Monday, August 27, 2012

Iceland, the last Summer days

Iceland only knows two seasons.
and Winter.
The second just arrived this week calling the end of our holiday.

Snow arrived in the mountains
The last week we went from Hnappavellir to our next and maybe favourite Icelandic wall: Fjallastakkanöf.

View from our office
Left side of Fjallastakkanöf

Note the hexagon shaped block

We decided it was probably easier to walk by the side of the river on the far right side of the wall up to the top of the cliff and the traverse to the top of the Basalt wall.
It turned out to be a good choice.

We wanted to repeat Hangikjöt again. We placed a bolt on the cliff and back-upped the bolt with our second rope around some rocks on the top of the wall.
We placed a big cairn on top of the cliff to point the location of the route.
It was raining (again) today so Dennis drew a topo of the climb whilst I finished my woolen sweater (love/needed it with this cold weather)

New sweater :)

So here a description with the topo.


An old AID route 'back in the time' Guðmunder Tómasson (pretty good photographer) and Guðmunder Helgi Christensen (known for his hard iceclimbs, and once been on the cover of Rock and Ice magazine)
Hangi literary means hanging, kjöt is the Icelandic word for meat. So, it's 'hanging-meat'. That's probably what they felt like when they were using the wall as training for 'the real thing' in Yosemite. Gummi told me it was cold, it took them a long time to figure how to be most efficient and it rained when they wanted to top out. They never topped out and the route has been there since then (early 90's)
Hangikjöt is also an Icelandic classic delicacy. To preserve the lamb meat over the winter time they salted, dried and smoked the meat an had it hang for weeks until it was dry, salty and very tasteful.
You can still buy this in every supermarket.

Smoked lamb legs

It's worth a try combined with a piece of 'flatbrauð and smjör' (classic Icelandic flat-bread and butter). Or as evening meal with green peas, boiled potatoes in caramel and beciamel suace. In Iceland often served at Christmas time.

On our way down the first time when it was still sunny

Drive from Reykjavík in the direction of Höfn. At about 55km from Hnappavellir and 55km from Höfn, just before the tiny petrol station 'Hestgerði' you find a parking with a sign that tells you to watch birds from here. On the parking there is a small picknick and a couple of info plates that tell you more about the area. When you look up straight you see a small rivere coming down from the cliff, at about 1km left and up you find the columnar Basalt cliff called 'Fjallastakkanöf'.

Easiest is to abseil into the route, so you see where the 'throw-up-birds' are and maybe clean out some more loose stuff (we cleand out loads though).
Those birds, Fulmar, have youngs nested on the cliffs. As defence those fluffy grey things throw up some kind of fish-acid out of their stomach. They really throw it, so even more then 1m away you still catch it... The acid stinks and tends to 'indulge' into your clothes. Even if you wash it out (try to...) it's stays smelly forever.

Dennis under the first pitch

Best is to climb the first pitch we call the 'dancing pillar' and make your first belay on the stainless orange coloured bolt (and back-up it with a BD .5 cam) on top of the small (1m higher then the first pillar) second pillar.
That fist pitch is definately the hardest.
It starts on where we made a small 'plateau' next to the end of the loose pillar (the last 1,5m is lying underneath the climb...) I climbed up in the right crack, placed some small stuff (smaller then BD .25) and balanced up to the underside of the pillar (fitting a yellow Wild Country Zero, and just some higher a yellow Totem). Then I lay-back to get my fingers 'stuck', and put my right knee on the crack with my right foot backwards to the right. My left foot tensioned on the wall facing to the left and my back logically leaning to the right of the crack. That way I could push myself up for quite some meters.
Then the crack gets wider fitting a purple, green and later even red and yellow cam. But, be careful:
once I placed the cams, I could start a bit of jamming. Once above the cam it all seemed to widen up and suddenly on the place where I had a purple cam it could now fit a green one (and so on).
At the top of the pillar I fitted a big grey cam, but later when Dennis climbed on and stood on top of the pillar he pushed off to get to the next hold. The whole pillar moved getting my foot and the cam stuck inside!
We guess this pitch is around 7a(+), but if you're tall/have tiny fingers it might be easier. (As always...)

