February 2008 – Ice Climb Norway

Norway February 14th to 23rd

I arrived in Norway on the 14th of February… odd time to go to the north perhaps but the goal was to climb ice and February was the only time that worked for me!

Map of Locations

The original plan was that I was going to go with a friend of mine from Canada, unfortunately for him he got screwed around by work and wasn’t able to make it. Without a partner a climbing trip really isn’t a lot of fun and I spent a week or so wondering what to do, should I cancel, should I go anyway and hope for the best? In the end I found someone from Alberta who was working over there with an adventure tourism company and she was looking for climbing partners! An alliance was quickly formed and a new plan was put in place.

We found each other in the Trondheim Airport, she was easy to spot with a certain Canadian look and I was glad to see a friendly face. My flights had all been delayed and I was pretty worn out but definitely excited to be on the ground again. She brought her strange looking blue car around and I tossed all my gear in the back and folded myself into the front seat and the adventure began.

The first night we drove north from Trondheim to Snasa (snow-sa) where a friend of hers lived. The roads were slippery and snowy and quickly became a blur to me in the darkness and falling snow. We arrived in Snasa rather late, around 2200 if I remember correctly, but Erik had mutton stew on in the kitchen and a fresh bottle of wine waiting. Erik is a dairy farmer, living in a renovated farmhouse he spends the winters tending the animals, skiing and playing guitars. So naturally playing guitars is what we did after dinner… Erik had a big collection of guitars and Rhonda apparently never travels anywhere without a banjo, it wasn’t long before the bluegrass music started up… it was a weird first experience to be in Norway and jamming bluegrass, but what a cool way to start off!

The next morning we were up bright and early, despite the late night, and departed around 0600. The early start was necessary because we had nearly 1000km to cover on windy twisty roads.

Lavangan

Our destination for the second day was a little fjord called Lavangan (la-vang-en) it’s the green pin in the map up at the top. I know you’re probably thinking, what a cool way to see a lot of countryside! but unfortunately this was the view out the window:

Throughout the drive both of us try and figure each other out a little but it doesn’t take long to realize that I’m not going to have to do a diveroll out of a moving car and it’s seeming pretty unlikely that I’ll get left behind the next time we stop for gas… it’s a nice feeling!

This next picture is the line up of cars at the Saltfjelldal, a national park that covers the spot where arctic circle runs. The reason we’re all waiting is becuase the roads are so bad here we can only get over this pass by being escorted by a pair of snowplows, one in front and one in the back. I was pretty excited to stop off at the Polar Circle Center since I’d never been above the arctic circle before but because of the convoy we couldn’t stop… turns out it was brutally snowed in anyway and stopping would have been a moot point. There is a picture of it later on but if you can’t wait to see it just click here… cheater!

View of Fjord at sunset

Norwegian Village from above

After passing fjord after fjord, windy narrow roads plagued by white out conditions we finally arrived in Lavangan and to a nice toasty warm cabin. The building with the bring lights is the cabin and then the smaller building to the right of that is actually a sauna house… oh the wonders of saunas! I think I’ll have to build one at my house and there is really nothing better than a hard day climbing followed by a nice long hot sauna and dashing into the fjord with the cold water biting your feet and the hard stones underneath before dashing back to the warm wood-smelling sauna.

The next morning we got up at a reasonable hour, 0700 or so and headed out to talk to the locals and find the best climbs in the area.

The two guys that showed us around Lavangan. The older fellow had been “walking in the hills” for most of his life and told us some great stories about the hills and their history. Sadly though I’ve forgotten most of them already.

This was a big climb down the road from where we were staying in Lavangan that we really wanted to do. While we were there though it was raining heavily and most of the ice in the area was rotten, very frustrating!



The guy on the right is Tur-Erik (I think all Norwegian’s are named Erik!) He was a sheep farmer as well as operating the guest house we were staying in. The guy on the left is his brother who know lives in Troms and the mass between them is a sheepskin blanket that his brother has been working on for a long time. It is made of 12 skins and it took him a long time to get that many sheeps with matching coats!

The blanket was so convincing I bought a sheepskin from Tur Erik and it would actually turn out to be the only souvenir on the whole the trip.

Reisadallen

After Lavangan we headed north again to a different valley, this one called Reisadallen, dallen is Norske for valley and it is on the edge of the Reisa National Park.
We didn’t arrive until quite late, we had stopped in Bardu to talk to a guy named Bent about some climbs around there but he and his friend were heading out skiing that day and didn’t have much time. He wanted us to stay and climb the next day but the ice there wasn’t great either so we opted to catch him on the way back head to Reisa instead.

The cabins in Reisa were owned by a wonderful man named Manga (the g is really throaty and you end up with man-ya or something similar). The night that we showed up he had the woodstove roaring and the sauna already warm… what a great reception! The next morning we woke up to 4″ of snow on the car and a road that wasn’t much better. Manga came along with his tractor though and cleared the road for us, what a guy!

Other cabin at Reisa

Snow on the car in Reisa

As I’ve been saying, there was tons of snow in the area, so much so that the approaches became really long and difficult. This climb is only maybe 100m from the road, if that, but the snow was higher than my waist and so soft and fluffy that the easiest way to move across it was by crawling! Ice climbing isn’t big in Norway so they already think we are a little crazy for that… imagine then how it must look to be crawling across the snow to get there!

