Sat 11th Feb - Sun 19th Feb, 2023
Norwegian Ice - FULLY BOOKED
Norwegian Ice 11th - 19th February 2023
By Gareth Williams
Attendance: Ged Farmer, Steve Graham, Stuart Hurworth, Jared Kitchen, Paul Lonsdale, Craig Marsden, Adam McCudden, Harry Potts, Jim Symon, Emily Thompson, Gareth Williams (meet leader).
The club’s flagship trip for pure water ice was as popular as ever, being fully booked by mid-November. Unfortunately, Andy Stratford had to step back from the meet at short notice due to complications with moving house that were beyond his control, but he and Jo are now well settled and loving their new pad. Eleven of us set off for an early morning flight from Manchester airport with relatively little fuss, the only surprise was when Jim realised that Craig has priority boarding but he, Jim, didn’t. Eyebrows were raised because Craig had booked flights for both of them.
Upon arrival at Torp airport, Oslo, we collected the hire-cars we’d booked to be told they had run out of the size we’d ordered and would we mind terribly if they upgraded us to self-charging hybrid estates. We grudgingly agreed and were off with the bonus of fitting in all the luggage/skis/passengers in comfort. The pleasure was short lived for one of the cars (mine!), we stopped at the services and the car would not start afterwards – it appeared to be difficulty with the car recognising the wireless key. I will spare you the details, but a very frustrating 4 hours was spent with the car’s manual, an answerphone at the closed Europcar service desk and the local breakdown truck who informed us the car would need to be returned to a main Toyota dealer, suggesting we pay to hire a second car in the meantime. An unlikely hero arrived in the form of Stuart who through various sources in the UK figured out a hack which got the car started and we were able to continue our journey – for the rest of the week we remained nervous about whether the car would start or not, but happily we managed to muddle our way through.
The team was now fully assembled in Rjukan, spread across three cabins at club favourite the Rjukan Hytteby. Life would have been perfect if the cabins had had a few more working lightbulbs, if Jim wasn’t farting so much, and if there was a bit more snow. Unfortunately the temperature was +10C and there was less snow around than I’ve ever seen in Rjukan. Nevertheless, psyche was high as we went to bed (some later than others) excited for our first climbing day of the trip.
Day 2 brought about an outing to Krokan, old-timers will know that Krokan is a roadside venue with lots of single-pitch lines, well suited for top-roping, getting your eye in and building confidence before heading on to bigger venues later in the week. The warm weather meant some waterfalls were not climbable, but there was a good number of lines that were ‘in’, if somewhat wet and drippy. Bullen is one of the widest waterfalls with several lines climbed by the Club from WI2 to WI4 depending on whether difficulties are avoided or taken direct. Most people made more than one ascent of Bullen. Other routes climbed were Gausaspokalese (WI4) and Topp (WI5), both led by Jared and followed by several others. Jim got chatting to a friendly chap at the crag who turned out to be a local guide; he offered Jim a quick top rope on his rope and was impressed at how nimbly Jim climbed with such straight axes. Looking at the axes, the guide commented “they look pretty old, do you carry spares for them?” at which Jim just smiled politely and said “these are pretty new compared to the rest of my kit”.
Day 3, Monday 13th February, we split into smaller groups. Adam, Ged, Paul, Harry and Emily headed off to Ozimosis, another favourite for single pitch routes. The made several ascents on the Unnamed routes (yes, that’s really their name!). Jared, Stuart and Steve went for the big line of Trappfoss (WI4), climbing it in 3 pitches. Rather than ab back down the line they decided to explore the walk-off that comes out near Krokan. Some trail-bashing later they were back at the roadside but a long way from their car. Jared was sure he could thumb a lift, Steve wasn’t so sure so phoned Craig for a pick-up. To everyone’s surprise, Jared did indeed thumb down a passing vehicle, but it turned out to be the local ski bus, which charged him £5 for a ride down the valley. Craig, Jim and Gareth had gone off for the day hoping to climb Verden’s Ende (WI5); we scouted the upper approach from the Krokan parking area (for future reference, drop off the road right by the tunnel!). We abbed a couple of rope lengths but in reality it would have been a pretty easy scramble with one or two small and manageable steps. Jim’s rope seemed a little shorter but he insisted it was a brand new 60m rope and must have been tied unevenly at the ab station. At the bottom of the gorge we could see that the big waterfalls still had fat ice, but the slabs all around them had patches of thin, cruddy ice that were in the sun. In about 30 minutes, I counted over ten collapses, mostly into the gorge but one or two onto the icefalls. We didn’t need much discussion, it wasn’t the place to be in those warm conditions so we retreated back up the descent gully.
