This is one of the most scenic routes on Tour d´Area, with each and every pitch on a demanding level and which takes, at least mine, full concentration.
With a strong friend on a visit in the valley the response was given when he asked me about some routes that we could try out;
- We Should or must try the legendary Aguirre!
The German movie from 1972 with the same name was directed by Werner HERZOG, maybe relative with the famous Maurice HERZOG who led the great French expedition to the Himalayas and Annapurna in 1950?!
Anyway, long story short, this is what happened:
I had just a few weeks before had done an other route, that one on the 4th tower. Struggling to find the right start in an annoying fog, which turned into rain on the last pitches. Therefore I could only laugh when I was once again surrounded by clouds once up at the upper parts of the trail, just below the last bit up to the base of the towers. But, on the fifth tower the numbers of routes are less, and the start of Aguirre is quite obvious, just to the left of the big crack that splits the tower. If, you just could see the tower it self!?
Erik Massih confused by all the good sign post?!
By pure luck, the clouds made us the day and opened up for a moment while we just tried to wait for exactly that moment. A short spell in the fog and we new the way.
By starting from Mont Ferron, opposite Magland, we sawed at least 1h walk, each way. The hike via ref. Doran is good if your climbing on the 1-4th tower, but for the 5th and 6th Ferron is a better alternativ.
Our biggest hazard was just that hunting season was ongoing and the numbers of people getting shoot at and actually shoot dead is not a joke in France. Luckily the hunters had already lay down their first Sanglard of the day when we passed in the morning, and then we was safe away high up on the rock face for the rest of the day. Whit all the shooting going on util we descended in the afternoon/evening 😇
Once up at the base of the tower, the fight was on!
Erik Massih on crux pitch, @ 7b
Yepp, its steep
Upper part with the last 3 slab pitches
The start is very technical and steep, the last three pitches are very technical on slabs and canilurer.
L1 7a Severe departure then beautiful moves over sometimes a drop of water.
L2 7a / b Crosses a little to the right. Easy start then two crossings of bulges which require determination, relay on the right.
L3 7b + Bouldering start on holes, easier section in crack then and magnificent chute. Relay on the left.
L4 6c + Dalleux. Start crossing to the right then a few dancer's steps straight ahead.
L5 7a Very varied. Start in the less popular slab, easier section on scales, technical crossing to the right and groove of 10 m (1 point ...) to exit on a beautiful terrace.
L6 7a A little to the right, start of slab at the end then easier at the end.
Rappels are found by moving upwards and climbers left
An other weird winter has passed in the Swedish Lapland
With the accelerating climate change the weather pattern is becoming more and more unpredictable. Well, in one way less unpresidential because one can be quite sure that it will not be as the normal winters as the once I grew up in. With long periods of cold stable weather. Instead its rapidly changing between warm and cold, a lot of precipitation which comes as rain even in mid january. But the biggest issue is the wind factor. Those days with huge snowfalls with big snowflakes that penetrates the air and forms a soft white layer on the ground, these days don't show up too often anymore.
When I look on the pictures and movies from the last winters I find a lot of great skiing, with big powder days. But the amount of stormy days with short movies where people are falling over, loosing balance and close to not being able to handle the equipment because of the strong winds, these days have a big number amount of days as well. That together with the rapid change of temperature makes off piste skiing quite difficult, with unstable snowpack and unpredictable slopes.
Singichokka - Couloir Royale
As always I spend a reasonable amount of time in the mountains of Kebnekaise each winter season. And my favorit time is April. Usually the snow has stabilized and the biggest avalanches has normally come down. And, the days are getting longer. I had a few lines from last year in mind that I wanted to try out. One is the obvious couloir that descends from Singichokka to the left of the "Last in Line" This is a quite technical route as well, that ends in a vertical section over steep rock, that would definitely need some rappelling. Said and done, I was lucky with a perfect weather spell on my only free day! After a quiet breakfast on a slow monday morning, all the clients from last week had left Sunday lunch and new clients arriving Tuesday afternoon, I had a full day for me and myself. Perfect timing!! With 2 ropes, a 30m and a 50m, in my bag. Some pitons and slings, ice axes and crampons and my new weapon, a Milwaukee, at the bottom of my ski-pack, I was ready to set of. The approach in the valley was easy on hard snow making it easy to move quickly. At the bottom of Singichokka I had seen the best way of getting up to the start of the couloir via the south east side and a bigger formation/couloir that looked easy enough. For sure the quickest way up which would make it easy tio find the descent line. Going up the couloir isn't an option for this one. Climbing the rock section looked enorm and would turn it into something else than this days goal - skiing!
a close look down the Royale
From the marked trail at the bottom of Singi I started up on skis towards the steeper sections above. After a few hundred vertical meters I had to put my skis on the back and steeped into my crampons. The sun was heating up quite a bit, but the clouds in the morning should have protected the snow in the couloir enough to keep it soft. But now the heat started to make the snow quite heavy on the south side, building up snow under my crampons for every steep. And worse, starting to send down rocks from above which forced me to be really observant and quickly move from side to side when some bigger stones came tumbling down the face. To avoid the worst parts I aimed for a section of steeper snow out left, trying to stay protected from getting avalanched with climbing up as close as possible to the rock face. But at one point the only way was via a few steeps out on a bad looking section of 40° snow. One steep out and there was something as a gun shoot. And all went quiet!! Slowly i took two steeps back in my previous foot steeps, as light as possible. Wow, it stayed! Reversing down the same path I was forced to go up a more narrow couloir on the right instead, taking the risk of rockfalls. The only other option was returning down, and that wasn't an option really.
