Rjukan Ice (Norway)
We visit the Norwegian ice climbing Mecca’s of Rjukan and Hemsedal every year and these stunning venues have options for every experience level and every aspiration – but they are different in character so check the details on both venues.
Norway is a magical country perhaps best known for its stunning natural environment, friendly locals and great adventure opportunities. There are amazing challenges for all outdoor lovers, but for climbers it is surely heaven on earth. In summer there are options like the beautiful Lofoten Islands or the famous Troll Wall and in winter there is…..Rjukan and Hemsedal!
Drop those names and ice climbers in the know will smile sweetly. Norway’s deep valleys, wet climate and reliable low winter temperatures have created a truly magical playground – there’s a very good reason Norway has rapidly established itself as an ice climbing Mecca. Each year we visit both venues and the details on this page are all about Rjukan – but do check out the details on our Hemsedal page too because they each have their own unique characters.
Peak Mountaineering first visited Rjukan over 20 years ago and it has just got better and better over the years. There is an excellent accommodation infrastructure, quality guidebooks, efficient travel options from the UK and over 200 ice routes ranging from gentle single pitchers perfect for beginners through to multi pitch challenges that will test the budding ice Jedi.
Rjukan is named after the small town that sits in the base of the deep sided valley made famous by the wartime Heroes of Telemark story where commandos attacked Hitler’s heavy water plant to help thwart his nuclear weapons programme. The town was actually built for workers operating the hydro electric plant in the valley and the fact there’s still a plant there is a clue to why Rjukan is such an ice climbing paradise – the copious flows of water combine with the steep gorge and valley walls to form amazing ice structures. Combine the superb climbing with easy access and great facilities and it really doesn’t get better. Oh, and there’s also a ski resort nearby if that’s your thing.
Rjukan has an excellent accommodation infrastructure, some tempting gear shops, quality guidebooks, efficient travel options from the UK and there is even a small cinema. It wants for nothing. Please do check out our info on the Itinerary and Location pages for all the details and our FAQ’s page should answer all your other queries. Lastly, you need to know how deep into your piggy bank you’ll need to dig. All this is detailed on our Trip Costs page.
We aim to make our Norway weeks as relaxed as possible (you are on holiday after all!) but we also want to maximise climbing and skills development time. So, we certainly do follow a format but we also like to have some flexibility to account for varying weather conditions and group preferences. Generally, though, our Rjukan week looks like this:
What is the format for the week?
After arrival on Sunday evening we’ll discuss plans for the following day and get everything organised. We’ll then head out after breakfast on day 2 and visit one of the easy to access venues to start our adventure. Development will progress at a speed that suits you, but over the next few days we’ll visit a range of locations carefully picked to match your aspirations and experience level. After 3 days of climbing you’ll find your arms screaming for a break and so we leave Thursday as a rest day. This offers the chance to ski at the nearby ski area (highly recommended) or, if you fancy more of a relaxing day, Rjukan has plenty of equipment shops to explore and there are some cosy cafes and bars. We’ll then get back to the ice on Friday and Saturday before departure on Sunday.
What’s on offer?
We want our ice climbing adventures to be available to all and Rjukan has options for every experience level:
Beginner – Rjukan has a wide range of ice routes offering perfect options for introductory level ice climbers. Over 5 action packed days our expert instructors will teach you all you need to know to get you climbing ice confidently and efficiently – all you need to provide is the enthusiasm! We have the technical equipment to lend you and you’ll just need plenty of warm clothes and suitable boots (we can provide links to companies that can these hire items to you if needed). Learning to climb ice in one of the best winter venues on the planet – it doesn’t get cooler than that!
Intermediate – For those who have some prior climbing skills and experience climbing in winter…..welcome to paradise! Over 5 climbing days you will experience the best of Rjukan as well as learning the skills to keep yourself safe in this vertical playground. The route grades will be tailored to suit your experience level, but we’ll focus on technically and physically engaging mid-grade options. The broad range of single and multi-pitch climbs will both inspire and test and don’t even think you’ll have those long walk ins – a few routes are roadside, some we abseil into and many are only a short walk through the forest. It is often possible to climb as many routes in a day here as you might fit in a Scottish week!
Advanced/Private Guiding – If you have considerable summer and winter climbing experience you may like to consider a more bespoke option. That could be ticking some classic winter routes under the guidance of one of our expert instructors or getting into winter leading. We can offer a considerable level of flexibility to your needs so do get in touch if you want to plan a bespoke itinerary.
Shorter Duration Options – If you have the ice bug but aren’t available for a full week we can try and fit you in for a shorter trip. If you can fly to Oslo in the evening and drive over that night we’d suggest a 3 day ice climbing visit is still very worthwhile. You can then drive back to Oslo on the last evening and take a late flight home. This option is subject to availability and most of our clients do come for a full week, but the offer is there for all the busy bees. Please just get in touch with us to discuss this option. The price will simply be calculated as a proportion of your length of stay.
Rjukan is a perfect base for our ice climbing trips. Situated about 3 hours drive from Oslo and nestled in a steep sided valley fringed by vertical rock walls, it is an impressive location.
