Fri 20th Feb - Sun 1st Mar, 2015

Norway Ice Climbing meet

Craig Marsden

Colin Maddison

Rjukan 2015 – or: “It’s a film; four words; first word ‘The’; second word ‘Heroes’; third word ….”


Present: Colin Maddison, Craig Marsden, Mary Stuart, Gareth Williams, David Williams, Lucie Crouch, Andy (the whole thing) Stratford, Steve Graham, Jim Symon, James Williams, Mark Pilling


Colin, “Craig, does that car make an irritating noise when you drive it?”

Craig, “No.”

Colin, “B****y does when I do!”

The hire car is too clever by half with all sorts of fancy features, sensors for this, sensors for that, headlights that dip themselves ….. and now it’s started issuing instructions from the front passenger seat!

“You might not want to go too quickly it could be slippery.”

“Yes dear, I had observed that the snow all over the road might have rendered traction sub-optimal.”

“You’re very close to that car.”

“Would that be the one two hundred yards ahead of us dear?”

Plus, of course, the indispensable alarm to warn you that you’ve just hung the back end out a tad on that tricky hair pin. “Oh my Lord!”

Mary, Andy and I are on our way up the hairpins to the Gaustablikk ski centre. But I’m ahead of myself and must rewind a number of days to the start of the charade that is Rjukan 2015.

It’s late on Friday 20th February and a crack team of multi-talented extreme sports specialists has landed in Norway. By coincidence the KMC have also just stumbled off the Ryanair flight to Oslo Rygge and packed themselves into three hire cars. It is the first time we’ve flown into Rygge, the third of Oslo’s airports, so the first part of the drive to Rjukan is unfamiliar. Nevertheless, we are immediately suspicious when the Sat Nav takes us to a ferry terminal! There seem to be several good reasons not to board the ferry:

1) We don’t know where it’s going
2) We don’t know when it sails
3) We don’t how long it takes
…. and perhaps most importantly:
4) We do know there is no need to take a ferry to get to Rjukan

So relying on instinct rather than technology we forge on ignoring the background insistance of, “Please take the next exit; Please take the next exit, etc, etc ….” and before too long join the familiar route from Oslo Torp and arrive Rjukan around 2.45am.

Through the darkness Rjukan looks strangely different; mainly because snow appears mostly conspicuous by its absence in the valley. We arrange ourselves in two groups split between an apartment over the pizza restaurant (handy) and a cabin just across the way. Morning confirms our fears about the lack of snow and more worryingly the apparent lack of ice. Lean conditions, fluctuating temperatures above the norm and consequential objective dangers will limit our options throughout the week but we will find enough climbing to keep us amused and there is sufficient snow up at the ski centre.

Saturday is bright with blue skies and Mary, Lucie, Gareth and David drive up to the ski centre to try their hand at cross –country. The rest of us head to Krokan at the head of the valley where there is decent ice to ease us into climbing on the single pitch routes. Mark eases himself in by throwing himself at a WI 5 for his first ever water ice lead! Not quite ice climbing as we know it but impressive … or maybe impetuous. My new axes seem to perform well on a couple of short WI 5s so I’m happy and everyone has a good first day leading or top-roping a range of routes from WI 2 – WI 5.

Steve is impressed by the potential the forests provide, “Oh! Look at those trees. That’d be good after a fresh dump.” Pardon?

Sunday brings more blue skies. Up at the ski centre Lucie enjoys more cross-country while Gareth and David try out the downhill skiing.

Andy, Steve, Jim and I check out the Upper Gorge. Things look very lean and there is quite a bit of fallen ice around. But a couple of routes look well enough in so whilst Andy, Steve and Jim prepare to tackle Bakveien (3 pitches; WI 4) Craig and I start up the neighbouring Nye Vermorkfoss (3 pitches; WI 5). We have to wait awhile on the first stance for the party ahead to clear the big middle pitch before I can lead on but we have a great view of Steve putting in an impressive lead on the very thin ice of their first pitch.

Both routes share the same second stance and as I bring up Craig I’m joined by Andy who thinks they should carry on up the top pitch of our route ahead of us. I point out politely that this would be considered poor form, “F**k off up your own route you little toerag!”

