Tonje's Travelogue 10: Scaling the mighty West Wall in Åndalsnes
Our trip to Åndalsnes started out with a bit of a mix up and our planned via ferrata on the intro wall was booked too early for us to make. We had been looking forward to this and were pretty bummed until Ivar from Tindesenteret had an alternative suggestion.
- "We have a guide who can take you on a sunset trip", he said
- "Sounds great", we said
- "Ok, then it is booked to climb Vestveggen tomorrow at 1500" came the chirpy reply
As sheer panic set in, we put on our bravest faces and said "Thank you so much". Why the panic you ask? We had seen a video from Vestveggen before our trip that made me almost faint and I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. Even my ex-army boyfriend said that it seemed a little extreme and scary, but he somehow still convinced me that we'd be fine.
Would you dare to climb here?
Stubborn as we are, we could of course not let such an insane opportunity pass us by, and tried to psych ourselves up as positively as possible for what was to come.
The essence of a Via Ferrata is a steel cable that runs along the route and is periodically fixed to the rock. Using a Via Ferrata kit, climbers can secure themselves to the cable, limiting any fall. The cable can also be used as an aid to climbing, and additional climbing aids, such as iron rungs (stemples), pegs, carved steps, and even ladders and bridges are often provided. Thus Via Ferratas allow otherwise dangerous routes to be undertaken without the risks associated with unprotected scrambling and climbing or the need for climbing equipment such as ropes.
Romsdalsstigen Via Ferrata consists of two climbing trails bolted to the side of the mountain. The Intro wall and the West wall, are both tailored with steel wires and iron steps. With the right equipment, you can challenge yourself by climbing up the rock wall without being a mountaineer.
The Intro wall is a climbing trip of 3-4 hours, suitable if you want to try climbing in Via Ferrata for the first time. No previous knowledge is required, but you should be in normally good physical shape. The route has been classified with a difficulty degree B in the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation Via Ferrata scale.
The west wall is a longer and more challenging climb of 5-6 hours up to the mountain summit Nesaksla with a couple of overhangs, exposed faces, and a wire bridge to navigate. Having next to zero climbing experience we decided to give this a go (thankfully we went with a guide) with Ivar and other employees at Tindesenteret promising that we would not regret it.
The trip starts with a 30-minute walk up through the town and into the woods. It was all pretty casual but the closer we got, the more anxious we became. Eager not to lose face (to each other, or our guide) we donned our harnesses, gloves, and helmets and listened tentatively to the instruction and demonstration from our super-guide Håkon.
What followed over the course of the next 7 hours (we took an extra hour for Tonjes constant photo stops) can only be described as one of the most intense, humbling, tiring, and transcending experiences of our lives. The route has been classified with a difficulty degree D in the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation Via Ferrata scale, and we felt it on our bodies!
Even for someone who usually does not have a fear of heights, hanging above the ground with a 300-meter free fall below you gives a horror-mixed joy.
The most amazing view, the experience, and not least our wonderful guide Håkon made this a memory for life. You gain an incredible perspective of what lures climbers into the mountains and it is an experience we cannot recommend highly enough.
When we came down from the mountain again, with shaky legs and arms, full of impressions and adrenaline, it was midnight and dark. A couple of sausages from a petrol station saved two hungry and tired bodies before we found our bed at the campsite.
Have you been inspired to also climb a Via Ferrata in Norway? There are many options all over the country, find a challenge that suits you here!
Douglas and Tonje
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