Rjukan – Norway
by Lucy and James
After a spontaneous idea at the annual Meets meet, James and I decided to organise a climbing trip to Norway, the most recent by the club in a couple of years. There was great interest for the trip, and 12 of us signed up and packed our bags, heading to the cold dark industrial town of Rjukan. Out of interest, the town doesn’t receive direct sunlight for 6 months of the year and rely on a sun mirror on the mountainside to illuminate their town square during winter months! These cold conditions make Rjukan ideal for forming ice and it has become a world famous ice climbing destination. Arriving with a couple of Rjukan old timers and some of us newbies, I was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely town, nowhere near as bleak as my imagination lead me to believe, with a picturesque valley with amazing frozen waterfalls littered around the valley sides in every direction. An ice climbing paradise!
We were driving to our two apartments, run by Rjukan.co.uk, a stones throw away from many climbs. After we had all navigated our way around the Norwegian delicacies in the supermarket (with many a packet of ‘mystery meat’ purchased) we safely arrived at the accommodation- much to Mark’s delight after having Tom and Neil push every button in their fancy hire car, including ‘Driving Pip mode’…whatever that means? Then plans for the next day were decided on that evening.
On the first day the majority of the group headed to Krokan, the prime location for ice climbing cragging (think Stannage on ice) . Some of the group had arranged an instructor for a days tuition, while another team bagged as many routes as they could. Others in the group headed to Ozzimosis, which had a great selection of easier climbs to warm up on and allow us to remember how to swing the axe, saving as much energy as possible!
It was Birthday Boy Tom’s 30th so celebrations that night, comprising of cake and Whiskey, were duly enjoyed…and finished!
By the third day Neil C had acquired some ‘proper boots’ from Jakob at the Old School Hostel, and so found the rest of the weeks climbing was much more pleasurable! A lot of snow had fallen over night so Neil, Marketa, James, David and I headed to the Gaustatoppen Ski resort for some lovely powder and piste skiing. Mark, Tom, Izzy, Kevin and Neil headed to the bottom of the lower gorge, which is an inviting and picturesque location.
On the 4th day Becky and Izzy were guided up a classic multi pitch route Tjonnstadbergfossen on the north of the valley, where they enjoyed climbing in the sun for a lot of the day – not typical in Rjukan. Meanwhile the rest of the group headed to the lower and upper gorge. Alistair and David climbed Sabotorfossen a classic route in the imposing and atmospheric upper gorge.
That evening it was El David’s turn to cook, which by past experience would mean dinner around 12am. The boys were expecting a chicken curry so when a version of a Spanish paella appeared on their plates they were shocked but pleasantly surprised….with the added bonus of arriving in good time.
The next day Mark and Tom climbed the WI 5 Solfeston with David, including an uncomfortable hanging belay. For David this route was spoiled by the guidebook suggestion to make two pitches, when it would have been much more enjoyable in 3 or even 4 pitches. James, Neil and I did the Tjonnstadbergfossen route next door, after Becky and Izzy’s recommendation. Meanwhile Becky and Al did Trappfoss in the upper gorge. That night the boys enjoyed a lot of sausage, much to some their stomachs disappointment!
The final day saw everyone headed for Upper Gorge, which is somewhere that everyone should visit at least once when in Rjukan. Izzy, Kevin and Neil climbed Lettvann followed by Svingfoss (the epitome of roadside ice cragging where you could even belay from a parked car if you like!) James and David scaled Juvsoyla, a WI6, which was visible from the apartment and which David had been eyeing up most of the week. Their progress was monitored by the group as they inched their way up the far from perfect and in places overhanging ice. Both as you can imagine were shattered by the end and ready to call it a week!
It was a fantastic week with fantastic company with a lot of climbs achieved and a lot of aching muscles from the climbing and from the laughing!