I got tired of just hiking the trail on the mountains and wanted some more challenge. So I decided to do a winter ascent of Slættaratindur 880 m. But I might have underestimated it a little. In the summer this is a nice hike with some scrambling and takes less then 2 h to the top and down. But this was going to be a serious mountaineering adventure for 8 hours. Let me tell you all about it!
This is the mountain. Doesn´t look too bad right? But sometimes it´s difficult to get the scale right. The main trail is to the left. That´s pretty flat and the last part is scrambling. I was planning on being on top for sunrise so I started at 7 am and was maybe too excited because I didn´t bring anything. I thought it would take me less then an hour to the top so I left everything in the car and just started hiking without even looking at where the trail was. I went up on the right side of the picture. A little bit more steep but the real problem was that there is so much water on the mountain so the grass and the rocks were frozen with ice on them and it was really really slippery. I had my new boots: Scarpa Phantom Tech that I´m trying out for an ice climb in march but I got them a size too big so that´s not good.
Anyway, I tried to avoid the snowfields as much as I could because it was almost pure ice. Think about melted snow mixed with water that freeze during night. It was so hard. Every time I had to go on an ice field I had to kick 10 times to make a 2 cm step to stand on.
I was not on the summit when the sun came up because everything took longer then expected with all the ice and struggle with slippery parts.
Somehow I got up to the ridge anyway and started climbing it. In this picture it´s so narrow so I had to sit down because a fall would be fatal.
Here you can see a little bit of the ridge that I climbed. Very exposed. Just drops on the left side and very steep on the right side.
And the summit is in the clouds back there. But a little bit further then this I had to turn back down. It was just too dangerous to do this without crampons and ice ax. I had those things in the car so I decided to go and get them.
And I didn´t want to take the same way down as I got up because I knew it would be difficult. So I walked another way down. But it meant more snowfields to cross. And steep. So I could not walk on them because it was too much ice. So what I had to do was to sit on my ass and then kick my heal 10-12 times so get a little pocket where I could put my foot. Then do the same with the other foot. And holding the hands on uneven snow to get some balance. It was very scary and if I would have lost the grip I would go fast down the ice/snow and over an edge and in to some rocks. So I was really careful. It was painfully cold for my hands because I only had a thin liner and it got wet. It took forever to get down those snowfields but then finally I was back at the car.
The watch said 10:30 am. I knew that I had a choice to make. I could either give up and drive to the airport and just make my flight back home or I could miss my flight and give it another try.
I decided to miss my flight and go for it! I was so close… The wind was picking up now and gave me tears in my eyes. I ate half of a bar and drank some water. I put the crampons in the backpack and took my ice ax in the hand. My liners were wet so I left them in the car to dry and took the liners from my mittens instead. They were so warm! But not too smooth…
I decided to take a new route this time. Going up the snow/ice field. So hiked up to where it started and put the crampons on!
It might not look too steep but it got more and more steep. At first I could sidestep up the slope, kicking a few times for every step to get some grip because of the ice but when it became steeper I had to use the dagger technique to get up the slope. Sometimes I turned around to look down and as I was getting higher and higher up I knew how bad a fall would be. And here I was with no belay all by myself alone on the mountain solo climbing and even if it sound not too great I was never scared. I felt that “I got this” but of course it was a little bit scary.
While I was still able to do the french technique with my crampons. I had to kick every step a few times to make it work. Here am I doing that.
On the way up!
Then I finally got back up on the ridge and climbed over this part!
So exposed down there… I had to be careful not to step on just snow with no rocks under. When I got back on the ridge the wind was really really strong. Sometimes I could not even stand up. I had to sit down on my ass and drag myself over the ridge because I would have blown away from it otherwise.
And then finally – the summit! I put my ice ax there for reference.
The view were amazing!
You might have seen a photo of this scene from the other side. A very famous spot in Faroe Islands. And after taking this photo one of my gloves blew away! Straight down the steepest part. It was gone. I was so mad at myself. Now I had to walk down with just one glove. And with the other liners in the car, drying I had nothing to use. I was lucky it was only -5. But the wind made it worse. And going down I thought I would try the regular easy trail. But there was still some snowfields I had to cross and I had to put my hand with no glove on rocks with ice and on the snow. Cold as fuck!
When I was almost down I was not really thinking and passes a snowfield that was over a small river and suddenly I found myself falling in to it! The snow just collapsed under me and I was standing in a hole up to my waist. What a surprise! But I was lucky I just missed the water under the snow so I didn´t get wet and could use my ice ax to climb out of the hole.
When I finally got back down to the car it had taken me almost 8 hours to complete the task of reaching the summit and get back down again. I would never have thought that. But it´s a big difference to do this in the summer and in the winter. Everything was so much more complicated now.
And this is a few things I learned:
Eat breakfast before a climb
Always bring your crampons and ice ax if there is snow or below 0 degrees so there might be ice
Bring a extra pair of liners in your backpack
Bring water and snacks
Make sure your gloves can´t blow away if you take them off, put them in the pocket
Well it was an adventure for sure!
Note: I know it might sound like “what the fuck am I even doing on this mountain” when you read the text. But it´s because I don´t want to hide my mistakes in this project. It´s written from a perspective where I´m not trying to make myself a superhero where nothing goes bad and everything was so easy. I want to tell the real truth. So if someone else is going to do the same thing they have that perspective too. And I´m very careful when I do this. I might be pretty new to mountianeering but I do have experience and training so I would not put myself in a situation where I wont feel like I could handle it. I have no problem turning back down if needed.
This was one of the extra mountains on my list.