• Vassdalsfjellet
  • 1587 m
  • Primary factor 1026 m
  • Location: North 69:06.015, East 019:57.321 (GPS at the summit)
  • Troms, Norway
  • Difficulty: YDS class 3 (winter)
  • Climbed: April 27, 2009


How to get there: From Tromsø, take E-8 to Nordkjosbotn (where it meets E-6). Go north along E-6, 9 kilometer to Øvergård where Hwy. 87 goes right. Follow this road as it runs through Tamokdalen, you will have the lake Tamokvatnet (elev. 263 m) on your right as you arrive at Harkinn, a key saddle where Tamokdalen reaches its highest point (sort of unusual for a valley). There is a small side road going left. Park here, this is the trailhead, location N69:05.913, E019:42.554, elevation about 261 meter.
Route description: From the trailhead, follow the small road / big trail south east along the north side of the river Tamokelva. After about 2.5 kilometer, this river forks with Vassdalselva going left and Finndalselva going right. Cross Vassdalselva, there is a wooden bridge, snowbridges also provide for easy crossing until mid May.
You are now on base before the very lower part of the west ridge of Vassdalsfjellet. Follow this ridge uphill, the terrain gets gradually steeper as you gain elevation. In winter, (spring) skiing may get cumbersome above 600 meter. With skis on the pack, continue uphill, you will reach a small hump on the ridge. Pass this hump on the right (south) side. Slightly above, the easier route stays left (north) in order to gain higher terrain without too much trouble. The route is steep, but not difficult, you may use your hands for support in a few places, but there is no climbing. In winter, the terrain may be slippery and one should move carefully, crampons may be useful. Beware of cornices that overhang the north side.
Finally, at location N69:04.952, E019:50.440, elevation 1247 meter, the ridge tops out and one can again ski without any difficulties. The top ridge carries a lot of snow and one should definitely not leave the skis below and try walking the entire route.
What follows is 3-4 kilometer with spectacular skiing on the "roof of Troms", with almost a thousand meter drop on either side and high enough to have a great view across almost all nearby mountains. You easily gaze across to Lyngen and Jiehkkevarri as well as the ocean of other peaks to the west and south. The first leg of this broad ridge is traversed on the south side as the north is heavily corniced and pretty dangerous. The last part has a gentle north-facing slope and the highest side is now facing south. Gradually, the final (more narrow) ridge connecting to the highest plateau of Vassdalsfjellet comes into view. It looks much harder than it is.
Ski to a point north of the last sharp sub-peak on the main ridge. From here, one can descend to the saddle by first going north then turning right while descending. The ascent of the ridge is far easier than it looks from a distance. First, move up along the main ridge to some large boulders. Contour around on the left side of a good sized rock in order to reach the biggest block slightly higher on the ridge. There is (normally) a narrow snow gully running uphill on its left side. This gully provides good protection and forms a very natural (winter) access to the higher part of the ridge. When you reach the top of this slope, the rest of the ridge is rather flat. There is one slightly narrow passage, but no serious problem for any hiker/climber that has made it this far.
Beyond this passage, the main mountain plateau expands in several directions. There is still several hundred meter of almost flat terrain before you reach the highest point.
Comments: I did this climb with my friend Geir Åke Dahlen. The weatherforecast promised a window of sunshine starting in the early morning and lasting until noon. After three days with fog and mist, we really wanted a big trip with good weather. Unfortunately, this was also the day of our return flights to Southern Norway. We had flights from Evenes and now we were in Nordkjosbotn, essentially 3 hours drive from the airport.
Still, we agreed to assault Vassdalstinden a peak that came to my attention when I discovered that Rostafjellet was significantly lower than its map elevation. (Thus promoting Vassdalsfjellet to a prominence exceeding 1000 meter.) We agreed to get up at 0330 and head out for an early start.
Thus, we started out from the trailhead according to plan already at 0445. The clouds were already breaking and the day looked indeed very promising. We skied along a well used trail with numerous snow scooter tracks towards the beginning of the long ridge. The river was still largely covered by snow, in addition a fairly new bridge had been put in place. The ridge looked long and perhaps a bit disturbing, quite steep at its upper sections. We quickly gained elevation reaching the 600 meter contour with reasonably good skiing. Higher up, the terrain got steeper at the same time as more and more rocks made skiing cumbersome. Eventually, the "skiing" really looked more like "climbing with skis" and it became obvious that the skis would have to go on the backpack. In hindsight, we should also have put on our crampons here. We did not and there were several rather slippery sections higher up that took more time than neccessary due to slightly uncertain footing.
