How hard can it be to climb on ice?

The thermometer shows -16 C in Lycksele this Sunday of February. Patrick has summoned a hefty bunch to try ice climbing, and everyone is super excited!

Ice climbing in Lycksele

The thermometer shows -16 C in Lycksele this Sunday of February. Patrick Edin, guide for Forsknäckarna, has summoned a hefty bunch to try ice climbing, and everyone is super excited!

Included are I, Sofia from Gold of Lapland, Mats Gunnarsson from Ansia Resort and Johan Eriksson, adventure enthusiast from Umeå. For me, it’s the first time I try this sport. The others are more quirky.

We go by car from Lycksele to Maltbränna, a microscopic village with one of Västerbotten’s most sought after ice falls, but schhhh, do not tell anyone!

”Being out is the best thing ever”

Patrick Edin usually thrives in big rapids in Vindelälven, but winter adventures are equally attractive.

– I started climbing in the 90’s, that’s when I discovered how fun it was. When we discovered that it is also possible to climb in winter, it was a whole new dimension to the adventure, says Patrick.

His friends started climbing Falåström on an icefall that was about 10-12 meters. Later they discovered Maltbränna with its 25 meters high. The adventure guides on Forsknäckarna have guided a good number of groups here, but so far river rafting is their most booked experience.
“I like the adventure, being out with guests and having fun is the best thing ever,” says Patrick.

The small icefall.
Johan on his way to the wall.

A magnificent ice wall

It’s not easy to find the icefall from the road, no sign to show you where it is. But Patrick knows the right place. This winter 2018 offers a lot of snow, so snow shoes are included in the absence of a path. Fortunately, some climbers have already been there and trampled one. We put on our equipment by the car and travel through the enchanted forest like little trolls. Maybe I’m the little troll and the others are not that small. The first wall we see is small with magnificent icicles of just over 1.5m. Already I’m impressed, but it’s going to be even better. To the left, the ladder continues and a huge (in my opinion) ice wall glows in the white snow. Here we are going to climb.

When ice climbing, the climber climbs upwards with the help of sticks and ice axes. I ask Mats how long he has climbed.
– Yes, well since sometime in the 80’s I think.
With that information, I clearly feel like the worst in class, but safe with routine climbers. Johan Eriksson gives some instructions on how to install the ax and how to tilt my heel down so that the crampons will get caught in the wall. Patrick and Mats have gone up to ensure safety at the top. Suddenly nervoussness is also at its top!

"Watch out for the softshell pants so you do not tear them apart!"

Patrick gives me the final information, but it is already too late… The unmasked truth is that I tore a hole straight away when testing my steps. Perfect! Rule number one, bring comfortable clothes. Just taking hold of your feet is a real challenge for a newbie like me. I feel like a cat hanging by the claws on a sofa edge. A clumsy cat actually. After a few steps, and desperately hacking with the left hand, I give mup after a few meters… 1.5 maybe if I’ll be honest. Afterwards my hands are so cold that I can hardly speak. Rule number two: be warm-blooded or wear super-warm gloves.

Snow, ice and frozen fingers

Then it was Mat’s turn. Johan has climbed down from the top to take some pictures from above and asks Mats to climb a bit higher. Further up icicles go straight down and it does not look as stable as the massive ice wall down, but everything goes well.

Round two for me – now I pull up my pants on my knees, put on my thick mittens and chop with the mantra “Kick up!”, which happens to be rule number three. This time it’s going to be much better. After maybe five meters I stop and jump down. Satisfied.

After everyone has made a trip on the wall, we take a fika (refreshments) and admire the nature we are in. Snow falls down between the spruce trees, and both peace and satisfaction are inspired by the physical effort and the quietness of the place. I can say that we locals do not even know half of what magic treasures are in our nature.

So – how hard was it?

As with much else, a lot harder than you think, but super cool!

 

Text & photo: Sofia Johansson

Translation: Floriane Colonnier

 

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