The small town has everything needed for a comfortable holiday – a variety of accommodation options, supermarkets, a bank, petrol station and tourist information office. There are also a selection of well stocked equipment shops and various welcoming cafes, restaurants and bars.
Above Rjukan there is a lovely ski area which makes a great option for a rest day activity. Ski hire and lift passes are very easy to organise and the whole operation runs with typical Norwegian efficiency.
It is a welcoming and friendly venue and, all in all, Rjukan is very hard to beat as the perfect winter ice climbing destination for anyone wanting a full on adventure.
Here are a list of questions clients frequently ask about our Norway Ice Climbing trips. We hope you’ll find the info you need but, if there’s something you want to know that we haven’t covered, please call or email us and we’ll be more than happy to help. In fact, if you’ve thought of it then the chances are other people have too – so we’ll add it to the list!
What equipment is provided and do I have to pay to use it?
We supply all the technical equipment you’ll need for your trip completely free of charge. This includes ice axes, crampons, helmets, harnesses, climbing hardware and ropes. The only extra cost is if you choose to hire boots as this service is provided externally.
You will need to supply suitable clothing and a rucksack, but details on all these different items are available on the kit list which will be sent with your Joining Instructions.
Who is looking after me?
Your guides will be fully qualified instructors holding the Winter Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor qualification (formally known as the MIC) who are also members of the Association of Mountaineering Instructors.
Do I need insurance?
We have professional indemnity insurance but it is essential for you to purchase specialist rescue, medical and repatriation insurance and details of your insurance policy must be sent to us before departure. The following companies provide appropriate insurance:
British Mountaineering Council www.thebmc.co.uk 0870 010 4878
Snowcard Insurance Services www.snowcard.co.uk 01327 262 805
What if I have a specific objective or want to learn things not offered on one of your courses?
That’s what we specialise in! Just get in touch and we will happily tailor an itinerary to suit your requirements.
What about under 18s?
Anyone over the age of 16 is welcome to join us. Under 18s will need to be accompanied for the duration of the course by a parent or legal guardian.
Will you give my details to other people?
All information supplied to us remains completely confidential and we will never pass it on to third parties.
Why is the instructor to client ratio so important?
You will get more out of your time with us if you work in a group where the numbers suit the activity. We favour small instructor to client ratios so that you benefit from quality time and instruction, where you have time to ask all the questions you want, the routes chosen can be tailored to suit you, and we can take plenty of time to show you specific techniques and skills.
Our Norwegian trips run on a maximum of 2 clients to 1 instructor ratio (you can select 1:1 guiding and the price for this is simply double the 1:2 amount). Please note that some companies will run itineraries with higher ratios and the cost may be less but, believe us, this really doesn’t work well!
What if I need to cancel a course booking?
If you cancel over 26 weeks in advance of a course start date we refund all the money you have paid us so far. If you cancel within 26 weeks of a course start date, you forfeit the deposit, but we refund any other money you may have paid. If you cancel within 8 weeks of the course start date you forfeit the full amount unless we are able to resell your place. Please do check our Terms and Conditions page for more detailed information. To cover this eventuality we recommend you take out an insurance policy that includes cancellation of your trip or holiday.
How do I book?
All our courses can be booked online or, if you’d like to arrange a private guided option, please do contact us directly and we’ll be able to help.
Can you guarantee good conditions?
Unfortunately, we can’t control the weather. However, we do always try to plan areas and routes that should be appropriate for the activity and offer the best conditions. One of the advantages of being in small groups with flexible itineraries is that we can make the best of the conditions on the day. This does mean that we reserve the right to change the itinerary for safety reasons if required. Please follow the kit lists and be prepared for all the ‘interesting’ weather the mountains have to offer.
How do you try to reduce your environmental impact?
We are passionate about protecting the natural environment. Please take the time to read our Environment Page to discover more about our ethos.
How fit do I need to be?
It goes without saying that arriving fit and well is important if you want to get the most out of your course and good fitness is essential for succeeding on many of our objectives. Ice climbing is also, by its nature, physically demanding. Having said that, many of the venues in Norway have very short walk ins and the difficulty of climbs will be carefully tailored to meet your fitness and experience level – please don’t worry that you’ll be out of your depth and do have a chat to us if you want to discuss this in more detail.
Do you need to know about medical conditions?
It is essential that you let us know about any medical condition or injury when booking and that you also let your instructor know on the starting day of your course. This information will remain completely confidential but is essential to allow us to tailor our activities to suit you and to ensure the safety of other group members.
There is no hiding the fact that a guided climbing holiday in Norway is never going to fall into your bargain holiday category! Norway is a very expensive country and low ratio guiding by highly qualified instructors is always going to add up. Having said that, this is so much more than any normal holiday!