We crossed the top of a rather long snow gully in order to bypass the first and quite distinct hump (small summit) on the ridge. Knowing that the ridge turned into very steep cliffs on our left, we continued to explore a route ascending more to the right. The terrain here turned difficult, gaining the ridge required climbing and a continued traverse would leave us steadily further below the top ridge. Quite a bit of time wasted with little progress as I explored a steep gully that became difficult near its top end. Eventually, I walked back to the spot just above the saddle and explored a route up left. Voila!, just turning an easy corner and the continuation further uphill on top of the main ridge was obvious. Lesson learned yet another time: "Do explore possible continuations also were you think the route would not go, sometimes it does."
We continued on foot up the main ridge, sometimes a bit of easy scramble, nothing difficult. The ridge was long and we noticed that time was running. Finally, at 1250 meter, the ridge streched onwards and we could put the skis back on. Delightful skiing on virgin snow, actually surprisingly deep and powder-like snow. How many people ski this ridge in any given year? Probabely very few if any at all. The ridge is pretty long, the drop on either side is very substantial and the view across a large part of Troms is near perfect. This is really a local roof among many peaks scattered in all directions. The clouds were flowing in the valley, however they did not seem capable of climbing our high ridge.
Eventually, we crossed over to the final part of the ridge where the corniced cliffs on our left were replaced by a gentle slope that seemed ever steeper the longer down you looked. A few rolling sections and the final ridge leading to the summit of Vassdalsfjellet, came into view. It looked pretty hairy, narrow and steep with significant drops on either side. I had to remind myself that I was looking at this challenge from the worst possible angle, straight on - cliffs almost always look near impossible this way. Åke was also obviously not pleased with the initial look into our immediate future. "Oh shit", "such a long way and now this" etc.. We curved around the last pointed section of our ridge on the left and skied to a location overlooking the col. I suggested that we would leave the skis as well as our packs, put on crampons, leave the rope behind as well. We were short on time if we ever should catch our flight at Evenes around 1930. My idea was to give it an honest try, if it got too difficult, we simply could not afford the time and thus we would have to turn around.
First, steeply down the snow slope to the col. The snow was deep and pretty uniform, it seemed quite stable despite falling off steeply. I made tracks down to the col and then started up the snow on the opposite side. Our future looked increasingly brighter already. The ridge looked less intimidating from this angle. I had already mapped out a possible route next to a big boulder. It seemed there would be a narrow, wind-blown snow gully leading around it and upwards. Exactly as hoped, the route became clear and I knew that we would get up here without difficulty or risk.
Higher up, the ridge turned into an easy stroll. There was one connecting point where the passage was more narrow, but nothing to write home about. Gradually, we ascended the main bulk of the summit plateau. This mountain was huge, the summit plateau streched out. We walked quite a bit on seemingly almost flat terrain before reaching the point marked on the map. Both very happy with a sense of accomplishment, we reached the summit at 1230, it had taken us 7:45 from the trailhead. Time for chocolate and pictures. No cairn could be seen, deep snow everywhere. I had already decided that our flight would be missed, but this did not affect our good mood and joy when looking around on all the fantastic landscape and nature an ocean of white peaks in all shapes and forms. The flight would require a return to the car around 1500, to descend from here in about 2 hours was quite unrealistic.
The return hike to the skis went quite well and skiing along the ridge could now be done in established tracks. I suggested that we put the crampons back on for the entire descent on foot. This way, a few passages that had caused some concern going up, would likely be quite easy. The skiing ended about 1415, and the long downhill carry started. Overall, this went quite smoothly following the exact route of ascent. Åke enjoyed some Telemark turning down the lower slope while I skied a bit more slowly. The crust was still holding up almost everywhere and before long we were back down by the river. The car was reached at 1615, 11.5 hours after starting. Obviously too late for a drive to Evenes. Åke then came up with what turned out to be a brilliant idea; call the airline and ask if I could fly from Tromsø instead. This was ok'ed (for a nominal fee) and soon we were on our way to Tromsø. I would still make my connecting flight in Bergen and arrive back according to schedule. Åke would then take the renatl car to Evenes and fly the next day. Arriving back in Bergen at midnight, I was very happy about a somewhat long, but very, very nice mountaineering trip in some of the best mountains anywhere in Norway.
Thanks and thanks again to Åke for good company.