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)

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