Hydnefossen could be the single most outstanding climb in Norway. Although there are harder and longer routes, Hydnefossen is one of those must-do classic hard ice climbs, one that any ice climber would want to have on his or her tick list. It’s of the same stature as other legendary climbs, such as the Weeping Wall, Weeping Pillar, Polar Circus and La Pomme d’Or in Canada, Crack Baby in Switzerland, La Dame du Lac in France or Repentance in Italy, to name a few. In short, if you’re going to travel to Norway, you can’t leave without having bagged this climb.
Hydnefossen is located in south-central Norway, close to the Aspen-like town of Hemsedal. It takes us three hours from the top of Voringfossen to drive over the vast, high, flat, and blindingly white snow-covered plateaux to reach Gol. With a few hours of daylight to spare, we drive north toward Hemsedal to view the ice climb. It looms steep and high above the valley floor on the only dramatically dark north face in the area. It is long and impressive, like someone sprayed the entire 250m wide wall with ice.
In the morning, we drive back to the climb after sleeping 20 minutes down valley in Gol and cross paths (in our car, thankfully) with two moose who are randomly strolling in the wide-open fields. We park the car close to a woodpile and start following what resembles a trail. Ten minutes into the approach, we realize that what we had thought was the trail is nothing other than moose tracks. We are thigh deep in the snow and decide to turn around to grab our skis from the car. Despite our skis, we are still sinking up to our thighs in a huge amount of depth hoar. The slopes above look big and we are concerned about the avalanche hazard. The snowpack is the worst it’s been in Norway in 30 years. The avalanche on the approach to Dr. Evil made us all the more wary of avalanches, along with all the friends we have lost to avalanches this past year. During the Bozeman Ice Festival, legendary ice climber Guy Lacelle was swept away by an avalanche. Guy had soloed Hydnefossen back in 1994 and the night of his death, there was a viewing of Guy soloing Hydnefossen for the second time, back in 2008. We wanted to climb it not only because it’s an amazing climb, but also as a tribute to the inspirational man Guy was. Adam called it “The GLMC—The Guy Lacelle Memorial Climb.”
We pick what seems to be the safest line to get to the climb. The snow is so bad though that it takes us four hours instead of the normal hour and a half to reach the base of the climb. It’s already 1 p.m. when we reach a safe alcove below the wall of ice. After fighting so hard to get here and considering this is our only chance to climb this route, I am not willing to leave without getting this climb in. Even if that means getting benighted.
The climbing is steep and the ice is funky, requiring lots of hacking along the way. I follow Adam up the first pitch and am surprised at how steep it is. The whole route offers overhanging sections of mushrooms and tricky ice, requiring lots of awkward body positioning. We find improbable sheltered caves to belay in. On this climb more than on any other, we feel the need to be sheltered, not only from ice that the leader breaks, but also from the huge cornice that hangs over the whole climb like a bad omen. It’s hard to comprehend that Guy soloed this climb.
We climb the route in three long 60m pitches, climbing as fast as we can to beat the dimming daylight. Three steep rappels get us back to the ground. We pack our bags quickly and head on back down our tracks to where we left the skis, a few hundred feet below. I quickly transition back to my ski gear and we carefully make our way down, reaching the car just before having to turn on our headlamps.
This climb was the perfect way to end an already amazing trip to the land of the fjords, trolls and the beautiful and long ice climbs. It made the experience complete. We repeated amazing established lines and we went off the beaten path to do first ascents. We travelled cross country and experienced some of the best that Norway has to offer. Yes, we also dealt with a lot of bad weather conditions, with a lot of wind and snow. This prevented us from climbing a line I was highly infatuated with … Dr. Evil. It felt good to want something this bad. It was hard to not get it and to have to let go, but it’s the name of the game in the mountains. And in turn, we climbed many other spectacular lines and discovered many more to climb in the future. Norway has a lifetime worth of ice climbing to offer and we have only seen the tip of the iceberg. I am already filled with dreams of coming back in the future, dreams of exploring, doing first ascents, and repeating legendary hard lines!
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