Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blown Away in Norway

I just came back from an ice climbing trip in Norway. After two week there with Guy Lacelle, Mathieu Audibert, Chris Alstrin and Alex Lavigne, I realize that what I’ve heard about this country was true… is the ice climbing paradise and an amazing place to discover. The 4.5 millions inhabitants of Norway are spread out around the country giving each of them a lot of space to enjoy the beautiful gifts from the nature around them. The colorful wooden houses of the villages along the fjords surrounded by rocky faces is very unique to the place.

Eidfjord (photo: Audrey Gariepy)

We ran into the first crux of the trip right at the airport. How are we going to fit the five of us and all our gear in that tiny Ford Focus “Station Wagon”? Strapping most of our gear to the roof, I still can’t believe that we managed a way to fit it all! So, we hit the road along the mountain passes singing songs from the “Dixie Chicks” and being as comfortable as you would on a hanging belay in the spindrifts!

When we arrived there, we just couldn’t believe what we were seeing. None of us have ever seen so much ice in such a small area. We could barely talk, just looking at each other with a big smile on our face. Where are we going to start? The potential was endless but a particular wall got our attention over the other stuff. All these long and steep ice lines right next to each other, we got to climb them all.

Voringfossen Wall, Eidfjord (photo: Audrey Gariepy)

Three days later, we had climbed 5 of them. They were all great. The routes ranged from 250 to 325 metres in length. The most impressive one was the furthest right with a first pitch of WI6+R, which Guy led like it was grade 4. After we were done with what we wanted to climb on this wall, the weather warmed up and the first pitch of the route fell down. It made us realize about how lucky we were to get the chance to climb those beautiful routes in good conditions. Guy was saying that the numerous years of ice climbing taught him that when you want to climb an ice route, you’re better to do it right now and never wait the next day… happened to be true for us in that case.

Audrey on Voringsfossen Wall, Eidfjord. (photo: Chris Alstrin)

Since the conditions deteriorated on this wall we decided to take a day off to drive around to find something else. In that day only, I’ve seen more waterfall than I have ever seen in all my life. The only problem was that most of them were melting down or weren’t touching the ground anymore……or maybe they never did. Anyway, we had to wait to the end of the day to find this perfect frozen yellow line in this narrow valley in Hjolmo. The line was so nice, that even the river to wade through, the little unfrozen waterfall to hike through, the boulder field covered with snow that we would have to cross didn’t discourage us.

The perfect waterfall in Hjolmo. (photo: Guy Lacelle)

The next day, we started the approach very early. Crossing the river with freezing water up to our knees and then we managed to go through all the cruxes of the approach. After three hours, we finally made it to the base of 300 metres with a sustained 170 metres of steeeeeppppp ice up to WI6. The day was a little too warm and we climbed the route in a total whiteout. We couldn’t see much around us, but we could hear a lot of big chunks of ice falling in the little cirque surrounding us. It was like climbing in a shotgun field. I remember thinking that it was safer on the route than I will be on the descent back to the car. Even though all that made me feel a little nervous, I couldn’t help to enjoy the climb so much. The line was just so straight and constantly steep. One of the best I’ve climbed for sure.

Eidfjord (photo: Audrey Gariepy)Road between Eidfjord and Gol (photo: Audrey Gariepy)

I’ve been very impressed about the potential of ice climbing in Norway. The waterfalls are everywhere….the only problem is you need a few cold days in a row to have them frozen!!! I was happy to go to the most popular places like Hemsedal and Rjukan to do some classic climbs like Hydnefossen and Lipton. But I enjoyed a lot more to go exploring around and find other nice lines that I’ve never heard about. Maybe they were first ascents? Maybe not? But one thing for sure is that our little group have been pretty lucky to climb them. -Audrey Gariepy

Guy climbing close to Eifjord (photo: Alex Lavigne)
Group (photo: Alex Lavigne)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Higher Ground US Tour

Check out our US tour dates.  

Bend, OR                Feb 19
Eugene, OR            Feb 20
Seattle, WA            Feb 21
Tacoma, WA           Feb 23
Walla Walla, WA   Feb 26
Berkeley, CA           Feb 27

Ice climbing in Norway

Monday, February 4, 2008


Alex and myself have been in Norway the last week with Guy, Audrey, and Matthieu. We arrived here on Feb 28 in the hopes to find big ice routes and film these climbers in their element. We met one of Guy's friend Marius at the airport. Marius is great he's giving us beta as to places to go and where the ice might be the best. We spent the first 5 days in Hemsedal. We climbed in Gol the first day to "warm up" and check out the local sport crag. Audrey on-sights the competition mixed route from their last ice festival and Guy climbs a really cool looking mixed line with a difficult ice finish.
The next few days we checked out a few ice routes. I was able to climb Seltunfossen 200m WI4+/5 with Guy, Matthieu, and Audrey and had a blast. The next day we hiked up to Hydnefossen 160m WI6. Audrey and Matthieu climbed the route while Guy soloed next to them. He fixed a rope for me to film him and got some great footage. I'll post a few clips here in the next day or two.
We were very comfortable in our cabin but the host kicked us out as he had reserved it for other people after us. So this made us leave this area and find some new ice. We drove to Eidfjord to see if there was any ice formed. The next morning we drove back up the canyon to see what was available. The first climb we saw looked pretty cool. A route high up that wasn't touching so it would make for a great mixed climb. We continued up the valley. I don't know how to explain what the next few miles had in store for us. We were kids in the candy shop. Every corner we turned and every tunnel we came out of opened a new face of ice. We're not talking short little ice climbs here. The majority of climbs we saw were at least 200m. One wall we scoped had 6 climbs in a row all classic routes and all around 250m.
Needless to say we will be staying in Eidfjord for the rest of our trip. Hopefully conditions will stay cold.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Watch 19 year old Ben Schmitt redpoint Devil's Road a 5.13b at the Damage Wall, Shelf Road, CO.  Music by Mat the Alien.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Ouray Ice Festival

The 2008 Ouray Ice Festival. Another fun time out ice climbing and hanging with friends. I arrived to Ouray with my friends Scott Flower, Tara Garson from OZ, a few other friends from Colorado Springs and my brother Grant. Grant's never been ice climbing but he's the one who got me into rock climbing when I was 14 yrs old so it was good to get out with him again and let him have a go at this ice stuff. We woke up in the Springs to 6 inches of fresh snow and it was still coming down hard. We were still keen on driving down, the roads were absolute shit. We stopped in Gunnison and for the first time in 2 years I ate McDonalds. Don't ask why we ate there I still don't know the chicken was not good. It took us a good 2 hours longer than normal but we all made it down to Ouray safely. Woke up in Ouray to it dumping more snow. I've never seen this much snow in Ouray, it must have been some sort of record. Great for skiing, not so good for ice climbing especially when a lot of the climbing we wanted to do was up the pass which was closed for 5 days.
Getting out in the box canyon is always good fun. It's a great place to warm up and get in the swing of things before getting on big routes and scaring yourself high above your last piece of protection. I climbed for two days with my brother and friends and of course I caught the fl on day 3 so I was pretty worthless through the festival. So after 3 days of lying in bed and doing absolutely nothing I started feeling better. I didn't get a chance to watch the competition because I woke up feeling great that morning and had to get out and climb.
Now the crowds have left, the snow stopped falling, and the sun is out. It's time to get out and climb again. Lower photos by Winn Jewett