Tragic accident to top Norwegian alpinists

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 13/02/2012
Bjorn-Eivind Aartun. Lindsay Griffin
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The Norwegian mountaineering community has lost two of its finest with the deaths of Bjorn-Eivind Aartun and Stein-Ivar Gravdal.

The two were attempting a new ice route on the big wall of Kjerag, which rises more or less directly out of the Lysefjord in southwest Norway.

When they didn't return, a helicopter search was initiated, and on the morning of February 10 the two climbers were spotted hanging upside down on the face, motionless, and with considerable evidence of blood on the ice below.

It's surmised that they may have been hit by collapsing ice.

In February 2009 the pair had put up the amazing Strandhogg on this ca 900m face, Norway's premier big wall for both rock climbers and BASE jumpers.

This ephemeral ice route was the most coveted line at Kjerag and succumbed to very bold and sustained climbing at WI6+ M5+ and one short pendulum.

This ascent gained the pair one of the Norwegian Alpine Club's inaugural Alpine Awards, to "highlight and promote dedicated alpine climbing at a high level in Norway".

A couple of days later Aartun, this time with Annelin Henriksen added Pin-up (600m WI6) in the hanging valley left of the wall.

The likeable and unassuming 45-year-old Aartun, a photographer living in Oslo, started climbing in 1987, but for the next 20 years concentrated primarily on rock, making impressive new routes, repeats and first free ascents in Norway.

From 2007 he climbed in the Fitz Roy region of Patagonia on five occasions, repeating lines such as Los Tiempos Perdidos on Cerro Torre, and an astonishing fast ascent of the Ragni Route on the same peak.

He also put up two new routes; Hvit Linje (600m, WI5) below Poincenot, and the very recent Venas Azulas (AI6 M5) on Torre Egger.

In 2010 he made a single push first ascent of Dracula on Alaska's Mt Foraker with American Colin Haley, a climb that was nominated for a 2011 Piolet d'Or.

Gravdal was perhaps best known outside Norway for big wall climbing.

He made the first ascent of the North Face of Ulvatanna (2,950m) in Antarctica's Queen Maud Land, climbing the El Capitan-sized vertical granite face in 21 long pitches up to VI+ and A4.

He also made the second complete ascent of the legendary 1984 Norwegian Route on the northeast pillar of Great Trango Tower (East summit, 6,231m) in Pakistan, confirming the grade of this 1,500m route as VII 6b A4.



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1) Anonymous User
13/02/2012
This is a really sad moment for the norwegian climbing and mountaineering community. I have talked to Bjørn-Eivind once and my first impression of im was that he was a perfectionist. That something like this happens moves a whole nation. Sending my condolances to everyone left behind, especially their children, whom I know, at least for Bjørn-Eivind's doughter, did go climbing with her dad.
2) Anonymous User
13/02/2012
I had the pleasure of spending a few days Bjorn at the Piolet d'Or last year when he was nominated for his ascent of Dracula along with Colin Haley, he was a really friendly and modest man with great talent and drive, who will be sadly missed. Thoughts go out to his family and friends and in particular his young daughter.
3) Anonymous User
22/02/2012
Lindsay,
I knew them both well, and was part of the team to retrieve their bodies. We have no reason to believe they were hit by collapsing ice. However, a big piece of rock is no longer where it used to be, directly above their last belay. We hope to publish a report on the accident shortly.
With respect,
Ed, Stavanger, Norway

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