Ascent of Kaldbakur on 2016-05-17

Climber: Greg Slayden

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad
Pål Bjørstad
Date:Tuesday, May 17, 2016
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Elevation:3848 ft / 1172 m

Ascent Trip Report

We had just done a long but relatively easy hike of Grjótskálarhnjúkur, but we still wanted to get some skiing done on the surrounding snowy peaks on this gorgeous blue-sky day. So we drove on dirt Route 835 a short way to paved Route 83 and small village of Grenivik on the scenic fjord of Eyjafjörður, thinking about Kaldbakur, the large nearby peak that I recalled had a reputation as a classic ski trip. (There are several Kaldbakur mountains in Iceland, this is the one northwest of Akureyri.)

In town we first looked for a restaurant, but the only place, a section of grocery store, was closed, so our lunch was just some store-bought food. The friendly proprietor showed us a map and photo of the best ski route on Kaldbakur—despite the late hour, it definitely looked feasible for an evening trip for a time and place where it would never get totally dark.

So after a quick bite we drove north out of Grenivik on a poor dirt road for a short bit, the key being to get across a small canyon on a rickety bridge. Not far past the bridge we saw a snowfield a short ways above, so we parked and started getting ready for our second trip of the day. Petter and Pål both took their telemark skis, as they had on Hvannadalshnúkur, to save weight on their feet, but used skins, not klister. I was fine with hiking the short way to the snow in my ski boots.

We left the car at 3:15 PM and after a short grassy hike past a small pond we were at the bottom point of a jagged snowfield, shaped a bit like a lightning bolt in a small brook valley. We had to be careful of the undercut stream tunnel, but otherwise it provided continuous snow access for our skins, all the way up to the massive white slopes on the southwest slopes of Kaldbakur. I led for most of the way up, and we were all dragging a bit after the exertions of the morning.

Up high we encountered a huge snow-cat track, used by guide services to haul tourists and skiers up the mountain, and I followed it off to the side, avoiding its hard crusty surface as it gradually climbed up the south ridge of the peak. I was excited when the road approached a craggy summit, thinking it was the peak, but instead another kilometer of flat plateau skiing was required to reach the actual summit cairn.

I was on top just before 6 PM, a bit behind Petter and Pål with their light skis and superior technique on flat ground. Despite the last flat bit, this summit was actually quite small and narrow and dropped off quite a bit to the north, east, and west. It was, as usual, a bit cold and windy with the evening chill, but the views were expansive in all directions.

Petter and Pål left before I was ready, so I remained and took my time of the summit, since I knew I would likely catch up with them on the downhill. So I enjoyed being all alone on a major Icelandic peak, eating some snacks, switching my ski gear to downhill mode, and signing the summit register book while taking in the experience. I had no camera, having lost it in the car temporarily, so there was no distraction of photography as I gazed out to the fjord below.

I left the summit at about 6:20 PM, first poling my way across the flat icy plateau that was the start of the south ridge. At the first real drop I let loose and started carving effortless turns on the evening snow, a mixture of nicely-gripping ice crystals up high and velvet slushy corn a bit lower. It was a sublime ski experience—stunningly beautiful fjord scenery, transcendent evening light, a huge untracked slope to explore, and perfect cruising snow. For pure fun, this may have been the best ski run of my life.

A little ways down I stopped briefly to say “hi” to the only other person we saw on the mountain all day, a lone skier heading doggedly uphill, perhaps on an after-work jaunt. Not long after that I caught up with Petter and Pål. Petter was mostly traversing and kick-turning, and Pål was staying with him, but when I cruised by Pål followed, making nice telemark turns in my wake. We halted occasionally to let Petter catch up, finally navigating to the jagged snowfield leading to our car. A few careful slushy turns brought us to our take-out spot. Pål and I rested on the grass, expecting a long wait, but Petter came down the narrow snowfield expertly, saying he was traversing above to save his energy for turns on the narrow snow below he knew he’d need to make.

So I was taking my skis off at 6:50 PM, after a half-hour decent of 1000 meters. A short hike on grass past the little pond brought us to the car, and as quickly as we could we threw our gear in and headed south to Grenivik and then Route 1 to nearby Akureyri, the largest city in Iceland outside the Reykjavik metro area. There we secured a fourth-floor three-bed private room in the “Backpackers Hostel” on Hafnarstraeti, and, after getting cleaned up, we had a very nice meal at the pricey Strikið restaurant around the corner on Skipagata. It was Norwegian Independence day, and my companions were happy to celebrate that as well as climbing 2 very prominent peaks with a total gain of 2300 meters.

Continue to the next report for our Iceland trip.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3684 ft / 1122 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3684 ft / 1122 m
    Round-Trip Distance:7.1 mi / 11.4 km
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Open Country, Snow on Ground
    Gear Used:
Skis, Ski Poles
    Weather:Cold, Windy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3684 ft / 1122 m
    Distance:3.5 mi / 5.6 km
    Route:S Ridge
    Start Trailhead:164 ft / 49 m
    Time:2 Hours 40 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:3684 ft / 1122 m
    Distance:3.6 mi / 5.8 km
    End Trailhead:164 ft / 49 m
    Time:40 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.

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