Ingvar Loco Nordin & Anna Nygren
Lisa's Helmet Hike
(Mårma - Three Pass Trail 2011)

The Sentry Mountain (Vaktposten) and Lake 1226

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Chapter 15


Yellow line shows the distance covered in chapter 15, while yellow and red lines combined show the total hiking distance of the day.

6 August 2011 (continuation)

View from The Unna Räita cabin through the eastern part of Unna Reaiddávággi, towardsVisttasvággi Valley

 

The direction to The Pyramid Pass, which lurks in the distance

 

This passage is quite nerve-racking, as you must step on loose gravel on a very steep descent, to get by

 

Anna getting past the loose gravel and rocks

 

Another view down across eastern Unna Reaiddávággi, after the tough passage

 

Eastern Unna Reaiddávággi and tiny remnants of the Knife's Edge's disappearing glacier

At 12:30 PM we had lunch in the cabin, and then just rested, waiting for the mist to dissipate over The Pyramid Pass. That happened at 2:30 PM and we were on our way to the dreaded, anticipated and exciting Pyramid Pass. The Pyramid Pass wall begins about one kilometer from The Unna Räita Cabin, but that is a kilometer of rough land, through a nature that seems to have been wringed and twisted back and forth unduly by furious forces to make it look the way it now appears. First you ford the stream from Lake 1226, as it moves toward the waterfall down into the lake way below in the much lower eastern part of The Unna Reaiddávággi Valley, below the precipice. Then you walk up a small incline and around an all too steep hill with rolling gravel, which you absolutely must avoid slipping from. The visible tracks on that curving path around the hill looked too dangerous, so we scrambled up across in a straighter but draining line. That cleared, we had to deal with the slippery remnants of a glacier coming from up The Knife’s Edge, slanting across our line of approach. This obstacle was diminished by lots of pebbles frozen into the ice, giving us a good grip on things, so we just crossed without further do. The final section up to the wall is a thrown-about field of big, sharp, black, mean rocks that you must engage with care, which we did.

The remnants of The Knife's Edge Glacier slanting, and the Pyramid Pass way over yonder!

 

Your host looking toward The Pyramid Pass, munching a power bar

(photo: anna nygren)

The Knife's Edge (Knivkammen) from the side, and what's left of its glacier

 

Anna preparing for the climb

On reaching the snow that connected to the wall, we sat down to have power bars and water, and I mounted my Petzl crampons, while Anna, on seeing the severity of the laid-bare ice on the wall, decided there and then to have a go at the incredibly steep rock wall to the right (west) of the ice instead.

At the bottom of the climb, which feels much steeper on site than on picture!

At about 4 PM or some minutes after, we stepped onto the actual Pyramid Pass, with no clue as to whether we’d make it up or not. I’d never seen the wall so molten down. I couldn’t see any snow at all, but just different conditions of ice.

Anna rises up the rocky wall of The Pyramid Pass

 

I'm climbing up the ice on my crampons

(photo: anna nygren)

 

Fighting my way up, in spite of fear and fatigue!

(photo: anna nygren)


We parted as Anna went to the right (west) and began feeling out the rock ascent, and I stepped out onto the ice to try my crampons. I felt I could get a firm grip on the ice if I bore down hard, and decided to try getting up a bit just by the vertical line where the ice stopped and the bedrock and the rocks started. This was a wildly curving line, calling for a kind of zigzagging ascent.

Anna

 

It's a brutal rock!

 

Looking down from about half way up the side

To begin with I trudged straight up, trusting in God and all spiritual powers, praying my crampons would get a good enough grip. This was by no means certain, because the incline gets steeper as you get higher, and there were all sorts of ice, like brittle ice that almost exploded below your feet and fell on down with a light shrill sound, and blue, swelling ice formations that were hard to get the crampons into. I felt that this was my moment on this wall though, and that I would go for it all the way. It was a strange, strong, swooping feeling through my anatomy, and I fought on upwards, sometimes halting to rest, leaning forwards into the incline not to loose my balance because of the 23 kilos that my backpack weighed, looking to my right to observe Anna’s ascent a hundred meters away.

 

As I got to a certain stage quite high up on the wall, I could relax, sitting down on a bare section of bedrock, over-viewing the fantastic scenery below and beyond. That was no place for people affected by vertigo, because it was lofty and airy beyond description, with the icy wall stretching down a couple of hundred meters below, extremely steep from where I was sitting, and then slowly curving out like the inside of a huge bowl. I would absolutely not have climbed down in these conditions, but upwards is always easier even though this one wasn’t an easy one, for glaring, screaming sure!

