Guardians of the Galaxy – Skjomen

I have been struggling to write trip reports lately but last Tuesday we had a day out which reminded, that climbing is more than just a sport, at least for me. I see some artistry in it, especially when climbing new terrain without any information. When you have no clue if something is climbable or are you skilled and strong enough. 

In the beginning of January, when skiing Gangnesaksla couloir in Skjomen, we spotted a hanging ice drip on a steep rock wall. It looked like a glowing dot in the middle of a black, steep rock face in a morning twilight. Would it be possible to reach that? 

Earlier in the season we developed some new ice climbs around Narvik but when standing under most of them, we were able to say that yeah, we can climb those but with this line it wasn’t sure at all. That was a feeling I have been missing. Trying to solve a puzzle, connecting dots, dealing with uncertainty.

I got back from Chamonix in early February, just in time to do some shift pooling at work to get a few days off before the next snowfall. After doing Søylefossen, a Spansdalen classic with Marcus Loewen on Monday it was time to attempt the line in Skjomen. Climbing conditions looked amazing!

I teamed up with Sofie Eriksson, Narvik based skilled all around climber. On Tuesday morning we drove to Sør-Skjomen playing a soundtrack from the Guardians of the Galaxy. Listening song after song from ´60s and ´70s – beating a sound of a gusting wind which lifted up waves in a fjord and dusted the road with last fluffy snow which had not been flown away earlier. 

The line is located in a narrow gorge in which the left hand wall rises steeply above your head while the right hand side is more mellow and vegetated. We made quick progress hopping on boulders and cramponing up firm snow. Gorge felt quite hostile in a way and would definitely be an avalanche trap in snowy conditions, with cornices looming above.

Our intended line didn’t look any easier from below but we decided to have a look anyway. Immaculate granite sheets looked almost impassable, but maybe there was a weakness that would let us reach that hanging ice. 

We simul soloed a short snow couloir to the base of an ice streak, quite far right from the upper ice we were aiming for. Armed with a jumar, single and half rope, pitons, almost double rack of cams and loads of ice screws. Idea was to climb that streak and then try to follow a ledge system for a moment before trying to find a way through a rock barrier. 

Already the first pitch set up a theme for a day. Run out traverses that were as committing for the second as for the leader. Rope stretching 60m pitch with some insecure sections warmed us up. 

Second pitch looked steeper and would probably be the key pitch of the route. It began to snow when I climbed a few meters of ice to reach a horizontal crack under a roof. It was pure joy to see that we would have some foot holds too, not just a blank slab for the feet. Long reaches, hooking from a flake to another while traversing more and more left at the same time. There seemed to be a weakness to follow!

A short but quite physical and steep step formed a crux of the pitch. Gear was okay but quite far apart. Laybacking a mossy flake on the roof and lifting my feet high up felt quite involved for a moment but managed to pull it off and reached a clean crack to stuff as many good cams in as wanted, to make a good belay. 

Spindrifts started to fall down granite sheets while Sofie seconded the pitch. Most of the time I couldn’t see her as roofs blocked the view but heard music she was playing from her phone and singing along. When she got closer I realised that she was climbing only with one axe and crabbing icy flakes while wearing mittens. I wouldn’t even be able to climb ice with big gloves on and especially not tricky mixed.

Now we were half a pitch away from the main ice but the terrain looked mentally challenging. Snow plastered rock with some ice blobs here and there that required gentle hooking. Stubby screw in a icy crack as a only possible protection I went for it. I knew that I could climb it if I shut my brains off for a moment but still it took some time to weigh risk versus reward. Sofie didn’t say much but I felt she had enough trust that it would be okey to continue. 

First secure tool placements on thick ice felt quite good. It went! But just. Probably a few weeks earlier it would have been impossible. 

Exposure grew belly tingling as we climbed ice high above the gorge. In a way the ice we were on felt a bit harder than the terrain below or maybe it was just a mental exhaustion that was kicking in.  

Late afternoon was getting darker as we neared the top. Sofie belayed me up the last pitch to a cave and said: `I just realised that I have climbed ice only once during last two months. Calves were burning a bit´. Quite a route to start spring climbing season! 

Lights of Sør-Skjomen below and fainth glow from a half moon above illuminate our descent. We decided to rapp straight down, hoping to find enough ice or cracks to build anchors. Rappels were a bit scary as terrain was steep and rock so compact that in case of lack of ice, we would need to do some more tricks to reach the ground. Luckily it went well and in no time we were back at the car, now playing songs from teenage years. 

Such a day couldn´t end in any other way than eating pizza, having a glass of wine I brought from France and finishing up with some gelato. That`t how all alpine climbing trips should end. Now we’re on our backyard mountains but the whole day felt like being further away. Maybe in another galaxy. 

