Bjartur Ólafsson is a climber from Iceland. His greatest passions are mountains and climbing them: both a physical and mental challenge. Furthermore, he loves climbing frozen waterfalls. Thanks to this sport Bjartur has seen many beautiful places and feels that nature is like a second home, a special place where he wants to be.
Hello Bjartur, tell us something about yourself. How was your passion for ice climbing born?
Hi there. My name is Bjartur Ólafsson and I am a climber and mountaineer from Iceland. I work as a mountain guide and spend my free time climbing or skiing in the mountains. My passion for climbing started at a very young age. In spring I usually climb the sea cliffs around my hometown to pick bird eggs to eat as a local tradition. I started ice climbing at the age of 18 when my friends from the Search and Rescue team invited me along one day. When I was 20 my passion for ice climbing really took off and has been taking up most of my time in the winter since.
What are the feelings you experience when you are surrounded by nature?
I love it. It makes me feel calm and relaxed. It really takes away the stress of normal life.
“It’s a great mental game, the calmer I am the better I climb”
I saw on your Instagram profile that you have climbed a frozen waterfall several times, don’t you?
Sure I do. Every autumn I look forward with excitement to the first winter frost so I can go out and climb these beautiful frozen waterfalls. It’s a special feeling and what I love most to do.
“Nature is the place I feel most like home. It’s where I want to be”
Have you ever been afraid or have you ever experienced dangerous situations?
Yes, sometimes I am afraid. But I also know that being afraid whilst climbing doesn’t help. I think that an important part of climbing is being able to control that fear and stay calm. It’s a great mental game, the calmer I am the better I climb. Of course ice climbing can be a bit dangerous at times, but I do my best to minimize this risk by constantly evaluating the situation because at the end of the day I want to be able to go home happy. Sometimes I came home early from a climb because it wasn’t the right day to climb.
What is the most difficult thing to do when you practice ice climbing?
Ice climbing can be both physically and mentally difficult. Physically because climbing is a tiring effort for many muscles of the body, but also mentally because most of the day is spent assessing the frozen waterfall and making the right calls.
“Climbing has taken me to too many incredible places, places beyond the reach of most people”
I think that reaching certain heights is something really adrenaline and I imagine that nature offers breathtaking views. Do you have a favourite place that has remained in your heart?
Climbing has taken me to too many incredible places, places beyond the reach of most people. My favourite place is undoubtedly Iceland’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnjúkur. It’s simply wonderful to be up there.
Do you ever think about the possibility of falling due to the breaking of the ice while climbing?
Constantly. Ice climbers always try their best not to fall. I try to stay calm and focus on every move I make as I climb and feel in control of the situation. It usually works well and I can enjoy climbing. However, I am usually more concerned about things that may fall on me more. With warm temperatures, rocks, ice or seracs can start to collapse and I try not to stay in the fire line for too long.
Is there a particular situation that you remember in which you were in danger and had to remain calm?
Probably yes. Every now and then the climbing gets more serious than I want it to be. It’s best to reflect on these situations at the end of the day and learn from them so they don’t happen again.
Last question, what is nature for you?
Nature is the place I feel most like home. It’s where I want to be.
Follow Bjartur Ólafsson on his climbing expeditions here.
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