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Famous Falls Freeze in Norway

The Seven Sisters of Norway’s Geirangerfjord in an unusual solid state. A prolonged cold snap there has shut down many of the traditional ice-climbing venues, but high-volume flows are freezing for the first time in decades. A handful of Norwegians have established what they believe to be seven new waterice routes in Geirangerfjord and Tafjord since the beginning of the month. [Photo] Sindre Saether

In Norway, seven adjacent waterfalls famously drop into Geirangerfjord, a fjord so impressive that it has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Seven Sisters (De syv sostre as they’re called in Norwegian), stream over the fjord’s 400-meter walls and are a popular attraction in summer months.

Climbing the first recorded ascent of De syv sostre (WI6, 400m), one of Norway’s most famous waterfalls. [Photo] Sindre Saether

In winter, The Seven Sisters flow as usual, the sea-level temperatures warm enough that the falls infrequently solidify. But this year, an extreme and sustained arctic snap convinced four Norwegians to scout the waterfalls in hopes of finding them frozen. Bjarte Bo, Henki Flatlandsmo, Eiliv Ruud and Sindre Saether rented a boat on February 1 and found two obvious, beautiful ice lines. After controlling their excitement, they decided they would split into two rope teams but climb the main icefall, on the left.

The four soloed the first 100 meters to a cave, where they roped up. The next 300 meters proved “fantastic” and sustained, Bo said. “The ice was thick and broad, but sometimes a bit airy with mushrooms on the steeper parts,” he added. “The quality of the ice often squeezed our two teams together through the same passages resulting in some delays and a few short pitches but also great photo opportunities.”

They climbed the last pitches in the dark and rappelled back to the boat, satisfied with their new route, De syv sostre (WI6, 400m).

Great minds think alike. The very next day, February 2, without knowledge of the new route, friends of the first ascent party also took a boat to The Seven Sisters, intending to climb. Sigurd Felde, Anders Mordal and Eivind Nordeide sent the icefall on the right and named it Syvsoversostra (WI6, 400m).

Last weekend the first group returned for more with Ole Ivar Lied and Trym Saeland. The result: three more new lines between 350 and 400 meters high. Bo and Saether climbed Alterbekken (WI6) on the 13th; Flatlandsmo, Lied and Saeland climbed Horvadraget (WI5+) that same day; and Flatlandsmo, Saeland and Saether climbed Skageflasiget (WI6-) on the 14th.

Rudd and Flatlandsmo also found good ice on nearby waterfalls in Tafjord. These, too, rarely freeze. They named the routes Muldalsfossen (WI5+, 200m) and Heggurfossen (WI6, 600m).

Eivind Nordeide on Syvsoversostra (WI6, 400m). [Photo] Anders Mordal /

Bo said that this winter has been the coldest in Norway since he began climbing 20 years ago. Ironically, the cold weather has kept ice out of many of the traditional ice-climbing areas, but “this seems to be the year [to climb] the waterfalls with lots of water coming down,” Bo said. He added that it’s possible, though unlikely, that The Seven Sisters have been climbed previously. “You never know for sure. But I have been climbing ice and living in Romsdal for more than 15 years and have not heard about an ascent.”

Climbers will surely return, so long as temperatures remain cold. There is more potential in the area, Bo said, “but perhaps mostly for mixed routes.”

Sources: Bjarte Bo, Henki Flatlandsmo, Anders Waage Nilsen,

Eiliv Ruud on Muldalsfossen (WI5+, 200m) in Tafjord, Norway. [Photo] Henki Flatlandsmo