Some 100 meters in the couloir and I could move out left again climbing over slabs and stones, well protected from avalanches and rockfall. And with my two ice axes I quickly made progress, even though that the snow kept building up under my crampons all the time. Two steeps, cleaning of the snow, two steeps... frustrating!
Finally, I stood on top and the goal of the day showed its entrance. A huge avalanche had come down over the top part, as well as that I could see what looked like an old release edge lower down in the couloir. Which made me feel somewhat better. Now it should be clear, more stable...probably. Arranging the tools in the back pack, putting everything in the right order and range the ropes / tools and harness on. Just sending the picture and position to my wife and I was ready to set off!
The fist section was over a bit of ice, quite steep to start with. But after i could ski into a part of lower angle and stable snow. A few deep breaths before sending into the couloir itself, trying to stay protected closer to the rocks and making as light as possible turns to get a feeling of the stability. And it soon turned out that the cloud covered sky in the morning had kept the snow soft and protected from the direct sun ray. So no crust and a little dust, actually quite a lot on top.
As I had seen from below the line got steeper and steeper and I could see the cutting edge from an old avalanche that had broken off from the second part of the couloir. Some 40cm fraction line. Speeding up the lower part I safely arrive to the first point of rappel. And quickly decide that the Milwaukee will do the job. A 30m rappel from a single bolt to the next section of skiing, just a short 40m descend to the next rappel point and placing an other bolt before rappelling down a narrow slightly overhanging chimney. Safe down to the exit and the last and relaxing part of the descent out back to the marked trail!!
An other objective that I was able to ski was just by coincident while passing trough Unna Räita and Unna Reidavaggi. From the summit of Niibbas, 1902mts, there is a few easy accessed lines. One of them is on the north west side from the small glacier that goes up betweenPyramiden and Niibbas. With some extra power in the legs on the way back towards Tarfala we made a quick hike up to the ridge line and found a descent with some variated but enjoyable snow. The way up we scrambled up the same way as the line of the descent, using crampons and an ice axe as support. This couloir is also very obvious but not really easy to see the upper part from the Unna Räita cabin, but once below at the glacier it shows a quite spectacular ride. Well worth doing with a small effort of bootpacking.
Couloir Royale, 48°/ED1/5:3/S5
2 x 30m ropes, harness, crampons, 2 ice axes
In the line of the descent there is 2 bolts places on skiers left at each section of rappel, 20m and then 30m
During a week in the area of Stora sjöfallet we, Johan Lindfors and myself, had the opportunity, with great ice conditions for the year as it looks, to climb a bunch of lines during our stay.
With the great help from the hosts at Stora sjöfallets Mountain Lodge we could get access to a beautiful area of the North side of Nieras and its East- and Norths faces. Which turned out to hold a good amount of potential new routes and lines.
We stayed for one week, with 5 days of climbing, and put up 5 new routes...
The first day, upon arrival, we was meet with a beautiful sky and high clouds and with a night that provided a great Aurora show on the sky high above. With a coffee in hand I spent 2 hours outside just amazed of the spectacular fenomen. But during the night we had a shift in the weather front, giving us a full on storm during the next 4 days. Which made us just stay down in the tree line the first day, enjoying the open tree skiing areas above the Mountain Lodge.
But, since our main misson was to climb we made a recon tour in the late afternoon up to the barrage of Sitas. From which we could see a huge number of interesting waterfalls and mixed lines on its East and North sides. We had a plan indeed!!
Next morning, still super strong winds, but we had found a line on the east face of Nieras which should be protected from the wind, a bit of lee side maybe. Which it turned out to be, if you don't mind the spinn drifts! We took a full day out climbing a quite interesting line over 3 pitches with ice up to WI5+. And totally blasted by the snow drift.
Nice to be well protected with clothes designed in Britain and tested in the Scottish Alps!
Leading Norrlands Guld WI5+
The following days we climbed more on the North facing walls of Nieras, putting up 3 routes up to WI6. But we had one more deal with the East face, a thin steep line of ice that looked just amazingly good. The type of climbing that I enjoy the most, technical ice formations over steep, overhanging rock. And it turned out to follow up all my expectations. Starting in nice beautiful blue sky weather we finished in beautiful spinndrift and full on storm, again!! 😎💪👊
Leading Den Tunna Blå Linjen
Johan following up the last pitch of Den Tunna Blå Linjen
When and were
Stora Sjöfallet is on the entrance to Sarek and Ritsem, on the way between Gällivare in the north and Jokkmokk in the south. There is a good bus connection when arriving with the train to Gällivare. The history about the place is caused of the huge water barrage, which provides Sweden with a great amount of electricity. Which has put a huge environmental effect over the area. Drowning and destroying many of the traditional Lappish villages and their traditional areas´´, many of which they were forced to leave the these constructions started to take place. Convenient enough the Swedish government at that time, changed the laws and restrictions to be able to construct these hydroelectricity power stations.
All this has of course changed the area in many ways, but it has also provided a good road up to this part of the massif of Sarek, Ahkka and Ritsem. By which we can access the ice climbing.
Nieras North face
Time of climbing
You can ice climb in this area during a long period of the winter, normally already from October/November until May.
Ninjo, WI6 @ Nieras
Finishing up "Ninjo" at Nieras
There is a few places to stay. Free camping is an option for the hard cores!
My best experience is at the Stora Sjofallets Mountain Lodge, with the option to rent a room, single double, or a cabin. With access to a great restaurant after a good day out!