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An account of the ascent of the Trolltind Wall which was made during the period July 18th-24th, by the RIMMON TROLLTIND EXPEDITION 1965

My own interest in the Romsdal was stimulated by a passage which appeared in “Mountain Holidays in Norway”, the publication of the Norwegian Travel Association of Oslo. In a reference to the Trolltind ridge, which lies along the whole length of the west side of the Romsdal, the editor, Per Prag, remarks… “The Troll peaks are the grandest of the Romsdal mountains. The fantastically jagged ridge baffles all description. Its east face is for the most part absolutely perpendicular. This wonderful mountain wall is probably the highest overhang in Europe, a masterpiece of mountain archi­tecture. A stone dropped from the top would touch nothing for nearly 5,000 feet!”

Although highly impressed by this description, I was somewhat skeptical. A vertical mile? It was scarcely credible. And closer investigation did indeed reveal some slight exaggeration: The greater part of the face was, in fact, composed of vegetated slabs, but there did exist a stupendous vertical precipice, facing north, which fell sheer for well over 4,000 feet at its highest point.

A reconnaissance revealed two possible routes. One of these followed a huge corner out onto the Trollryggen East Pillar at half height, but the other took a line up the whole length of the wall. This was the one we wanted. 

During our early planning, we believed that it could only be tackled by artificial means and not, as later turned out, by long sections of high standard free climbing, especially in the upper reaches of the face.

July last year was greeted by the arrival of bad weather but during the week that followed, we busied ourselves with the task of establishing an Advance Camp on the screes below the wall, and by the evening of the 10th we had succeeded in fixing 1,000 feet of “Ulstron” rope up the smooth slabs, and the dangerously poised snow fields to the base of the proposed route. Even this involved us in difficulties of V1 and A.2! What was the wall itself to be like? 

Two days later, we left the luxuries of Base Camp in magnificent weather and began the long climb up the screes. Collecting more equipment on the way, we pressed on to the foot of the wall, moving quickly over the fixed ropes, and reached the first bivouac cave some 100 feet up the wall. After hauling up all our equipment, Jeff Heath and Rob Holt turned, somewhat reluctantly, to the descent, while Tony Nicholls, Bill Tweedale, Tony Howard and myself settled in for the night. 

At that time of year, there is little darkness in those latitudes and we spent a large part of that night absorb­ing the magnificent view and wondering . . . wondering about the difficulties, the exposure . . . wondering what we would do if some one was hurt. 

But next day, we had thoughts only for the task in hand, and we climbed for sixteen hours without stop­ping. From the bivouac a long traverse led us to the foot of the first major difficulty—a long 180 foot corner which became known as the Grey Diedre, or “The Nick”. It went in two pitches of hard pegging, the top 120 feet brilliantly led by Tony Nicholls, on pegs which were more out than in—good A.3. Above, we found a snow ledge—big enough for us all to lie on, but darned cold. Behind us, the wall rose in unrelenting verticality. Tuesday dawned clear, but there were obvious signs of weather deterioration. The valley floor was carpeted in cloud and we were disturbed to note that the wind had changed direction. As we sorted out our gear, the cloud began to pour over the col in the ridge opposite. A seething, bubbling cauldron of ill omen. Suddenly, we were involved in a race; a race which we did not want and could ill afford! 

The first pitch gave us a foretaste of the climbing which we were to experience later in the day. A very hard free traverse led to a small ledge below the tre­mendous vertical upsurge of the “200 metre Wall”. While Tony Howard set about the first few feet of peg climb­ing. I busied myself with the task of hauling the sacks across.

Twelve hours later and some 300 feet higher, after three of the most enjoyable pitches of my life, Tony climbed up to join me on a minute wet stance below the dripping wet overhangs. Throughout the day, we had pegged our way up this vertical wall, above a sheer drop of hundreds of feet, but we were still some 100 feet below the top and the weather was becoming increasingly menacing. It was quite obvious that it would be impossible for the four of us to bivouac on the almost non-existent stances on the Wall, so, after a short discussion, we began the first of the long diagonal abseils into the mists below. After nearly twenty hours of climbing, exhaustion was now showing its head as we fell asleep dangling from the belay pegs between each abseil.

We arrived at the bivouac ledge of the previous night wet, tired and dispirited. A quarter of an hour later, the full force of the storm struck us, we fell asleep oblivious of the freezing cold. 

During the next two days, we dozed, drank and shivered alternately as the storm raged outside the bivouac sac. By the morning of the 15th of July, we could stand the ceaseless battering no longer. Taking the opportunity offered by a lull in the storm, we left the bivouac at 6 a.m. and after twelve hours of desperate descent over rock covered in ice and streaming with water, we arrived back at Base Camp. 

Altogether in 35 hours, we had climbed only 800 feet of the Wall—and surmounted, therefore, only about one-fifth of the expected difficulties. 

We were no sooner down than the weather began to improve. Sunday, the 18th, was a glorious day and late that afternoon we once more toiled up to our Advance Camp.  

Here, instead of pressing on to the bivouac at the base of the wall, we settled down to await the passing of the twilight hours. As usual, nervous twitterings were at work, but eventually all possible excuses for giving up were eliminated although our state of mind was not improved by the downward passage of a huge boulder whose route brought it within 50 feet of the tent. 

At 3 o’clock the next morning we were moving sluggishly up to the base of the fixed ropes, passing on the way the deep trough ploughed in the soft snow by our friend of the previous night. We had plenty of time to meditate over this before we arrived at the bivouac cave at the foot of the wall. Resting for a short while, we began the first of the traverses of Grade V just as the sun caught the wall on its early morning prome­nade. Climbing quickly, we moved up the Grey Diedre using the pegs which we had placed on the first attempt and arrived at the foot of the “200 metre Wall” shortly after midday. Once more we joined battle with this obstacle but I was off form, and difficulties seemed more severe than first time round. Sections which I had previously climbed free I was now having to peg, with difficulty on account of the loose state of the rock, and it was not until 11 p.m. that I was once again at the familiar perch below those last overhangs. 

