Andy Kirkpatrick climbing Suser gjennom Harryland on Norway’s Troll Wall (1742m). Kirkpatrick, Tormod Granheim and Aleksander Gamme made the first technical winter ascent of this long aid line in January. “Winter ascents” technically occur between December 21 and March 21, regardless of conditions. [Photo] Andy Kirkpatrick collection
Last month, Andy Kirkpatrick, Tormod Granheim and Aleksander Gamme made the first technical winter ascent of a long aid line on the 1742m Troll Wall, Europe’s tallest vertical rock face. Their climb was the fourth overall ascent of Suser gjennom Harryland (VI A3 5.10b, 18 pitches, Hagen-Ostbo, 1996), which tops out on the shorter, far left side of the wall.
In September of 2011, Kirkpatrick climbed the line solo, but retreated one pitch below the topout due to lack of water and an uneasy feeling. Since then, he had wanted to finish the climb in the winter. Four years earlier, Norwegian climbers Sigurd Backe, Rolf Bae, Sigurd Felde and Trym A. Saland attempted to make the first winter ascent, but failed to complete the line before spring, topping out four days after the equinox. “Winter ascents” technically occur between December 21 and March 21, regardless of conditions.
“They had worse weather than us, but also much weather that was 10 degrees Celsius warmer and much more daylight–plus they were all climbers!” says Kirkpatrick. Granheim and Gamme both have limited climbing experience; Gamme has climbed Everest but never lead a trad route (only top rope and indoor climbing) and Granheim has more experience but never climbed a big wall.
This January, Kirkpatrick teamed up with Granheim and Gamme and the trio spent 14 days on the climb, during which Kirkpatrick taught them big-wall techniques and gave them a taste of leading. “[The] most alarming moment was realising Aleks didn’t know how to place a cam while leading pitch 11!” Kirkpatrick wrote in a trip report. The line was climbed in capsule style; they fixed ropes from a camp at Pitch 5 and Pitch 10, allowing them to rappel back to their bivy at the end of the day.
Kirkpatrick rappelling the Troll Wall after a long day climbing and fixing ropes. [Photo] Andy Kirkpatrick collection
Suser gjennom Harryland is a technical and steep climb but mostly safe aside from some loose features to avoid throughout each pitch. The Troll Wall is mostly climbed in the winter due to the instability of the rock that notoriously falls apart. In 2006, a rockfall event occurred with such force it measured 2.5 on the Richter scale. Kirkpatrick, Granheim and Gamme successfully completed Suser gjennom Harryland without trouble, enduring -20 degrees Celsius and windy and snowy conditions during their last two days of climbing.