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Aartun and Gravdal Die On Norwegian Big Wall

The Norwegian climbing community lost two of its best alpinists this week when Bj?rn-Eivind ?rtun and Stein-Ivar Gravdal died attempting new ice routes on Kjerag, a big wall rising out of the fjords in southwest Norway. When they didn’t return last Thursday as expected, a helicopter was sent out and found the climbers “hanging upside down on the face, motionless and with considerable evidence of blood on the ice below,” The BMC reports.

Known best as a big-wall climber, Gravdal was the first to climb the north face of Antarctica’s Ulvetanna (2960m), a twenty-one-pitch route reaching difficulties of 5.10 and A4. He made the second complete ascent of the infamous Norwegian Buttress (VII 6b A4, 1500m) on the northeast pillar of Great Trango Tower in 2008.

A photographer and father living in Oslo, ?rtun began alpine climbing just six years ago, and has been a Patagonia regular since. He repeated Los Tiempos Perdidos (M5 AI5+) and made a speed ascent of the Ragni Route, both on Cerro Torre. ?rtun also established Hvit Linje (600m, WI5) below Poincenot. In December, he and Ole Lied put up Venas Azulas (6b+ A1 AI6, 950m) on Torre Egger, described by Rolando Garibotti as “the Ragni Route on steroids.”

In 2010, ?rtun’s new route up Mt. Foraker earned he and partner Colin Haley a Piolet d’Or nomination. The duo finished the route in a daring seventy-one-hour push. Haley wrote about their ascent in his Alpinist 32 feature, “Scared”:

I might die climbing. You might, too. We can make efforts to minimize the risks, but ultimately we either accept the possibility of dying on a mountain, fool ourselves that the possibility doesn’t exist–or we quit.