Saturday, 15 April 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017 - week 2

Week 2 of this year's Lofoten trip was with a completely new team. Dave & Iain were at a slideshow I gave on the 2016 Baffin Island trip at the Fort William Mountain Festival and got in touch shortly afterwards. Rob, Lewis and Eliott joined them for the trip. With a mixed forecast for the first couple of days we concentrated on the local classics around Rundfjellet, with some heavy new snow and some transformed spring giving surprisingly good skiing!

Forget ski & sail, ski & row is where it's at these days!

On Tuesday, with a mixed forecast we again stayed in our backyard, with 3 great laps around the Blatind/Tuva area:

"Sun's out, guns out"!

Perfect spring snow!

With overnight snow and a good forecast there was only one pace to go on Wednesday for Lofoten 'first timers' - Geitgaljern.

Obviously a lot of other people had the same idea, but everyone headed straight for the main summit, leaving us with a perfect first lap down 400m vertical of untouched bowl...

Havng braved the Easter crowds on Wednesday it was time to search for some solitude by heading out West to one of Lofoten's great classic couloirs:

Thursday was so good that for our last day, with a clear but windy forecast we set course for teh West again for one of my secret lines - a stunning traverse to a beautiful West-facing couloir:

A perfect way to finish the week. Thanks to Dave, Iain, Eliott, Rob and Lewis for willingly going with my madcap schemes and having faith that, despite common belief to the contrary, there is actually snow in the West!

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017 - week 1

Once again it is time for my yearly pilgrimage to the mythical, magical Lofoten Islands.

This week I was with my team of regulars who were on their fifth trip up here (and already next year's trip is pencilled in!), and having had a couple of less snowy springs the reports were looking grat as we flew up. Arriving midday Saturday to blue skies and cool temperatures there was only one thing to do... drop the kit off at the lodge, get chamged and get out on it asap. We were rewarded with a couple of great short laps in the 'Freeride' bowl near Glomtind:
Day 0.5

The next day also promised to be a perfect day, and with a big low pressure system approaching we had to make the most of the conditions. The classic routes on Lofoten are getting busier every year and the main goal today was to ski an objective with no-one else around and some good powder. Time to pull one of my 'secret lines' from the little black book. The team named it 'Unicorn Valley X' so that is the name we shall keep here...

'Unicorn peak' in the background as we skin back out...

On Monday the storm hit. I have seen rainy weather in Lofoten before, but not of the West coast of Scotland torrential downpour at all altitudes variety. This went on for 48 hours (we managed on quick tour on the Monday morning before it got too wet...), and we passed the time checking out surf beaches, drinking coffee and also visiting the incredible war museum in Svolvaer. If you are ever stuck in Svolvaer for a day take the time to go here - it is an absolute treasure trove of interesting exhibits.

On Wednesday we went out to the classic Rundfjellet peak to see how much damage the rain had done, and see if we could find some skiable snow. Amazingly not only was there still plenty of snow even down low, but it was actually really very skiable, with a supportive crust already starting to set up.

The snowpack here never ceases to amaze with its ability to rebound from warm wet weather (as born out by the great skiing we have had every year so far despite wildly different weather set-ups). A nice visit to the summit and good laps on smooth snow in the North bowl and Kudalen followed:

On Thursday it was time to pull another rabbit out of the magic hat, and we headed West to a top secret location. Unfortunately our original couloir objective turned out to be filled with bottomless graupel (never seen anything like it before!). But plan B and Plan C turned out to be more than adequate!

Yesterday was the last day for the first team, and with a great week in the bag so far the pressure was on to find a great day to wrap things up in style. A couloir in the far North of Austvagoy had been high on my list for some time, and with good reports coming in from similar slopes it seemed like a good plan, and so it turned out to be... The weather was classic Lofoten, 30 minutes of sun, 30 minutes of snow, but the skiing was fantastic, with a mellow lap on the east side before skinning back up and dropping in to the North couloir - a stunning way to finish the week!

Friendly ptarmigan:

Lap 1:

Lofoten - if you don;t like the weather just wait 30 minutes...:

A great end to a great week - only one way to top it off - a sauna and dip in the Arctic sea!

Today was meant to be a rest day, but with snow and weather both set fair it was too good to resist bagging a classic Lofoten line that I have looked at for 5 years, but never had the time or conditions to ski!

Having dropped the team at the airport I put on the afterburners and blasted up the 600m to ski the 'Svolvaer Mallory' - possibly one of the most aesthetic lines on the Islands, following a beautiful hanging gully and ramp line. The snow conditions were perfect - warm spring powder on a smooth base - within 1h30 I was back at the car and nowit is 'turn-around' time, getting washing done and preparing for next week...

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Vanoise touring

Back at the start of last week I had a couple of days touring in the Vanoise to finish off my 'alpine' season before coming up to Lofoten in Arctic Norway. Rob, Simon, Andy, Mike and Hugo are all ex Courchevel seasonnaires from way back in the day (think turn of the century...) and wanted an introduction to ski touring with a night in a refuge. The Col de la Vanoise hut above Pralognan is the perfect venue for this with relatively easy access, with potential for detours on the way up, and lots of summit possibilities before dropping back into the valley. With heavy snowfall just 2 days before we were a bit too early for the spring snow cycle tobe back to its best but still managed to find some great snow!

See you next year guys!