Kirkpatrick makes first calendar winter ascent on Troll Wall

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 04/02/2013
The Troll Wall showing the line of Suser Gjennom Harryland. Lindsay Griffin

Andy Kirkpatrick, climbing with Norwegians Tormod Granheim and Aleksander Gamme, have completed the first true calendar winter ascent of Suser Gjennom Harryland on Norway's notorious Troll Wall.

Suser Gjennom Harryland was first climbed over seven days in June-July 1996 by Halvor Hagen and Kyrre Ostbo at Norwegian 6 (about British 5b) and A3. The name comes from a line in a song by a Norwegian group called the Dum Dum Boys and approximately translates as "cruising through redneck country"

It doesn't climb the main section of the Troll Wall but the far left side, finishing about half way up the east pillar of Trollryggen (1,740m, the summit of the Troll Wall) after 18 pitches of climbing.

Kirkpatrick tried the route, solo, in September 2011 and very nearly made it, turning back one pitch below the top due to lack of water and time.

Being being composed of generally compact grey rock, steep and relatively safe (the main part of the Troll Wall has seen huge rockfalls in the past), he felt it would be a good winter project.

But his partners were surprising thin on rock climbing experience, neither having done a big wall and one having never led a single trad pitch.

However, what they lacked in technical expertise, they made up for in background gnarlyness.

In 2006 Granheim climbed from advanced base at 6,400m on the Rongbuk glacier to the summit of Everest in a 24-hour push, and then made the first ski descent of the north face via the Great Couloir.

He was accompanied on the descent by the Swede Tomas Olsson. Part way down they were forced to make a rappel from a snow anchor over a short rock step. The anchor failed and Olsson fell to his death. Two years previously the pair had skied Cho Oyu.

In January 2012 Gamme skied from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole and back,  in a record solo journey of 2,270km. He made the trip without the support of air-dropped supplies or kites.

The winter ascent of Suser Gjennom Harryland took 12 days, with temperatures down to -20°C. Kirkpatrick led all but 15m of the route and at the start only managed one pitch a day. Above pitch five this increased to two . The team established two portaledge camps; at the top of pitches 5 and 10.

The last three pitches (A2+ in the original topo), covered in ice due to stormy weather, were the hardest to climb.

Then came a further difficulty. Both the first and third ascensionists had made a rappel descent of the route, and to facilitate this had left a few fixed ropes (removed) in place on the overhanging or traverse pitches.

Kirkpatrick had originally hoped to finish up the east pillar, so had not left anything fixed below. However, his hands were now in no state for hard mixed climbing and the weather was poor. This resulted in it taking a full day to get back down the route from the top camp.

The team added four bolts to the route, all on belay anchors, some of which they found in poor condition.

Granheim and Gamme soon adapted to life on the face (reportedly taught how to clean and jumar by Kirkpatrick via email), no doubt appreciating each other's company on the long cold belay stints.

The route had received three ascents prior to this winter. The second was most likely that of the Russians Pavel Federov, David Gindiya, Grigory Kochetkov, Maxime Nechitayio and Denis Savelyev in July 2006.

This team thought they were attempting the much bigger 1997 Russian route Baltica to the right, but got lost and declared they'd finished up the original 1965 Norwegian Route. However, local climbers observed they were actually on Suser Gjennom Harryland.

Rolf Bae, Sigurd Backe, Sigurd Felde and Trym Atle Saeland made the third ascent, climbing the route in 11 days during March 2007, but finishing on the 25th, so technically just missing a true winter ascent (the calendar winter ends on the 21st March).



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