Sunday, 13 July 2014

Agent Orange, Hægefjell

It began to rain as we were gearing up at the bottom of the route. It fell gently so it made sense to start climbing before the slabbed rock begun to lose friction. Hopefully it would pass, otherwise we we be abseiling from the first belay. Quickly I padded up the rock, clipping the spaced bolts that were painted orange in relation to the route's name Agent Orange. My foot slipped on some smooth quartz embedded in the rock, I stammered but stayed put. The forecast had looked unstable so choosing an easier route with bolt belays looked a safe bet in light of a possible quick escape. The forecast also looked to get worse as the day progressed so something uncomplicated made sense.

Fortunately the rain passed and any thoughts of retreat quickly passed with it. More slab padding, bolt clipping antics followed on the second pitch before my trad rack finally needed to be utilised on the third pitch.

The third pitch proved to be a beautiful one, following a curving corner crack with some lovely positive lay-backing moves, and backed-up by positive cam placements. A couple of bolts protected a short unprotectable off-width section before the corner broke left below a shallow roof. I traversed beneath this, placing some solid cams on long runners until the roof ended and the corner continued up the slabs again. Our respective guidebooks graded it 5- and 5+ and it felt somewhere in the middle.

Climbing the initial corner on the third pitch
Photo by Anna Kennedy
Ann at the top of the third pitch
Steady climbing followed for the remaining pitches with a sequence of easy shallow corners that disrupted the surrounding smooth faces. The features thinned out for the final couple of pitches and the bolts reappeared to supplement the lack of natural protection.

Top of the fifth pitch
Start of the sixth pitch
One of the problems with the bolts being orange was that sometimes they were a little hard to spot when the granite was a similar hue. Often the paint was faded and partially worn away, which helped camourflage their presence. Sometimes I would scan the rock for the next bolt only to find one under my nose. The last pitch was graded 5- with (four) bolts in-situ so Anna started up the pitch without the trad rack in order to save time and weight, expecting the climbing to be easy and bolts where needed. But from a matter of metres below the top of the route she ab'ed back down to me, unsure where the final bolt lay and too far above the last bolt to commit to the final moves up a short wall. I failed to spot the bolt as well but my head was fortunately in better shape to commit to the final moves. Only during the abseil descent did we spot the bolt in the middle of the short wall.

The bolt belays allowed a swift descent to the base of the route. After yesterday's adventure on Mota Sola, Orange Orange felt very steady apart from some careful climbing on the third pitch. It definately fell into the catagory of 'fun' though and was the perfect route for a quick getaway before the rain storms arrived.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Mot Sola (n6-), Hægefjell

An army of angry midges were waiting for us to open our tent doors in the morning. Not quite as violent as their Scottish counterparts but clearly the contents of my vascular system in hot demand. Breakfast and morning preparation involved the futile, inefficient act of pacing around in no particular direction so as to avoid the cloud of midges.

We were camped beneath Hægefjell, a broad expanse of granite that consisted of smoother slabs on the right side but more featured, steeper climbing on the left side. Many of the routes on the left side were hard but the obvious weakness drew my eye. The route called Mot Sola followed a sequence of cracks and corners up the face and screamed out to be climbed. I knew the route was often wet, which made the current dry conditions an excellent time to attempt it.

Hægefjell - Mot Sola is just left of centre

We opted for the Original Start, which climbed two pitches of expansive, smooth slabs in order the reach a main corner system, where most people traversed in to commence the climbing. We weren't entirely sure of the line up the slabs but found a sequence of shallow grooves that allowed for some spaced protected climbing through largely compact rock. The supposed bolt belay no where to be seen but a large boulder hidden behind a patch of shrubs was just as welcome. Certainly the oldest bolt that I have ever seen presented near the start of the second pitch. The slabs became more rippled, which made for easier climbing. No need for any short linking pitch as described in the Rockfax guide.

Anna climbing the second pitch of the Original Start towards the main corner system
Retro bolt-clipping
The excitement really started once into the corner system on the third pitch. This was anything between n5 and 6- depending on which guidebook we referenced (maybe n5+). Some interesting layback moves above good gear brought me to large ledge with a pair of belay bolts out of reach above my head. I needed to lay-back a crack to the right in order to clip the bolts. I can only assume there was a layer of snow at the belay when bolts were added.

Pitch three
3m high belay bolts
The climbing continued up another corner, which further improved in quality. Anna led what was maybe the most perfect pitch of the climb, both in terms of aesthetics and quality of climbing. First lay-backing and bridging a lower corner crack before traversing left via a balancy move to a higher crack running parallel. Sustained climbing with plenty of gear and an awkward hanging belay at two thirds the height in the corner. The remainder of the corner continued in the same vein before opening out into undulating ground in the upper half of the pitch.

Great climbing on pitch 4
Anna making the tricky move from the right to left crack
View back to Anna's hanging belay from the fourth pitch
The subsequent crux pitch had a stiff start... a jamming crack that needed to be gained above a small roof. Maybe gaining it would have been easy were my hand jamming technique half up to scratch (but then finger locks are never going to be my forte). Having failed miserably with my jamming at first attempt I reverted to tried and tested lay-backing off a low block beneath the roof on the right that had indentations on either side for my finger tips. Desperately I threw my legs high to a ledge to the left of the roof and then scrapped to gain the crack above the overhang. Not pretty but I just about effective. Easier, well-protected climbing followed above before cautiously breaking right across a wet slab to the belay.

Above the difficulties on the crux fifth pitch
Traverse at the top of pitch five
The next pitch was a surprise to the system. It was supposed to be n5 but involved a bouldery step directly above the belay onto a slab. The only protection being the belay bolts until a rusty peg could reached beyond the difficulties a short distance above. Mounting the step was relatively easy but pinning the feet to the steep lip of the slab was another matter. Twice Anna slipped off, grazing her shins on the edge of the slab on her second attempt and landing like a plank below my belay. After much pondering and experimentation with alternative lines she concluded there were no better options. Third attempt she managed to cling on enough to move up and clip the peg. I fared no better. Two failed attempts, including matching grazes down my shins on second attempt. The aid of a side pull to my right helped me stay put on the third attempt.

Traversing right through seapage on the sixth pitch
The final pitch also proved to be no push-over with some awkward moves above poor gear followed by some stiff lay-backing up an offwidth crack. Then easier climbing to the top of the route, rounding off what must be one of the best multi-pitch trad rock routes that I have climbed anywhere. The initial two slab pitches were nothing special but what followed was everything that I look for in a climb. A strong line, with sustained, continued interest, in a pristine environment. Even the descent through the forest back to the camp site was very pleasant.