Ice, Snow and Heavy Water: 5 days in Rjukan

by Ed Jenkins

Alex S on Anakje  WI-3 Photo credit: Ed JenkinsOn a wet Wednesday morning at the end of January myself, housemate Alex S, and another friend (also called Alex), headed to Gatwick bound for 5 days in Rjukan. After a busy start to the year, I probably wasn’t as visibly psyched as I should be. That changed on landing on the frozen runway of Oslo and the drive past some amazing scenery to Rjukan itself.

Alex S on Anakje WI-3 Photo credit: Ed Jenkins For our first day climbing we headed up the valley to Krokan. One of the benefits of Rjukan is how close to the road a lot of the venues are. What I hadn’t realised, though, was that a lot of the easily accessible climbs are up the side of river banks and the surface you walk and belay from is atop snow and ice with the cold river very close below.

Alex and Alex on Svingfoss WI-4 Photo credit: Ed JenkinsScottish winter, Alpinism and trips to the ice factor meant a familiarisation with axes and crampons but actual ice climbing was a step up. Trusting your front points, managing the burning calfs, hotaches and sore arms whilst trying to retrieve ice screws contributes to a shaky affair but one that still thrills. As the day progressed my confidence was building and abseiling off a balakov thread at the end of my first lead (Unknown (8) WI-2) ended a good first day climbing.

The second day was a visit to Ozzimosis and an improvement on the day before. I was beginning to understand how important managing the pump in my arms and calves was, and this is something I am looking to transfer back into my rock climbing. On the namesake route of the crag, I gained a begrudging respect for Alex S having to do this as well as lead climb - all the while knowing that a fall would result in decking out and pulling the ice with you.

Ed on Bullen WI-3 Photo Credit: Alex GeorgeDay three started with the anticipation of doing Nye Vemorkfoss WI-5, a 3 pitch route with reasonable walk in. However, the consistent snowfall in the first couple of days meant the area was significantly avalanche prone and we decided against it. Instead, we had the most enjoyable day of the trip. Slightly unsure what to do, we opted to posthole through the waist deep snow into lower gorge and did Camillas Foss WI-3. Afterwards the highlight of the trip was seconding Svingfoss WI-4. This route is one we had driven past many times by this stage. Whilst challenging, it was one I came down from really pleased with the way I had climbed it.

The final day began early with a morning at Krokan. I led my second route of the trip (Bullen WI-3) and seconded Alex S on Fyrstikka (WI-5). I returned to Gatwick exhausted and dulled by the thought of returning to work in a few hours. However, I knew I had caught the bug, and if I hadn’t been visibly excited by ice climbing before, I definitely was now!

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