We had a communal chill that evening, masterminded by Craig. Stuart and Jim made admirable sous-chefs when given clear instructions of what to chop into what shaped pieces of what size. We had a team discussion this evening about when to make the switch from Rjukan to Hemsedal. Craig, Jim, Steve and Gareth were disappointed with the Rjukan conditions and chose to head over that evening whilst everyone else decided to give Rjukan one more day. The drive was quite eventful. It should have taken about 3 hours 30, and a short way into the drive we spotted a sign ‘Road Closed 25km ahead’. Happily the sat-nav told us we’d be turning off left in 21km so we continued. 21km later the promised left turn was just a switch-backed bend in the road, and 4km after that, the road was indeed blocked. 25km back on ourselves and we figured out the diversion due to the road closure would add 120km (on top of the 50km we’d just wasted). It was a very challenging drive, and how Craig stayed awake and alert for so long remains a mystery. On arrival in Hemsedal, the track to the cabin was iced up, so we had to abandon the car and walk the final section, leaving our bags for the morning. Steve decided to return to the car, a few minutes later he crawled back into the hut in a lot of pain having fallen on the ice. Bleeding from a few places and with a badly bruised hip, I asked him what he’d gone back to the car for. He answered Volterol gel for his ankle. At least he could use it on the rest of him too. It was about 2am by the time we all got to bed.
Day 4, Valentine’s Day, brought about a late start for the team in Hemsedal, where we essentially chilled out, did some shopping and scoped out the conditions. Back in Rjukan a team went off to the ski slopes for some downhill skiing over a range of runs including Jared bowing to peer pressure over a beer at lunchtime to get on the black runs. It was Paul’s first time skiing and Harry’s first time skiing outdoors. I am told that the ordering in terms of most falls ran as follows: Paul, Emily, Jared/Harry, Stuart. However details were not forthcoming about whether the ordering was most to least, or least to most, and we will never know now. Meanwhile, Adam and Ged were the only members out climbing today, they headed to Suiss Veil, climbing around WI2/3. Jared, Emily and Stuart drove on over to Hemsedal in the evening, arriving about 11pm, leaving just a small contingent in Rjukan.
Wednesday 15th, Day 5, saw two pairs head to Mureklove, a WI4 fall that often doesn’t form fully. Happily, on this occasion it was wide enough that two pairs could climb side-by-side. Jim and Steve took the groove on the right; Craig and Gareth the pillar on the left. I set off up the first pitch which looked steep, but often steep pitches tend to fall away a bit when you actually get on them. Unfortunately this one didn’t. And it hadn’t been climbed recently, so I couldn’t resort to my usual tactic of hooking in someone else’s placements. Near the top of the pillar I’d placed 9 screws and was rather pumped. It looked like I’d need about 4 more axe placements to get onto easier ground and, coincidentally, I felt I had enough strength left for about 4 more swings. If each one went in first time I might be able to make it… but thanks to the brittle ice (or was it my technique?) the next placement alone took 4 swings and I’d run out of strength. I lowered off and Craig tied on to the sharp end. He concurred that the pillar was indeed very steep and had a good rest on the top screw I’d placed before pulling himself together to climb through the final steep section with his usual Marsden finesse – anyone who’s ice-climbed behind Craig will know that this time, I didn’t have to search for placements to hook onto as I followed him up to the belay. Meanwhile over on the groove to the right Jim was having some fun of his own. He was about level with my 9th screw and I had a good vantage point before I lowered off. He swung his axe and seconds later exploded into a string of expletives which I will paraphrase to spare you the foul language (though I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d heard it all the way from Hemsedal at the time, certainly anyone in the valley would have!): “Oh bother! You bothersome nitwit! Nitwit, nitwit, nitwit. BOTHER! <kicks the ice> I jolly nearly had this bothersome pitch. BOTHER!” By the time Jim lowered off he’d calmed down a little and we could see the problem. One of the bolts holding the head of his axe to the shaft had snapped and the axe was completely unusable. It didn’t seem appropriate to say “what was that guide saying about carrying spares” but we said it anyway. For the rest of the day, Jim and Steve climbed with 3 axes between them, passing an axe down the rope after each pitch was led. Once we were all up that first pitch the climbing was significantly easier. Steve tried to run out a long pitch but was stopped short when Jim’s rope came tight earlier than expected, it looked as though his brand new 60m rope was a bit shy of everyone else’s ropes, which Jim insisted much be normal variation.
