October was supposed to be a working month in Finland but after all I flew to Longyearbyen to see my girlfriend who is studying to become a Arctic Nature Guide. Of course I took my ice climbing gear with me as winter was sneaking in early this year in the north. Temperatures sawed above and below freezing which promised good conditions for ice climbing. However the main thing was to live with Ella and help with a household.
In late September ANG students did their classic hike to Barentsburg and back. On that hike Ella spotted an icefall in Fossildalen which looked quite technical and steep in the pictures. Respectable finding as she had not climbed any ice earlier. At least it took me a while to see if something is worth of going.
It took some time to figure out the best way to approach the icefall. Fossildalen is situated in between of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg which means at least on day hike from either direction. Speed boat option was out of question due to late timing and there wasn´t snow for snowmobiles which would be the easiest way to reach the icefall. Luckily Max suggested a walk from Barentsburg.
We took a tourist cruise to that old Soviet time mining town, drove to the end of the road with “taxi” and hiked three hours to the Traveller´s cabin near Kapp Laila. We just maneged to reach the hut before darkness. Following morning we walked to the mouth of Fossildalen, left all camping gear under some stones and followed riverbed up to the icefall. Canyon was narrow and rockfall danger was there all the time. Nothing big came down but fist size stones were big enough to keep helmets on.
Icefall looked easier than a month ago. It was still running with water! I climbed first 30 meters to a good ledge and belayed Ella up. This was her first time on waterfall ice which made me quite proud. Of course some swearing because I forgot to give technical advice before climbing. Upsss!
We both did the remaining five or so meters and rapped off from a V-thread. This was probably the first ascent of “Fossilfossen”, WI4, 35 meters. Ice quality was superb. I hope it becomes a classic early season trip for local climbers or a must do winter trip with snowmobiles. It´s worth it.
That evening we hiked to the Rusanov cabin on the other side of Colesbukta. Not as cozy as Kapp Laila hut but still a good place to stay to avoid bringing a tent.
Third and last day took us over the platteus to Bjørndalen in a full on blizzard. Quite an adventure!
Early season ice trip:
Day 1: Boat to Barentsburg. Pay for the locals to drive you to the end of the road (to a place called skihouse). Walk three hours and 12km to the Traveller´s cabin.
Day 2: Walk 1,5h to the mouth of Fossildalen. Follow the riverbed for one hour. Climb “Fossilfossen” and hike back to the shore and continue to the Rusanov cabin. Whole day took 9 hours for us.
Day 3: Walk to Bjørndalen in 7 hours. Call someone to pick you up.