As previously written, a few of us went skiing and ice climbing in Norway of new years 08/09.
After skiing for several days in Hemsedal, it was time to turn our minds to ice climbing. Nik and I have done some Scottish winter climbing, but this is different to winter ice. Picture a waterfall snap frozen and you have a pretty good idea of winter ice, it has a wide and varied grading system and the grade of routes is based on their condition in optimum conditions. This does however mean that the route can change grade in thick or thin conditions.
The first day we climbed we had hired a guide, Lelsie Ayres. We meet Leslie just down the road from Hemsedal in Gol, and he took us to an amazing little ice crag, which only saw 3 other climbers visit why we were there.
The reason why we hired Leslie was to teach us more about the characteristics of this type of ice and what to look out for good and bad. He also instructed Claire and Tim and some of the more basic requirements of ice climbing and ice gear and it's uses.
We top roped a WI4 and then a M5, which had a bit more ice on it than normal, so this must have drop the grade to M4. Whilst we all hung around at least for second or 2 on the long WI4, I managed the M5 clean, which surprised me more than most. Everyone had climbed both routes better than expected and had enjoyed the day. Claire had continued her battle with the cold, but seem to be on the winning end this time.
This was New Years Eve, and a cold day at that. We returned to our apartment, ate and started some light drinking. We tried ever so hard to stay awake but around 11:20pm we decided it was New Years somewhere in the world at that minute pop the champagne, consumed it and feel into a deep and well deserved slumber. The skiing had ruined us all! :-)
The next day we headed off to Rjukan, the heart of ice climbing in Norway, with easily over a 100 ice falls to climb. We took a route that would take us over the eastern edge of the Hardangervidda. The Hardangervidda are the disolet highlands North West of Oslo and North East of Rjukan and Vemork. This is the area where many Norwegian soliders hid from the Germans during WWII, especially those that supported or carrried out the attacks on the heavy water plant at Vemork, just up the valley from Rjukan. Google "Heroes of Telemark" and ignore the movie references. ;-)
At one point on this slow but beautiful journey, I asked Tim to stop the car so we could admire the beautiful scenery and read a memorial. The memorial shows the map with the path that a number of the Norwegian soldiers used to escape across the Hardangervidda and regions between here and the border of Sweden to safety, a distance of 600km's after the attack on the Vemork plant. Many others chose to stay behind, they not only avoided capture but played havoc with the German's until the end of the occupation.
Hopefully this picture here shows the map clear enough to understand the magnitude of this feat in the depths of winter.