To keep things transparent we keep it simple. Our fee covers professional guiding, the loan of any technical equipment and logistical support. Participants will then be asked to cover their own transport and accommodation. We have isolated the relevant likely costs under the various sections below and beyond that the instruction price for the 6 days is £780 per person. You can secure the booking with a 30% deposit (£225) and participants are then simply asked to settle the balance within 12 weeks of the departure date (feel free to pay in instalments too if you prefer).
After that’s all sorted, the remaining costs will be getting there and getting around, eating and paying for somewhere to sleep. We’ve added some detail on these costs below:
How do we get there?
The venues are accessible from a number of UK airports offering flexibility to participants. The nearest airport to is Oslo (Torp) which is a couple of hours drive away. We don’t book flights for clients but can guide you to good options. For an example of cost, Ryan Air currently have flights from Manchester to Oslo (Torp) for around £140 return. Participants can travel from any airport but we simply ask you to be at Oslo (Torp) airport by no later than 5pm.
What about transport within Norway
Participants will be asked to contribute to hire cars for the duration of the trip. This usually works out at about £240 per person depending on number sharing.
Where do we stay?
Over the years we have stayed at a variety of options and find a self catered option works best – we have plenty of good options up our sleeve. It usually costs about £350 for the 6 nights of accommodation and food.
Here is a suggested kit list for our Norway Ice Climbing Trips. We are aware that the list may seem complicated and technical and we don’t want you to be put off a great adventure before it’s even started! If you look through and need to discuss something in more detail then don’t hesitate to get in touch! You might also read it and think you have to spend lots of money but we can often loan you gear or suggest less expensive options.
At the end of this list there is also some specific advice on boot selection and we’d ask you to take particular note of it because having suitable boots is essential for both your enjoyment and safety. If the cost of winter boots is prohibitive there is the option to hire boots through our recommended third party provider. Details on this option are also at the bottom of the page.
It’s well worth printing off a copy of this list and bringing it with you to check you have everything each morning.
Please remember, above all else, that it may be extremely cold and you will be stood around at times. The key thing is to bring PLENTY of warm clothes. You really can’t have too many! It is also essential that you have the technical equipment needed (some items we can lend to you if needed – see notes on the list).
- Rucksack for carrying equipment to the crags (around 45 litres) – we may ask you to carry some group equipment and so please aim to have about 10 litres of capacity spare once all your personal items are packed
- Waterproof jacket and trousers – durable breathable fabrics are essential
- Softshell jacket – this is an optional choice as you can wear a waterproof jacket to climb if you prefer, but conditions in Norway can be quite dry and so a softshell often works well
- B3 boots and suitable socks – please do read the additional info below
- Gaiters – essential for keeping snow out of your boots
- Thermal base layer top and bottoms – synthetic fibres or merino wool rather than cotton
- 2 x fleece mid layers
- Insulated jacket – a thick and very well insulated jacket is extremely important for comfort on chilly belay ledges or when standing around at the bottom of routes. Down insulation works really well in the dry conditions but synthetic insulation also works really well
- Insulated hat and/or balaclava
- Insulated waterproof gloves
- >Spare insulated waterproof gloves – essential in case the first pair get wet
- Glove liners – well worth considering if you are prone to cold hands
- Hand/foot warmers – if you are prone to getting cold hands/feet a supply of these can be useful
- Drink bottle or flask
- Headtorch and spare batteries
- Sunglasses and sun cream – you won’t see too much winter sun in Norway, but we may go to some sunnier venues and it can be sunny on the ski slopes if you choose that rest day option
- Ski goggles – useful on the ski slopes or for windy days
- Personal first aid and medication – including stuff to treat blisters and lip salve
- Climbing harness – we can provide these for you but please do let us know in advance if you need one as we won’t have spares in-country
- Climbing helmet – we can provide these for you but please do let us know in advance if you need one as we won’t have spares in-country
- Crampons – we can provide these for you but please do let us know in advance if you need one as we won’t have spares in-country
- Technical ice axes – we have a very limited number of these available so please do bring your own if you have them and let us know as soon as possible if you don’t have any as we won’t have spares in-country
- Belay device and carabiner – we can provide these for you but please do let us know in advance if you need one as we won’t have spares in-country
- Spare 120cm sling and screwgate carabiner – we can provide these for you but please do let us know in advance if you need one as we won’t have spares in-country
- Prussik loops – we will have spares if you don’t have your own
Apart from that, all the other stuff you will need is general holiday items. It pays to have some spare base layers and general swop items for the stuff you’ll use every day, but other than that it will be casual clothing and other personal essentials.
Do bear in mind that there is the option to use the swimming pool and leisure facilities for visitors to Rjukan and so a swimming costume will be useful. Also, properties we stay in sometimes have a sauna and so a costume may be useful for that.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the evenings are long and we don’t tend to go out much due to the location of our chalets and the cost, so do come prepared to keep yourself amused in the evenings. We’ll have things like playing cards and small group games, but a good book or two or your latest Sudoku puzzle book will also be useful.
Some of the properties charge for sheets and towels and in that circumstance you may prefer to bring your own. However, this varies property to property and so we’ll inform you about this individually.
Lastly, please remember to stock up on any personal medications as it will be hard to source these in-country.