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The celebrated Troll Wall (1742m), Romsdal Valley, Norway, in late winter, showing the (very) approximate line of Suser gjennom Harryland (VI A3 5.10b, 18 pitches, Halvor Hagen-Kyrre Ostbo, 1996). From March 15-25 Norwegians Sigurd Backe, Rolf Bae, Sigurd Felde and Trym A. Saland made the route’s first quasi-winter and third overall ascent. Since the big rock falls of 1998 and 2003, the 1100-meter Troll Wall, Europe’s tallest vertical rock face, is rarely climbed in summer. [Photo] Lindsay Griffin

As readers of Aslak Aastorp’s “Troll Stories” (Issue 7) know, Norway’s 1100-meter-high Troll Wall (1742m), in the Romsdal Valley, has seen better days. The wall, Europe’s tallest vertical rock face, has been falling apart in recent years, a phenomenon perhaps encouraged by global warming, which melts the ice that holds the wall together. In September 2006 a spontaneous rock explosion let loose with such force it measured at 2.5 on the Richter scale; another enormous rock event occurred in 2003. Rockfall severely limits activity on the Troll Wall these days, though the Swedish Route (VI 5.11a, c950m, 22 pitches, Johansson-Nilsson, 1978) still gets climbed (there were three ascents in 2006) and last year a Russian team is believed to have climbed the French Route.

This past March, over a period of eleven days (March 15-25–technically finishing outside the official winter season), Norwegians Sigurd Backe, Rolf Bae, Sigurd Felde and Trym A. Saland made the first quasi-winter and third overall ascent of Suser gjennom Harryland (VI A3 5.10b, 18 pitches, Halvor Hagen-Kyrre Ostbo, 1996) on the Troll Wall (Trollvegen). The team planned to try a winter ascent of the French Route (5.10d A4, 1,200m, 37 pitches, Boussard-Brunet-Cordier-Deck-Frehel, 1967) but high avalanche danger, resulting from long periods of unsettled weather, made this impractical. Instead they opted for probably the safest route on the Trollvegen, Suser gjennom Harryland, which lies on the far left side of the wall, where the rock is grey, compact and very steep. This wall tops out about half way up the East Pillar (VI 5.9/5.10, ca. 1500m, Ralph Hoibakk-Arne Randers-Heen, 1958), from where a rappel descent is made. This is significant in winter: other routes that reach the summit generally require a long descent in deep snow down the far side of the peak to a different valley and a road, which in common with all roads here in winter, will be closed.

Suser gjennom Harryland is a line from a song by the Norwegian group, Dum Dum Boys, and approximately translates as “cruising through redneck country.” It remained unrepeated until July 2006, when Russians Pavel Fedorov, David Gindiya, Grigory Kochetkov, Maxime Nechitayio and Denis Savelyev attempted what they thought was Baltica (VI 5.10 A3, 1300m, Odintsov-Potanikin, 1997), immediately right of Suser gjennom Harryland. However, near the top of the initial steep wall they reported being unable to find the continuation and eventually finished up the 1965 Norwegian route. Local climbers saw the Russians actually climbing the line of Suser gjennom Harryland and not Baltica, but they were unable to meet up with them after the ascent.

Because the route has a number of traverses across overhanging rock, the four Norwegians fixed six-mil rope across the two main traverse sections in order to ensure a safe descent. They made portaledge camps at the top of pitches 5 and 10, and found the most difficult pitches to involve extensive sections of sky- and bathooking, made more difficult due to snow/ice on the rock. During the first half of the route visibility was poor due to spindrift and generally unsociable weather, but it improved considerably for the upper section of the climb. Temperatures averaged between -5 and -10 degrees C.