In this episode we get on to steeper terrain and climb a beautiful couloir in Senja, Norway. I explain the basics what you need you think and learn before stepping into more serious terrain and point out some tips and useful information. Also, new gear like crampons and axes are introduced as additional equipment for ascending and riding steeper terrain.
There are many things you need to think and learn before you can start climbing and riding steeper stuff.
- Number one is always safety. Get avalanche education and develop your backcountry skills before stepping into more serious terrain.
- Patience. Mountains are not going anywhere. Wait for the right and safe conditions. Do not rush. Mountains are fairly static, snowpack is not – it is constantly changing.
- Human factor. First of all, accidents happen usually because of bad decisions, not the conditions. Team up with people you can trust and have similar mind set towards riding and mountains. Group dynamics is very important and it strongly affects the decision making of the group.
- Fitness. Hiking steeper terrain in deep snow requires a lot of endurance, physically and mentally. Start from lines that you can handle and work your skills. Train and know your limits.
- Gear up. Additional gear like crampons and axes are good to have. They will make to climb and ride easier and safer and even possible; it only needs to be a short icy section that you could easily ride over but can’t climb without crampons or you want to have some extra grip that axe provides. It sucks to turn back because of lack of right equipment. In the glaciers and more serious climbs you need to learn how to use ropes, harnesses, etc.
The gear that I use on steeper stuff :
Crampons : Black Diamond contact crampons or any similar that has straps and you can attach to your boots. beware of the ski/climbing boot clip attachment system.
Ice axes : Simond Fox carving choose a lighter ice axe for splitboarding and touring purposes, ice climbing is a whole another deal.
Ascending plates : Billy Goat plates. I find these very good since you can attach them to crampons if needed. You can climb ice and deep powder with this combo.
Avalanche backpack : Jones 30L for extra safety. If something does go wrong it is better to atleast try to stay on the surface when help is far away.
The story behind this couloir: I first saw it years ago when I came to Senja, Norway, for some spring surfing. It really stands out from the scenery.
Ever since, I wanted to ride it in good conditions but it turned out to be difficult. It is located between the fjords so the weather and conditions change really fast. Then, it is facing south-southeast and warms up fast later in the season when the conditions and weather is more stable. So, if I want to ride it in powder conditions it has to happen during winter months. In December and January the sun does not yet rise above the horizon much and the day is too short. Basically, I was left with february or beginning of March right after a snowfall as my time window.
Finally, on 10th of February, 2016, the conditions seemed to be right but the weather was yet a question mark when we started hiking towards the couloir. It was cloudy and snowing but with some clear patches every now and then and the forecast was promising. We got to the exit and it was snowing hard and we could not even see the top half of the couloir. We dug a pit and assessed the snow. It looked deep and good but weather was still not looking promising. But suddenly, as we were assembling the boards, the sky cleared and we could see the whole beauty. It was on! We started hiking which turned out to be more like swimming. I was glad I had those plates with me. With their help, I was sinking only to my knee as my friend, Miikka Peteri, was sinking up to his waist without them. It took us way longer than we expected to make it to the top and we lost the best light while struggling in the deep powder. But the scenery and turns down were worth every sweaty step!
Behind the col you can see the waves breaking. I tried to go surfing the day after but was caught by a storm when paddling into the line up.
The couloir turned out to be the pinnacle of the The Discover Splitboarding series for me. I am still really happy that we managed to ride it in such conditions. Big thanks to Miikka Peteri @miikkapeteri who joined for the mission and huge thanks to Teemu Lahtinen for filming, directing and editing series and for all the good times.
If you want to ride in Senja, Norway, contact Senja Lodge for mountain guiding services and lodging.
Tags: couloir, discover splitboarding, Senja, Splitboading, toptouring Norway