Guardians of the Galaxy (230m, WI5, M5+, R), FA Juho Knuuttila, Sofie Eriksson, 2022


Stora Sjöfallet – new mixed lines

Late in 2020 we opened new mixed lines at Stora Sjöfallet. At first I wasn`t going to publish these at all but due to news about Southern European climbers claiming first ascents in the area and giving quite detailed topos about their climbs, I felt like we should do it too. So here we go:

From left to right:

  1. Nirvana (M7, Wi5), Samuli Pekkanen, 2020. 2 pitches. The line has been climbed as an icefall too but it forms very rarely.
  2. Trendsetter (M6), Juho Knuuttila, 2020. 60m.
  3. Japanilainen puutarha (M5+), Samuli Pekkanen, 2020. 30m
  4. Ice Hiking (M6, Wi5), Juho Knuuttila, 2020. 30m
  5. Mörk Finska, (M6+), Juho Knuuttila, 2020. 30m

Sector is located 150m right from the start of Grevinnan.


Samuli craving for Nirvana.
Juho hand jams first few meters of Trendsetter.
Juho on Trendsetter.
Samuli enjoying his garden.
Juho goes Ice Hiking.
Juho on Mörk Finska.





Traverse from Aiguille de l´M to Grepon

In the first part of August I teamed up with a Swedish climber Oscar Krumlinde for a few days. We had a few bigger ideas but as Oscar`s foot doesn´t really like rock climbing at the moment, so it would be wise to climb something with big boots. Not so easy if you want to go big in the Mont Blanc massif as most of the big summer routes I haven´t done yet require hard free climbing.

Weather was supposed to be stellar, so traverse of the Aiguilles de Chamonix came up as a best idea. Doing it the normal way (Midi-Blaitiere) would have been too easy and not interesting at all, so we decided to try it as reverse which makes actually more sense. Climbing is going up, not down right?

So, we would start from Aiguille de I´M, traverse Petit Charmoz, climb the NW ridge of Grand Charmoz, do Charmoz-Grepon traverse, climb up the rocks next to Spencer couloir and then continue via the classic Aiguilles traverse but in reverse to the Aiguille du Midi – traversing the whole skyline of the Aiguilles above the Chamonix valley. David Lama did it in 18 hours, so how hard can it be?

It snowed two days straight before our departure, but as often in summer, we thought that snow would melt fast during the first day. We took a lazy 8:00am start from Plan de Aiguille cause of that. Walked to the base of NNE spur of Aiguille de I´M and started climbing around 9:30.

NNE spur is a old school classic in Chamonix.

As we were lazy, there were already two teams front of us on the NNE spur. We took it easy and just followed on the line on a quite polished route. At least crux (5b) pitches were really slippery with big boots.

I´M was followed by a quick traverse of Petit Charmoz which wasn`t that special. We skipped the summit and continued pass the Doig de Ettala for the first grade four sections of the NW ridge of Grand Charmoz.

Snow started to appear on the ridge. Soon we had 20cm of it on ledges and slabs. Once on the northern side of the Charmoz it really slowed us down.

Oscar still low on the NW ridge.

NW ridge was first climbed in 1950 by Pierre Allain and co and I have to admit that I didn`t expect climbing to be tricky at all. I had just soloed the Peuterey Integral a week before, which begins with S ridge of Aiguille Noire de Peuterey and is full of grade five steps. I had climbed that with ease, never even hauling my back afterwards. But now, on Charmoz, even the first 5b put us back on the track. I would say every pitch was graded like in bouldering, so moves felt a lot harder. Still a 6a boulder shouldn´t be a problem, but add snow and icy cracks and big boots and soon it becomes a big effort to get up even pulling from cams.

Icy cracks didn’t make 6a climbing easier. Oscar on the lead.
First 5b on the route. Rock shoes went back to pack quicly after this. Too much snow.

I should also mention two pendulums. The first one is avoidable with a 5b slab but the second one is a super airy and little bit sketchy, 10m pendulum around a corner. Allain went for the full send for sure in 1950!!

Before the last two 6a slab pitches to the summit of Charmoz we found a perfect bivy ledge. It was just 19:00, which would mean two hours of light left, but we took the ledge. We would be able to dry our socks in a sunset, take it easy, and wait for snow to melt a bit more for the coming days. Plan was to make it to the Grepon on a first day, but it wouldn´t happen in two hours.


I fixed the rope for the first 6a slab before dinner. Then we had a stunning birthday evening above the clouds and Chamonix valley. The best bivy I have done!

The following morning we jugged up and climbed a 6a+ death slab which was protected with fixed rurp?? and some shaky pitons. How in Earth they did that in 1950?

Soon after we joined the classic Charmoz-Grepon traverse until we managed to rap accidently to the Charmoz-Grepon couloir. Too many raps meant 200m of mixed climbing getting back to the ridge. Very annoying and a major route finding error.

