During northern Sweden's long winter there is a keen group of climbers in K3 (Kiruna klätterklubb - Kiruna Climbing Club) who devote themselves to ice climbing in the parts of Sweden and Norway that are within reach of Kiruna, Lapland.
The main areas are:
* short routes (up to 3 pitches long) beside the E10 highway between Torneträsk (50 km west of Kiruna) and Narvik and Bjerkvik (in Norway).
* longer routes (up to 7 pitches) at Stora Sjöfallet
(south of Gällivare/Malmberget), and in Spansdalen,
Lavangen (an hour north of Narvik in Norway).
WEST OF KIRUNA
The station of Torneträsk lies 50 kilometres west of
Kiruna beside the E10 highway, where the road meets the lake
of the same name. There is a frozen waterfall, Falska blondiner (Peroxide blondes) which
forms in the early winter a couple of kilometres past the
turn-off to the station, below a radio mast. This
provides a 120-metre route with a short steep start, a long
easy-angled middle section, and about 30 metres of 75 degree
ice at the top. Later in the winter the climb is
usually out of condition, as much of the lower part of the
waterfall is buried in snow, and a large cornice forms at
the top. The usual descent is to the left from the top
of the climb.
70 kilometres from Kiruna above the E10 highway is the formidable cliff line of Kaisepakte, overlooking the large lake of Torneträsk. The best approach is straight up from below the main waterfall following a slight ridge which avoids the sometimes avalanche-prone snow-slopes on either side. The approach takes 60-90 minutes. Ice conditions on Kaisepakte are often difficult, especially in the middle of winter (probably because the fall is north-facing and never gets any sun), but are often better in the spring when the temperatures begin to increase.
* A broad waterfall forms in the middle of the cliff early in the winter, and stays there until late in the spring. It provides two pitches of steep ice climbing, with some vertical sections. There is an enjoyable route which follows the lefthand edge of the waterfall. To descend, either abseil or traverse right along the edge of the escarpment until it is possible to descend towards the old station building.
* A couple of hundred metres to the right of the main waterfall is another broad waterfall which starts a short distance up a prominent gully. It provides about 55 metres of 80-90 degree ice up to where the angle eases. Descend by abseil, or continue more easily (?) to the top. First recorded ascent: Rick McGregor and Anders Hedefalk, 26 November 2000.
* Near the righthand end of the escarpment is a smaller waterfall (above the railway station). This provides a steep pitch of ice climbing and a pitch of rock to finish. First ascent: Peter Öhman and Kevin Edwards, c. 2000. Descend to the right.
* At the far righthand end of the escarpment, about 60-90 mins walk from the railway station, is a new area with about 8 routes (50-90m): The Hidden Valley (Gömda dalen). Photos
Lillpakte is the local climbers' unofficial name for the smaller cliff above the E10 some 5 kilometres beyond Kaisepakte. It is so named because it looks like a miniature version of the latter feature. From a parking area beside the road the approach up through birch forest and block terrain (best avoided by going up either left or right of the waterfall) takes about an hour. The waterfall is clearly visible from below, dividing into two main columns, with a roof draped with icicles between. The right hand column provides about 25 metres of steep climbing, and then, if one chooses to climb off the top, a pitch of snow climbing. The left hand column is longer, and can be done in one long pitch, or two shorter ones. The descent is by abseil or to the left from the top (take care in avalanche conditions).
There are long, low-angled ice slopes and steeper, shorter routes at Stordalen, about 80 km west of Kiruna or 10 km east of Abisko. The steeper routes are at the righthand end of a 25 m high cliff-line, and do not always form.
Abisko is a tourist resort 100 km (about an hour) west of Kiruna beside the E10 highway which leads to Narvik in Norway.
Rihtanjira is the steep stream that descends to the left of the chairlift just west of Abisko Turist. Early in the winter it makes for a long alpine climb with a short steep pitch early on and a longer one at the top. There are other short steps which can often be avoided. Later in the season this stream becomes very avalanche-prone, so use your discretion. Approach: drive or walk to the lift station and then contour to the left across to the stream. Descent: follow the chairlift down, with a detour to the west to avoid a cliff that the chairlift goes over near the top.