Meanwhile, Jared and Stuart climbed Indre Haugsfoss (WI4+). Jared took pitch 1 and Stuart led pitch 2 with a little aid from his axe’s clipper leashes. He reported that whatever the route he only has enough stamina to place 3 screws before needing a rest and that’s what the clipper leashes are for, aren’t they? Emily had been to explore the cross country skiing in Hemsedal, sounded a nice chilled day at the outset, but mountaineering skis are not well suited to cross country, being too wide to fit into the groomed tacks and making everything several times harder than it should be. Back at Rjukan, Harry, Ged and Adam had a relaxed start, packing up before starting the long journey over to Hemsedal. Paul had signed up to the first half of the week only, and took the early bus back to Oslo for his flight back home.
Thursday 16th, Day 6. Paul had made it safely back home in the UK, and by now everyone else was in Hemsedal. Gareth had a rest day. Emily, Jared, Adam, Ged and Harry went skiing – downhill this time. There were no reports about who fell more than whom this time, though it was reported that Jared bowed again to peer pressure over a lunchtime beer, this time being persuaded to get on the double black run. That left Stuart, Steve, Craig and Jim to climb, and they climbed Kyrkjebonsstolfossen (WI4) as two pairs. With several members not climbing that day, Jim had his choice of axes to borrow. In the morning he’d also sheepishly asked if he could borrow my rope. He confessed he’d looked at his own more closely to check. His new 60m rope was the same colour as his older 50m rope, and he’d brought the wrong one with him, that was why it kept coming up short. Once fully equipped the team despatched the route without any undue difficulty, but today it was Craig’s turn for gear failure: one of the side rails on his crampon snapped. Only one though, so he was able to continue climbing, if somewhat cautiously (no doubt still kicking hard enough to leave buckets for anyone else to stand in). The team had a look in the gear shops, but Craig turned up his nose at the Norwegian prices for new crampons, and Jim turned up his nose at the Norwegain prices for new bolts. Instead of shelling out for the custom-made bolt for his axe, he found a hardwear store and purchased 6 bolts plus hacksaw for less than the gear shop was charging, this also kept him occupied for a couple of hours as he chopped a bolt down to size and neatened it up with a file, the outcome being just as good as the original bolt. Let’s hope this one lasts a bit longer (you’ve only had those axes 25 years after all!) and you now have 5 spare bolts, should you ever bump into that guide again you’ll be able to tell him you took up his advice.
Friday 17th, Day 7. We all headed to Golsjuvet, a crag known colloquially as The Freezer, best described as Hemsedal’s answer to Krokan, roadside, single pitch and lots of waterfalls. There were a few other teams around, including a guided party. Jim struck up a conversation “I always carry spare bolts for my axe, you never know when you might need one” before jumping on Normalveien (WI4), putting a rope up it which most of us had a top-rope on. Jared was having a good day with two big leads, Breisyla (WI5) top-roped by most people, and at the end of the day as everyone else was leaving he jumped on Hovedsoyla Venstre (WI5). As I followed this long, steep and pumpy route I grew more and more impressed as the calm way Jared had both climbed and protected the route, the screws were evenly spaced and in a perfect straight line meaning no rope drag whatever, and he had casually taken his time, shaking out at just the right points before climbing the more committing sections. Nice lead Jared! Adam and Ged had a well-deserved rest day, and this evening we had to pack things up – due to accommodation booking peculiarities, we had to vacate the ‘Groseth C’ cabin tomorrow and would be in a hotel in the town centre for our last evening.
Saturday 18th, day 8, started with more packing/cleaning of the cabin before Craig dropped off our luggage at the hotel for the day, and we then all headed out for our last day climbing. Jared, Emily and Harry climbed Flagetfossen (WI3+) in 3 pitches, whilst the rest of us went back to Golsjuvet. Stuart decided he’d have a little doze in the car and join us later – which turned out to be as we were packing up at the end of the day. Ged and Adam climbed Renna (WI2-3) and the rest of us climbed Sorostis (WI4), a shorted but wide waterfall with several lines on it. Jim made the initial lead, after which we top-roped several variations on the line. After the climbing, we checked in to the hotel. It was certainly a bit of a pain having to move for 1 night, but the big advantage was the hotel was right next to the pizza restaurant. Jim had been gifted a pizza voucher for his birthday and I’ve never seen such a big grin on his face when he was presented with a family sized pizza that he didn’t have to pay for.
Sunday 19th, day 9 was spent travelling home and everything went smoothly, other than the fact that most of us had picked up sniffles and/or minor coughs. In fact, 3 members tested positive for covid on return to the UK, thankfully all recovered without further complications. Thank you to everyone who came along to the meet, took part and was a good sport when it came to the usual KMC banter.
****UPDATE 16th NOV 2022**** 12 MEMBERS ARE NOW BOOKED. THIS MEET IS FULL
Norway 2023 - Rjukan and Hemsedal - Ice climbing (and skiing) in Norway.
