastically close to the top. The last 20m were quite slabby, and after reaching the stand, we decided to downclimb 30m past the windloaded snow and the narrowest part. Ville made cautious jumpturns through the steep 50 degree top part. Taking into account the length of my skiing career, I decided that it was better for my wellbeing to sidestep the first 30m past the bottleneck (around 2m wide). A fall were would have been messy. We made it down in control double poling through jump turns in deep snow. The conditions were absolutely superb for skiing a line like this. I felt quite alive at the bottom.

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“is this climbing or skiing?”

On our last day we resorted to some roadside treeskiing in Tamok on our way back home. We did three laps on Sørfjellet, and enjoyed faceshots on most of the turns. Even the sun came out on a few occasions. What a great way to end the trip.

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Ville driving his 65mm skis

It took a few days to realize how many dreamlines we had been able to ski in great snow. 7 days and 10000m ascent and descent. I definitely want to ski Øksehøgget again some day, in better style. It is a very aesthetic and pleasing line.

I’m out of words but I’ll let the video take it from here. Enjoy

Lyngen – March 2013 from Joonas Kortelainen on Vimeo.

For the full photoset:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/76525975@N07/sets/72157633058910447/

/Joonas

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