Terrain on Charmoz-Grepon.

Anyway climbing was snowy, old school and rough. Scenery was spectacular while traversing exposed granite needles, but I wasn`t sure if the climbing itself was quality. Probably not. At least it was odd.

Still snowy on day two.
Canon hole or letterbor or something like that. The whole ridge was named.

We summited the Grepon and started rappelling and down climbing the Col des Nantillons. We had found core shot middle of our single half rope a few hours earlier and it did get worse under the usage. That and the amount of snow still on the rocks guided us quite quickly the direction of Plan de Aiguille and Chamonix. It wouldn´t be fun and not even safe to continue with a broken rope, so going down was kind of a only option.

Wide and slippery.
Oscar on the last moves to the summit of Grepon.
Summit Madonna of Grepon.

Nantillons glacier was in doable condition but with a lot of slushy snow. Coming down from the col didn´t take that much time and soon were in a lift back to Chamonix center.

A fun little adventure, but I´d recommend it in dry conditions for the maximum fun!

Tengkangpoche North Pillar attempt

Last Autumn I traveled to the Himalayas for the first time. Quentin Roberts (Canada), Tim Banfield (Canada) and I spent six weeks in Khumbu area of Nepal acclimaziting and trying to unlock one of the last big unclimbed lines in Nepal – the North Pillar of Tengkangpoche. We got very close of success on this magical line, but after six days on the wall blank slab stopped us. We reached a new highpoint at 5930m, but still we were 550m short of the summit. I´m not sure if I ever will attempt something as proud and beautiful again.

There has been so many blogs and articles about the climb that I just link them here and won´t write more.

Blog post in Finnish at Camu`s website:

Story in English at Planetmountain:

Cutting Edge podcast:

I´m feel happy and privileged about the whole experience, even though the line was much different from our first and second objectives, which crashed down due to politics and other climbers climbing planned faces before us. Luckily Quentin is a boss climbing that kind of a terrain that fast! I hope I can reach the same level, though I might prefer a terrain where you can move slightly faster. 😉 Best of luck for his next attempt!

Line of our attempt and bivouacs numbered.
Mixed terrain on day two.
Headwall was steep!
Quentin on the headwall.
Our last bivy at 5880m.
Everest and Lhotse seen from our wall.
I and Quentin after the attempt. Picture by Tim Banfield.



Grandes Jorasses – Croz Spur with Slovenian start

During the crazy Autumn of 2014 we were below the north face of the Grandes Jorasses second time in a week. I and Juha Sillanpää had climbed the Colton-McIntyre, the north face of Dent Blanche and attempted the Supercouloir. It was my first bigger objective trip to the Alps if one can say so.

We suffered a chilly and wet night under the bergschrund, our upper bodies inside a snowhole and legs outside, collecting snow.

It was windy when we started the Slovenian start of the Croz Spur. We made good progress but big amount of spindrift forced us down from the 2nd icefield. Conditions were good and drift of snow would only reduce higher, but very serious experience in the Supercouloir few weeks earlier affected us a lot. There we were trapped by a massive spindrift avalanche for several hours. Juha was only mid-way up the second pitch but just after hours we were able to rappel off. Powerfull and scary, but we learned our lesson.

Face of the dreams and epics.

Back to spring 2019 then. Before I flew to the Alps in March I had two big routes in my mind which should be doable in dry conditions and short’ish weather windows; the Lesueur route and Croz Spur.

After the Dru we found out that a team from New Zealand had already climbed the Croz Spur, but with the Slovenian start and reported quite good conditions. As there were no big windows for multiday routes in April, Croz Spur seemed like a best bet.

I talked a lot about tactics with Etienne and in the end we took one single rope, bivouac equipment were left to the valley except our stove and snowshoes came along.

We walked to the Leschaux refuge on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. Already snowshoes came handy in a deep slush.

The evening went by eating a lot and watching sunset colours lit the Jorasses on fire. This refuge must be one of the best what comes to views. Though Couvercle might be a winner in that competition.

Sunset game going strong.

We woke up at 02:15 and left the hut at 03:00 bellies full of muesli and tea. Glacier was frozen but carried our weight only with snowshoes. Snow got deeper closer the face and we were really happy with these strange gadgets on our legs. Only one visible crevasse we had to cross which made going rather quick.

Bergschrund was passed at 06:00 quite easily. We climbed two pitches to get to the face proper and simul climbing terrain. Second pitch was a bit thin and required a belay for sure.

Schrund and first pitch. We did the obvious ice strip to acces the face.
Race is on!

We did two long simul blocks to the base of the steeper section above the 2nd icefield. With microtraxion and superb ice conditions this was safe. Again a bit thin but one timers all the way.

Etienne starting his simul block.

