Norway express: ice climbing in the great North
Elio Bonfanti and Claudio Casalegno present the icefalls Sabotørfossen, Fossekjerringa e Grabeinsisen close to Rijukan in Norway.
Back in 2008 the idea sprung to mind that it might just be possible to go ice climbing in Norway using the short time of an extended weekend. Rijukan isn’t that far from Oslo and the roads that lead to this town are pretty good, is quite close to Oslo and roads to get there are very smooth. So with a weekend at our disposal, plus Friday and Monday, we headed off to the cold great North.
We left a budding Italian spring Italian and were greeted with the usual minus 13°C, minus 14°C but this is what we were here for, to extend our already highly successful ice climbing season. The valley which unfolded before our eyes as we headed towards our goal was literally plastered with drips on both sides, ranging in height from 60 to 600 meters and making us gasp. The projects we came up with during that journey would surely have been enough to last a month or more, but we had not more than four days!
This time our group had whittled down to myself and a new, fun friend called Claudio Casalegno whose explosive outgoingness provided lively entertainment throughout the entire trip as he continued to make new friends. But we started off with some bad news. Lipton (the real reason for this climbing trip) hadn’t formed, much to the joy of Claudio who cheered loudly with content as he hadn’t been too convinced about this route. OK, so we asked the hostel manager for some advice and discovered that Haugfossen (another route on our ticklist) was out of the question as the abnormal rise in temperatures a couple of days beforehand had damaged the underlying ice. And since it was fairly thin anyway, it risked collapsing at any moment. What a start: two
totally unexpected knockbacks that make me regret having travelled all the way here instead of opting for nearby Kandersteg where all the ice climbers were in perfect condition.
But things were going to just fine nevertheless! We started with the classic Trappfossen drip on a freezing cold day and since there were no traces of previous climbers it proved sufficiently committing. We chose not to climb Jouvsᴓyla since the cold combined with the previous warm temperatures resulted in a final section which looked pretty uninspiring. So we climbed Nye wermorkfoss which, contrary to what is written in the guidebooks, if climbed direct offers solid grade V ice climbing up sections which proved difficult to clean. Sabotorfossen awaited us the next day and the front-cover guidebook photo repulsed my friend Claudio who, once convinced, lead all of it except for the finishing drip.
The hot lava pools at Rijukan helped us recover from the cold but our last day greeted us with -14°C and a gentle breeze that immediately made us change plans: instead of shady Svaddenfossen we headed to the other side of the valley, so the sun-kissed Fossenkallen area where we climbed Fossekjerringa and Grabeinsisen.
Mission complete. I have to say that this formula and with the great variety of routes up there, global warming really doesn’t affect them in the slightest (so to speak)... While it’s certainly true that there is a limited number of “cutting-edge” routes in this are, those who want to enjoy their ice climbing without attempting any particular ambitious projects are well served: the playground is unparalleled size and there are dozens of grade 4 and grade 5 ice climbs to choose from.
Thanks to: AKU - CAMP - Montura
TOPO: Fossekjerringa, Norway
TOPO: Grabeinsisen, Norway
TOPO: Sabotørfossen, Norway