Austrians Hunt Ice in Norway's Lyngen Alps

Posted on: April 2, 2010

Albert Leichtfried on a WI7 climb in the Lyngen Alps of Norway. In February, Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner climbed about 10 ice flows in the area, fighting bitter cold temperatures and brittle ice. Unsure if the flows have been climbed before, they have given interim names to their routes. This one they called Roadside. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

Over a two-week period in February, Austrians Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner traveled to Lyngenfjord in northern Norway to explore icefalls in the Lyngen Alps. The result was a series of impressive ascents, including a WI7 and WI7-.

Storfossen (WI7- X, 150m), Spesiell Canyon, Lyngen Alps, Norway. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

Unsure of what they would find in Lyngen, they took a chance after speaking with Graham Austick, owner and manager of Lyngen Lodge. Austick provided old photos and arcane directions to the icefalls, many of which required two-hour approaches on snowshoes. Leichtfried and Purner remain uncertain about which climbs are new ascents, and which are repeats. But, finding no traces of previous parties, they named and graded the icefalls they climbed.

A year before, Leichtfried took a similar trip, but unusually high temperatures and poor conditions shut out his hopes for climbing ice. This year, he found the opposite: bitter cold, ranging from -8 to -22 degrees C, created brittle and challenging conditions, particularly on overhanging ice. But the fragility did little to slow them down.

Leichtfried and Purner climbed Startfossen (WI4, 60m) on their first day, then Gullyvers Reisen (WI5, 130m) on Day 2. On the third day they took a ferry across the fjord to Lyngseidet and climbed two routes: Goldrush (WI5+, 200m) and Rapunzel (WI5, 230m). On the fourth day they fought through a snowstorm and climbed the thin Manner mag man eben (WI5+ M6, 120m) in the heart of Spesiell Canyon. After lots of vertical in the extreme cold, they decided to take a rest day.

While in Spesiell Canyon they discovered and returned to what they believe are two new lines. First they climbed Kalteschock (WI6 X, 80m), a precarious route with numerous free-standing sections, then Storfossen (WI7- X, 150m), which involved even more dangerous climbing as ice hung freely off the wall. They climbed both carefully but rapidly. The following day, foregoing respite, Leichtfried and Purner climbed Roadside (WI7), an extremely demanding route that snaked its way through swaths of free-standing ice and pushed through an overhang.


After so much snowshoeing and post-holing, the next day the Austrians took a small 50-horsepower fishing boat to the other side of the fjord to climb Lyngen Magig (WI5, 120m) in perfect conditions. They returned that evening, soaking in the colors of the northern lights.

"This time we had as much luck with the weather as we had bad luck last year," Leichtfried said. "The trip to Lyngen proved to be one of the most intensive, impressive and successful I've ever been on."

Northern lights over Lyngenfjord, Norway. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

Leichtfried on Goldrush (WI5+, 200m), Lyngseidet, Lyngen Alps, Norway. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

Leichtfried on Startfossen (WI4, 60m), Lyngen Alps, Norway. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

Leichtfried and Purner eye Lyngen Magig (WI5, 120m) from Lyngenfjord, Norway. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

Leichtfried belays Purner on Kalteschock (WI6 X) during another cold day in the Lyngen Alps, Norway. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

Lyngenfjord, Norway. [Photo] Klaus Kranebitter

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And just for the record: Several of these lines have been climbed previously, some of the dozens of times. The icefall named "Startfossen" can be none other than Piggsteinfossen, just off the main highway E6. It's been climbed since the 1980s. Leichtfried & al also seem to have been on Oksen and Iselvfossen by Lyngseidet, both of them regular items on the ticklists of local and visiting climbers. Storfossen in Řrnedalen (interestingly labelled "spesiell canyon in this story) has also been climbed previously.

2011-12-04 03:27:29

"Spesiell canyon" is not a name, just a phrase meaning "unusual canyon". From the GPS coordinates given I assume these gentlemen have read it on a roadsign pointing to Ørnedalen/Sorbmejohkka, which indeed is an unusual canyon and a local attraction. The central part of it has some spectacular waterfalls, and several of these were climbed by locals Børge Solbakk, Øystein Cruikshank, Kurt Kaspersen & others in the late 1990s. Børge wanted to celebrate his 40th birthday in the little miner's hut at the rim and have his guests climb ice to the party - but sadly was killed in an ice fall collapse just a month before it would have happened.

Otherwise it is not obvious which waterfall near Lyngseidet the austrians have climbed. Some of the thinner lines may be first ascents, but it is fairly safe to assume that all the obvious waterfalls on either side of Lyngseidet and south to Furuflaten have been climbed by locals up to 30 years ago.

2010-04-18 07:54:54

2nd first ascents are all the rage that we wage when we visit the nordland making claims to fame that the finns and the norwegians found culturely distasteful (but then again rotten fish is consider goot eats in them parts)

2010-04-13 03:54:06

I skied up the hill in the northern lights picture last week!

Congrats to the guys for some great looking ascents. It seems they have also discovered that getting info about Lyngen ice is really hard. I have no idea if any of their potential new routes have been done before or not, there is so much ice up there that there is a good chance that they are first ascents, but it should be noted that the area has seen a lot of often unrecorded activity from Finnish climbers for some time. There was even a small, amateur topo guide produced in the 1990s by Leo Määttälä of Mountain Shop in Helsinki to climbs he and other Finns did in that region in the 80s and 90s. This is mainly alpine stuff I think but includes some info icefalls. Finns seem to have adopted the same approach as the Norwegians and makes very little fuss about their ascents up there. There is some info and great pics on blogs and the like, but the impenetrable-to-most Finnish language just makes researching the area harder!

But Lyngen/Skibotn/KĂĽfjord/Tammokdalen area is an amazing place with ice climbs for all from the level of punter (me) to aces like Leichtfried and Purner. You just need a sense of adventure (and a warm belay jacket!). There are some pics from a 2008 trip on my Flickr page:

2010-04-13 01:56:58
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