South couloir of Geitgallien, Lofoten, Norway

Most of my favourite skiruns make it to the list because they are steep descents, preferably couloirs. The excitement of skiing a slope where complete focus is needed, is simply something special. However, there are more reasons why a descent can stick to my memory. The Northern part of our planet, above the Arctic circle, offers spectacular scenery to make your turns in. When the sun comes out you can often ski almost all the way to the ocean. Combine that with some excellent allround ski mountaineering and Geitgallien on the Lofoten is the place to be!

I had been to the Lofoten twice before. The first time I just started my backcountry adventures and really enjoyed the surroundings of this part of the world. I had heard about Geitgallien but was not ready for that kind of ski mountaineering. The second time I went back to add more itineraries to the list. I skied the South face of Rundfjellet which was beautiful. Being on my own made Geitgallien a risky objective, at least in my mind, and I decided not to go. As a result, I had to come back…

ski touring Geitgallien in beautiful surroundings

ski touring Geitgallien in beautiful surroundings

In April 2016 I went back to the Lofoten together with a group of Italian ski mountaineers. We stayed at the Hammerstad camping in a lovely house and everybody wanted to ski Geitgallien. The week started with overcast and wind but on Saturday April 9 the skies were completely blue. We drove towards Liland and started our ascent of this beautiful mountain. The mountain offers several descents. You can ski back the way you climbed up, there is a traverse around the peak and then, of course, there is the South couloir. Part of the group went for the traverse and the others wanted to ski the couloir. In both cases we would end up on the other side of the mountain, so we parked a car there to make things easier in the afternoon. The ascent started with a pretty long walk through the bushes until we reached the snowline. From there a short walk got us to either a steepish couloir or some scrambling to reach the plateau from where the skinning started. I opted for the scramble and found myself on skins and ski crampons roughly 20 minutes later. The ascent is on the North face of the mountain which meant low temperatures, something very welcoming after the warm days before…

enjoying the spectacular scenery from the summit of Geitgallien

enjoying the spectacular scenery from the summit of Geitgallien

Although Geitgallien is only 1085 meters high, you’ll find yourself in a spectacular alpine setting almost immediately. The skinning was comfortable, although for some reason I used my ski crampons almost all the way up. An hour later I could see the summit which made for extra motivation. With few people in front of me the untouched snow looked very good. Shortly after I found myself on the col where the couloir starts. This, however, is not the summit and I had to enjoy the spectacular view from the top myself before stepping into my skis. I followed the bootpack to the saddle where I took a break and waited for the Italians who had made another ascent first. These guys were like true mountain goats!

When some of the guys convinced me to climb the steep final part to the summit to ski down, I put my skis to my backpack and got the crampons and ice axe out. Some 100 meters or so, reaching 48 degrees at the upper part, were ahead of me. Once on the summit I witnessed some of the most spectacular panoramas I have ever seen. Mountains covered with snow rising literally out of the water made a phenomenal sight!

Next, I had to descent. By now the mountain had become relatively crowded. It was a Saturday and both the snow and weather were great, resulting in quite a few ski mountaineers. So, when skiing down the steep face from the summit, I had to be very careful not to fall and take climbers with me on the way down. The upper part was almost ruined by previous skiers resulting in some hardpack to icy conditions. I traversed carefully passed the sketchy section before enjoying some steep turns. By now, time had finally come to ski the South couloir!

skiing the South couloir of Geitgallien

skiing the South couloir of Geitgallien

The group of Italians had been split into two by now. Half of the group went for the traverse and the other bunch was waiting at the entrance of the couloir. Amongst the bunch were some strong skiers and climbers but above all they were a lot of fun to hang out with even though we were lost in translation many times…

By the time we started skiing the couloir the sun had been out for a while which clearly affected the snow. In terms of snow conditions it would have made more sense to ski the North face but that’s not as steep and who can resist skiing with a beautiful fjord in the background! The couloir is not that steep at all, probably a pretty consistent 35 degrees all the way down. We didn’t have first tracks but we were all alone during the descent. At the bottom of the couloir we had to do some serious ‘survival skiing’. A mix of heavy snow, bushes and rocks resulted in complicated skiing. Once the bottom of the snowline was reached, we put skis on the backpack and walked down towards the water were a nice picknick table was found…

the guys chilling out after skiing the South couloir of Geitgallien

the guys chilling out after skiing the South couloir of Geitgallien

After a beautiful day I could tick another descent of my list, oh yeah! Geitgallien proved to be an amazing adventure and great day out. The mountain offers a little bit of everything to make it an allround ski mountaineering objective. First of all, you’re in a spectacular setting that feels like you’re in the high alpine even though you’re only a few feet above sea level. Then, you’ll probably use several ways to ascent where most of your tools will be needed at some point during the climb. You’ll find yourself walking through bushes before a nice scramble awaits. Of course the inevitable skinning takes the majority of the ascent where ski crampons might come in handy at times. The final part regular crampons and even an ice axe will be very helpful. The view from the summit is hard to describe, it’s that beautiful. The skiing is also pretty good. A steep (but short) face from the summit will be followed by another slightly less steep face to the entrance of the couloir. The couloir is quite long and consistent with fantastic surroundings. Once, at the bottom you’ll have quite a long walk back to the parking where you’ve hopefully parked a car in the morning…

One Response to South couloir of Geitgallien, Lofoten, Norway

  1. ALESSANDRO says:

    We realy had a good day in Norway on that mountain, blue and White the colors, Amazing shight looking the colours of ours outdoor garments glazing in the flashing light of the norvegian sun on the snow.

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