Time was 09:00 when I started the first mixed pitch. Way to the M5 corner was more difficult than corner itself due to lack of ice. With thin protection I commited to the smallest of loose ice drips in a long time. With calves shaking I reached the snowy ledge below the second mixed pitch which is usually iced up.

Etienne tried from the middle but refused to commit for the ice without pro. He then traversed to the dihedral on the right and sent it as a M6 with quite good pitons and cams. Still more enjoyable for the second.

Second mixed pitch in the middle. Only big pitches this time.

I took the lead for the next big simul block all the way to the col on the spur proper. Really fun to be able to do the easier terrain in huge blocks! Clock was now 13:20 because mixed pitches in the middle took so long.

More simul climbing to the col.

We knew that next part would be the crux as there was still a lot of snow covering slabs. Etienne did one good pitch which was followed by one of the most horrible pitches of my life. Low angled slab with fresh snow. You never could know if you hit the rock or ice below. I cleaned a lot and slowly forced myself upwards on frozen mud-like rock. Took ages but we reached a platform below the last two or three pitches.

Horrible slabs!
Upper sections of Walker and Colton-Mac visible.

New Zealanders climbed the left-hand M5 finish which Etienne went to try but came back as there was too much snow to climb a rocky slab safely. Right-hand finish had some visible ice high up but maybe not enough for a safe climb. We had only one option left. The original 6a rock climbing show on loose but quite dry looking blocks.

First of the exit pitches. M5 goes to the left and 6a to the right of the tower.

Etienne led first two pitches. First had incredibly loose rock but second one was almost a good pitch with growing exposure. Belay was bolted?! which gave me some courage to enter to the final 6a pitch below the summit ridge. First meters to a piton were easy but then a chimney begun and good holds and protection ended. I was hanging from a hand jam (behind a moving flake) 1000 meters above the glacier and Colton-McIntyre icefields. Exposure was totally crazy and dizzying. Never been in a so exposed place on a alpine climb.

Chimney looked horrible and dangerous but I should make a plan quickly. I saw some juggy holds on the right but terrain was overhanging there. I committed. Meter by meter I found more holds and some pro until it all seemed to end again. I put a 0.75 cam behind a hollow spire and went back and forth, refused to commit to a traverse back to the chimney.

In the end I did, only to find myself under some snowmushrooms. It took ages to clean them including the cornice on the ridge. I pulled from the cams whenever I could. Drag was heinous but I made it to the ridge. When Etienne arrived it was past 19:00. I really don’t know where we used all those hours after quick start.

Upper part of the route. M5 option is the obvious low angle corner in the middle and original 6a finish is the wild ramp system above it.

We underestimated the final wall for sure and lost a lot of time because our minds were already in ‘soon to be over’ mode. Again a lesson learned. It affects your climbing pace and skills!

On the Italian side cloud cover seemed to be at the level of the Reposoir. We did few rappels and some down climbing to get to the glacier which had a crust on the top and deep slush underneath.

Misty mountains.
Feeling isolated.
Knowing how the descent will turn out.

Whiteout was annoying and we managed to go too right. When the darkness fell I was sure we were not on the Reposoir but where in earth we were? GPS showed the place but still it didn’t match. When the clouds moved for a second and everything turned yellow due to moonlight we saw the Reposoir on our left-hand side. Damn!

Luckily we didn’t have to climb too much up again to reach the spur. From there on we down climbed and found the rappels easily but next task would be hard. With worryingly low visibility our only chance to avoid cold bivy was to follow Etienne’s phone’s GPS map app. Checking our location in every 100 meters while zigzagging around crevasses Etienne made awsome job leading us through the mist. Seeing the lights of Planpincieux never felt so good.

Last few hundred meters to the Boccalatte were fast with improved visibility and snow conditions. We reached the hut just before midnight, two or three hours later than our planned latest time but in good spirits anyway.

Jorasses tested us for real despite easy looking route on paper. New Zealanders had less snow which made the final wall a bit quicker for them I quess. I was pleased that we made to the hut despite the fact that top part of the route didn’t went excactly as planned or the descent as smoothly. I think uncertainties and difficult situations are good learning experiences for us whom climb a lot inside the safety net of the Alps. If we want to climb safely in the greater ranges and deal with the unknown. If I think our Mt. Hunter climb for example. We had a rough plan but had to climb through the night, bivy in a unplanned snowcave and deal with the harrowing descent. Actual plan shaped up during the climb. Don’t understand me wrong as better planned the better preformed but there is always unknown factors you have to deal with if you want to come back safe and succesfully summit on the way.

Etienne thought that maybe our ascent on Croz is not a success as we really had to battle a bit more than we had wanted and didn’t manage to plan or see the outcome beforehand. Good thoughts because we were forced to climb harder terrain in the end than planned. What if out rack was too small for it or direct exit also proved to be full of snow?

