Is it too early to be thinking about next winter? The summer solstice is only a month away after all. I only just emptied my van of all the accumulated gear and rubbish from a winter and spring of ice climbing and mountaineering. All my ice axes are now hanging in my shed, my winter boots are deep in the cupboard and I have been enjoying some rock climbing. But, winter is always on my mind. When people ask what my goals are, they are always wintry things.
The winter just finished was a blast. For me it started in December with some early season mixed climbing on Buachaille Etive Mor and on Ben Nevis. North Buttress and Hobgoblin make fine early season climbs. January was soggy for a long time and it kept us guessing what the rest of the winter would be like. Even so, we managed some very good fun days of climbing. February, as ever, was hard work. Storm after storm brought snow, thaw and freeze and incredibly quick cycles. One week gave us three overnight thaws with rain followed by freeze and fresh snow during the day.
It all came good in March though and we had some fabulous days in sunshine on good ice and snow. Some rare climbs were enjoyed like the last big icicle on Ben Nevis and a few ascents of Astronomy. The better weather and snow cover lasted well into April. I made several laps of Tower Ridge when it is at its best, covered in solid icy snow with the rock just starting to peak out again and in amazing weather.
This was my 22nd winter of work in Scotland. I missed most of one winter when I broke my back but I have enjoyed just about all of the other 21 winters and had a fantastic time. I really hope that I will get to enjoy another 20 odd winters. But I also want to explore some other places, so next winter I will be going to Norway to work alongside my good friend Donald King. We will still be running a full winter of guiding in Scotland but I will be away ice climbing in Norway for three weeks at the end of February and early March.
Donald has been ice climbing in Norway for many years now. He has found a place where there is a huge range of climbs with very people there climbing, based in the village of Aurland. Aurlands fjord itself is a branch off the great Sognefjord, which is the longest fjord in Norway. The mountains surrounding Aurland rise on all sides to an altitude of around 1800 metres, on the slopes of these and in the gorges between them, the great icefalls form. Within ten minutes drive of the cabins there are low level options for climbs when conditions allow, extending the drive to half an hour one can be at an altitude of 700m or in another valley entirely, so good ice can usually be found.
So if you fancy something a bit different, a week of the best ice climbing in a beautiful part of the world, and if you want to sample my cooking, have look here and get in touch with Donald.
You will need sharp picks and crampons, and a sense of adventure!
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Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.