Sunsetish shot while climbing, the sun only returned there on Jan 28th and we didn’t see much of it

Me geared up

Rhonda with gear

Rhonda leading

Rapelling

Rapelling

Me building a fire, mmm woodstove!

Gear in the cabin at Reisa

Snowshoes in Reisa – Magna rustled up some old snowshoes for us after seeing our pitiful crawling. Unfortunately they didn’t have heel straps and improvising wasn’t too successful…

Snowshoes left behind, it was just easier that way, believe it or not.

Nature view, reisa

Cabin in the woods

Me heading though snow with gear (so much snow! next time I’ll bring skis)

Me leading

Bardu

Houses at Bardu

Horses and snow

Horse and barn in Bardu

Loft in Bardu

Driving and the Polar Circle Center

Me climbing with the Kirkenes sign, hanging (I have a better pose but it came out blurry!)

Kirkenes is roughly at the end of the world… This was on the drive back down to Trondheim, we had already been in the car for a few hours and needed to stretch and play. There is so much ice in this country its incredible, everything seeps water and it all freezes! If they only had constant cold temperatures rather than rain and fluctuations from the jet stream it would be paradise.

Rhonda climbing with the Kirkenes sign

Polar Circle Center, snowed in. Here is the Polar Circle Center, the visitors center at the Arctic Circle. You might have to click on the bigger version to see it properly but that black blob is the visitors center!

View of the arctic circle, blankness. The whole world was blank up on the Saltfjelldal but at least we didn’t need a convoy to get through it this time. It was very arctic feeling… I know, that goes without saying, but after we left the pass the vegetation was all different, it was a different world on each side of that pass and the top of the pass was different again.

Stuck car on the way to Bardu.. yeah, we got stuck but surprisingly only once on the whole trip! The snow was so flat and even it looked like ground and Rhonda veered out to avoid a snowplow… it clearly wasn’t solid ground! Fortunately the next snowplow came by in 30min, those guys are far more regular than the buses, and he pulled us out with no trouble at all.

Oslo

I couldn’t go to Norway and not to go to Oslo, that just wouldn’t be right would it? In one day I managed to hit most of the highlights and sightsee enough for another month.

Fist in Oslo – don’t know what it is the plaque was in Norwegian, but it was cool looking.

Natural park I walked through on the way to the Munch Museum

The Munch Museum

The Scream — it was right by the entrance which was nice. I’m not sure why its the most famous though, there was plenty of better stuff.

Sad People — I’m pretty sure Munch was an unhappy bastard with women problems… none of his people were happy

Next was the Royal Palace and another timer shot. I nearly broke my neck on the ice trying to get into position… how ironic would that be? Spend a week ice climbing and then get injured on a frozen puddle.

All in all it’s a pretty disappointing palace, so very square and boxy; but then that is so Norwegian… all of their buildings are that way, all of them!

Nobel Peace Prize Center — I stumbled on this while I was trying to find a water ferry to take me across the bay to more museums

Inside was the Nobel Prize Winner Light Garden, each screen has the bio of a winner and they light up and change when you walk by them.

Nobel Peace Prize – its a bad picture and surrounded by mirrors… sorry, its the best I could do

After the Peace Prize Center I hopped a bus over to the Viking Ship museum. Most of these were used as funeral ships and were buried with queens or kings on board, the clay around them preserved them incredibly well.

Me and viking ship– timer picture, sorry about the window frame

Viking ship

Viking ship

From one ship museum to another, here is the Kon-tiki, a boat made entirely of reeds. Captained by a Norwegian and sailed by an international crew she traveled 3770 miles in 101 days from Peru to Tahiti!

The Tigris Boat was built after the Kon Tiki and the Ra and Ra II expeditions. She started in Iraq and sailed to Djibouti where she was deliberately burned as a protest against the raging war.

After exhausting myself with museums, cultural displays, peace prizes and other assorted Scandinavian treasures I again met up with a total stranger. Knut was a friend of Rhonda’s that she had climbed with earlier in the season and he offered me a place to stay for my last night in Norway. We met a train station just south of town and ended up enjoying a basic but fantastic dinner, a couple of beers and a great climbing movie before crashing pretty early. He was driving to Lillehammer the next morning to go climbing and I had to get up early for my flight out of Oslo.

All in all I had a fantastic time in Norway, from Trondheim to Reisa to Oslo I met some amazing people and had a great adventure doing it. I would definitely go back to Norway and I would love to see it in the summer, with all of the water they have it must be amazingly green in the summer time.

Stories I haven’t included but may work in later:

– Meeting four people from Bowden AB while I was walking around the waterfront

– The way it looks like a black-and-white photograph with the white snow and black trees… really eerie

– Eating reindeer at a restaurant in Tarnaby Sweden mmm reindeer is tasty!

– Trying to use the indoor climbing wall in Bardu but getting turned away because we didn’t have belay cards

– How the small towns come alive at 0900, everyone comes out at the same time almost, its spooky

– Missing my stop on the train out of Verdal to Trondheim for the flight to Oslo, the next stop was “Hell” and I figured I should just go to the next one

The Freedom of Speech Exhibit at the Nobel Center

1 Comment

  1. Heather
    March 23, 2008

    Thanks for the look at your pictures. Enjoyed them. I plan to visit there someday.

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