BD athlete Albert Leichtfried reports on an ice climbing trip to Norway
Black Diamond athlete Albert Leichtfried traveled to the frozen land of northern Norway this winter for another taste of the country’s bountiful crop of ice climbing opportunities. Below is his report from the trip, as well as some stunning photos from Hannes Mair.
This ice climbing trip to northern Norway came about very differently this time around compared to all the previous years. Previously it had been a question of researching and scouting of a not generally known area, this time an invitation from the Norwegian Alpine Club 'Norsk Tindeklub' for a climbing meet on the Lofoten Islands was the spark that got us going. The offer to search out new lines with some of today's best alpinists like Marko Prezelj, Colin Haley, Aljaz Andere and many others and to be supplied with fresh fish every day was very enticing. Enticing enough to make Benedikt Purner, Gerry Fiegl and Paul Mair join me to chase the ice together.
An icy start in Lavangen
Before heading for the big meet on the Lofoten Islands we wanted to spend a few days looking for new routes on the mainland east of Narvik. Polar Norway welcomed us with an icy -20°C blast. Right by the fjord we had discovered perfectly located accommodations thanks to Tor-Erik Lind, a resourceful farmer. His digs, provided because he figures that ice climbing is the future for local winter tourism, gave us easy access to the various climbing areas. Right next to Lavanganfjord there already is a developed ice climbing area with innumerable routes of all difficulties. At Spansdalen, you might even run into other ice climbers, an absolute rarity in northern Norway. For the next day we are looking for a less remote objective in Spansdalen as we still feel the affects of traveling deep in our bones. The approach appears short, but, as usual in northern Norway, it is much longer due to laborious trail breaking. Tor-Erik assured us that it should be light until 6 pm. SøylafossTK at WI6 keeps us occupied a bit longer than we expected. It is dark at 5 pm. Tor-Erik must have exaggerated just a bit – our headlamps come in useful on the first day's descent already.
Frozen Bønes – a day in the storm
With the aid of Google Earth we drew the most interesting valleys and faces on our maps and went searching. The valleys toward Sweden seemed to be most interesting. But it was still too cold for those valleys in which the temperature is at least 10 degrees lower than in the surrounding regions. We looked for an objective in the sun. FlågbekkenTK at WI 5/6 is well known and beautiful and just right at -16°C. The next day near the town of Bønes we did want to make a few steps toward Sweden. It was -20°C and an 80 km/h wind in the valley bottom… ice climbing seemed to be out of the question. But the cold flow only ran in the valley bottom. It was calm at the foot of the climb and at -8°C the way was clear for a wonderful 250-meter long line that went at WI6 X/R. The only name I could think of for this route was Frozen Bønes. Poor Hannes had to wait for us in the storm in the valley bottom with his telephoto lens. The tip of his nose got light frostbite on the occasion. Gerry and Paul had been heading for Sordalen that day, but the decision to turn around needed no discussion at -37°C and strong winds.
Big days in Sordalen
The weather turned, the Gulf Stream prevailed, and the -37°C turned to +9°C by the fjord within a day. Just right to get going in Sordalen. Our scouting indicated that there was a lot to do. Great lines rose beside the next… 700 meters on the steep granite face on the east side of the valley. Deciding where to begin was hard. In the remaining four days we climbed what we could absorb. Benni and I score two of the absolute highlights of our ice climbing careers. We climbed Stalker (700 m, WI6/ M7) which runs 300 meters fully vertical and dead straight in the headwall, and Remember Mi (WI 7-/M8), an extremely fragile three-pitch mixed route that we dedicate to Michl Uhrmann. Those climbs were done totally clean and were the highlights of our trip. Gerry and Paul increased route density with their aesthetic lines Reincarnation (WI5 R) and Golden Reward (WI6/ M7).
The weather determined the climbing activities on the Lofoten Islands again. It started with our trip to Kabelvåg being delayed eight hours due to a storm. With 200 km/h winds the Lofotens were for all intents and purposes cut off from the outside world. Three days of pouring rain and temperatures above 0°C had unfortunately reduced the ice conditions on the islands, which are exposed to the open sea, to a minimum. However the climbers from all over the world were highly motivated nonetheless. The strategy was switched to winter climbing and so we experienced a few interesting climbing days on those islands with particularly impressive moods.