Before work, a rope solo first ascent in the ice

Budding mountain guide Juho Knuuttila is known for his daring ascents in the demanding ice and mixed terrain of the far north. In December he climbed Rånkeipen with Alexander Nordvall Arctic Circus (M6, WI6). A few days ago he returned to the wall near Narvik early in the morning to climb another wild mixed line before work - single-handedly.

«After I met Alexander Nordvall last month Arctic Circus (M6, WI6) on Rankeipen climbed, I was captivated by the thought of returning to this wall," says Yay Knuuttila. "There were few other possible routes, but to reach them safely you had to abseil and then climb."

Not far from Narvik, Juho Knuutila realizes the rope solo first ascent of Polar Vortex on Rånkeipen. Image: Juho Knuutila
Not far from Narvik, Juho Knuuttila realizes the rope solo first ascent of Polar Vortex on Rånkeipen. Picture: Yay Knuuttila

Rope solo instead of free solo

Said and done. In the early morning of January 4th, Juho Knuuttila climbs Rånkeipen via the normal route. The whiteout didn't exactly lift his spirits. However, once he started rappelling onto the ledge below the planned line, he began to feel better.

«I had no idea if I would be able to go back to my skis. Plan B was to navigate the loaded gullies and couloirs down to Råndalen."

Yay Knuuttila

Actually, he had expected to climb most of the line Free Solo. "But when the simple-looking ramps turned out to be smooth slabs covered in powder snow, I had no choice but to climb back up and switch to rope-solo."

Contrary to his expectations, Juho Knuutila encounters extremely challenging conditions on the wall. Image: Juho Knuutila
Contrary to his expectations, Juho Knuuttila encounters extremely challenging conditions on the wall. Picture: Yay Knuuttila

"The most intense hours of my life"

The demanding terrain took its toll and it took Juho Knuuttila two hours for the first 50 meters, which led him to the first large ice structure. The overhanging edge wasn't exactly the kind of WI5 he was hoping for.

And it continued in the same style: dry tooling, thin ice traverses, small overhangs and freely hanging icicles. "It took me another two hours to fight my way up the wild terrain." When he finally reached easier terrain, almost all the rope was gone.

“I cleaned the pitch, climbed to the summit in the lighter ice and rode down to work at 13.30pm, exhausted but happy. I had just experienced some of the most intense hours of my life.

Yay Knuuttila
The line of Polar Vortex (M6, WI6) at Rånkeipen southwest of Narvik. Image: Juho Knuutila
The line of Polar Vortex (M6, WI6) at Rånkeipen southwest of Narvik. Picture: Yay Knuuttila

The result of his adventurous solo effort Juho christened Knuuttila polar vortex. The difficulties of his first ascent are at M6, WI6. And that would also answer the question of what a professional alpinist does early in the morning before work.

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Credits: Cover picture Yay Knuuttila

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