Winter first ascents Iceland & Norway
Mr Freeze WI 6 Dramb, Bjorgum, Iceland, 02.07
In January 2007, Ian Parnell, Ramon Marin, Sandy Ogilvie and I set out to Iceland to investigate some enticing rumours of ice climbing on sea cliffs. It seemed like a long shot, but we were blown away by what we found. The cliffs near to Bjorgum in the North West turned out to be an ice climber’s paradise. We repeated some of the classics and added a new route on a sea cliff called Dramb up a fragile freestanding pillar, which I named ‘Mr.Freeze’. We stayed in a warm and welcoming farmhouse nearby and drove along the beach to get to the crag in our 4x4! For those after a new experience, there is nothing to match the sensation of ice climbing with the ocean crashing below your feet. Conditions are reliable in January and February but the weather can be pretty severe.
2. NORWAY - Lyngen Alps
In the winter of 2013, Mark Garthwaite, Kenton Cool, Ian Parnell and I set out to the explore the ice climbing potential of the Arctic Coast of Norway near Tromso. At the time of our trip, there was very little reliable documentation for this wild, remote region and it was impossible to tell whether many of the routes we climbed were first ascents or not. We didn’t see any other climbers during our fortnight’s stay and were treated to the breathtaking spectacle of the Northern Lights on most evenings.
Spitfire WI 5+ M5 Roadside, Lyngen Alps, Norway, 02.13
The right-hand of the two very obvious falls, which are visible from the road. The first pitch climbs a series of discontinuous pillars to a cave belay on the left. Pitch 2 makes a precarious mixed traverse rightwards to gain the huge hanging pillar. The third pitch bridges up the front of the columns to a small cave and the final pitch involves further steep bridging until easier angled ice is reached. Descend by abseil. This crag is very obvious from the road but the long approach may have deterred potential suitors. A local climber who was advising us believed that neither of the two lines on this crag had been climbed (Ian Parnell and Kenton Cool climbed the pillar to the left at WI 6). This is one of the best ice routes I’ve ever done, being extremely varied and atmospheric and with stunning formations. It is also much easier than it looks. The approach takes 2 ½ – 3 hours depending on snow conditions, but it’s well worth it.