Arriving back at the apartment we learn what a nervous passenger Steve can be, “Whenever I get out of the car I find I’ve soiled my pants.” Hmm, we all know about Craig’s driving but Steve!!

Monday is a warm and fairly snowy day with the temperature only around 0°C. Quite a large contingent go skiing with Lucie enjoying more cross-country whilst Andy, Stuart, Mary, David and Gareth all take to the slopes. It’s the first time skiing for Andy and Stuart but with some instruction from David and Gareth both take to it impressively well; though perhaps one a bit more so than the other.

Andy, “I must have fallen over 20 times today.”

Stuart, indignantly, “Twenty! Only twenty? I must have fallen at least 40 times!”

Back at the ice Steve, Jim, Craig and I have gone to the Ozzimosis area. Several single pitch routes are done by both pairs at WI 3 and a slender unnamed pillar that gives a good WI 4. Craig and I both lead Ozzimosis (WI 4) a steep pillar of ice that is the classic of the area. A bit later on Jim and Steve both lead it in turn. Steve is feeling a little pumped half way up after a struggle with a screw but a suggestion that Jim might have to take him is dismissed with a resounding “NO” from three voices in unison. Success thus achieved unaided there is a lengthy delay whilst we wait for Steve to abseil off. But in due course we learn of his predicament, “I didn’t want to go down on that bloke under me.” Pardon?

Tuesday is again snowy and warm with the temperature rising to +2°C. Mark and James go downhill skiing. For the climbers, with the temperature rising, a big route in the gorge seems unwise so Craig, Gareth, Andy, Steve, Stuart and I find ourselves up the valley again for more routes at Krokan. Several very good WI 4s are led by most of us including Kjøkkentrappa, Gaustaspøkelse, Bullen (Central Pillar), Unknown and I finish off with Topp (WI 5) followed by Craig.

Alas Jim has been unwell and spent the day in bed tended occasionally by Dr Mary who has also joined David and Lucie for a trip to the museum where they learn about heavy water and WW2 saboteurs and sample some wartime delicacies (lichen bread, moss burgers, reindeer fur tea – or some such).

Wednesday is a mostly bright day after further overnight snow. Mark and James go climbing and sample the delights of Ozzimosis. Craig has some work to do before he, Jim and Steve go to check out Kongvinter but sadly find it not in condition.

For the rest of us it is skiing and thus I find myself driving up the hairpins with Mary and Andy as mentioned earlier. Lucie and Gareth go cross-country with Gareth heading off across the snowy plateau in the afternoon to check out the Gausta area that sits high above the valley and might provide some reliable ice. The rest of us are on the downhill runs. Mary, David and I spend the morning skiing with Andy. It’s a chance to see how he’s getting on at his new favourite hobby (the scope for expensive shopping is endless). God what a waste of time! No entertainment at all – not a single fall – and Stuart’s not providing a whole lot of amusement either. Both have a lesson in the afternoon whilst Mary, David and I get in some more runs. Then it’s back down the snowy road to Rjukan.

Returning down the hairpins the car still appears to be in automatic un-solicited advice mode, though at least now the advice seems to be coming more appropriately from the back seat.

“Remember it will be slippery.”

“Yes, dear I had observed that there had been no sudden and unexpected thaw removing all snow from the tarmac. But look there is now copious fresh grit spread upon the surface that might have a beneficial influence upon our adherence to the highway.”

“You might want to slow down you are gaining on that car in front.”

“Alternatively perhaps you might suggest he might care to speed up a tad.”

“Have you seen that car turning ahead?”

“Would that be the one approximately half a mile hence on this now perfectly straight road with unimpeded sight lines?”

Andy, “Hells bells Colin! If it were my women I’d have put her out of the car by now.”

Thursday and the temperature ranges from -2°C to +2°C. There’s more downhill for Mary, David and Andy while Lucie sticks to the cross-country and Gareth tries out telemark skiing.

Back up at Krokan, Craig and I both lead the central pillar of Bullen (WI 4) and then the easier right-hand alternative (WI 3) after Jim and Steve. Then whilst Craig makes a work call I lead a harder direct version of Kjøkkentrappa (WI 4/5).

Steve to Jim, “Colin’s so assured.” Jim to Steve, “He’s the Ice Master.” Colin (probably to everyone in the valley), “F**k! I’ve dropped the screw! F**k! I’ve dropped another one!”