"Imagine a place with more than 150 waterfalls, almost all of which have easy access and a stable climate that guarantees long periods of cold weather. Add a local population that welcomes visiting ice climbers, a dramatic World War II history and great skiing on offer for 'rest days' and this is not just a place to dream about - it is Rjukan." (Heavy Water - Ice Climbing in Rjukan - Rockfax 2005)
This year we have a split trip: Rjukan first then onto Hemsedal.
This meet is open for bookings strictly for Members and Associate members only – prospective members and guests cannot book on this meet.
****UPDATE 16th NOV 2022**** 12 MEMBERS ARE NOW BOOKED. THIS MEET IS FULL
If you are interested in climbing, recommended experience levels are:
- for Rjukan: basic winter skills (eg a Scottish course) and ideally some experience of using 2 axes and front-pointing on ice
- for Hemsedal: being comfortable leading multi-pitch water ice Grade 3 (or above).
Call for a chat if you want to explore what might work best for you.
The first 3 or 4 days offer a chance to do some relatively(!) easier climbing at Rjukan before some members will move onto the generally less well-travelled waterfalls in Hemsedal, which require a higher level of experience.
We do not provide any formal teaching but a few of us with more experience would be more than happy to show newer folk around on the first day or two. With the right degree of care, Rjukan can offer a good training ground for ice climbing as there are a few areas suitable for top roping and some shorter, easier single-pitch climbs on which to hone technique. There are also opportunities to hire an instructor in Rjukan for a day or two of formal tuition. Just to be clear that Rjukan also offers many brilliant harder climbs too, it’s certainly not all easy and not all ‘’ice cragging’’. Look at some of the previous KMC Norway meet reports and photos. There are also options for skiing (downhill or cross-country).
Ideally you will have a partner in mind, but if you are looking to partner up, please do get in touch and we can try and assist.
Draft Schedule – February 2023
Sat 11th . Travel Mcr – Oslo. Drive to Rjukan. Check in Accom Rjukan.
Sun 12th. Climb Rjukan. Accom Rjukan.
Mon 13th. Climb Rjukan. Accom Rjukan.
Tues 14th. Climb Rjukan. Accom Rjukan.
Weds 15th. Check out Accom Rjukan. Climb Rjukan OR Climb Hemsedal. Check in Accom Hemsedal
Thur 16th. Climb Hemsedal. Accom Hemsedal
Fri 17th. Climb Hemsedal. Accom Hemsedal
Sat 18th. Climb Hemsedal. Accom Hemsedal
Sun 19th. Check out. Drive to Oslo. Fly to MCR.
Flights (Ryan air):
Saturday 11th Feb: Manchester (MAN) to Oslo (TRF) - dep. 08:00 arr. 10:45
Sunday 19th Feb: Oslo (TRF) to Manchester (MAN) - dep. 14.05 arr. 15.10
We have booked accommodation at the centrally located Rjukan Hytteby, please let us know if you would like a place Some members may wish to stay on at Rjukan if you felt that would suit your experience level better, in which case please make your own arrangements for accommodation for the second half of the week. Another alternative is just to have a four day trip.
B3 boots are essential and ideally C3 crampons with vertical front points (mono or asymmetric, or dual all work OK).
Modern technical axes make life a LOT easier – try spring or clipper leashes before going leashless.
....and you’ll need a few modern ice screws too! Plus the obvious harness, half-rope and helmet is essential
A big down jacket, dextrous gloves for climbing and thick gloves or mitts to belay
Perhaps the most essential component is a fair degree of fitness and determination.
If you want advice on the kit then any of us who have been a fair bit - Andy S, Gareth, Stuart, Adam M, Stevie, Colin, Craig, Jared, Emily, Jim can all offer (conflicting!) opinions on various sharp bits of metal…..
Rjukan Cabin shared between 4 or 5 people approx 130 - 150 GBP pp
Hemsedal Cabin shared between 4 or 5 people approx. 150 GBP pp
Car Hire / tolls and Fuel between 3 or 4 people approx. 130 - 150 GBP pp.
Flights - whatever they cost at the time but return flights including luggage can often be obtained for between 80 and 110 GBP for each leg. Budget say 220 GBP total
Food – mostly cooking in, a couple meals out allow 20 GBP per day Total 9 days 180GBP
Drink – Alcohol tax is substantial – check out prices and allow what you want.
Insurance – AACUK membership is annual and covers ice climbing. 50 GBP
Realistic costs should max at £900 GBP for all eight nights away
Heavy Water - Ice Climbing in Rjukan Norway (Rockfax 2005)
Hemsedal Ice 2012
For a flavour of what you can expect, search under Norway in the picture gallery or see previous meet reports in September 2009, January 2009 and March 2012 to 2015 Newsletters.