Anna on the edge...

 

Anna wasn’t far below over on her rock climb, and I watched with awe how she crawled up seemingly impossible rock faces, finding cracks for fingers and boots, leaning heavily into the rising rock wall.

 

My intention now was to traverse the ice to the right (west) to climb upwards closer to the bare rocks, where Anna would move up. As I had done three, four meters of the traversing, with nothing but incredibly steep ice below me, one foot slipped, and for a horrifying second I felt I might fall, but I got a grip with the other foot and my sticks, and walked slowly backwards to the place I’d been resting. My heart was beating wildly, but luckily Anna, who was totally focused on her own ascent, hadn’t noticed the incident.

 

Approaching the pass threshold

(photo: anna nygren)

I estimated my chances, and tried the ice right up above from where I sat on the rock. It appeared, on closer inspection, that the fifteen or twenty steep, really steep, meters up to safety in the shape of the final line of rocks before the top of the pass had a pretty nice snow cover over the ice, so I gathered all my strength and set out straight up, the shortest (and steepest…) line I could find, and almost ran upwards with he weight of my backpack making me feel like the hulk, the way I gave everything for that short ascent. I was up in a jiffy grabbing on to those wonderful, wonderful black rocks, panting madly for a couple of minutes, where after I could guide Anna’s last dangerous passage from the right (west) on to those treasured rocks. I had a better view from my vantage point than she from hers, but in a short while she was home free too, and we would have jumped for joy, had we had more safe space for such signs of jubilation. We knew we had made it; that we had climbed The Pyramid Pass during really hard ice conditions, and Anna even on the rock face, although we had maybe fifty meters or so to the actual highest point of the pass, but the rest included no danger at all, no tricky parts, no risks. We calmly and happily eased on up the last part, and went up to the top cairn.

Anna almost up on top The Pyramid Pass!

 

Yes!!!

 

At 5:10 PM we stood at the top cairn; a big, tall construction, and Anna scribbled words of love and our names on a piece of paper, rolled it up an inserted it into the cairn, in a crack between the stones, like my son Ivan did a couple of weeks ago at The Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, where he’d travelled with Birthright Israel from his home in Baltimore, Maryland. I was really moved when he told me this on a Skype chat we had from a family’s house he was staying at just outside Jerusalem. I was moved when Anna inserted that message into The Pyramid Pass Cairn too.

 

 

 

Anna scribbling words of love

 

Inserting and leaving words of love inside The Pyramid Pass Cairn!

 

We put the camera on a rock and photographed ourselves by the cairn with the camera timer, and then the rain suddenly hit. We managed to take some pictures back the way we’d come, and got our rain gear out, beginning the descent into Kaskasavagge (Gaskkasvággi) Valley, where we aimed to camp.

 

Anna and Loco at the Pyramid Pass Cairn in front of The Knife's Edge

 

No matter what else would happen on this hike, we’d gone through with the two things we’d wanted to do, even long before we met, i.e. climbing The Mårma Pass and The Pyramid Pass. I had done it against the odds of my wounded toes, through intense and meticulous care; Anna against the odds of her sometimes hurting back and hips. We felt great!

 

Lakes 1226 and its unnamed fellow lake below, viewed from The Pyramid Pass

 

If you look hard at this telephoto you might make out The Unna Räita Cabin down by Lake 1226

 

Here is Anna’s account of The Pyramid Pass ascent (in Swedish, followed by my English translation):

“Nu skulle det äntligen bli av. Det, inte utan viss bävan, så efterlängtade Pyramidpasset skulle bestigas. Inför min vandring 2010 hade jag gjort en noggrann research och planerat att gå Trepassleden från Tarfala till Unna Räita, men efter att ha gått i tre dagar, över Tjeuralauko i storm och sedan Tarfalapasset i fantastiskt väder, utan att möta en enda människa, kände jag att Pyramidpasset fick stå över till ett annat år när jag var i bättre fysisk form. Det beslutet ledde till att jag i stället anlände till Nallo samma dag son Ingvar kom dit, och se vad det fick för konsekvenser…
Men nu var det alltså dags. Vi hade kommit fram till den plats där det var dags för Ingvar att spänna på sig stegjärnen och ge sig ut på glaciären medan jag skulle klättra uppför klipporna till höger. Jag hade visserligen både stavar och broddar, men jag hyser en stark förkärlek för att gå på sten i stället för snö och is så jag tänkte ge det en chans. Jag blandade en energidryck och åt en halv proteinbar och sen var det dags. Vi uppmanade varandra att ta det försiktigt och så inledde vi uppstigningen.

