Feeling Illiterate

New country, new mountains. And what of it? Well turns out there’s much of it.  And here’s some recent experiences that reveal my observations…

So I’ve been running around in Norway of late, trying my best to explore the immediate surrounds and some of the less obvious spots.  And then I learnt that by a lovely coming together of events I would be in close proximity to a pretty awesome mountain called the Stetind.

The Stetind. On a beautiful day it looks like this.

Ripe for the plucking from all angles with massive multipitch trad routes up to grade 7b, all of them on pristine granite in a remote and wild setting.  Only thing was that I was going to be alone.  And that I would have only 3 pieces of trad gear. And one single rope.  And it was cloudy.  And cold…  But then, history has taught me to go for it when in doubt and the days of doing very little had inspired me to do something big.  I drove far, ferried my rental across the fjords and eventually reached the car park.  After “gearing up” and remembering the bit of rope soloing I had taught to myself at the sport crag in the rain a few days before (on the Lofoten Islands), I strap on my backpack and go.  Up and atom!

I must admit that growing up in the mountains of the Western Cape, no matter how you explore them, doesn’t adequately prepare you for alpine experiences.  And I am finding this truth to be more and more relevant as my explorations continue.  Small things make a huge difference, like having sunglasses when braving the snow – to avoid the glare when traversing those slanted snow slopes in the gullies… those slopes that roll down into the frozen lakes…

Looking down the slopes of Stetind.

And having waterproof shoes to keep the cold and wet out – when it’s really cold.  All of these things make a massive difference to your mental comfort when tentatively hiking up snowy scree slopes to a ridge masked by a cloud.

The route I had intended to take to the summit – the Normalveien – was only grade 5, and only involved 1 pitch of roped climbing.  I planned to rope solo this with my 3 pieces of gear.  I heard there were pitons, so I figured I could use them along the way.  I saw no problem doing this, but I found it increasingly hard to visualize summiting in this weather – this dark cold cloud masking the details of the ridge was really bothering me.

And I was already freaked out after all those unexpected snow traverses. After standing there in the cloud I made the call to retreat.  Mission failed.
Fuck, had been shut down by the environment.  I felt like I wasn’t able to properly read the situation.  In short, like I was illiterate.  On my way down I strengthen my resolve to explore more, to become more familiar with these mountains.  I need to increase my effective mobility here.  So I can come back to this iconic peak and summit it successfully.

I’ll be back. With more than 3 pieces of gear and a broader vocabulary.

Source:  Follow the Psyche!

One Response to Feeling Illiterate

  1. Kyle Jul 24, 2012 at 11:22 am #

    I hear you, and like your analogy of the learning being like broadening your vocab. I’ve been in Norway for 8 months and the learning curve is steep indeed – more because there are so many small things you have to learn to just move around in the environment. If you are still here send me a pm and perhaps we can hook up. Kyle

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