They both lead the route and Craig returns to do the same whilst Jim and Steve each lead Gaustaspøkelse (WI 4). Further down the valley Mark, James and Stuart have scored really well with the excellent Fabrikkfossen (6 pitches, WI 3), one of the few routes lower down the valley in decent nick.

Thursday evening, and it’s now more than obvious that the cause of the severe pain I’ve been experiencing increasingly whilst climbing is indeed a hernia; so there is no more climbing for me this week.

Friday is fine and sunny and for a change fairly cold. Everybody is going up to Gaustablikk today. Lucie is cross-country again and Mark and James ski up Gaustatoppen, at 1883m the highest summit in the Telemark. Mary and I ski together in the morning and later with Andy. His lessons have really paid dividends – not many can manage the 50 meter head first, skis in the air, triple rotation glide after only three days.

Jim, Craig, Gareth and Steve hire snowshoes and forge a trail across the plateau to climb at the Gausta area. It all goes swimmingly well until they realise they are swimming in a minor avalanche after which attempts to climb flounder at the first ice screw in the face of severe winds.

Later in the afternoon sees us all at the swimming pool for the finals of the water slide speed trials. Gareth is the sub eight second champion – which is not necessarily a title to be proud of.

Thus we come to charades. The whole crew assemble in the apartment. Andy is the undisputed champion; he guesses most of the mimes. His acting is fantastic – but somehow the rest of the team just can’t quite interpret is mimes. Okay so it’s a play, first word ‘the’, second word ’taming’, third word ‘of’, fourth word ‘the’ …. er! ….rat? ….mouse? ….cat? …. hamster? …. and so it continues. Until ultimately, ‘The Beckoning … er …. ssshhh? …. quiet? …. not so loud? …. and believe it or not … The Beckoning Rabbit Proof Fence?’

What’s wrong with these people? Surely they can’t be this thick? Surely it can’t be a conspiracy? Surely not? Well …. er, well maybe!

Saturday saw Steve and Jim put in good leads on Nye Vermorkfoss (3 pitches; WI 5) in the Upper Gorge supported by Stuart and Craig.  Otherwise it was mostly more skiing and possibly some other activity but, to be honest, I stopped making notes on Friday and it is now four months hence so, sorry, I can’t remember. But Sunday sees us driving back to Oslo Rygge, carefully ignoring the Sat Nav and thus any ferries.

Thank you to Craig for doing most of the pre-trip organisation. Thank you to the others for a fun trip.

Colin Maddison

Meet Promo:

We are once again leading a Norway ice climbing and skiing meet in 2015.

We will be basing ourselves in Rjukan again in the Telemark region although there is also the potential to drive over to the Setesdal valley for a couple of days during the trip for anyone who wishes. Rjukan and Setesdal also provide opportunity for downhill and cross-country skiing as well as the ice climbing delights.

Eleven people have already committed to the trip and booked their flights and we have booked accommodation at Rjukan Hytteby. If more people wish to go we can advise on booking extra accommodation (there is a range of options both at Rjukan Hytteby and other locations).

Approximate cost for flights, accommodation and hire cars based on 11 people for 9 nights is £450 per person. Flight costs can, of course, change and costs might vary for additional people depending on accommodation.

Flights are with Ryanair between Manchester and Oslo Rygge, departing 20:05 on Friday 20th February and returning 18:30 from Rygge on Sunday 1st March. Those going need to book their own flights.

The climbing is pure water ice and you will need some experience if you wish to climb as we cannot offer tuition. Downhill and cross country skiing equipment/lessons can be hired/booked locally.

If you’re interested please contact Craig Marsden or Colin Maddison

Colin Maddison

Mary and Lucie making tracks (Gareth Williams)
X Country team (Gareth Williams)
Andy Learns to ski plough (Gareth Williams)
Andy still learning to ski (Gareth Williams)
Steve before (Gareth Williams)
Steve during (Gareth Williams)
Steve after (Gareth Williams)
Colin on Topp (Gareth Williams)
Colin Topp's out (Gareth Williams)
Craig at the bottom of Topp (Gareth Williams)

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Karabiner Mountaineering Club