Today was our last in the mountains around Hemsedal.
It was cold again this morning. The temperature reading -22c again as the car sluggishly spluttered into life. It must have taken all of 30 seconds before we realised the ice was on the inside of the windscreen!
For our final day of touring, we were heading back up the valley, north-west of Hemsedal to scope out an area we had seen skinning tracks in, only a couple of days previous. A huge open bowl and satellite peaks just over 1600m just to the north-west of the summit Storebottskarvet.
A pleasant hour was spent setting a fresh track, first through birch woodland and then as we climbed higher, passing on the northern side of Point 1302, steeper more open, but fundamentally sound slopes. Indeed it wasn’t until we emerged into the large open bowl itself that we spotted our first natural avalanche activity we’d seen all week (excluding the avalanche Pete had triggered the day before) and were once again on the familiar, whooping snowpack.
Sense of scale was hard to come by in the upper part of the mountain. The eyes suggested one thing, the map told another. We decided we would try and head to the south-western corner of the bowl, before climbing upto a broad col just to the north of Point 1693. Once again it was relatively easy going, but again, despite the forgiving, relatively safe gradient, the snowpack was whooping and creaking. Once again we picked a deliberate and careful line up a broken shoulder, firmly avoiding the steeper slopes to our left and right.
The sun that had tempted us just half an hour earlier had vanished behind a veil of cloud by the time we reached the col. Despite its weakness, it lay low in the sky, drawing you upwards in search of its dappled rays but all we were greeted with was flakes of snow, which were now falling lightly from the cloud above. We turned north and headed over the broken summit and 1609 spot height, traversing across the broken and wind-scoured plateau in search of a descent line that wasn’t suicidal.
And it was the northern shoulder which provided us with our line of escape. A series of shallow bowls and broken gully lines, clear of any signs of windslab, eventually opening up to much softer snow as we broke out of the bowl and descended back towards the valley floor. In a matter of minutes we were skirting through tightly packed birch, easing our way towards the frozen river once more and the end of our week in Norway.