Jökull - 01.12.1952, Blaðsíða 31

Jökull - 01.12.1952, Blaðsíða 31
well east oí the peak. We moved some distance south, nearer the Rótarfjallshnúkur, before again turning directly uphill and east. Again the way was blocked by crevasses and, although very small snow-bridges did exist, the softness of the snow made the risks of crossing too high. Finally, after careful examination of the ground, we found a route leading between two crevasses and over a third, which proved fairly difficult but reasonably safe. After tra- velling a considerable distance roughly east we turned the end of the left hand crevasse and reached the crater at a few minutes before 18.00. The brilliant sunshine which had lasted all day above 1000 meters gave us a perfect view of the east face of the peak, fully ly, kilometers away. With the aid of binoculars it was clear that the east face was very nearly impossible, being botli steep and very badly crevassed. As it was now close on 18.00 hrs. we started down, but with the firm intention of tryi'ng again next day. The descent was straightforward until we left the ice; then we ran into a belt of cloud stretching between roughly 1000 and 400 metres, which reduced visibility to about 30 metres and forced us to ust the compass. We reached Sand- fell at 20.30 hrs. It appeared from this and other experience that a belt of cloud at around 1000 metres often lrung over the Sandfell area, when both Fagurhólsmýri in the east and Skaftafell in the west were in sunshine, and also that in spite of a wind from the south the cloud hardly moved all day except to shift slowly backwards and forwards, east and west. Next day, Thursday the, 14th, the weather was cloudy when we started out at 09.45 hrs. but due to our experience of cloud movements above Sandfell, we gambled on better weather higher up. We again encountered cloud at around 1000 metres, at the edge of the ice, but climbed bey- ond it in roughly twenty minutes. Once again the sun shone liotly, there was hardly a breath of wind ancl melting was going on fast. We followed our tracks of the previous day easily enough and lunched just below the crater, wliich we reached at about 14.00 hrs. Turning north we began to cross the crater in fairly dense cloud, occasional breaks being enough to give us our general direction, but luckily it cleared completely as we reached the foot of the peak at about 15.00 hrs. From then onwards, except for one brief period, we enjoy- ed brillant sunshine. Tlie snow on the crater was soft, but the east face of the peak proved to be still worse. We crossed several doubtful snow-bridges and climbed a steep pitch of very soft snow to cross a narrow ice-bridge over a small crevasse. On finding that the only way to proceed fart- her was by crossing a frail looking snow-bridge over an enormous crevasse, we decided that the risks were too great and agreed to give up this route. A few minutes earlier an avalanche had fallen from the top of the rock on the north-east face, and we realised the danger of a general aval- anche starting right along the entire slope. So we came down to the bottom of the slope after being well over half-way up, and then with a growing sense of defeat decided to go round and look at the north-west and west faces. Our hopes revived slightly on our first glimpse of the north-west face, the snow both looking harder on the slopes and being harder underfoot. It was at this point that it occurred to us that the snow on the west side must offer a better chance, since melting was bound to be less. What is so obvious upon consideration had never crossed our minds. At roughly 17.30 hrs. we started to climb a steep pitch of hard snow leading to a good snow- bridge over a large crevasse. We kept the summit on our left hand went straight up to a saddle south of it, crossing three more crevasses, one on our hands and knees, the snow being in perfect condition. On the steepest part steps had to be cut for 30 or 40 metres, but the pleasure of climbing under really good condition was a tremendous incentive. » The last 100 metres from the shoulder to the summit above the north face presented no diff- iculty, and at 18.35 hrs. we stood on the top. The sky was still clear and we were rewarded with a magnificent view across Vatnajökull to the northern peaks, while nearer hand the sharp- etched ranges to the east and west on the far sides of the Breiðamerkur- and Skeiðarárjökulls stood out in stark contrast to the snow slopes and brilliantly clear blue sky. We were free for a few moments to contemp- late the whole intricate pattern of crevasses, now things of beauty as well as of menace — some running symmetrically in great arcs like 29



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