Kristoffer Szilas

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Eidfjord avalanche

Posted on January 30, 2011 at 4:16 PM

This weekend photographer Alexandre Buisse and I wanted to repeat Will Gadd's ice climb Skykkjedalsfossen aka "Sketchyfossen" (WI5+ R, 400m) in Eidfjord, Norway.

Despite having scouted the approach the day before we only realised that the first two pitches of the climb had fallen down when we stood at the foot of it and on top of that the whole thing was flushed by one of the biggest avalanches I've seen. It had snowed about 15 cm during the night, but we thought we should at least climb the gully on the right as the conditions were very "Scottish" and ideal for that kind of thing. Seth Hobby had done the first ascent of it the year before.

On the slog up to it we saw an obvious route on the left side of gully that can't be seen from below and it would likely have been a first ascent, so we decided to go for that instead. I had to dig through half a meter of snow for several hundreds of meters to get to the start of the route and in the same moment I reached the base of the climb the whole slope gave way in a big avalanche.

It was a really scary experience because I lost control completely and was under with my head down-hill and couldn't breathe at all. I dropped both of my tools and got on my back and head up-hill and started to swim to get to the surface of the flow and managed to get my head out. It was like riding the wildest roller coaster you can imagine. Luckily there was a curve in the gully, so the avalanche died out after about 200 meters and both Alex and I were close enough to the surface that we could get out although we were tangled up in the rope.

I think what saved us was the fact that we were at the very top of the slope when it slid. Had we been at the base the story could have been very different. Obviously we should have stayed away from the steep gully given that it had been snowing hard all night and I think we both learned a lesson about the danger of avalanches.

"Sketchyfossen" on the left and the avalanche gully on the right:

You can read Alex'  take on the experience HERE.

There is more info about ice climbing in Eidfjord here:

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