Friday, March 21, 2014

Trip to Folgefonna with Telemark University College

11. - 13 September, 2013
Folgefonna, Odda, Norway

Fall semester I had an advanced glacier course with Telemark University College.  The class was divided into two short trips to different glaciers here in Norway.  Our first trip was to Buarbreen which is an arm of Folgefonna in Folgefonna National Park.  Buardalen is just outside of Odda on the west coast, meaning that rain is a common occurrence.

We were lucky enough to have relatively good weather.  The first of the three days was spent reviewing different crevasse rescue scenarios on Øvre Buarbreen.  The blue ice was incredible and the sun felt great.

Refreshing rescue skills on day 1 on Øvre Buarbreen

On the second day we split into two different groups made up of two rope teams each.  Both groups started from our camp in Buardalen and crossed Øvre Buarbreen to reach the ice field of Folgefonna.  After reaching the ice field the groups went in their own directions. 

My group headed north and followed the ice to the northern side of Buardalen where one of the instructors had told us there was an old path called Såta that lead back down to the valley floor.  We managed to find the path after sometime and started down what is without a doubt the steepest trail I have ever seen.  The actual trail had been hit by countless land and rock slides and was overgrown with all types of plants which made it extremely slippery.  Progress was slow as it was vital to maintain our footing so as to not plummet down the side of the cliff.  Luckily there were loads of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries that we could pick and eat on our descent.

We made it back to camp safely just after sunset.  Members of the other group slowly made it back to camp one by one while we sat and prepared dinner.  The other group was split up and slower than ours because one of the group members had badly twisted their ankle.  Unfortunately for them, they were not able to participate in the rest of the course.

 Øvre Buarbreen with Nedre Buarbreen in the background

 Looking sharp as we reach the ice field of Folgefonna

 Looking down to where we started in Buardalen

 STEEP descent into Buardalen with Nedre Buarbreen in the background

The final morning of the trip started early.  We were up and ready to depart from camp at 6am.  The sun hadn´t risen yet so we had to light the way with headlamps.  An ascent of just under 2,000 meters was on the menu for the day.  A thick fog blanketed the surrounding peaks and the temperature sank steadily as we gained altitude.   

The path along the ridge of Reinanuten was just barely visible as we found our way to the edge of the ice field.  We split into two groups as we had done the day before.  One group headed west to a cabin on the far side of the glacier.  My group ventured north towards a cabin located on the northern end of the glacier.  Route finding was made difficult by the thick fog.  Leading the rope team was a disorienting and strenuous affair. There were certain points where everything appeared to be white and you had to follow minuscule dots on the snow that seemed to move on their own.

After what felt like an eternity on the ice, we finally found our destination.  We packed up our ropes and crampons and started the descent.  There were a few small snow fields on the descent that we could glissade down.  Sliding down the snow, boot skiing, burned the already aching calf and thigh muscles, but it was a welcome alternative to the endless walking from before.

We descended out of the fog and got to look down on Odda for a short time before the sun set, plunging us back into the darkness in which we started the day.  The terrain under our feet became gradually more stabile as we went down, but our energy levels were also steadily depleting.  We reached the cars that were waiting for us in darkness and collapsed into the seats as we drove back to camp for the final time.

Reinanuten in thick fog

 Route finding on a plateau glacier isn´t very easy in thick fog

Descending after a long day in the fog 

 Solid(ish) ground under our feet with several hundred meters still to descend. Not much energy left.

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