Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter 2012, the story so far.

A cold walk home in January.
Last week we had the first thaw since the cold set in at the start of January. Suddenly the world is full of the sounds of drip, drip, dripping, the birds sing and there are intermittent crashes as roofs shed their loads of snow; full depth avalanches in miniature, lubricated by the newly released water below the pack. Soon the temperatures dipped back below freezing, and fresh snow covered the slightly grubby piles of heavy ploughed snow, but the thaw is a reminder that the calender slips quietly by and somewhere ahead spring awaits.
Nuuksionpää - early Jan. So desperate we will climb in the rain.
This pause from the frost seems as good a place as any to round up some photos of winter climbing so far this year. Life has meant that I've mainly been restricted to local venues on the whole, but at least I'm lucky enough to be an ice climber with local venues, and it means after a bad start to the season I have been able to get a few things done.
The first Kenyan ascent of the mighty North Face of Kauhala? Kenedy's first go ice climbing.
After the last couple of good, long, snowy, cold winters we were maybe getting a bit blasé; expecting to start winter climbing in early December and going on until late March. The start of this winter swiftly disabused Finnish ice climbers of this expectation. Indeed winter never seemed to start; the cold, wet, grey, soggy days of autumn just got shorter and shorter, the nights longer, but temperatures simply refused to dip below freezing. I had the great fortune to leave Finland for all of the Christmas and New Year period for that 'Great South Land' where it was midsummer and the only sensible option for Xmas lunch is a picnic at the beach. When I got home in early January there was still virtually no snow but almost in time with our arrival back, the mercury plummeted, some snow fell and things started to look up.
Jody, trying not to do himself an injury à cheval on the horrible 'bridge' to Muurla.
 My first trip out was to a local cliff where there is a mixed line I have been failing to get up down the years. No one else could make it that day, so I shunted the line on a toprope. It went surprisingly easily and cleanly, completely lulling me into a false sense of security for later attempts.
Steep conditons at Muurla, early season.
Other trips followed, ice climbing in the rain at Nuuksionpää, ice at Muurla, mixed climbing at a new crag called Rajakallio, back to Crag X to fall off my project with hands frozen from trying to fiddle with rock gear in thin gloves at -17. Against my better judgement, Eärendel persuaded me out for an afternoon at Nuuksio when the temperatures were the wrong side of -20. Somehow it went suprisingly well and I got an excellent reviewing opportunity in that cold for a belay jacket I'm testing for UKC.
A brutal mixed struggle at Muurla
It has been a cold period, and cold toes and fingers seem to have been something of a theme over the last month and a half.
Narrow but better angled ice at Muurla.
I've had the pleasure of climbing with some new people, and some new places which is always good. Climbing with Joel, Henkka and Miko at Rajakallio was both of those, and turned out to be a fantastic if chilly day. For me the day was capped off by Miko and Henkka pointing me towards an unclimbed chimney line, not a hugely common thing on Finnish crags and telling me and Joel to give it go.

It was a good fight, as these things should be, but I managed to lead it, so Joel and I get the probable first ascent of this really cool line.
A cold night at Airport Crag.
A week or so after than I finally got up my Crag X project. I found it a real struggle on the day, but it was actually rewarding that the route that day was in almost 'Scottish condition', frozen veg, plenty of snow, even some fine, rare frost on it. Much more fun than just drytooling. I ached for ages afterwards, but it's worth the ibuprofen bill.
The promise of sunrise - first visit to Rajakallio
So, over all, not too bad a start to winter, and hopefully the spring thaw won't arrive just yet. Enjoy the rest of the photos.

Joel topping out

Me on the probable FA of "Apollo's Angels" (M4-ish?), Rajakallio.

'Modeling' for the UKC review of the Marmot Zion jacket ;-)

Henkka suggests "the three stooges" for this one. His two fellow stooges may beg to differ.

Joel on a fat "Where the Wild Things Are", Crag X, Nurmijärvi.

Lots of easy ice at the left end of Jaanankallio.

Sun through a haze of ice.

Cold Snow.

Vasen Suora at Nuuksio in excellent conditions.

Eärendel leads Oikea Suora in tricky conditions and 22 degrees of frost.

On the way back to Crag X for another go at the 'proj'.

The project finally goes with no falls or rests - hurrah!