In the end I think it’s only good for the future but good to go through the climb and actions step by step after the climb to learn.

Serac below the Col des Jorasses.

Jorasses still kicked our butts on Friday and offered one last whiteout experience. This time our joked ‘mountaineering instinct’ kicked back and we made it to the Planpincieux bus station under two hours despite bad visibility. Even catched the first bus of the day to Chamonix! That went better than planned. ?

Aiguille du Plan – Bonnington/Tejada-Flores

Weather was looking good again last weekend and we were bouncing options what to climb in one and half days we had. West face of the Aiguille du Plan was in the leading category but should we repeat quite often climbed W face direct which looks super fun or should we get ready for hard dry tooling on the rarely done Bonnington’s line? With only two known ascents we took the latter.

West face of the Aiguille du Plan. I’ll draw a line once I get home.

Bonnington/Tejada-Flores got it’s FA in 1963. Huge and obvious corner high on the west face waited probably 51 years for it’s second ascent when local dry tooling experts, Jeff Mercier and Korra Pesce freed the line as a M7 in 2014. They approached the corner via Goulotte Valentine because original route follows a rocky spur and has been under some rock fall action in recent years. And I think Goulotte Valentine makes the line more logical, fun and suitable modern outing.

We took a 07:40 lift up to Plan de Aiguille on Sunday morning and hiked up to base of the goulotte where we roped up.

Hard snow on approach.

We found three really entertaining pitches full of fresh waterfall ice right off the ground. Short sections of proper climbing but they climbed well. First pitch was M4, second 90° ice and third again M4. Ice was a bit deattached at places but made going more fun. Rest of the gully was speedy, simul terrain to the base of the Bonnington corner. I think Goulotte Valentine would be a nice route to do on it’s own in these generally dry conditions. There seems to be 20m steep dry tooling or rock climbing part to exit the couloir but after that speedy terrain to the summit of Aiguille du Plan. Go do it!

Juho climbing 90° ice pitch. So much fun!
Third pitch lower down.
Nice gully. Valentines rock crux visible above. Who’s keen!

Our corner should include six pitches of climbing at M4, M5, M5, M6, M7 and M4. Etienne did the first M4 which was approach like and then continued with two harder ones. I was supposed to do middle pitches but our stand places forced Etienne to climb both of the M5’s. Climbing was blocky but there was some loose blocks to avoid also. Due to fact that route is so rarely done I guess.

Etienne on the first dry tooling pitch.
Second pitch. Corner looming above.
Third pitch with some loose blocks. Don’t touch them!

I jumped for the fourth pitch and was a bit scared as I watched Jeff’s video from the route night before. Wide cracks, so be it! Luckily once I got to “the scary part” I was eagerly looking for better protection and found out that there are some holds and cracks outside of the wide monster. So I pulled myself out of the dark hole to the sunny face. Few airy moves brought me to a suitable place to make a belay. How nice!

Etienne following. Pitch number four.

Etienne followed and got ready for the crux pitch. Cracks above looked more like a rock climbing terrain but now we had to deal with winter climbing gear. Super nice finger crack and long reach back to the corner looked fun but then Etienne’s pace slowed. An offwidth part looked hard enough and required several back and worth moves to commit to it. Followed by a roof and good rest though. Then it went wild. A chimney. I mean full on chimney with no protection or holds for a few meters. Lonely chockstone too far away to be used yet. Somehow he reached two thin, hanging seems on the right side of the chimney. Unfortunately his ice axe ripped due to breaking rock and sent him flying. An old piton held. No wasting time Etienne finished the pitch without another fall and hauled our pack up.

It was my turn to second the pitch but after the finger crack I had nothing to give. Wide parts were just too bizzarre. It definately was the hardest pitch I’ve seen on the mountains. I couldn’t believe how Etienne managed to climb it up with only one fall. It also made me respect Bonnington’s team effort and dry tooling skills of Jeff and Korra. Maybe with rock climbing shoes there would have been a change for me too but hard to say.

Etienne said it felt harder or at least as hard as some M8’s in Rive Gauche but who knows.

Start of the bizzarre crux pitch. Looks easier than it is. So hard!

I finished the corner with another M4 which felt hard after getting spanked by the fact I couldn’t climb the crux pitch free even as a second.

It took us so long to fight up the crux that sun was already setting. Location and the moment made me feel the magic of alpinism again which was lost for a little time. Maybe due to so much cragging past year when all the focus is in a one 20m route you want send so badly. You lost being part of the nature easily.

One of the alpinist magazine moments.

We decided to skip visiting the true summit of Aiguille du Plan and hurried for the Midi-Plan traverse in a escaping light. Maybe it takes away our possible third ascent of the line but this time I don’t care that much. Main idea was to climb the headwall corner. Anyway I’ll back for the W face direct and remaining few meters to the true summit one day.

