12 Mar Norway ice
Just got back from the far North, Albert Leichtfried, sent us the report of the trip he did with Benni Purner and the photographer Hannes Mair in some wilde areas of northern Norway in search of unclimbed lines of vertical ice.
The Austrian climber was invited by the Austrian Alpine Club of Norway, with other ice-climbers from all the world, to the Lofoten Islands to promote the opening of new routes. He took the opportunity to explore other attractive areas. Despite the frequently inclement weather, the team went back to the Alps with a considerable booty. …
Hunting for ice around Narvik
Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner exploring the land of unlimited ice climbing possibilities
Text: Albert Leichtfried
Pics: Hannes Mair
The trigger to this ice climbing trip was completely different to the ones the other years before. So far it was a matter of investigation and spotting an unknown area. This time the initial motivation for the trip came from an invitation of the Norwegian alpine club „Norsk Tindeklub“ to climb at the Lofoten islands. This offer to look for new lines together with some of the present best alpinists, like Marko Prezelj, Colin Haley, Aljaz Anderle and many more combined with the offer for daily fresh fish was really tempting. Even tempting enough that two friends of us, Gerry Fiegl and Paul Mair asked if they could join us .
Frosty start in Lavangen
Before heading to the meaningful meeting at Lofoten, we wanted to search for some ice lines on the mainland, eastbound of Narvik. At our arrival the polar Norway sent us a cold welcome with -20 °C. Directly situated at the fjord and in the centre of our target lines we found a perfect place to stay. Tor- Erik Lind, the owner of the place Aa gård, is a future thinking farmer, who already found that ice climbing is a major winter tourism goal in this area. Very close to the Lavangenfjord an existing ice climbing destination with uncountable possibilities in all grades is located. It can even happen that you meet some other climbers in Spansdalen. This is an absolute rarity in Northern Norway. On the first day we looked for a line not too far from the road in Spansdalen, because our bodies still felt the exhaustion of the journey. As usual in Northern Norway the seemingly short approach turned out to be farther as it looked. Due to exhausting preparation of the track the approach was much longer as estimated. Tor-Erik told us that the daylight should last until 6 p.m. „Søylafoss“ WI6 took us also longer as we expected and at 5 p.m. it was already dark. Tor-Erik exaggerated a bit – already on our first day we had to use our headlights.
Frozen Bønes – one day in the storm
With the help of Google earth we marked the interesting valleys and faces onto our map and with this info’s we went to search for ice. Mainly the valleys heading to Sweden seemed to be very interesting. But first it was too cold for these valleys, with at least ten degrees lower temperatures compared to the fjord. Therefore we looked for a route in the sun. The famous and beautiful shaped „Flågbekken“ WI5/6 in Salangen was the best choice at -16 °C. However on the next day we wanted to make a step in the direction of Sweden. We arrived in Bønes at -20 °C and 80 km/h wind – ice climbing seemed to be impossible. But the cold flow was only at the bottom of the valley. At the start of the route it was calm with -8 °C. So we could tackle the great route, 250 meter on demanding ice around WI6 X/R. Thinking about the whole day out in the coldness, „Frozen Bønes“ was the only name that came to my mind. Poor Hannes had to wait at the bottom of the valley with his telephoto lens in the storm and suffered from frostbite at his nose. Gerry und Paul went to Sordalen on that day, but at -37 °C and storm returning home without climbing was a clear decision.
Big days in Sordalen
The weather changed dramatically. The golf stream had the predominance now and the frosty -37 °C changed into +9 °C at the fjord on the next day. It was the right time to start our activities in Sordalen. After our spotting we already knew that there was a lot to do there. One perfect line after the other is sprawling up to 700 meters over the steep granite face on the west slopes of the valley. The decision where to start is not easy. Within four remaining days we climbed as much as we could. Besides several amazing ice climbs Benni and I were successful on two new lines who count as absolute highlights of our ice climbing career. On sight and totally clean we were able climb the routes „Stalker“ 700m WI6/M7 which is completely vertical over 300 meters long and „remember Mi“ WI7-/M8, an utmost fragile formation which we dedicate to our friend Michl Uhrmann. Gerry and Paul climbed two aesthetic lines and possible first ascents „Reinkarnation“ WI5R and „Golden reward“ WI6/M7.
Once again the weather was affecting our climbing activities at the Lofoten islands. Even driving to Kabelvåg took us 8 hours longer as usual because of strong storm. At 200 km/h wind speed the Lofoten islands were separated from the outside world. Heavy rain over three days and temperatures far above 0 °C had a disastrous effect on the ice conditions at the islands that are well exposed to open sea. Nevertheless the climbers from all over the world were highly motivated. The strategy was quickly from searching for ice to winter climbing and so we experienced some interesting days on the island in an impressive atmosphere.
Albert Leichtfried – www.albertleichtfried.at
Sponsors: Marmot, Black Diamond, La Sportiva, Adidas eyewear, Sterling rope, Bergzeit
Benedikt Purner – www.alpine-spirits.com
Sponsors: Marmot, Austrialpin, Adidas eyewear, Roca
Hannes Mair – www.alpsolut.com
Frozen Bønes 250m WI6 X/R
Stalker 700m WI6/M7 (new route free and onsight)
remember Mi WI7-/M8 (new route free and onsight)