The weird kneebar stuff

Still weird

Dennis seconding the first pitch
Second pitch, starts with yet another loose pillar, but not as long as the first one. You hold the left and right side of the thing, changing to the left side only when you get higher.
You end up on that pillar and then the work actually starts. Following the crack holding again the left and right for a couple moves, turning to the left side again later. Dennis could spread out with his feet to the left and right, I was just too small to reach.
You keep on following the left crack until it breaks up in small cracks and some blocks stuck inside forming small cracks of at about 30-70cm.
There you turn to the right, bit of jamming, bit of lay-back in size purple to red BD 1. up to the belay.
The belay is two solid stainless steel bolts and four aluminums bolts (that used to be there for a portalegde when it was an AID route). The two bolts are connected with a brownish piece of rope and a maillon that we hung there for the abseil.
This pitch is around 6c we guess.

Then you climb out on the right side where you can perfectly fit a purple .5 cam and just some higher  you find a rusty Bong.
Step 1m higher and traverse to the left, in the rock there is a thin piton, climb a bit more to the left and then follow the crack up(quite mossy, damp and dirty).
There are some loose blocks which make this pitch quite exposed. But your belayer stands to the right so is safe in case of rockfall. Climb 6-8m and there you find the first of four aluminium AID bolts. They're probably too corroded to hold any fall so it's safer just to place a cam in the crack. You'll need purple, red, yellow and blue (all double) for this crack. Safe one yellow one for the belay under the overhang.
Climbing out of the loose blocks into the fist (or arm) wide crack you can use a perfect kneebar to get higher.
From there you also find some strange horizontal cracks to hold on and step on next to the big hands/fist size crack.
Make your belay just under the small roof. One bolt has a steel hanger because we replaced an aluminium hanger, but it's still just a small 8mm bolt, secured with yet again a piece of brown rope. On the left of the belay you can fit a yellow, size 2 cam as backup.
This pitch is around 6b(+).

Dennis seconding the third pitch

Almost there

Now the last bit not long, but a bit scary at the top.
You climb into and out of the roof following the crack right of the belay. When standing on top of the blocks, traverse to the left for at about 2-3m, clip the piton on the way and place a good cam in the crack on the end of your traverse. Now climb straight up to end at the loose rocks/grass/moss/birds. And find an stainless orange bolt with a maillon, back-upped with an piece of orange rope that disappears under the cairn on the top of the cliff.
This is not really difficult climbing, but you 'must' climb. The small roof is really cool to climb I found :) At about 6a max.

We found this route better even then the classic first line on the wall called 'Orgelpipunar', located on the right side of the wall. It was opened by Doug Scott and some Icelanders showing him around on the island years and years ago.
Quite some people had tried the route but most (all?) bailed in the fist pitch
Orgelpipunar is graded as 5.10, but it's way, way harder then 5.10. Probably more like 5.11d on the first pitch.
The last pitch as a lot of unstable loose rock, more then in Hangikjöt.

Right of the route there is another old AID climb called 'Steinaregn' (stone-rain). We looked at it, but found it still a lot of stone rain.

Please, try this route here. It's just 90m so in a day you can do loads more then just this (if you have the right weather)
When we climbed it the rope was blowing up the cliff instead of falling down and our hands felt like we just climbed a proper ice route in winter time. (Hot eggs!)
The rain in the end didn't make it all easier either...

Yes, it was really cold

At the end of the day we bought icecream at the local farm (Brunnholl) and ate it in a hottub when the sun decided to show for the last time.

Moooh, under the cliff

The sign at the Brúnhóll farm

Icecream & hottub @Hoffell

Now the temperatures have dropped to almost zero and they won't get up again until next Summer...

Monkey is cold


Anonymous said...

Nice post.
Orgelpípurnar has kicked a bunch of climbers in the balls but not all. Snævarr , Bjössi, Árni G and Stebbi have climbed it. Dagur did it as well but i´m not sure who he climbed with. Hjalti has done it with Krístín M, and i´m pretty sure Guðmundur helgi and Palli Sveins have done it as well. I´m almost positive i´m forgetting a few as well.

I got hit in the balls however just before reaching the ledge in pitch no 1, 5.10 my ass :)


:) said...

Hi Rafn,
Thanks for the info!
Good to know quite some people actually got up there!
I only knew stories of people who bailed :)
Now up to you to try the new one.
I think it's better, just a bit scary in the start.