Midi-Plan or actually Plan-Midi traverse took several hours despite having a track ready from top of the Rognon to the top station of Midi. We crashed to the toilets just before a midnight. Carrying a sleeping pad each and one sleeping bag came handy finally.

Nice route. I didn’t like the crux pitch at all but otherwise climbing was enjoyable and good. Better than following Mallory-Porter train for sure. Big thumbs up for Etienne too! What a fight!

Toilet with aview.

Les Drus – Voie Lesueur

I’ve wanted to climb Les Drus north face for many years now, but since 2014 conditions have not been that icy. I always thought that there must be loads of hero neve covering corners before I’m willing to go there. Well, years have been dry. Evolution of tackling big north faces in dry tooling style is more and more common. Also I slowly adapted my mind to it. Of course at the same time my own climbing ability has grown. That means more confidence and reserve to climb harder routes.

Les Drus with Nant Blanc face of the Aiguille Verte on the left.

This spring I came to Chamonix to learn how to ski but as a climber there’s no way one can hide burning flames and stoke to be around Europe’s coolest mountains.

Eventually the weather window arrived. I teamed up with native Etienne whom shared the same idea of climbing a big alpine route. An objective wasn’t that hard to pick. Conditions limited out plenty of options. So Voie Lesueur on the Dru it would be.

Voie Lesueur (850m, M7)

The route got climbed in the summer of 1952 by the Lesueur brothers as a ED3/ABO. It got few repeats here and then but in the begining of the time of social media Ueli Steck and Jon Griffith did a winter ascent with variations that shooted the line into the light for the public. According to PlanetMountain Ueli graded it M8+ but more ascents brought the grade closer to easy M7. So much less letters on the grade now. ?

Quite a few teams actually climb the original line. Start of the route is more logical via Allain-Leininger as the whole line follows weaknesses rather than line straight up to the summit. In the end many of the teams finish to the breche of the Drus, to the summit of the Petit Dru or climb few pitches to the summit of the Grand Dru via Drus traverse route. We wanted to climb the original line in the upper part as it again follows a natural line to the summit of Grand Dru. It’s too easy option to leave the game in the north couloir.

Voie Lesueur with Allain-Leininger start. Picture by Wikipedia.

As Compagnie du Mont Blanc is struggling to keep lifts in function we had to think how to approach Les Drus. We ended up taking a Herse chairlift, skinning to the Bochard top station, skiing (downclimbing) the Poubelle couloir and skinning up the summer bivy of the Drus. Day was hotter than hell and boiling powder bowls of Pas du Chevre gave us trouble. Snow did get stuck under our skis.

Evening was beautiful and windless and we slept quite well under open skies. Alarm went off at 03:45 and we were on our way around 05.00.

All the pictures are of Etienne as only I had camera. Skin in!
Number one sunset bivy place in the valley.

Short walk to the schrund and I was off for the first pitch of Allain-Leininger which we would follow for the first couple hundred meters.

First time ever I did drop my ice axe and finished the pitch with only one. Luckily Etienne was able to recover the other one after I lowered him down from mid-pitch. Of course at the same time another team cruised to the same height. Only other team on the whole face and we all are going for the same route. Some pressure kicked in as it would be hard to pass after the snowfields as you don’t know which team is climbing faster. In the end we got up first and German team continued following us. Hopefully we didn’t slow you down 😉

Proper climbing begins after snowfields. Etienne took a first lead block and followed ramps and corners leading to the main groove which forms the middle part of the line. Already at this point climbing was tricky at times.

First pitch after Allain-Leininger start.
Handjams were very used here. White rockfall scar on the right.
Tricky ramp pitch on the N face.

Etienne sent the steep first M7 crux in a one long 60m pitch and I followed with a pack (of course we hauled the leader pack).

First crux. Good hooks and short steep and powerfull section.

My lead block started and I did one huge pitch to the base of the second crux. I really needed some motivation talk as I was already feeling tired from seconding with a pack. Again I did another big pitch through the M7 chimney which wasn’t that bad but M5 section above took more effort than I wanted. Slippery and smooth rock.

Top of the second M7 crux pitch. Visible section is M5 and felt harder than the chimney below.

From here on we did three traverse pitches, including world’s hardest M4 to gain the most unlogical part of the route. Etienne laybacked one thin and one larger crack and suddenly we were below the upper 6b crux and above our planned bivy ledge. We had freed everything so far and now the plan should be set: are we fixing the 6b boulder problem now for the morning or are we leaving it to be aided next morning? I was happy with all the days effort so far but Etienne wanted to try it. A shame he didn’t took his axe ready after jamming part as it costed a free ascent but anyway now we had a rope there and we could bivy.

Petite Col and only one pitch and rappel to the bivy place.
Upper crux is 6b boulder problem.