Left: Abiskojokken (climber: Peter Öhman, photo: Rick McGregor)
There are two areas near Abisko which provide a number of
short training climbs:
Abisko Canyon (Abiskojokken):
To find the ice climbing in the canyon, drive to the
bridge over the Abisko stream (outside Abisko
Turiststation). A fixed rope leads down to the stream,
a short distance to the true right (looking downstream) of
Drive a couple of kilometres past Abisko Tourist Station towards Björkliden. The road cuts through a point just after a section of road which is marked off as an area of avalanche danger. On the left, right beside the road, are a number of 80-90 degree ice columns on a hundred metre long and up to10 metre high cliff. For a guide (in Swedish) to the bolted mixed climbs on this wall see Kurvan
Parking is a bit of a problem. The safest option is to continue to a side road 400 metres further towards Björkliden.
There are two main waterfalls on Njulla, on the cliffline up the
hillside above and north of Kurvan (just north of Abisko). The
routes are about 30 metres long, and generally not too steep.
Take extreme care with the approach, as the slope is very avalanche
prone (there has been a fatality here). The usual approach is from
the western end of the Njulla railway tunnel.
There are a number of excellent one- and two-pitch waterfalls on the steep mountainside of Loktatcohkka, above the old railway station Björkstugan, about 15 km west of Björkliden.
Lokta (photos: Peter Engström)
"The Big Blue" on the left, with an easier grey waterfall at the far left of the picture. Descend by abseil or walk down the gully to the left.
The lefthand picture below shows a broad waterfall above where the road is closest in under the mountainside. The snowfield above it leads up to another, steep, waterfall.
The righthand picture below shows the waterfall furthest right of those in this area. Descend by abseil or climb up and left and then descend a gully (which can be avalanche-prone).
The Kalix Wall (Kalixväggen) is the local name for an area a few kilometres east of the T-junction where the E10 highway meets the E6 halfway between Narvik and Bjerkvik. The routes are right beside the road, and the area is easily recognised by a high cliff of light-coloured rock, usually with a large icicle hanging down towards a broad ledge at half height. There are two other routes further left which provide some 25 metres each of climbing, one up through the forest, the other in an obvious gully. Abseil from trees.
Anders Hedefalk topropes the icicle on Kalix Wall (photo: Rick McGregor)
About a kilometre north of the T-junction where the E10 meets the E6 is a small road that leads up into a hidden valley (Elvekrokdalen) above the signposted power station of Traeldal. Park halfway between the turn-off and the T-junction at a gravel pit, and walk up the forest road and continue up the valley for about half an hour. The first waterfall one encounters wends its way down a gully ca 200 m left of the main waterfall and provides a few pitches of varied ice climbing (abseil back down off trees).
* The main waterfall is 60 metres high and nearly as many broad, and provides two pitches of 70 to 80 degree ice. To descend, follow the cliff-top down to the left until it is possible to make a 50-metre abseil back to the base of the cliff.
Pontus C:son Brandt on the main waterfall at Elvekrokdalen, Norway (photo: Rick McGregor)
A couple of kilometres west of Bjerkvik (on the road towards Harstad) is a long series of road cuttings that provide numerous ice and mixed routes up to 20 metres high.
Spansdalen is the valley which runs down from Fossbakken (on the E6 highway 50 km north of Bjerkvik) to the Lavangen fjord at Tennevoll. Fossbakken is about 200 km from Kiruna (about 3 hours' drive - the roads are slower in Norway, especially in the winter). The valley is an ice climbing paradise, with numerous frozen waterfalls on both sides. They range in length from one to seven pitches long, and many of them have short approaches from the road.
