Den republikanske terroristen (n5+), Skogshorn

Our first attempt to climb Den republikanske terroristen didn't get further than the top of the second pitch. There was far too much wind together with strong gusts, which only increased with height. The wind was coming from a WSW Direction from which there was little shelter on our south face. Despite the twenty degree temperature, and adders basking on the slopes beneath Skogshorn, I still needed three layers in order to keep warm.

I led the first pitch, which weaved around initially before popping out on easy angled broken slabs. Normally I would scamper easily up this sort of slabby terrain, primarily using my feet with my hands merely an accessory, however the high winds caused me to over-grip and climb in a slower, static fashion. Often I needed to wait for the winds to drop before making the simplest of moves.

I was fully expecting Anna to suggest that we bail at the top of the first pitch and I was more resigned to agree. Smaller climbers definitely have a bigger say in windy conditions since they are the first to be blown away! To my surprise though she was happy to lead the next pitch. Clouds raced over Anna's head as she led the second pitch with the winds only increasing with height. The rock was at least warm and pressing my face against it whilst belaying was moderately pleasant.

Anna leading the second pitch

At the top of the second pitch we were both equally ready to head down. With good weather expected for the rest of the long weekend there seemed little point in forcing the route on this occasion. The bolted belays with in situ karabiners at least made retreat an easy affair, although the bleached white cord linking the hangers looked well past their sell-by date and so we cut it. I at least learnt a new trick from Anna during the retreat about how to uncoil ropes from the harness whilst abseiling in high winds, thereby avoiding the ends of the ropes from being swept away along the face.

Anna starting the descent with ropes coiled

Ironically it was two years ago to the day that I was hit in the eye with a block of ice on Skogshorn whilst soloing Kruttårnet - Lettvinten, ending up in the back of a helicopter at the base of the crag. With a second 'Did not finish' in the bag clearly 25th May isn't an auspicious day me to be attempting anything on Skogshorn.

Den republikanske terroristen had been the only dry route in the vicinity and so was the obvious route to return for in a couple of days once the winds had dropped. Skogshorndiederet was streaming with water, Oops I did it again was a similar story, only a broad network of seepage, and Lanciakaminen was essentially a waterfall that met with the strong winds head-on to dramatic effect in a couple of places.

Den republikanske terroristen follows the slabby ground to the right of Lanciakaminen

View towards the central buttress of Skogshorn

On our second attempt two days later the winds were light and temperatures ideal. To keep the first two pitches interesting we switched leads from previous, with Anna leading the first pitch and me the second. It somewhat backfired as Anna couldn't remember the whereabouts of the first belay and after a couple of unsuccessful forays too far left without runners she eventually cut her losses and settled for a belay around ten metres short of the belay bolts. Maybe if we hadn't cut the bleached white cord from the bolts two days prior the belay might have been easier to spot.

Bushwhacking

Anna leading the first pitch

After relocated the belay I climbed quickly up the second pitch in order to make some time back. Despite having climbed the pitch only two days prior I still struggled to spot the belay when in close proximity, although I had the benefit of knowing the approximate length of the pitch. Here after Anna conceded that I should lead the remainder of the pitches as she felt too far out of her comfort zone - a combination of sporadic gear, route-finding difficulties and the occasional loose rock. Maybe we should have stuck to the same pitches as previous in hindsight.

Me leading the second pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

I needed to slow the pace down for the third pitch in order to more readily find some gear placements (which were not easy to come by) and also focus a little more on route-finding, since there was no clear line to follow. For the first three pitches the line supposedly headed straight up. With the pitch likely close to sixty metres I fully expected not to find the belay bolts until nearly out of rope, at which point it would potentially be quite difficult to correct my line. From about thirty metres out I would regularly pause and peer upwards in the hope of seeing a bolt belay. In fact I removed my sunglasses to broaden my contract and help me spot them.

My line trended ever so lightly rightwards, following a faint edge, before I moved back left at the top of the pitch towards a steep corner. With my nearest gear a good distance away I needed either gear or good jugs. Fortunately I found the latter. I never did find the belay bolts but managed to make do with a sling over a half-buried spike and a hex jammed beside a large block directly above it.