Ledge fit two people but just. It felt like I was sliding towards Chamonix all night and Etienne dropped hot water to his sleeping bag not to make a night too comfortable.

Happy to spend a night on the wall. Not so happy an hour later.

Morning came like always and we jugged up the ropes in a dark. Two more pitches led to the lean north couloir which we followed for 30 meters and exited to the rising traverse on the proper north face of the Grand Dru. First of these traverse pitches was horrible with bad protection and rock. I tried not to knock off any rocks as they would fall straight to the couloir where Etienne was belaying. Reminded me from “Traverse of the Gods”.

Etienne in the north couloir. See our tracks on the right.
Traverse of the gravel!

Then it was only two long simul sections to the summit of the Grand Dru. Clock was 11:00 when I stood top of the summit gendarme. Air was spring like!

Without wasting time we rapped the north couloir and passed the german team on the way. We reached our skis at 14:00 and skied to the Poubelle which wasn’t the easiest way off with skis and climbing gear on your back. Slush for hours!

Summit of the Grand Dru.
Vallee Blanche and probably hundreds of skiers doing it.
Rapping off. Mainly from rock anchors.

Eventually we reached Argentiere and safety of the valley. How nice spring adventure we had! Voie Lesueur was far better and a bit easier than I thought but anyway a magnificent way to climb the north face of the Drus. Route is certainly doable in a day with light pack and early start but with a bivy there’s more adventure.

It was my first route on Les Drus but not the last. There’s few other lines I’d like to try some day.

Fossilfossen in Fossildalen, Svalbard.

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.

You can see the icefall in the steep part of the valley.

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.

October beauty!

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!

Ella seconding.

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!

Fossilfossen marked with X.
Fossilfossen, WI4, 35m. FA? Juho Knuuttila and Ella Hellberg, 10/2018.


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.

Fossildalen clearly visible.
Ella enjoying life.
Walking was mainly very easy.
Sediment canyon and lot of rockfall.
Juho leading.



Northern Norway and Thanatos

In July 2018 I and Antti Liukkonen drove up to Northern Norway to the arctic island of Kvaløya. Main plans was to climb “Thanatos”, the big 7a hand crack at Baugen and after that enjoy more classics area has to offer. We did three routes at Baugen´s beautiful 250m south face: “Flygende Hollender”, “Silhuetten” and “Thanatos”. On-sighting the main goal was a small dream come true and gave some confidence for the future.

From Kvaløya we went to Lofoten for a few days to tick some more classics like Presten. Weather was enjoyable but I got pneumonia and was forced to rest last days of the trip. Antti managed to do some more climbing though.

Nice two weeks up in the north! I won`t write anything bigger, so here´s some pictures to get idea what we did.



Road side parking at Kvaløya. Hike begins here.
Sweaty hike to the hut. Five days worth of food and gear.
Perfectly situated hut as Baugen´s south face is only 10 minutes walk away.
Antti approaching. Hut is visible in the background.
Warm up route was “Flygende Hollender”. Quite hard 6b! Antti climbing the first easy pitch.
We basicly climbed in a cloud all day.
Nice climbing pitch after pitch.
Antti climbing fifth pitch.
Luckily top of the Baugen was free of clouds.
Baugen rocks!
Rappelling off was quite simple with bolted stations.
Antti relaxing the evening before Thanatos. Of course to keep psyche high and stoke alive we read The Push.
And so went for Thanatos. Juho climbing fourth pitch which was wet. Picture by Suvi R.
Antti red pointing the crux pitch as he followed it last year. I managed to on-sight it few moments earlier. But just.
Big terrain on Thanatos. The best crack pitch I´ve done so far. Picture by Suvi R.
Liisa and Suvi nearing the hut after a day of sending.
Our last route on Baugen was Silhueten, 6b. Few nice parts, but nothing compared to Thanatos and Flygene Hollender.


Antti on superbly fun Vårkåt, N7. Three pitches of nice climbing.
Antti top of the Vårkåt.
The main event of the Lofoten part. The Presten.
We did the Direct Vestpillaren with original avslutning, N7. Crux corner was nice even in the baltic winds.
In the end I got pneumonia which stopped my climbing plans rest of the trip. Antti teamed up with Max Miner to tick few more classics before long drive back home.


Patagonia 2017 – Exocet and Cerro Piergiorgio

Pointy granite towers, powerfull storms, loads of walking and alpine trickery! I and Sami Modenius spent five weeks in funky El Chalten at the begining of Austral summer. Period between mid November and Christmas set out to be only possible time to go this year as in January other mandatory things keep me in Finland.

Early season means less people and more ice and mixed objectives which felt great after so much rock climbing in summer. Though, we were hoping to do both! Trip was my first and Sami´s second to the area.

