Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Extreme Sports : Eventyrisen Adventure Ice : The Law Pundit Glacier Climbing in Svellnosbreen in Norway

Did someone say "extreme sports"? Bloggers do not just sit at their PCs. How about glacier climbing in Jotunheimen in Norway? We literally "chanced" upon Adventure Ice (Eventyrisen) during a 1977 camping trip in Scandinavia. All photographs below are by the Law Pundit and we share them with you here (reproduced from 30-year old slides in various stages of quality).

Spiterstulen Svellnosbreen Ice Megalith
All photographs made by and copyright © 2007 by Andis Kaulins. In the Svellnos glacier.
Did glacial towers like this serve as the origination of the idea for man's making of megaliths?

The above photo was taken in 1977 in Svellnosbreen (Svellnos Glacier), Spiterstulen, Jotunheimen, Norway, during a guided "tour" of the glacier. Saagar writes at Virtual Tourist:

"Out of Spiterstulen cottage there are daily (season and weather permitting) guided trips to the Svellnosbreen glacier just below Galdhøpiggen, the highest peak in Norway. The glacier is a wonderland of crevasses, tunnels, towers and ice cliffs ... it's a great experience. Except hiking strength and relevant clothing (you will be told), no previous skills are needed. Daily tours 15 July-15 August. Contact Spiterstulen at 61211480." [Our comment: please note that Visit Norway gives different months for this 7-hour tour - inquire first.]

Svellnosbreen
Jotunheimen means "Home of the Giants".

Svellnosbreen Jotunheimen Ice Giants
These Giants are of Ice. Solid Blue Ice.

Svellnosbreen Ice Megaliths
Did our guide plan to go way up there? We had to follow.
(The sky background of this photo was damaged so we replaced it. The rest is original.)


Key phrases in the Virtual Tourist quotation above are "hiking strength" and "relevant clothing". Guided glacier climbing in Norway like this (not quite the same as glacier walking or glacier hiking) is an extreme sport for most. Do not do this unless you are young and fit, and if you are older, in very good shape and sure-footed. This is mostly suitable for athletic types.

Svellnosbreen Glacier Climbing Norway Norge
The ice terrain to be mastered in the glacier is not always easy. This is wet ice and snow.

An example of the ice terrain to be mastered is found in the photo above which includes the lady in front of us on the mountain rope and her young daughter, who both made the tour with flying colors. In that photo we are coming down and out of the glacier. You have very steep ice terrain on your right, and a big crevice left. This is nothing for the weak-hearted or those without a good sense of balance. Plus, you have to have stamina for this kind of a climb.

Spiterstulen Climb Uphill to Glacier
This photo gives a good idea of the long trek from valley to glacier and back.
The difference in elevation is ca. 1000 meters but the hike is longer of course.


An ad for a "glacier tour" does not mean a comfortable tourist-type tour to view a glacier, as we thought. They surprised us. The description of the glacier tour further above says "no previous skills" required, but you do need to learn immediate skills, like climbing ice hills on crampons (metal spikes) and moving safely up and down steep icy slopes while tethered to a mountain climbing rope shared by 10-15 other people. When you do this the first time, you will have butterflies in your stomach. Guaranteed.

Jotunheimen Hiking to Svellnosbreen
This is the glacier trail at the beginning, but it is not all like this.

We did manage to survive and enjoy this "tour" immensely in 1977 as absolute novices. The young Norwegian guide, who does the glacier tour every day in season (which might be only one summer month, because otherwise the weather can be bad and quite dangerous), looked at us carefully from top to bottom, saw we were young and strong, made a sensible impression, and said we would make it, even though we did not have proper footwear or clothing. He was right, but it was rougher than we thought, as the Law Pundit lost one pair of eyeglasses in a crevice underway through a quick jerky tautening of the mountain rope as someone ahead of him slipped. The rope caught the glasses and they were gone. When the Law Pundit reached into his breast pocket for his replacement pair, he discovered that one eyeglass of those had also broken somewhere underway, so that only one healthy lens remained. It was a half-blind descent. But, not many people worldwide have ever been in this glacier, so we are proudly one of them.

Kaulins Norway Norge Svellnosbreen Blue Tunnel
Andis Kaulins, unshaven for 2 weeks, in the Blue Tunnel, Svellnosbreen, Norway, 1977.