Once Anna had joined me I dropped a small rock from the belay and it fell straight to the preceding one, so who knows where the bolts lay. Maybe my error had been to move leftwards at the top of the pitch, although had I maintained my current course then there looked to be a risk of encountering seepage.

Failing to find the abseil point effectively ruled out abseiling the route, given the lack of reliable alternative abseil points on offer. At least I was confident that we were in the general vicinity of the 'line' at any rate due to the tower on our right serving as an approximate reference.

Anna near the top of the third pitch

The next pitch looked to have a line of weakness that swung right and then back left in the shape of a boomerang. Easy climbing for the most part, lacking gear low down but offering surprisingly plenty in the upper half. Again I managed to miss the belay bolts by maybe five metres but fortunately Anna spotted them on second. In hindsight locating the bolts was probably essential for learning the whereabouts of the next pitch.

Me leading the fourth pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

The fifth pitch was the clear crux of the climb and needless to say I again got the line slightly wrong. I started directly above the bolts on relatively steep ground but soon found myself to'ing and fro'ing a few metres higher as to how to continue. By chance I spotted a bolt that was hidden from view in a shallow corner further right. I tried and failed to traverse towards it, or even clip it, and so needed to down climb a little to where I could gain the corner. The corner was refreshingly steep after so much easy angled climbing in the first three pitches, although fairly brief. Higher up I again struggled with the route-finding and soon found myself beneath a broad roof. The easiest way looked to skirt to the right side but I knew this was taking me far too close to the tower that I was supposed to be staying to the left of. Slowly it dawned on me that I should have stayed left lower down and so now found myself delicately traversing through stacked boulders in order to regain my line. I gained a rib and a little higher found a bolt without a hanger. I pulled a nut down its wire, looped it over the bolt and clipped a quickdraw to the other end. At least I was on the right path. Then maybe ten metres higher, to my surprise, I found the bolt belay adorned with more ancient looking cord. Worthy of a private fist pump given the route finding difficulties leading up to it. Finding belays could not be taken for granted on this route. They were a bit like a treasure hunt.

The sixth and final pitch looked an easy affair, although made more complicated by some large channels of seepage, which needed to be avoided where possible. The best option looked to be right in front of me up an easy chimney. It was dripping wet in the middle part but the holds looked generous. The guidebook described a pyramid of rock fifty metres higher that I should aim for but no such thing was evident to me. With no obvious line I simply ploughed upwards following the line of least resistance whilst avoiding wet areas. Easy climbing but in a fine setting. The view back to Anna's belay was particularly spectacular. I finished the pitch a short way left of the belay bolts. With no anchors I simply sat down in a pile of rocks a couple of metres back from the edge, positioned my feet so that they would offer some resistance, and declared myself safe.

Me leading the start of the sixth pitch
(Photo by Anna Kennedy)

View back to Anna's belay from midway up the sixth pitch

It was 6:30pm by the time we were both at the top. Progress had been slow but that largely related to the route-finding. We didn't bother with the seventh pitch, shared with Oops I did it again, as it seemed a very contrived finish given it continued 50-60 metres along the hillside and was only grade n4. In fact there looked to be more continuous options, although many looked wet. Our broad grassy terrace seemed the natural finish line though, and given that the guidebook described the walk-off from the top of the sixth pitch it seems I'm not the only one who formed such a conclusion. In fact I didn't even stop to look at the seventh pitch as we traversed along the terrace to gain the descent slopes on the east side of the mountain.

We managed to descend on rock for the large part with just a couple of short sections of snow on route - aiming to the right of Skogshorn's silhouette.

Skogshorn's silhouette during the descent

It was around 8pm by the time we were back at the car. Den republikanske terroristen wasn't the most natural of lines, hence the route-finding difficulties. The climbing was varied though, on largely good rock, and in fantastic surroundings. I can get a little obsessed chasing grades at times but it's the big mountain days like these which stay in the memory longer compared to the harder onsights or redpoints. It's always the long routes at any rate that always make me want to write about something.

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