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Blown Away in Norway

The 300-meter wall in Eidfjord, Norway where Guy Lacelle, Audrey Gariepy, Mathieu Audibert and Chris Alstrin climbed in early February 2008. Left to right: (WI5+, 300m), (WI5+, 250m), (WI5+, 250m), (WI6, 250m) and (WI6+, 240m). Two, perhaps more, of these routes had been climbed previously; the others may be virgin.
[Photo] Chris Alstrin

Editor’s Note: This posting was updated on March 3, 2008 after locals notified Alpinist that some of the routes documented below had been climbed previously.

Over two weeks in early February some of the world’s best ice climbing talent–Guy Lacelle, Audrey Gariepy and Mathieu Audibert–ventured to Norway with filmmakers Chris Alstrin and Alex Lavigne in search of big flows. Even Lacelle, the ice expert who had been to Norway six times prior, was shocked at the quality and quantity of their discoveries. Within two weeks the team of four (Alstrin climbed; Lavigne was filming throughout) climbed six ice lines at least 240 meters in length.

Last fall Lacelle’s excitement about his upcoming Norway adventure was contagious, compelling Alstrin, Gariepy and Audibert to join. Besides Lacelle, none of them had climbed in Norway before. On January 29 the five met at the airport in Oslo, where Lacelle’s friend, Marius Olsen, offered a conditions report and suggestions on the best locales.

The team based the first part of their trip at an ice and mixed crag outside of Gol. From there they took a daytrip to Hemsedal, where Lacelle free soloed the ultra-classic Hydnefossen (WI6, 180m). Alstrin reported funky ice and poor conditions: “Guy was soloing in the worst spindrift conditions imaginable… imagine someone dumping sugar snow on you the entire way up.”

Gariepy nearing the top of the WI5+ (300m) in Eidfjord, Norway. Warm weather that day, February 7, caused large sections of ice to collapse above the two teams. [Photo] Chris Alstrin

Rumors of cool weather drove them to Eidfjord. They scouted ice along a windy mountain pass for 10-15 kilometers, stopping at every turn to view the walls with binoculars. “The higher we got in the canyon, the bigger the walls got,” Alstrin said, “and the more ice there was on everything.” A 300-meter face caught their attention. Over the next three days, working in pairs, they climbed five back-to-back lines on that wall: WI5+, 250m; WI5+, 250m; WI5+, 300m; WI6, 250m; WI6+, 240m. At least two had been climbed previously; the others may be virgin. South facing, the routes provided “some of the best ice–plastic and solid on a giant wall” when the temperatures were cool, but “a little scary on the second day when it warmed up and ice was falling around us from the upper pitches,” Alstrin reported.

Another line, more moderate (WI5) and possibly unclimbed, lies just left on an adjacent wall. Lacelle had hoped to solo this climb, but again warm weather struck, so he avoided that wall and they began another scouting mission.

On February 11, Gariepy and Audibert excitedly told Lacelle and Alstrin of a new find in the Hjolmo Valley near Ovre Eidfjord: “It looks like a big version of Hydrophobia,” Audibert told them. “But the crux will be the approach.” Hydrophobia is a Canadian Rockies classic, big in its own right at V WI5+, 150m. The group decided to try it the next morning.

Gariepy leading WI5+ ground on one of Eidfjord’s 300-meter ice gems, Norway. [Photo] Chris Alstrin

“The approach was the worst part,” said Alstrin, who reported that the 500 meters of elevation gain took more than three hours due to bouldery terrain covered in sugary snow, streams forcing them to get wet (they anticipated this; each brought a second pair of boots). The four soloed the first two pitches of WI3, then tackled the headwall, 170 meters of vertical ice that housed two pitches of WI5+ and a crux of WI6. Spooked by the warm weather and a waterfall across the ampitheater that was “collapsing pillars all around them.” The 300-meter route goes at WI6.

“There’s so much ice there,” said Alstrin. “Anyone can go there and have a fun time, whether you climb WI3 or WI6. It’s all over the place.”

Sources: Chris Alstrin, Guy Lacelle, Waterfall Ice (Josephson)

To read more about the trip, Visit the HG blog

Audibert (left) and Gariepy suffering through a potentially new WI6 (300m), Hjolmo Valley, Norway. In addition to “pillars collapsing around us,” Alstrin said, “the waterfall was dripping wet.” Here, the team of four is anchored atop the first serious pitch (WI5+). [Photo] Guy Lacelle