Monday, January 11, 2010


A few photos from a weekend of snowshoeing, ice climbing and XC skiing follow. With Helsinki having more snow than for decades, it seemed necessary to be out and about in the countryside enjoying the beautiful, if chilly, weather.

Early on Pitkäjärvi

I made an early start on Saturday and went to Nuuksio to see how the ice was developing. It was ferociously cold at about –22 as I drove out, but interestingly there was still a layer of slushy water on top of the lake ice where it was insulated by a thick layer of snow above. I was glad to have snow shoes on as they minimised breaking through, something that those walking across the lake without snowshoes were having to suffer, but the baskets of my ski poles quickly became caked in ice.

Icy eyelashes and everything else at -22 degrees

The icefalls themselves weren’t in great nick. The nice slab route that forms at the left end of the southern sector wasn’t there at all. I swept away the snow at the bottom to find dry, bare rock beneath. The curving gully line to its right had a bit of ice in it but wasn’t complete and the slab above it seemed to have no ice on it either.

One Point Gully

Somewhat bizarrely, the next normal route along, One Point Gully, was in great condition with thick, new, plastic ice at the top. It was so good compared to all the other lines that I soloed it twice (short vid from the route here). Further north, at the main area, neither Vasen Suora or Oikea Suora have touched down, although Oikea looked fat at the top.

All roads lead to Rome, or the only route in condition...

The more I get to climb ice, the more I realise I don’t understand the complex relationship between hydrology, meteorology and soil science that seems necessary to understand how, where and when icefalls form. It’s a wonderful mystery of nature, that means even if you end up climbing the same local routes year after year, they are never quite the same. I think what has probably happened this year is that the very cold weather has meant that the water has to some extent frozen in the ground above the cliffs and so there isn’t as much drainage to form the icefalls. And secondly the tops of many routes are in good conditions whilst they are thin or non-existent down at ground level. Presumably again with the cold weather what drainage there is freezes quickly form the fat tops and accounting for the skinny bottoms.

Other climbers below One Point

Anyway, I snow-shoed back across the lake and was home in time for lunch and family cross country skiing in the afternoon, although I did more pulling giggling children out of snow banks than actual skiing.

A quiet winter Sunday morn

On Sunday, I cunningly co-opted Tony and Anni’s snowshoeing expedition plans for an ice cliff recon mission. We went off to the countryside near Kisko and followed up on some intel that I given years ago by an American source (codename: "the Maine Man", thanks Andy!). Anyway, unlike the WMD, this tip was no Curveball. We snowshoed in and found the cliff and were impressed. I led one stiff little pillar which was challenging with funky –17 degree ice and screws that I had forgotten to sharpen.

Getting stuck into the steep bit (thanks to Anni for the photo)

Having avoided the monster's fangs, here I'm enjoying the easy bit

Swing 'em like you mean it. Anni puts in a sterling effort on her first ever go at ice climbing

Homeward bound

I've also put up a short video of snow shoeing here.

1 comment:

Zzzzzz said...

Left Bicester at 1130 and drove up empty but clear m-ways to Glenmore by 1930. Fastest ever trip, due to lots of people not going out in the bad weather.

Did two days of snowshoeing (in Britian !!!). And eventually found Oui Oui (I think, not really sure yet) on Black Crag south of Newtonmore. First Bonefide ice climb since 1999.

Good weekend.