Climbing in Uskedalen. The Norwegian Yosemite?

Whole weekend of blue skies,dry air and chili temperature? That doesn’t happen a lot in the fjords. Ove and me decided to go to Uskedalen and after a bit of persuasion Roar was in as well. Everything was set.

In the region of Bergen, Uskedalen is well known as the place for big routes on granite. I hadn’t really seen a lot of pictures of the place nor knew about many routes; I guess probably because we have so much rock within an hour drive that we get lazy for going a bit further.

Once we reached the spot, the whole game changed: This place is just like Yosemite. Well, ok, maybe like the smaller nordic brother of Yosemite.

Anyway, an ocean of vertical granite towering at 1200m over a green glacier valley by the fjord of Hardanger.

 

We arrived to the valley on saturday by 10.15. Considering the time, We decided that probably it would make more sense climbing on the shoulder of Vetletind and go for one of the 250m classic routes. We chose a route called Alchemist, three stars on the guide book, 250m, 5 pitches, difficulties up to norwegian 6. (6a/6a+)

 

 

Seemed like a legit test piece to see how we were doing in the slabs and thin cracks of the valley.

On  an overall it’s very beautiful climbing, the smoothness and the grip of the granite is over the top. You progress on elegant moves over the slab linking systems of thin crack. Towards the end you have to top over two little roofs.

  

The second pitch has a spicy slab that happens to be the crux of the route. it’s not so much the climbing moves, but it is committed to lead. Almost no possibility of protection for some four meters until you reach a bolt. A BOLT!!! It is actually the first bolt i’ve found in Norway in a wall!

Secretly, I’m happy that I didn’t took that lead, but it was beautiful climbing on the follow.

From the second belay on, we had a really good view of the glacier of Folgefonna, the valley of Rosendal and the fjord of Hardanger. However, the shadow hit the wall and it became surprisingly cold. Friction couldn’t be any better, but god, we were freezing!

 

The route offers good protection, sometimes there may be run outs, but you tend to find perfect placements for big toys after most cruxy sections. It is extremely useful in this rock a set of offset nuts. A set of peanuts will give you some extra placements, and we used quite a lot the medium to small sizes of offset cams.

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I lead three pitches, Ove lead two. We functioned well as a team and we all moved confident, but it took me some time to lead my pitches.It was going to be tight if we wanted to go the day after for some of the routes that takes the whole head wall and have around 13 pitches.

Once back on the car, we profited of the last lights of the day to see the full silhouette of the mountain and plan our day ahead. The climbing was really good, but we missed not having topped the whole thing.

 

We found on the guide book a route called Akslo that goes all the way to the top of Ulvanosa (1248m), starting pretty much at sea level.

First we would face a 650m head wall, followed by a long mountain ridge that leads to the summit. Difficulties are up to IV. For such a long route there is no time to pitch climbing, so we set that the strategy should be simul climbing. Ove would lead while Roar and me would follow 15 and 20m behind. We would always try to have at least two pieces of protection in between while moving fast. We estimate around 1h for the approach, and two to three hours for the climb. From the summit we can descend through a hiking trail on the opposite side of the mountain, however it would be a long round trip around the mountain and valley.  Rock and roll.

If we played our cards right with the timing, we should be on the sun for the whole day. Yeap, in Norway you try as hard as you can to climb on the sun.

But ok. now it was about time to head back to Ove’s cabin/car for a cozy dinner and the well earned sending beer. Well, hot dogs and salad, but come on! Doesn’t it feels cozy?

 

Sunday 07.00 alarm sounds.

Breakfast, packing, repacking, unpacking, more breakfast, packing again and finally by 08.15 we are on the go.

 

We decided to let the car parked somewhere on the middle of the valley. Even though we would have to hike on the morning to the end of the valley for starting the route, we would as well skip some hiking on the way back when we will appear from the lower part of the valley.

Luckily for us, as soon as we started the hike, we met Vibeke and Damian that were driving up the valley. Guess what? They had three seats! 10 points!

 

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We did our approach together. We crossed a river, a forest, a blueberry field and an old glacier slab that happened to look like a Spa.

 

After the Spa, they headed to the right spur of the mountain and we went left for starting our big day. We had to cross again the slab and border all the wet parts, but finally we made it to the base of the wall.

We probably ended up a bit higher that the original route, because it started quite climby for a scramble, but soon we reached easy terrain where we were moving rapid.

  

1h to the base of the wall and 2h to the top of the head wall. Things are working pretty well so far.

We decide to sit, enjoy the view and get some snacks. However on the horizon we were seen some clouds starting to build up. Time to get on the move.

 

We see our summit ridge, but god, it looks really far and big…
We change back to approach shoes and start to cut some distance. The whole mid top of the mountain is quite flat, progressive and wide; this part feels more like a glorified hike.

 

After some time we are finally facing the ridge. Quite sharp, big drops on both sides, a few loose rocks. Pure alpinism.

Second round of snacking, back to climbing shoes and time to get the serious business mode on. Ove dives in the ridge and start to progress like a train. At a few passages it gets more serious and we take our time to semi protect and pitch the passages. At the same time, at other points, it gets wider and we can just relax and enjoy for a bit.

 

 

I remember in this particular balcony looking at Roar, he couldn’t hold this big smile on his face and claimed:

“This has to be the best climb i’ve ever done. This is so sick!”

I guess it’s hard to argue such a statement. Where else are you gonna be in a high mountain ridge, in such a spectacular ocean of granite, completely surrounded by fjords and by the third largest glacier in continental Europe?

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Soon later we completed the full ridge: Summittider!

 

It took us some two hours to cross the mid top and the summit ridge. 5h from car to top.

Time to sit down and do some more snacking. I’m starting to get severely bored of peanut butter sandwiches; but a man has to do, what a man has to do. The top of the mountain is really cool. We have a really good view of the full summit ridge and as well of the ridge that connect Ulvanosa with Geitadalstind. The whole summit plateau seems like it has exploded and it’s full of big boulders of granite, there is even a little plaza or marble stone. Really cool.

I took a rock as a marble as a souvenir for my flatmates 🙂

 

After relaxing for quite a while under the sun, we realize that clouds kept building up on the horizon, so we start the way down. We believe that it’s going to be a short way down, but the path never ends. It’s a beautiful hike, but marked as black by the norwegian outdoor club and it well deserves such label. Roar takes it a bit easier as he suffers a bit on his knee on the way down,  meanwhile I try to outrun the rain as fast as I can. Ove keeps somewhere in between. At some point it looked like we were gonna be caught in some ugly weather, but then it all passed to the parallele valley.

 

 

We can take it easy again. Ove and me we find the perfect siesta spot to wait for Roar.

After some more hiking, we reached the car five hours after summiting Ulvanosa; a good 10h roundtrip to be remembered.

Best of all? The thai food truck at the end of the valley while looking at our summit. Well, probably not the best, but really well earned anyway.

 

Thanks Ove and Roar for an awsome day out and for some of the best Pictures of this article. Follow then on Instagram for more kickass norwegian climbing. @dromlan and @epiphanytoilet

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