It was actually Philippe Batoux, who told me and Michel Coranotte about Gudvangen.
The village has character and a myriad of adventures waiting to be discovered, from the Nærøyfjord, which is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list, to a multitude of attractions, including ice climbing.
When Philippe, who has ice climbed everywhere on this planet, told me that Gudvangen has one of the biggest icefall centers on earth, we had to go.
We wanted to climb Fosslimonster, reputed to be one of the longest and most beautiful ice climbs in the world. Unfortunately, due to bad conditions we had to change our plans and find something else to climb.
Luckily, I saw an attractive line a bit further in the valley.
We started at 5:00 in the morning without much info about the route. But I like to climb like a pioneer, counting on my own experience.
When we arrived our base we discovered a big circus with a huge icefall hanging in the middle. This was comprised of two long overhanging pitches, the good ice hidden by long icicle curtains. I had to get access to this ice which meant a very careful removal process stripping back decades and kilos of growth. Each pitch took around an hour and a half, it was arduous work. The final pitch was a bit easier, but by this point, I’d become a bit more weary. Additionally, darkness had arrived meaning that we had to finish the route rappelling down into a dark and fairly terrifying hole!
In all, it took us 14 hours. It was on the next day, as we recovered at the cabin, that we found the name of the icefall: Middagshoven. 300 meters where 2 pitches are graded WI 6+.
The day after, with increasing temperatures and with the rain level going to the top of the fjords, the routes were no longer icefalls, but waterfalls. As often is the case in the mountains, it was the weather conditions that set the rules. Ice climbing is all about being at the right place at the right time.