Hydalsfossen (WI4+), Hemsedal

The weather on Saturday morning was perfect. Cloudless blue skies, no winds and sub-freezing temperatures. Payback for the bad weather days.

With a trip to Chamonix commencing the following weekend this was certainly the last ice climb in Norway for this season and so it deserved a suitable finale to wrap-up what has personally been a great winter. Hydalsfossen had long been pencilled-in for March, when the moderately long approach would hopefully be easier. It looked a classic outing and similar in appearance to Hydnefossen, only milder in difficulty.

Magnus used cross-country skis for the approach, whereas I took snowshoes. Using nothing would have been perfectly adequate given the hardness of the snow. In such fine weather the approach was a joy. And again payback for all the trench digging though deep powder earlier in the season.

View towards Vavatn

We approached from the parking near Vavatn, over point 1256m to the top of the route, where the lake that forms Hydalsfossen was totally frozen. Time to leave the sun and descend beneath the North facing cliffs. Rather than abseil directly into the route it seemed perfectly feasible to just descend on foot a little further to the west. Such was the reliable firmness of the neve. At half height a tree persuaded us to make a quick rap to where the angle eased.

Close to the top of the waterfall

Abseiling into the route

First glimpse of Hydalsfossen really raised the excitement levels. It looked staggeringly impressive and in a wonderful remote setting hidden from the sun. Conditions looked excellent.


The snow beneath route needed caution. A thin than layer of windslab, anything up to 15cm, covered a hard layer of neve with little resistance between. Minimum risk though, given the firmness of the deeper layer, provided we skirted high beneath the cliffs where the slab had no weight.

Traversing to beneath the route

Much of the ice spanning the waterfall looked WI5 in difficulty, rising steeply without features, until the angle eased off near half height. A more undulating section of ice left of centre looked to be the obvious weakness and with a few more features to possibly mix the climbing up some more.

Magnus lead the first pitch, following a sustained slanting weakness up and left. Quickly he run into difficulties due to being unaccustomed with brittle ice, however lots of screws in close succession helped ease matters. 35m up he needed to make a belay. Then some minor stoppage to retrieve a dropped screw from some shallow windslab before my turn came.

Magnus leading the first pitch

Magnus at the first belay

The ice was certainly on the brittle side but no more so than that experienced in Oppdal and Alta this same winter. The slabby, consolidated nature of the ice meant a lack of natural features, and consequently some dinner plating. Generally better ice lay beneath though, so finding sound placements proved only a matter of patience. Not the horror show experienced on a couple of routes in Alta. At times my mono-points were also struggling to punch the ice cleanly but one benefit of dinner plating ice was that it at least left some positive foot holds behind. With attention to detail there were some strong first time axe placements to be found, particularly beneath the small, sporadic patches snow.

The sustained climbing continued on the second pitch up a series of short steep sections. Often the steeper sections would create more localised weaknesses for which to sink the axes. Then 30m into my pitch the angle eased back a little and the ice softened in equal measure to make for some very satisfying and efficient climbing. I could have finished the route with a little rope to spare, however it made sense to stop short of the top in order to leave plenty of rope to reach whatever belay point lay above the route.

Sadly Magnus had removed his GoPro helmet camera for the second pitch as his moaning during a period of intense hot aches midway up would have made for some compulsive viewing.

Me on the second pitch

We had expected the climb to need three pitches but in reality it was only around 100m rather than the 140m stated in the guidebook. Not that this detracted but in summary the fine weather, remote setting and spectacle of the route provided as many great memories as the actual climbing itself. Some of my best climbing has been in Hemsedal this winter so this was the perfect way to wrap-up the season. Also perfect final preparations for the Alps next week.


  1. Thanks for sharing this very nice CR!
    Do you know the status of other lines in Hemsedal, like Hydnefossen?

    1. Thanks. I didn't get a chance to view Hydnefossen this weekend. I think it is a little bit lower than Hydalsfossen but would guess it is still in good condition. Anything that isn't North Facing and fairly high up isn't going to be in good condition now. Everything in Grøndalen for example is bleached white.

  2. Chillup Guide - International Mountain Guide posted a few shots from Hydne in the FB group for Rjukan/Tinn. That looked fine...

    1. Yes I saw. It looks in amazing condition. Definately top of my list for routes to try next year!


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