I did this hike with Edward Earl (Esquared), age 41, from San Diego, California.
We were NOT lucky with the weather. When we started from the trailhead, it rained and
the clouds hung low. We had rain all the way to our camp established just below the
icefall high on Strupebreen. The rain gradually changed to snow that melted on
impact, this is about as bad as it can be for camping/hiking. Additionally, we had strong
gusts of wind, strong enough to show on my Bibler Fitzroy tent,
that means at least gale (kuling) force.
We left the trailhead at 1300, it took us two hours to reach Koppangvatnet and after 5 hours we put up the tent at the base of the icefall on Strupbreen. The weather was pretty bad and did not show any signs of improvement the next morning. We waited a while to see if the conditions would improve, then finally set off at 1230.
The weather was sufficiently bad to convince both of us to leave cameras behind. Unfortunately, this resulted in my camera ending up near the bottom of my big backpack on the return hike from camp to the trailhead. The conditions were wet and the morning after we crashed into Nordkjosbotn my (semi-expensive) digital camera showed no signs of life anymore.
We aborted the summit attempt around 1600 and made it back to the tent at 1800. We broke camp and started across Strupbreen at 1900, reaching the car at 2200.
As it turned out, Edward was not quite prepared for this (brutal!) change from sunny Southern California to arctic Norway. After a 22 hour delayed flight into Tromsø, he ended up with inadequate layers of clothing to protect against getting cold. On top of this, his crampons and boots were not friends and separated too often. Small details, but such things do make a difference in adverse conditions.
The decision to abort the climb very close to the summit was not easy, but I firmly believe it was a conservative, but correct decision under the given conditions. There was not a single factor that made us abort, but the combination of the somewhat inadequate protection and equipment that Edward had, the weather getting even worse, with stronger wind, the rapid accumulation of more new snow (the steps behind us vanished almost instantly) and noticing that the new snow already easily avalanched on what was likely a more firm layer of (older) snow below it. Edward was (shivering) cold, and a continued push would imply another night in our wet tent, no way to reach back to civilization before the day after. After all, this was the very first time I climbed with Edward, what an introduction this was.
On top of this, the route finding took time, our progress had been steady, but rather slow with the very bad visibility clearly contributing to this.
With less snow or with better visibility that would make it possible to see the ridge ahead, the climb is likely quite a bit easier than how it appeared when we were there.
I certainly hope to return under slightly more favorable conditions and add a final chapter to the story.
Our E5 trip continued with the climb of The Sleeping Queen, the next day.
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