The Norwegian Alpine Club and the ethics for climbing in Norway

With reference to the latest ascents by Robert Jasper in Norway, the Norsk Tindeklub (Norwegian Alpine Club) has now published an official statement guidelining climbing ethics in Norway. The German climber also provides his point of view.

Following the latest ascents by Robert Jasper which we reported about last week, the Norwegian Alpine Club has now published an official statement clarifying its position with regards to the use of bolts in the mountains. Founded in 1908 and a member of the UIAA, the club represents circa 500 members. The document obvioulsy concerns not only the latest ascents and is perhaps the first appeal of its kind to all those wishing to travel to Norway in search of its fantastic ice. 

Without wishing to enter too much into the merits of this discussion, it has to be said that climbing ethics are both extremely important and in continuous evolution. Everyone knows it's unlikely that there is one single absolute and that, at times, there are many hazy exceptions. This can be gleamed from the text which Jasper kindly sent us - in which he also states that in the 1000m long Fossilmonster he placed just 9 bolts at the belay, 5 on the pitches plus 3 pegs and one in-situ stopper. 

We hope that this can be a positive occasion to sit back and reflect about the local climbing ethics and to comprehend that if on the one hand the Norwegian Alpine Club rightly underlines to importance for adventure, on the other it has to be said that these routes certainly don't fall into the "plaisir" category. On the contrary.

Official statement from the Norwegian Alpine Club (Norsk Tindeklub)
February 2009 saw first ascents on two of Norway’s, and probably the world’s, most inspiring and adventurous ice lines: The "Fosslimonster" (800 meter, WI6+, M8+) and "Into the Wild" (900m, WI6 X), both located on the west coast of Norway. The ice lines were climbed by an international group of climbers that failed to adhere to the appropriate ethical guidelines, and did not meet the Norwegian standards of climbing in good style.

In Norway, the alpine climbing community treasures very highly our code of ethics summed up in "leave no trace". It is generally considered unacceptable to add bolted anchors on ice and mountain routes, to make it easier, safer and more convenient to climb the routes. The same applies for adding bolts on parts of the pitches.

The Norwegian Alpine Club considers natural protection an important and integral part of ice and mountain climbing. We aim at preserving the potential for adventurous climbing in the Norwegian mountains for future generations of climbers.  Our code of ethics thus makes it necessary to wait for the right weather conditions and aquire the necessary skills, instead of adding bolts. This is the only way to ensure the full, unspoilt adventure remains for everybody to be explored, and not just for the first ascentionists.

Furthermore, the Norwegian Alpine Club finds it totally unacceptable for climbers to claim a right to choose their own style and ethics when climbing in Norway. We find that this is not unique for Norway, but also applies for other countries, such as the UK, regarding grit climbing and Scottish winter climbing.

The Norwegian Alpine Club welcomes foreign climbers to Norway, and invite everyone to come and explore one of the few remaining truly wild ice climbing havens in Europe and the world. However, we take for granted that climbers follow our code of ethics.  Norway is one of the last places for climbers wishing to discover the magic of natural lines that demand the full range of alpine skills.

Statement by Robert Jasper
I've travelled to Norway numerous times and climbed in different areas all over the country for several months in total. In most areas I came across bolted routes on ice and rock, for example in Sedesdal, Rjukan and Hemsedal and on some long multi-pitch routes. On some mixed climbs at Hemsedal I even came across artificially drilled hooks. For my ethical understanding it is a big difference to bolt a belay, a rappel, place a bolt for protection or to drill a hook placement to be able to get up! Furthermore, it seems strange to me that some Norwegian climbers who according to the Norwegian Alpine Club follow such a strict ethic, go to remote and sensitive areas like Antarctica or Baffin Island and bolt their belays and even drill hook placements.  

Before travelling to Norway this time I contacted two local ice climbers to get more information, and nobody ever mentioned this guideline to me, not even during the many other occasions when I climbed in Norway.  On this basis, and having found bolts and drilled hooks in Norway on routes which have been first ascended by Norwegian climbers I didn't assume that there was such a "strict ethical guideline", and I'm sorry about this! 

Ethics have always been a very important matter for me and I always attempt to avoid bolting as far as possible. In any case Fossilmonster (on which in 1000m we placed 9 bolts for the belays, 5 on the pitches plus three pegs and an in-situ stopper) is a very dangerous route: climbing it without our bolts would seem irresponsible to us, but obviously everyone is free to climb the route without them. Regarding the climbing ethics, I feel everybody is responsible for them, but at the end of the day one must also adhere to them and not only talk or write about them. Ethics are not only for others but mainly for ourselves! 

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