The Tippity Top of Hamperokken

Hamperokken RouteThis year we were supposed to hike Middagsaksla once more.  Today started out cool and cloudy.  Low clouds wrapped around the tops of the mountains.  It didn’t look like the views would really be any good. I was struggling from the start, with no energy to hike.  Jesse kindly stopped me and we snacked on some chocolates, which slowly gave me some energy to keep hiking.  On the route upwards I met a colleague from the university.  He asked if we were headed to the very top, and I said I wasn’t sure.  He was the one who had encouraged us to go beyond Hamperokken_2016_002Middagsaksla to the summit of Hamperokken.  Today he said it was a great hike, “just a little scrambling at the top, but it’s not that bad”.  Otherwise the hike to the top of Middagsaksla went smoothly.  We stopped to have some snacks and sign the log book.  This was our turn around point.  But the weather was improving somewhat, we could almost see the top of the mountain now.  Jesse and I agreed that if we didn’t go to the top it would still be nice to hike out on the ridge some.

Hamperokken_2016_003We started on the ridge.  I don’t have many photos to share of it, because I was not comfortable enough to take them.  The edge of the ridge is quite exposed in areas, especially in a few places where you had to take a few steps where the rock dropped on both sides of the narrow path.  Climbing on the ridge was taking us a lot of time and really concerning me, but after a while we noticed that there were a few paths on the right side of the ridge just down a little bit.  Some of the hikers behind us chose to be on those paths and seemed to be having a better time of it.  We dropped off the top of the ridge and then things were a lot better.  There are a number of trails here to choose from, but all of them continue along the ridge towards the pointy peak ahead.

 

Hamperokken_2016_024We crossed a few spines coming off of the ridge before we reached a narrow scree field that seemed to go straight to the top.  This part of the hike reminded me a lot of the backside of Long’s Peak in Colorado.  The dirt and loose rock on this steep climb were easily navigated, but once it became more large rocks that you had to scramble over, we decided it was time to tie Jack up.  We left him with some food a water very close to the summit, but off the trail.  In retrospect Jack certainly could have made it to the top, but one concern for on this type of hikes is that he is not conscious of knocking over rocks that could endanger those below him.

Hamperokken_2016_022Jesse helped me to navigate up the final scramble towards the top.  The rocks here were large and didn’t seems slippery.  I was pretty okay going up this narrowing couloir, until I looked over the edge of the rocks on our right side.  From here it was straight down, I don’t know how far, but far enough.  It’s moments like these that make me realize that a fear of heights in the mountains can be a dangerous thing.  I had to sit down for a minute and calm down, before continuing up.

The higher we went there was less of a spine separating us from the steep cliff edge.  But going up was okay for me until just 1-2 meters from the top.  Here the summit was composed of what looked like stacked rock (possibly man-made?) which jutted out in such a way that it created a tiny overhang. Halfway across it I panicked and had to retreat back to where I could sit.  I had to take another break here and calm myself down a bit, I was whimpering and almost in tears.  It’s often not how technical something is, for me it’s about the exposure, and it can be paralyzing.

Hamperokken_2016_021But the views were great even from here!  You could see a number glaciers, massive steep mountains surrounding us, and that lovely cliff off to the side.  I strongly considered calling that the top, but it seemed silly to be so close to the summit.  So after some deep breaths, analysis, and coaching from Jesse, I gave it another go.  I definitely couldn’t do it with my backpack, so I handed it up to Jesse who was ahead of me, and seemed to have no problem with this section.

Hamperokken_2016_013

Probably the easiest way up was to walk along a rock ledge, with these rocks sticking out at about my shoulder/chest height.  Thinking back, I know I did not trust that this pile of rocks was stable.  But they were quite large, and in the end I had to just hold onto them otherwise they would have pushed me backwards.  I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I finally grabbed the rock and it gave me the support I needed.  The footing was pretty good, and once I made it across this narrow ledge from the right side (looking at the top) to the left, I could pretty easily walk diagonally only a few steps to the summit.  Finally!  Though I wasn’t too thrilled to have my picture taken at the very end.

Hamperokken_2016_017I call this summit the Tippity Top at 1404 m (4606 ft) because it is.  This is the most pointed peak that I have ever been on, not in the sense that there is only space for you to stand (I’ve been on mountains like that), but in the sense that just about and direction you looked the mountain just falls away below you.   The top was rectangular in shape and there were 3 people already on the summit besides Jesse.  I joined him and we sat looking down at the steep cliff next to the couloir we had hiked up.  We had some more snacks and the other group departed.  Oddly they descended only partially down the couloir and then veered off towards the cliff side, where we could see that they were following another trail.  That wasn’t one I was very excited to explore though.  The weather was improving, and the low clouds were dissolving into air.  Leaving us with more stunning views of the mountains surrounding us, and even the ice caps and mountains of Lyngen.  We were sure to sign the registry… since I was certain this was a once in a lifetime peak for me.

Hamperokken_2016_025

I wanted to stay on that mountaintop and bask in the sun, but finally we needed to head down and pick up Jack.  Down was in some ways much worse for me, again the exposure is my weakness and it’s much more evident when you are staring straight down at it.  So as much as I could I tried to climb down as I did up, and Jesse stayed right below me to block my view.  That actually worked like a charm.  I think what I might want in the future is some blinders for myself… I’m sure we can figure something like that out 😉  Jack was taking a nap in the sun, but was happy to see us.  The sun was shining and it was a calm beautiful day, so we decided to further extend our hike.  We followed the scree field (that went up to the summit) down to the small alpine lakes in the valley.  There was somewhat of a trail there in the scree, but it was a bit slippery with the dry dirt (like many of our hikes in Colorado).  It was good to have the hiking poles for that section.  Jesse and I took a quick dip in the first alpine lake, which still had snow melting in it.  Jack didn’t care to swim, but ran around like crazy on the snow instead.

Hamperokken_2016_030From the first lake we lost the trail for a bit, but found some cairns following the larger lake down the valley.  Beyond this lake was a large boulder field that we had to navigate.  At the bottom of the boulder field we again found a trail to the right (under the the ridge we had climbed along before).  This trail then skirted us back around to the front of the mountain where we met the main trail and finally headed back to the car.  This hike was our longest yet, and took us the vast majority of the day and evening sun.

I’ll conclude this long story back at the University.  This colleague who had recommended Hamperokken stopped by to see how the trip went.  I told him my tale and how uncomfortable I had been with the heights and exposure.  He encouraged me and said that it was great that I did that hike… but if I want a really beautiful hike and a good challenge I should try the Vengsøya traverse.  Needless to say we won’t be doing that one.  I do consider myself a pretty experienced hiker, but certainly not a climber.  I think being prepared and knowing your comfort level and limitations is probably one of the most important aspects of enjoying the mountains.  Stay safe out there!

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