In Andreas’ tracks

The brothers Jirka and Ondra Svihalek, two eminent climbers and slope skiers originating from the Czech Republic, headed to the great North to discover the vertical jewels of the Norwegian massifs. To be guided through this maze of sublime gullies, they followed in the tracks of Andreas Fransson, mentor of extreme skiing, taken away by an avalanche with his corded companion JP Auclair on September 29th 2014*. Through their two great accounts of the story, they give a vibrant homage to their dear departed friends…

*The accident happened on Mont San Lorenzo on the Argentine – Chilean border while the two skiers were preparing for a film.

Stetind is the king of surrounding landscape.

In the tracks of Andreas Fransson (1): Kuglhornrenna in Efjord

Our 7 weeks long journey around springtime Norway took us to Narvik area too. Of course it did. It´s the region where Lofoten archipelago begins and runs into the open ocean. And because Andreas Fransson was here a couple of years ago, we decided to follow his tracks.
Chamonix-based Swede Fransson wasn´t only exceptional skier. He was deeply and philosophicaly thinking personality. After his fall and crush in Y-couloir on Aiguille Verte he placed a lot of emphasis on security and consciousness of hazards in steepskiing. Moreover, he tried to publicly discuss this topics and influence other steepskiers and the comunity in terms of self-responsibility and security in the mountains.
Despite his rigid principles he was still able and ready to discover new original extreme lines and challenges all around the world – by his own safe way. In the last two years of his life he joined forces with iconic freerider JP Auclair and opened the world of alpine steepskiing to him. These guys together have skied some amazing lines in Scandinavia and they focused themselves foremost on Narvik and Lyngen.
First of those lines, The Northwest Couloir from Kuglhornet, is clearly visible straight from E6, the main road going through whole Norway. Every skier or climber passing by must be attracted by this incredibly narrow and direct line of snow in smooth granite wall. Like cut of knife blade in piece of butter…
On the first view, the so called Kuglhornrenna, looks unskiable, too narrow and steep. But if you get over swamps and moorlands around Efjord coast and come under the line, you realize that you´re standing under skiable line and absolute crown jewel of norwegian skiextreme. This beauty has practically constant gradient of 50°, maybe sometimes little more, constant width of 4 metres, length of 400 metres and is surrounded from both sides by vertical walls – natural geometry in praxis!
We were under big pressure during the ascent because we were watching the wall of storm clouds coming from behind from mountain ridges of Lofoten Islands down to Ofotfjorden in our direction and we weren´t able to estimate how much time we have. Furthermore the left-hand side of the couloir was covered by water ice and we realized that only three metres of snow remains for ski turns by descent. We were forced to run over the summit plateau as fast as possible in race with approaching storm.
Fortunately the storm passed some four kilometres by us and we could fully enjoy absolutely gorgeous views over sea all around us and Kuglhornet. Tysfjord on one side, Efjord on other side and majestic monolith of Stetind behind us. Ambience was made by three layers: deep blue sea, colourful flat swamps with mainly green and brown tones and white world of snow and ice above it all.
We could calmly prepare ourselves for descent and enjoy perfect powder on gentle summit slopes thereafter. But the point of break was closer and closer: How will the view to the couloir look alike? How do we gonna feel inside there with ski on our feet? Well, if some people say that you won´t feel exposition in couloirs, it wasn ´t that case at all. This fucking narrow stuff was going all the way down in horribly straight line and yeah, you felt the exposition a lot!
No matter, let´s block the binding and slowly down, firstly to test the snow. It looks good to me, edges are cuted well in snow surface, only the stretch of ice on my right-hand side is dangerous.
Jump by jump, with holded breath, we have descended down. On green mossy pillows down on the meadows we could celebrate one of our most difficult couloir descents ever. And if 50° seems easy to you? Let´s try it on 400 metres long section of bloody narrow couloir 😉

Up and down in Kuglhornrenna.

