Charlie and I headed to Norway above the arctic circle last year, and I figured I would post all that we learned. This is in no way comprehensive, but hopefully helpful.
We headed to the Troms region for New Years via Norwegian Air to the City of Tromso. Our trip was one week in the UK for Christmas, one week in Norway for hugging an icicle in the dark. We rented a car in Tromso (make sure it has studded tires) and drove south to Harstad. You will need a car to go ice climbing or skiing. Below is what we found.
Troms is above the Arctic Circle, which means that the sun does not rise for about 6 weeks centered around December 21. However, this does not mean that it is entirely dark. We had about 4 hours of twilight a day which was more than enough to find an ice climb on a not-so-far off mountain. We planned our approaches for this time of day. You will be climbing in the dark, but if you have a top rope set-up by the time it is pitch black, it as actually pretty reasonable. No sun also meant that the temperature is constant, with no diurnal fluctuation. The temperature hovered between -2 to 4C, thus everything turned to blue ice including roads, snow, sidewalks and entire mountains. Great for ice climbing, not so good for anything else. It is possible for the temperature to drop to below -20C, just don’t expect the sun to come out and make it feel any warmer.
Forecasts, including avi forecasts can be found at:
Forecast for northern lights can be found at:
Restaurants are extremely expensive, in the range of $65 for two burgers and drinks. I believe that minimum wage is $27 US/hour which explains at least part of the cost of an service. Supermarkets are not so bad if you have a place to cook the food. Many gas stations have a deli-type area that serves reasonably priced and healthy sandwiches.
Brand name hotels are extremely expensive, something like $250 a night for an average room. There are country cabins such as (www.booking.com/hotel/no/lapphaugen-turiststasjon.en-gb.html#) which are very nice, cost about $120/night for 4, have a place to cook, and are located in the mountains in climbing/skiing areas. However, they have no reception, and you will likely need a cell phone to be able to contact the owner to get in, be warned. We didn’t figure this out, but I would recommend getting a Norwegian pay-as-you-you SIM card (assuming you have a compatible phone).
Basically, drive down the road until you see a nice line. Unlike the Rockies where the ice climbs are beautiful blue ice ribbons up a grey cliff (hopefully), Norwegian ice climbs cover the entire cliff with little lines of grey poking through. The climate is reasonably wet, so expect alpine ice conditions (layers of snow, hard snow, blue ice, snice , etc)
The following area is a great place to get started:
We walked across the ice, which appeared to be frozen by the first of the year. Parking is limited, but we did not see a single other ice climbing party the entire time we were there. We also did not see any v-threads and the friends we climbed with usually just wrapped their rope around 15 or so slide alder, I did my best to clean at the end of the day. I’m not sure what local opinion is of v-threads, but our friends were more than happy to use them.
Highway 84 near Fossbakken has no route descriptions that I found, but you don’t need much imagination to figure it out.
Bardujord area is pretty amazing. When the the guide says 700 m of climbing with 500 m of vertical, they mean 700 m of solid, technical ice without once walking on rock. Grades are hard, but large chunks of the climbs are not. Charlie and I tried Skredbekken with no intentions of actually getting to the top. 3 or 4 pitches seemed worth while, but barely got us 25% of the way up.
An excellent guide for the area (english) can be found at.
Depending on the time of year, a good headlamp is mandatory. Skis are incredibly useful, but renting is expensive. Norwegian Air is a budget airline with little baggage allowance. I think if I was to do it again, I would bring my AT boots for both skiing and climbing, ski poles, 1×60 m half rope, 2/3 rack and climbing gear (harness, helmet, etc). I would then rent skis and skins in Tromso. Staying in cabins will likely require sheets (sleeping bag), but no other camping gear. If you are purely ice climbing, many approaches are short and don’t require skis, but the skiing is excellent and you will be missing out.
Hope this inspires someone to give Norway a try. Maybe at a time of year with a little more light.
The following is a picture of Bergbekken, casually described as “Two long, moderate waterfalls below the mountain Bergkletten.” What 2 lines do they mean? I see a minimum of 10!