Somehow, the thought of a bivouac in etriers was not very thrilling, so Tony Howard came up and attempted to push through to the top. Twenty feet was enough to impress on him that this was likely to be more difficult than anything which had passed and he was forced to come down and bivouac where we stood—Tony in etriers and Bill and myself on what hardly deserved to be called ledges. 

We had taken 22 hours to climb just over 2,000 feet! Sleep was out of the question, so as soon as it became warm enough to climb, we set off towards the sun, which was striking across the wall towards us. Five hours later we were once more in the shadow and across the last 70 feet of desperately loose and difficult pegging. 

What a relief it was to be off that Wall. Altogether, including the time on the first attempt, we had spent 30 hours climbing it. If there was ever a psychological barrier to a climb, this was it. The difficulties from the start had been extreme—VI, A.2., followed by two long passages of VI, A.1, and finally the A.3. pitch to the top. 

However, relief soon gave way to complaint as our parched mouths and swollen tongues began to spur us in search of water. Some 50 feet higher, we climbed an overhanging chimney, not difficult but loose, which led us to a sloping slab below more overhangs. The confusion of three bodies, six hundred feet of climbing rope and three hundred feet of sack-hauling rope on a two-foothold stance would have to be seen to be believed. The fact that the chockstone to which we were all fastened kept falling out did not help matters. Above, an overhanging jam crack proved the way, but it was not without a desperate struggle that it was overcome and to have fallen off here would have meant the end of the Expedition. Some 60 feet higher we found a ledge, the first ledge where we could all sit together and, the work of Providence, surely, we found water dripping furtively in a corner. It was an ideal bivouac spot and we used it well, sleeping for nearly ten hours. 

Wednesday was treated as a rest day. We climbed only 300 feet, the crux being a beautiful 150 foot flake crack, which we overcame with hand jams and plenty of jammed nuts and chock runners. From its top, another very difficult wedging crack led to the Central Basin. We resisted to grade anything VI Superior, but we felt that this pitch laid ample claim to that honour. 

The Central Basin is a strange feature of this face. In the midst of much vertical and overhanging rock, we actually had a one hundred scree pitch leading to an ideal bivouac pedestal sheltered from stonefall at the back of the basin. The fact that the existence of such an area cannot be suspected when looking from the nearby ridge, gives some idea of the huge scale of the precipice. 

From the bivouac we could gaze upwards at one of the most sensational pitches I have ever seen: a steep slab of rock curved away to lose itself in the wall above. Above and below it were huge overhangs of rock. Along this route lay our only means of escape. We knew that if we were unable to pierce this barrier we would be faced with a long retreat. 

Our fourth day on the face started at 6 o’clock as Tony led off to a minute one-foot stance below the overhangs. Leading through across the slab, which rose in an immense sweep of verticality above my bead, I reached a point about fifteen feet from the end. The only hope here was to tension across those few feet of blank rock. But how? 

Above was a small overhang. By reaching out over this it was possible to hammer in a piton above and then to swing across the void. Another short groove and it was possible to move right across a short vertical wall sandwiched between the roofs, to a sensational ledge right on the very edge of the top overhangs. While I set about the task of hauling up the sacks, I accidentally dislodged a stone which fell in one immense sweep of 2,000 feet before it hit the slabs at the foot of the wall. 

Sixty feet higher we found our fourth bivouac—a small ledge where we could sit, our legs hanging over the drop. Although no water was available on the ledge, we had luckily foreseen this difficulty and had carried some “snow melt” up from the Central Basin. Again we had climbed only about 300 feet during the day, but we were content that we had put one of the most difficult sections behind us. Since the previous bivouac, each pitch had involved us in difficulties of VI and the climbing across the slab had only been possible with considerable artificial aid. Above us now lay the last barrier before the Summit Gully—a long line of over­hangs cut by a series of wet overhanging chimneys. 

Although these looked hard, we were confident of success. 

Seven o’clock on Friday evening we were at last above these difficulties. Although climbing of the highest standard had been necessary, we had managed to over­come this sensationally exposed section in three long rope lengths. At last we were able to shout and yodel to our Norwegian friends on the ridge opposite, in the knowledge that nothing could stop us. Or so we thought! Above lay 1,000 feet of easier climbing in the Summit Gully… and then the top. 

After a short rest, we set off carrying the 60 pound sacks on our backs. Five hundred feet of Grade IV climbing up the left wall of the gully and our triumphant progress was brought to a full stop by an unexpected vertical crack. Once more we were forced to slip into the slower business of sack hauling. One pitch was as hard as anything that had gone before and was well led by Tony Howard in the gathering gloom. Following this pitch, with the heavy rucksacks on our backs, Bill Tweedle and I unashamedly pulled up on the rope. Two hundred feet higher, at 2 a.m., we reached a small snow ledge—our fifth and last bivouac and only three hundred feet from the top. 

Saturday, the 24th July, then, was to be the date of our final triumph. After three hours of fitful dozing, we awoke to find ourselves enveloped in cloud. However, by seven o’clock, the weather had cleared sufficiently to allow us to start climbing, by 10 o’clock we had reached the West Ridge leading to the summit and by 12 noon we were standing on the highest point of Trollyrggen. 

In the valley, more than 6,000 feet below, our friends at Base Camp acknowledged our frantic signals and we knew that the past months of planning, strugglings, frustrations and doubts had been repaid in full.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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