* One of the longest waterfalls is
Henrikkefossen, the impressive fall on the true left near the
bottom of the valley. It begins with a broad wall of 80 degree
ice which leads up for about 60 meters to a snow field. From
the top of the snow field, a section of 60 degree ice leads up over
bulges and past a short section of vertical ice to where the
waterfall narrows between an overhanging wall on the right, and a
steep slab (with potential mixed routes) on the left. In the
upper gully a short wall of 85-90 degree ice leads up to where the
fall widens again to offer a choice of exits - a steep ice pillar on
the right, a narrow snow gully straight up, and steep snow and ice to
the left (80-85 degrees). (Total: c. 7 pitches)
The easiest descent is to head right (towards the fjord) from the top, until it is possible to climb down through steep birch forest back to a gravel road which runs parallel to the river on the other side from the main road.
* On the right of Henrikkafossen is the very steep Søylefossen, first climbed by a Norwegian party in March 1992 (and reported in the Narvik newspaper Fremover in May 1993).
Hendrikkafossen, Spansdalen (photo: Rick McGregor)
* Also on the true left, further up the
valley, is a fine 4-pitch route which looks like a smaller version of
Henrikkafossen. It too starts with a broad wall at the bottom,
which steepens towards the top. After a snow field, a section
of vertical ice leads up to a groove against the cliff on the
right. Above, a series of bulges lead to the top.
It is possible to descend down a long snow gully some distance to the left (away from the fjord), but the gully should be avoided in avalanche conditions. Where the gully turns right, either traverse out right c. 100 metres and do one 50 metre abseil from a flat ledge, or traverse left and continue diagonally down through the forest.
* Further up the valley, still on the true left, are two more 4-pitch routes, a couple of hundred metres apart. The right hand one starts with a broad steep wall.
* The left hand of the two also has a
broad bottom wall, which can be avoided by climbing a 70-80
degree right-leaning ramp from the left. After a short
snow field, 75-80 degree ice continues past some ledges and
bulges to a lower-angled section below the steep final gully
which provides 80-85 degree ice and a fine finish.
Right: Spansdalen, Norway (climber: Peter Öhman,
photo: Rick McGregor)
* There are a number of one- to two-pitch routes halfway down the valley on the true right. Park just after the road flattens out after a steep descent. One gully offers a couple of different waterfalls at its head: a broad 60 metre fall on the left; and on the right a narrower 80 metre fall with a steep first pitch which just reaches a horizontal belay tree on the right, then continues up a series of steps to the top. Abseil off trees to get back down from both routes.
Left: Spansdalen, Norway (climber: Rick McGregor)
* Back up the road 200 metres is an excellent two-pitch route in a relatively confined gully. There is a well sheltered belay site under an overhang on the left after 45 metres. The second pitch starts with a section of 80 degree ice, before easing off at the top. Move out right to belay on trees (a fairly full 50 metres). One 25 metre and one 50 metre abseil lead back down on the right.
* Down the road 300 metres is a broad waterfall of about 30 metres which goes up over a series of steps to trees at the top.
* There are several short routes and a longer low-angle route on the other side of the stream from these routes.
Harsprånget (climber: Peter Engström, photo: Rick McGregor)
Harsprånget is a dam on the Lule River between Gällivare and Jokkmokk about 200 km (2 hours) south of Kiruna and just south of the township of Porjus. Two short but wide frozen waterfalls form in the gorge about a kilometres downstream of the dam, one on each side of the river. They each provide less than 10 metres of steep climbing (80-85 degrees), followed by a longer low angle section.
For some information (in Swedish), see the Gällivare Climbing Club's ice climbing pages: http://22.214.171.124/gkkweb/swe/is.htm
The Suorva Dam area at Stora Sjöfallet provides 1-pitch routes with easy access (photo: Rick McGregor)
Stora Sjöfallet is some 3 hours' drive south of Kiruna, near the head of the Lule River. There are numerous long ice routes, mostly on the northern side of the valley, between Suorva Dam and the Swedish Tourist Association's hut Vakkotavarestugan.
For a translation of a guide published in the Swedish Climbing Association's magazine Bergsport,with additional notes from the Gällivare Climbing Club's web page in Swedish (http://126.96.36.199/gkkweb/swe/is.htm), see: Stora Sjöfallet
Greven and Grevinnan [The Count and The Countess], Stora Sjöfallet (photo: Rick McGregor)
http://isklatring.no (Ice climbing areas in Norway with links to web-based guides)