February 2009 saw first ascents of two of Norway’s, and probably the world’s, most inspiring and adventurous ice lines: Fosslimonster (800m, WI6+ M8+) and Into the Wild (900m, WI6+ X), both located on the west coast. The lines were climbed by an international group that failed to adhere to the appropriate ethical guidelines and did not meet the Norwegian standards of good style.
In Norway the alpine climbing community treasures highly its code of ethics, summed up in “leave no trace.” It is generally considered unacceptable to add bolted anchors on ice and mountain routes in order to make them easier, safer, and more convenient to climb. The same applies to adding bolts on pitches between anchors. The Norwegian Alpine Club considers natural protection an important and integral part of ice and mountain climbing. We aim to preserve the potential for adventurous climbing for future generations. Our code of ethics thus makes it necessary to wait for the right weather conditions and to acquire the necessary skills, instead of adding bolts. This is the only way to ensure that unspoiled adventure remains for everybody, not just for the first ascensionists.
Furthermore, the Norwegian Alpine Club finds it unacceptable for climbers to claim a right to choose their own style and ethics when climbing in Norway. This is not unique to Norway but also applies in other countries, such as the U.K. with regard to its grit and Scottish winter climbing.
The Norwegian Alpine Club welcomes foreign climbers to Norway, and invites everyone to explore one of the few remaining truly wild ice-climbing havens. However, we take for granted that climbers follow our code of ethics. Norway is one of the last places available to climbers who wish to discover the magic of natural lines that demand the full range of alpine skills.
Robert Jasper's response to the Norwegian Alpine Club
I have visited Norway many times and climbed in different areas throughout the country, for a total of several months. In most areas I have found bolted routes on both ice and rock, e.g. in Setesdal, Rjukan, and Hemsedal. I’ve found bolts on long multi-pitch routes, and also seen drilled hook placements [drilled holes for pick placements] on mixed climbs in Hemsedal.
From my ethical understanding there is a big difference between bolting a belay, a rappel anchor, or a protection point, and drilling a hook placement in order to get up. Furthermore, it seems strange that Norwegian climbers, who according to the Norwegian Alpine Club follow a very strict ethic, go to remote and sensitive areas like Antarctica and Baffin Island and bolt their belays.
Before coming this time, I contacted two local climbers to get more information. No one mentioned this problem to me, nor during the many visits I have made to Norway before was it mentioned. On this basis, and having found bolts and drilled hook placements in routes opened by Norwegian climbers, I did not assume that there would be such a strict ethical guideline. I am sorry about this.
For me ethics have always been an important matter, and I try to avoid bolting as far as possible. However, Fosslimonster, on which we placed 14 bolts (plus three pegs and an in-situ stopper) in 1,000m of climbing, is dangerous; climbing it without the bolts we placed would seem irresponsible. Obviously, anyone is free to climb the route without them.
As for ethics, I think everybody is responsible, but we must also be true to them and not just write or talk about them. Ethics are not only for others, but mainly for ourselves.