Reinhard Penner Deutschland in Norwegen Spiterstulen
Reinhard Penner at the Entrance to the Blue Tunnel, Svellnosbreen, Spiterstulen, Norway, 1977

The guide, a strapping young Norwegian in great shape, said the glacier climb was not dangerous, unless the weather got really bad, in which case we would turn around and go back home. We were lucky and had sun nearly all day long. Here is a good quotation from elsewhere:

"On a clear morning we packed up and began the climb from 5000 to 7000 feet. As we stepped onto the glacier we roped up. This put a guide at the lead and each person tied into a rope at about twenty foot intervals. Another truth about climbing was revealed to all of us. When a guide says, "one" you translate to, "two and a half." For example, you ask, "how long is the climb to high camp?" The guide would say, "one hour." You then translate this to "two and a half hours." If the guide says, "three" the true answer is, "seven and a half" and so on. Once understood, it eased our anticipation...." Leon Watts, Living the Life with MountainZone.com

The guide told us that he made the hike down from the glacier in about one hour. It took us nearly 3 hours to go up to the glacier and nearly 2 hours down (plus 2 hours in the glacier), but we were in street shoes - that's all we had along - as we were in Norway more to find and photograph elk than to do any glacial mountaineering. We had been in Lom , the gateway to Jotunheimen, to take a look at the Lom Stave Church, among the oldest stave churches in the world, and were headed South when Spiterstulen stopped us. Better planning is essential, truly.

Spiterstulen Mountain Hiking to the Glacier
It is a long, rocky and partially watery trek from the base camp lodges in Spiterstulen to the glacier above,
probably ca. 1000 meters elevation difference with a hiking distance of about 3 km very steeply uphill.


How we got to Svellnosbreen was a surprise. We had no expectation of a 2-3 hour hike straight uphill to reach the glacier, with only 1 Coke and 1 Snickers along for thirst and hunger. We were not prepared for that. The Norwegians in our group shared their food and drink with us.

Jotunheimen Hikers to the Glacier
Experienced climbers had the right footwear, clothing and backpacks with food & drink.

A simple tourist brochure ad for a "glacier tour" which we saw by chance in Spiterstulen - with emphasis on "tour" - turned out to be a totally unexpected full day's real-life adventure.

Andis Kaulins Glacier Tour Norway Svellnosbreen
The Law Pundit - August 1977 - near the end of the glacier tour on the return leg.
Whew. It was a bit cold in that rain outfit.
Wow! We made it. It was a thrilling experience and an unprecedented memory for a lifetime.
W
e are surely one of very few chance "passers by" to ever take this glacier tour unplanned.

Background Information and Links

Jotunheimen is the highest mountain range in Scandinavia. The name means "Home of the Giants". Spiterstulen is at 1100 meters, at the border of the tree line, and serves as the base camp lodging for hikers and climbers in this area. We do not know the exact elevation of the glacier tongue at Svellnosbreen.

Arnstein Berg has a superb photo of the entire Svellnosbreen Glacier from the front as seen from Visdalen - with Galdhøpiggen, the highest mountain in Norway, at the immediate back
High Resolution map of Svellnosbreen
Spiterstulen (Norwegian, English, German)
Høgskulen i Volda (Volda University College) nice page on Spiterstulen
Svellnosbreen rundt map of the glaciers around Spiterstulen (bottom of page)
Per Gustaffson at Eventyrisen climbers at Svellnosbreen
Eventyrisen at Flickr
Traildatabase for this region of Norway
Den Norske Turistforening (The Norwegian Trekking Association)
Sogneford
TuristVeg
Jotunheimen at Wikipedia
Jotunheimen - in Norwegian, but see picture gallery
Jotunheimen Links of various kinds for hiking in Norway
Till Topps Guide to Jotunheimen
Visit Lom
Trygg i Jotunheimen (Feel Safe in Jotunheimen - only in Norwegian)
Jotunheimen-Turist - Vågå Reiseliv (Norwegian, English, German)
Fjellsiden (Norwegian - some photos of Jotunheimen)
Adam Cagliarini has a photo of Svellnosbreen glacier looking from Galdhøpiggen
Mike Greenfield has great pictures of the glacier and surrounding area
At Fjellweb you see how people are properly dressed for climbing in this region
Britta Schönenborn has a great photo of the Giants of Svellnosbreen
Hakadal KFUK bildegalleri of Svellnosbreen
Aktiv i Oslo
Breogfjellsport
Gletscher Touren und Kurse (Fjell-touren, Gletschertouren, Gletscherkurse)

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