In the tracks of Andreas Fransson (2): Gangnesrenna in Skjomen

Andreas and JP have managed four perfect steep lines around Narvik. But our goal wasn´t skiing only round Narvik, we want to go further on the road trip and visit many other destinations. Lofoten and Lyngen was in front of us. So we have to choose just one more their line. And it wasn´t so difficult: Thanks to our summer climbing trips to remote North we knew that at the very end of Skjomen fjord is hidden monster. Monster which has no parralel in whole Nordland and Troms. So we headed there.
Gangnesaksla is relatively insignificant summit in strongly glaciated Frostisen massif. But its east face is exceptional formation: one thousand metres of steep slabby granite rising straight from the sea. On remarkable width of five kilometres you find couple of huge grooves with endless slabs in between. But the most prominent can be just one line. And it´s Gangnesrenna, one of the biggest couloirs in whole Norway.
If you skin up by roundabout way on gentle slopes all the way to the edge of Frostisen glacier and summit of Gangne, you gonna see natural stage of beauty bordered by three lines: horizontal of calm sea level, vertical of smooth granite wall and diagonal of steep snow leading into the couloir. Some granite domes in the background and your goal in the middle: over one thousand metres of couloir skiing back to the sea, with average gradient around 35-40°. There´s only one problem: band of fluffy cornices hanging high above your head. Choosing a cold, cloudy day is good and important option…
If everything match together, you can enjoy almost endless ski descent while waters of fjord are getting closer really slowly. Section you estimate on 50 metres is actually 150 metres because proportions are huge. You probably gonna start in good powder and end in very very soft corn-snow heated by warmth going out of the sea.
At the end of this adventure when you finally come to the coast, a pleasant hike on beaches awaits you. With your ski already back on backpack you maybe recognize that you´re not breathing dry mountain air anymore, but salty sea air…

OUR NORWEGIAN ROAD TRIP was one of those lifetime journeys!

During 46 days we traveled through whole Norway from south to very north and back. We were blessed by skiing above deep fjords and their dark-blue waters, in strange world of snow-covered islands, above seemingly endless arctic tundra, around granitic monolithes and even on glittering continental glaciers and their nunataks.

ROAD NOTES :

By numbers of driver:
10 380 driven kilometers
179 driving hours

By numbers of ski-mountaineer:
21 summits all around Norway
over 30 000 meters of vertical gain

From south to north:

– Jotunheimen: Galdhøpiggen (classic tour, Norwegian highest mountain)
– Hurrungane: Store Ringstind (classic tour on granitic spire), Austanbottstind (crazy corniced ridge without ski, then North Couloir 46°)
– Jostedalsbreen: Lodalskåpa (Northwest Face 48°, the highest nunatak of the largest european continental glacier)
– Sunnmøre: Slogen (classic tour above fjord, 40°), Store Smørskredtind (Northwest Face 47°), Horninndalsrokken (last metres to summit II UIAA, then South Ramp 45°, exposed), Kolåstind (classic tour)
– Romsdal: Store Venjetinden (highest mountain in Romsdal, North Ridge 45°, exposed), Ystetind (classic tour)
– Rondane: Rondslottet (classic tour in tundra)
– Dovrefjell: Snøhetta (tundra, first half on bike, second half on ski, the highest norwegian mountain outside of Jotunheimen, muskox!!!)
– Narvik: Kuglhornet (one of our toughest couloirs, continual and narrow 50°, exposed), Prestind (classic tour on magnificent ridge), Stetind (norwegian national mountain, classic tour to foretop), Gangnesaksla (huge 1000 m long couloir straight to the fjord, 40°)
– Lofoten: Higravtinden (the highest peak on Lofoten, Southwest Couloir 45°, exposed)
– Vesteralen: Stortinden (classic tour, 40°)
– Lyngen Alps: Fornestind (Northwest Couloir 45°), Jiehkkevárri (the highest peak in Lyngen, West Couloir 45°, 1000 m – very alpine!)
– Skjervøy: Store Kågtinden (1228 metres high mountain on very small island, descent all the way to harbour, whales on sea!!!)

These all thanks to DRFG investment group, Black Crows ski, Mountain Equipment clothing, Ortovox avalanche gear, Fri Flyt magasine and more…

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