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Various mountains in Skamdalen / Storsteinsfjellet area, Nordland, North Norway

In July 2003 I was fortunate to visit the Skamdalen / Storsteinsfjellet mountains, in Nordland, and mostly experienced very good weather. There were a few days of rain, but the weather was often spectacularly good. Camping at 780 m near Lossivatnet I recorded a temperature of 26.4ºC, and relative humidity of 37%, on 26 July.

I have filed a separate report on an ascent of Huinarcohkka (1,788 m) on 17 July. This is a brief summary of other ascents.

On 19 July I climbed Tverrdalsfjellet (1,239 m) and attempted a north-south traverse of the long Mattacorru ridge (highest top 1,457 m) which extends to Suorjecohkka (1,534 m) and Stortinden (1,351 m). These mountains are on the west side of Skamdalen. A report from the Oxford University Mountaineering Club visit in 1957 describes the ridge as "continuously narrow, but rarely more than a walk". From my camp in Skamdalen one could see the almost unbroken cliffs running all the way along the east face of Mattacorru. Reaching the summit of Tverrdalsfjellet was slightly awkward, with some scrambling on rather loose rocks as one approached the summit from the east. Heading south to Mattacorru the ridge was good, but rough in places, with a few sections of easy scrambling. I reached a northern top (606799E, 7574504N, 1,445 m) about ½ km short of Mattacorru's highest top. At that point there was a notch in the ridge where a rappel was required—I did not have a rope. There was the unattractive alternative of climbing down a steep chimney and slab underneath the chimney, and I was unwilling to attempt this option. On the east side of the notch there was a cliff, and an attempt to outflank the notch on the west side led to a gully that could not be crossed without a rope. I had to return the way I had come. It is possible that there may be other obstacles further south on the ridge.

On 23 July I made a preliminary investigation of the Nihkevarri ridge, but was stopped by the weather. From a camp near Lossivatnet I reached the col (1,210 m), previously reached from Nihkejavri on 17 July, between Huinarcohkka and Nihkevarri. From there it was easy to gain the subsidiary rounded top of Nihkevarri (1,338 m), where the main ridge starts. At that stage the weather changed abruptly. Heavy rain started, followed by a thunderstorm. Then thick mist blew in from the west. Although I waited for a while to see if the weather would improve, it was prudent to retire. Nihkevarri's ridge is obviously challenging in places, and the lichen-covered rock had become extremely slippery in the rain.

After a further wet day at my Lossivatnet camp, I completed an ascent of Rienatcohkka (1,558 m) and peak 1,717 m in the Storsteinsfjellet group on 25 July 2003. I had previously been on these mountains in 1986, but had forgotten the entertainment on the north ridge of Rienatcohkka leading down to the intervening col. After a lot of loose rock there is a short clean section where the ridge is so narrow that it has to be straddled. I reached peak 1,717 m at 18:00 hrs, and had superb conditions for a planned bivouac. I had brought stove and dinner, and the lowest temperature that I recorded overnight was 7.8ºC. By this stage in my visit I was a few days beyond the point where the sun was continuously above the horizon. The interval between sunset and sunrise was about 1½ hours. There were magnificent photographic opportunities in the small hours, including the image of one glacier that turned crimson as it caught the first rays of the sun in the morning. Attempts to get some sleep were hindered by the singing of various small birds that were hopping around the summit boulder-field. The night on a bare mountain was an awesome experience. Half-stupefied, I managed to drag myself away from the summit at 08:00 hrs.

During this trip I was in the mountains for a total of 12 nights. I spent the last night in a hut in preparation for my return to civilisation. The remaining nights were spent in a tent or, in the case of one night referred to above, in the open. It is worth commenting that the camping during this trip was quite delightful. There were many flowers, birds and butterflies, and even the mosquitoes and black-fly did not seem too much of a nuisance. At my higher camp at Lossivatnet there was often enough breeze to keep the insects away. I had not previously visited the area in high summer, and I was surprised just how pleasant the conditions were. In such good weather camping greatly enhanced one's appreciation of the mountains.

Alan Law

04 August 2003

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