Det såg oerhört brant ut, det måste erkännas. Långa, släta hällar i ett rostbrunt stenmaterial varvades med sektioner av grus och block. Det gällde att hitta områden där det gick att komma över hällarna och ta sig till stenområdena emellan, och att undvika de platser där det sipprade vatten och kunde bli halkigt. Jag märkte ganska snart att packningen i mitt välfyllda topplock hindrade mig från att böja bak huvudet tillräckligt mycket för att överblicka vägen upp (och det var kanske lika bra!). Hällarna var branta och släta men, som genom Guds försyn, var de försedda med små sprickhyllor, 2-3 centimeter breda, där jag, efter att ha borstat bort sand och grus och böjt upp benet så långt det bara gick, kunde få fotfäste. Mina nya byxor T&P Flexibel från ITAB levde verkligen upp till texten i katalogen och det lätta tyget i fyrvägsstretch tillät hur mycket böjning som helst utan att strama (och jag avskyr verkligen byxor som stramar över knäna när man blir svettig och klättrar uppför!)

Ytterligare någon meter upp gick det att hitta en lite skåra att borra in fingertopparna i och sedan, efter att ha provat på om fästet verkligen räckte, ta i med alla samlade krafter och häva mig upp. Här gick det bit för bit, med full koncentration, utan utrymme för misstag eller halkningar. Jag fick lite känslan av att här finns ingen återvändo, nu är det uppför som gäller, för att backa och gå utför igen kändes helt omöjligt. Jag var glad över mitt beslut att inte gå utför här ensam, vilket var förra årets plan. Det kändes bra att ha Ingvar med, som kunde hämta hjälp om olyckan, trots min försiktighet, skulle vara framme. Det var sannerligen ingen trängsel i det här passet! Jag var även oerhört tacksam över det fantastiska fästet på de nya sulorna som Lundhags skomakare lagt på mina trogna gamla vandringkängor under vintern. Jag kände snart att jag kunde lita på dem till hundra procent, även över de hällar där det inte fanns några springor att söka fäste i. Mellan hällarna sökte jag mig till höger över stenarna för att hitta en bra linje över nästa sektion. Jag har alltid älskat att klättra på stenar och hällar där jag stött på dem i min vardagsnatur, men det här kändes lite som en barndomsdröm, att få utmana mig själv och ”tvingas” klättra vidare när det hela tiden är lite på gränsen till vad som känns säkert, när det inte går att ångra sig när man väl tagit ”språnget” och hävt sig upp, ytterligare en bit.

'Anna, titta på utsikten!' ropade Ingvar när vi under en sektion närmade oss varandra. Jag vände mig om och drabbades av svindel! Snabbt återtog jag min position med magen mot berget och trevade mig fram till en hylla som erbjöd säkrare fotfäste. Då vände jag mig om och med ryggsäcken hårt tryckt mot berget avnjöt jag den fantastiska utsikten. Det var brant! Det var stort! Det var magnifikt! Jag kände mig som en fluga högst uppe på kanten av en enorm vispskål, och i botten på den skålformade dalen skar stupet i Unna Räita av de två sjöarna från varandra. Den utsikten var värd varenda meter av vägen hit.
När vi kom till det ställe där klipporna skär långt in i glaciären landade Ingvar på stenarna en stund och vi utbytte tankar om vägvalet, drack några klunkar och Ingvar hjälpte mig att dra bak topplocket en bit så att jag skulle kunna se bättre. Sedan fortsatte vi. Jag fick återigen dra mig långt till höger för att så småningom runda glaciärens övre del. Det såg brant ut på håll, men som alltid går det att hitta bra linjer att följa när man väl kommer närmare. Sen var det bara en liten bit i blockterräng kvar innan vi, oerhört lyckliga, stod vid toppröset! Även om Mårmapasset var högre så var det här verkligen vandringens höjdpunkt!”

And my English translation of Anna’s description:

“The time had come. We would climb the anticipated Pyramid Pass. I had conducted a meticulous research before my hike in 2010, and planned to tread The Three Pass Trail from Tarfala to Unna Räita, but after having hiked three days – across Čievrraláhku in a storm and then through The Tarfala Pass in fantastic weather, without meeting a single person, I felt that The Pyramid Pass would have to wait till another year when I’d be in a better physical shape. That decision instead meant that I arrived at Nallo the same day Ingvar came there, and note the consequences…

So now it was due time. We’d come to the place where it was time for Ingvar to mount his crampons and head out onto the glacier, while I was to climb up the rocks. I did bring both sticks and spikes, but I have a great weakness for walking on rocks instead of snow and ice, so I’d decided to give it a go. I mixed an energy drink and munched half a protein bar, before hitting it. We told each other to be careful, and then we commenced the climb.

