Ascent of Ólafsfjarðarfjall on 2016-05-18

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad
Pål Bjørstad
----Only Party on Mountain
Date:Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:3461 ft / 1054 m

Ascent Trip Report

Wednesday, May 18th:

We slept in a bit this morning, a good idea given our considerable exertions yesterday, and after a buffet breakfast in the restaurant of our hostel in downtown Akureyri, we loaded up the car and headed off to the west, searching for another 600m prominence peak to ski. Our initial objective was Varmavatnshólafjall, just off of Highway 1, but we changed our minds when we saw that the prominent peak of Ólafsfjarðarfjall, up north, might be accessible. So we went north on Route 82 to the village of Ólafsfjorður, via a harrowing one-lane tunnel with turnouts, and then turned south on Route 805 towards the peak. We knew this road was closed at some point by snow, and when the final blockage came, after a few kilometers, we thought we were too far from the summit.

So we returned to Ólafsfjorður and took a set of brand new tunnels on Route 76 to Sigiufjorður and then around a headland south to the other end of snow-closed route 805, which led south to the Stifluyvatn lake. Here it appeared that the slopes looked good, with gentle snow running right down to the road, so we parked, got ready and set off, at 12:45 PM. Today, Petter took his randonnee gear and Pål his heavy plastic telemark boots and fat skis, so we could all be fast on the downhill run.

The first part of our skinning uphill was typical gentle open-slope Icelandic touring. We had no map, just a GPS summit point, so at first we took the line of least resistance, due east, and then encountered snow-cat and snowmobile tracks heading south. We followed these, then climbed a tricky icy ridge, and then lost a bit of elevation. A nice-looking rocky peak ahead looked like the summit, and Petter and Pål, way ahead of me, started to climb it. Pål was almost on top as I approached and Petter yelled back to ask me how far away the summit was by my GPS. When I replied it was a kilometer away, it was clear that Pål was climbing a false summit (Breiðarkollur).

So Petter took off, losing elevation to approach the hulking mass of the main peak ahead. I followed the best I could, and Pål came last, since he had to remove his skins to descend from his false summit and then put them back on. Eventually Petter started angling up the very steep west slopes of Ólafsfjarðarfjall, which appeared to be a flat-topped massif with no easy ridges allowing access.

By this time Pål had now passed us and he started making a skin track up the 40-degree snow slopes. It was tricky going on icy snow—there were no rocks or crevasses below, but a tumble down the slope would be unpleasant and we didn’t want to fall. Petter and I found ourselves slipping sideways and backwards, so eventually we decided to take off our skis and boot up the slope. Petter carried his skis, and I lashed mine to my pack, making me a bit unstable, but the snow was good for kick-stepping.

Tired, I arrived at the broad summit plateau of Ólafsfjarðarfjall, and, as usual, the Norwegians were way faster then I on the kilometer of flat travel due to their inborn technique—today I didn’t have the excuse of their lighter gear. I plodded along westward the best I could—the plateau has two sections, and we had to lose and gain about 30 meters to get from the western lobe to the eastern one. I finally arrived at the summit, a very flat point of featurelessness, the only landmark a tall, spindly wooden pyramid that apparently is a trig marker.

Petter left the summit area first, since I needed a longer break, and Pål stayed behind with me. We then peeled off our skins and did the icy poling and skating across the summit plateau, and I had to take my skis off to hike up the 30 meters to the eastern lobe. Once across that we reached the lip of the steep slope, where I carefully locked down my heels and boots and took the plunge. It was certainly a steep 100 meter drop, but the snow was smooth and held my edges, and I carefully turned down the slope, right behind Pål. I enjoy steep skiing and this was a lot of fun for me.

We got to the bottom of the steep slope and looked for Petter, but he was high above, having lost a ski while making a turn—perhaps his bindings were set too loose. He soon had his ski back on from his awkward perch and quickly joined Pål and me below.

The rest of the skiing back to the car was easy and fun. The day was a bit overcast and warm, and there was no spectacular fjord scenery like yesterday, but it was still a great run. Petter, on his randonnee gear, kept up with Pål and me with no problems. We took a lower traverse line than our approach to avoid any uphill, and when we were above the car we headed down the fall line. The bottom 200 meters or so of slope was deep slushy mush—I fell down just standing it while resting. It was nice to be able to ski right to the car, too, for the first time on our trip. We were back by 4:30 PM.

The peak of Ólafsfjarðarfjall was probably the most obscure and remote of the ones we climbed on our Iceland trip, and the steep slopes guarding the summit will be an obstacle in winter or summer. Another route, pehaps from the northeast, might be easier. We didn’t see a soul all day on the peak.

After getting our boots off and all our gear in the car, we headed back on route 82 to the main road of Route 76, which we followed west to the town of Sauðarkrókur. There we procured a nice room in the Mikligarður Guesthouse and dinner in the Asian themed “Hard Wok” café just down the street. After organizing my gear a bit in the room and checking email, I went for a short walk around town, including up a path to a hilltop cemetery.

Continue to the next report for our Iceland trip.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3395 ft / 1033 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3395 ft / 1034 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.2 mi / 11.6 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Snow on Ground, Snow Climb
    Gear Used:
Ice Axe, Skis, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cool, Windy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3264 ft / 994 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 3034 ft / 924 m; Extra: 230 ft / 70m
    Loss on way in:230 ft / 70 m
    Distance:3.6 mi / 5.8 km
    Route:W Route
    Start Trailhead:427 ft / 130 m
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3165 ft / 964 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 3034 ft / 924 m; Extra: 131 ft / 39m
    Gain on way out:131 ft / 39 m
    Distance:3.6 mi / 5.8 km
    Route:W Route
    End Trailhead:427 ft / 130 m
    Time:55 Minutes
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Greg Slayden
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file

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