Prominent Norwegian Alpinists Die in Accident


2/14/12 - Prominent Norwegian climbers Bjørn-Eivind Årtun, 45, and Stein-Ivar Gravdal, 37, died while attempting a new ice route on the big wall of Kjerag, Lyesbotn, in southwest Norway. Rescue helicopters found the two climbers the morning of February 10, hanging from the face.

Investigators surmise that a large chunk of ice may have fallen on the two climbers, causing them to fall 50 to 60 meters. They were found hanging upside down, with blood on the ice below.

Gravdal traveled to Lyesbotn on Tuesday, February 7, to meet Årtun to try a new route on Kjerag’s steep face. The two climbers planned to be back by Thursday. When they didn't return, friends and family called rescue teams, who found Årtun and Gravdal. Eight climbers went into the area on Saturday to retrieve the bodies.

The pair was well known at Kjerag, having put up Strandhogg (WI6+ M5+) in 2009.

Årtun, a photographer who was living in Oslo, was one of Norway's most active climbers. He and American Colin Haley were nominated for a 2011 Piolet d'Or for their 2010 ascent of Dracula (M6R, AI4+, A0; 10,400 feet) on the southeast face of Mount Foraker in Alaska. Årtun was also active in Patagonia, where he put up first ascents on Cerro Torre and Torre Egger.

Gravdal is best known for his first ascent of the north face of Ulvatanna (2,950m) in Antarctica's Queen Maud Land. After the climb, Gravdal and his team skied 20 miles east to the Holtedahl Mountains, where they climbed six more peaks, all of which they believe were first ascents. Gravdal also made the second complete ascent of the Norwegian Route on the Great Trango, Pakistan. The first ascent of the route was in 1984, and the 4,900-foot route was rated at VII 6b A4.