It looked incredibly steep, I have to admit. Long, smooth rust-brown slabs of bedrock were intersected with sections of gravel and boulders. I had to detect areas where I could traverse or climb the slabs to get to the sections of stones in between, and avoid places where water trickled, making conditions slippery. I soon discovered that the contents of my stuffed top section of my backpack prevented me from bending my neck backwards enough to estimate my way up (and perhaps for the good!). The slabs were steep and smooth, but as by the mercy of God, equipped with narrow, horizontal shelf-cracks, about 2 – 3 centimeters wide, from where I brushed off sand and gravel, bending my knee as much as I could to get a footing. My new pants – T & P Flexible from ITAB - really complied with the description in the catalog, as the light garment in fourway stretch allowed any amount of bending without tightening (and I really hate trousers that tighten across the knees when you get sweaty climbing)

Yet another meter upwards I could find a tiny chip to bore my fingertips into, and after trying the validity of the grip, pull myself up with all my might. I did this bit by bit, in full concentration, without any room for error or slips. I sort of got the feeling that there was no turning back; it was only upwards and nothing else, because backing down felt completely impossible. I was happy about my decision not to hike here alone, which had been my plan last year. It felt good to have Ingvar along, who could get help if an accident struck in spite of my cautiousness. The pass was by no means crowded! I was also grateful for the fantastic grip of the new soles that Lundhags' shoemaker had equipped my trustworthy old hiking boots with back in winter. I soon felt I could trust them 100%, even across slabs of bedrock where there were no cracks to seek support in. Between the slabs I oriented myself to the right across the boulders to find a good line over to the next section. I’ve always love to climb across rocks and slabs of rock where I’ve come across them in my every day nature, but this felt somewhat like a childhood dream, to challenge myself and “be forced to” climb on further, a little across the limits of safety, when you can’t change your mind after you’ve “taken the leap” and hoisted yourself up.

'Anna, watch the view!' Ingvar yelled when we approached each other during one part of the climb. I turned around and was hit by vertigo! I quickly resumed my position with my stomach against the mountain, feeling my way on to a ledge with a more secure footing. Then I turned around with my backpack pressing hard against the mountainside, enjoying the fantastic view. It was steep! It was magnificent! It was grand! I felt like a fly high up on top of the rim of an enormous whip bowl, and down at the bottom of the bowl-shaped valley the precipice of Unna Räita cut the two lakes off from each other. That view was worth every meter of the way there!

When we reached the place where the rocks cut deep into the glacier, Ingvar landed on the rocks for a while, and we exchanged thoughts of the choice of lines upwards and sipped some water, and Ingvar helped me adjust the top section of my backpack so I could see better. Then we continued. I had to pull off way to the right again to finally round the upper part of the glacier. It looked steep from a distance, but as always I could find useful lines to chose when I got up close. Then there was just a shorter section through cliffs and rocks before we, overjoyed, stood by the top cairn. Even if The Mårma Pass had been higher, this really was the climax of the hike!”

The descent into Kaskasavagge introduced rocks and rocks and rocks, sometimes displayed steeply, sometimes less steeply, now wet and slippery, but we enjoyed the support of a few snowfields into which we bored our heels, descending lightly in the rain. I remembered - from the time I ascended this slope, going up to The Pyramid Pass from down in Kaskasavagge in 2008 with that German chap - where we had to get off the snow onto the rocks to avoid a precipice, and from that point it wasn’t a big deal down onto level valley-bottom ground. Besides, I’d been staring longingly at an enlargement of a photo of the valley and this ascent taken by myself from the pass between Kuopervagge (Guobirvággi) and Kaskasavagge (Gaskkasvággi), which I took in 2008, that hangs over my desk in my office at work, so I was overly familiar with the traits and joys of the vicinity.

There is a small, elevated area right in the valley, and that’s where we pitched our red tents, lighting up the grey and brown land considerably. We were ready to retreat into the tents from the rain before 9 PM, and we settled in.

Our camping site in the middle of The Kaskasavagge (Gaskkasvággi) Valley

 


To chapter 16

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