We arrived to El Chalten on 17th of November. After one restday we headed to the base of Supercanaleta in 6,5 hours from Rio Electrico’s bridge. Approach conditions were superb and route looked to be in also. Unfortunately winds were stronger than expected. Night in a small bivy tent on Glaciar Fitz Roy Norte was one of the windiest I have experienced with flying stones making holes to tent fabric and fear of poles snapping. The following day we ran back to valley. Aguja Guillaumet would have been doable that day, but were too late to hike up to Paso Guillaumet.

Few days later we hiked to Niponino with rather heavy loads. Roar of the wind head of the Torre valley made even hiking look a bad idea. It wasn´t that awful but not pleasant either. That night 10cm of wet snow fell to Niponino making night´s approach to Col Standhardt harder. We climbed 1,5 pitches of Exocet before bailing. Sami was feeling cold and not super stoked about getting spindrifted in the chimney due to strong western wind. So I down climbed to the block and we rapped off.

Sami down climbing off from Col Standhardt.


Exocet, Aguja Standhardt

Line of the Exocet.

Aguja Standhardt`s world famous ice chimney is the easiest route to the summit of the easiest of the Torres. Bridwell did the first ascent in 1988 with his companions. Later on climb has gained popularity as  one the best alpine ice climbs in the world.

We managed to climb it in 1st of December in a brilliant weather window, which was almost too good to climb Exocet but after two bails we wanted to summit something before attempting bigger lines. Naive to think that window as good as that was would happen again during our trip. Now I know.

We hiked to Niponino day earlier and used afternoon bouldering and sorting gear. At midnight we climbed up to Col Standhardt in 3h and 40 min from Niponino. Sami led first slabby mixed pitches and easy snow traverses to the base of the first ice pitch.

Hike to Niponino.
Our camp at Niponino.
Slaby mixed on Exocet.
Easy snow traverses.

My lead block started here. First pitch was WI4 this year with already quite steep formations. During this pitch and first chimney pitch we had to wait very slow team from Argentina as they were climbing above us. It took three hours before they rapped off. By this time chimney started run with water. Day was cold and slightly cloudy luckily. I think pitches went this time like WI4+, WI5+, WI5 and WI4 with a stiff grading. All in all it was steeper than I expected and as a first ice climb of the season – a bit pumpy.

Team Argentina in the chimney.
Sami coming up the crux ice pitch.
Slab leading to the summit slopes.

At col sun dried our wet clothes quickly. Easy slab and snow field led to base of the summit mushroom which Sami climbed easily to the top. Views were superb!

Rapping down and hike back to Niponino went easily and by the time it was getting dark again we reached our camp. Probably the most fun day of alpine climbing ever! We would have been hours faster without waiting but in that case, day would have been too perfect.

Summit mushroom!
On the summit of Aguja Standhardt.
WOW! Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and Punta Herron.


Cara Este, Cerro Piergiorgio, second ascent


Cara Este, Cerro Piergiorgio

One day weather window happened on 12th of December. Hike in the day before was rainy and full of bad luck as wind destroyed Sami´s sunglasses forcing him to hike back to El Chalten. I teamed up with Canadian Quentin Roberts at Niponino as we thought climbing together would be better than soloing on our own.

At 5am we started walking to the base of Cerro Piergiorgio. Dry glacier and Boquette de Piergiorgio´s icefall went fast as actually whole approach. Snow was rock hard and we cruised past of the many seracs that hang above the approach.

Speedy approach to the base of the wall.

We simul soloed to the base of the first proper pitch which I climbed as 50m M5. Chamonix style mixed! Quentin freed the next aid pitch by climbing a chimney on the left(35m, M6 R/X). We left three pitons which is unfortunate as the line is already full of ugly pins. Probably due to my inexperince to hack them off. But actually now free variation is more enjoyable as you can clip the pins. Quentin also led the third and last of the chimney freed by Sim and Griffith in 2010 as M7. Now it was max M6 but conditions make diffirence.

Simul soloing snow slopes.
Quentin climbing second proper pitch. Aid line goes on the right.
Third mixed pitch Sim-Griffith climbed as M7. Now a way easier.

We simul climbed an ice ramp and did one mixed pitch to the ridge. Short rappel led to the summit chimney which I climbed with some cursing. We would have been able to avoid the rappel by climbing ice smears straight under the summit!!

Simul climbing tha hanging ice ramp.

Colin Haley and Rolando Garibotti did first ascent of the peak in 2014. This was only second ascent of the peak which is crazy! One of the main peaks of the massif. We rapped off from a #1 cam due to lack of ice and other features. Rest of the descent back to Niponino went without problems. Return trip took a bit more than 17 hours. Not bad.

On the summit of Cerro Piergiorgio.
Expensive rappel off the summit.

Line is a good option when winds come from N or NW! Enjoyable mixed!