On the Summit

Nils Nielsen (left) and Eiliv Ruud on the summit of Oliskardstind, after climbing a 1,400-meter new route. Nils Nielsen

Oliskardstind, Norway, Ut i Vår Hage.

By Nils Nielsen

Exams, work, and other have-to-do things made me forget about even dreaming of a big trip this fall. But in the early winter months, eager to swing my tools, I just had to make the best of it. The temperatures on the west coast were too warm for ice to form, but driving along narrow, winding roads, back-and-forth in southern Norway, brought me to some good climbing through the month of November.

In early December, back home in Romsdalen, ice finally started forming. For two years I’d kept an eye on an unclimbed line on Oliskardstind, but I’d never been in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it was because, like so many of us, I’d travel to far-away places in hopes of sending the climbs of my dreams, and simply forget about everything I have right in my backyard. And just 15 minutes’ drive from my house, this amazing line up a 1,400-meter face appeared to be in—the key section was finally there, a smear of ice on a steep wall linking easier sections of snow and ice.

My friend Eiliv Ruud lives just below the wall; he can see the line from his kitchen window. His answer to my question was short and concise: “I’m in!” December means short days in Norway, and the route starts just 100 meters above sea level and tops out at 1,530. We packed light and prepared for a full day.

The alarm went off at 6 a.m., and after a short breakfast I drove 15 minutes and met Eiliv at 7. In the dark we had some problems getting off the ground when our planned start turned out to be a vertical 20 meters of more-water, less-ice. Instead we started with a leftward-angling ramp and, after simul-soloing and some pitching out, we reached easier ground by first light. We knew that the smear halfway up the wall would be the crux and were relieved to learn that what looked like snow was actually perfect ice climbing, but not so easy to protect. The sun was just rising and we experienced an alpenglow you can only get on short winter days in the north. The smear gave 150 meters of 75°–90° sn’ice and was beautiful and interesting. Some more pitches and simul-climbing in easier terrain took us to the upper snowfield. We wanted to make a direct finish, but what we thought would be one pitch of easy rock now looked like 200 meters of hard mixed. We bypassed this section by traversing left and joined the summit plateau at 3 p.m. The descent went smoothly, and we were home in time to enjoy a couple of beers with friends.

It’s funny how we travel so much, using the little money we have, but don’t always see the opportunities that lie right in front of our noses. We named the route Ut i Vår Hage, which is a popular TV comedy in Norway. In English it means something like “Out in Our Backyard.”

Nils Nielsen, Romsdalen, Norway

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December 2008