You do not always have to climb a mountain. Sometimes it can be just as nice to go inside it. When entering into the 7,000 year-old Klimapark 2469 in the Jotunheimen national park in Norway in the summertime, you have to shift from shorts and t-shirts to down jacket and wool socks. But the trouble is worth a visit to Norway’s oldest ice.
In 2006-07 increased ice melting revealed many reminiscences of ancient human activity around ice patches near Mount Galdhøpiggen, Norway’s highest mountain peak. A public limited company “Klimapark 2469 AS” was established to develop a heritage interpretation product and to study climate change. A 60-meter long ice tunnel was excavated in the ice patch Juvfonna, where guided walks and a display presenting climate change, archeology, Norse mythology and glaciology are offered.
Experience the Poetic and Prosaic Edda
Klimapark 2469 is based on collaboration between scientific institutions, public authorities, the National Mountain Museum, and private tourist companies. Some of the ice in the Juvfonne glacier has been dated to be 7600 years old, currently the oldest dated ice on mainland Norway.
More than 700 archaeological finds have been made in the area. Ice artist Peter Istad has been responsible for the layout. In Norse mythology, Mimisbrunnr is a well associated with the being Mimir, located beneath the world tree Yggdrasil. Minisbrunnr is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional souces, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson.
The well is located beneath one of three roots of the world tree Yggdrasil, a root that passes into the land of the giants jötnar. Odin once sacrificed one of his eyes to the well in exchange for a drink.
Part tourist attraction and part research center
The number 2469 refers to the height of Galdhøpiggen, Norway’s highest mountain peak. Part tourist attraction, part research and historical excavation site, the tunnel covers an astounding 375 square meters, filled with lights illuminating both the natural elements of the ice as well as sculptures carved out by artists. The ambition has been to combine science, environmental learning, interpretation, heritage tourism and local development, and all you have to do to experience this is to book a tour.
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About 10,000 years ago, the ice in this area melted as the climate warmed, which was at its warmest between 7000-9500 years ago. The new results from Juvfonne suggest it might be possible to find ice from the last ice age in the high-mountain areas of southern Norway.
Scaring speed of ice melting
In Norway, there are two distinct terms to describe glaciers. An “isbre” is what most people relate to an glacier and “isfonn”, meaning a non-moving glacier. The lack of movement means that when a tunnel is carved out it stays that way. A tunnel built in a regular glacier would lead to its collapse and be a dangerous place.
The speed of melting at Juvfonna has been formidable and scaring. The amounts of new archeological objects have, however, given a unique possibility for improving and interpreting the story about the early inhabitants and users of these mountain areas. Among the finds are a leather shoe (3500 years old), a knitted tunic and tools for rein deer hunting in the Bronze Age.
Related: Nocturnal Norwegian Ice Climbing
When the tunnel was chiseled into the ice at the base of the field, samples were taken out and sent to the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland for carbon dating. The results came back that the ice was 7600 years old.
Entering into the ice tunnel, you first have to pass through an air lock to prevent the outdoor heat from getting inside. Since the climate change is really making its mark at Juvfonna and the ice is shrinking every year, the ice tunnel will unfortunately not last forever.
Visitors are encouraged to start with an introduction and the exhibition “Out of the ice” at the Norwegian Mountain Museum in the municipal center of Lom. The MK2469, with the ice-tunnel, is located a 45-minute drive away from this center, at Juvflya. There a guided walk is carried out along a carefully constructed 1100 meters long boardwalk over the scree and permafrost area, until the ice front. The guided walk in the 60-meter -long ice-tunnel is the main attraction. The boardwalk is free for use by anyone, but the tunnel is only open to guided groups.
Creating increased levels of value and innovation
All sculptures and art in the tunnel have been inspired by Norse mythology. In fact, the tunnel is actually more like an ice maze. The guidelines for Klimapark 2469 says it “shall, through attractions developed in collaboration with professional contributors and aimed at a wide audience, communicate interactive experiences of, and insight into, current climate processes and the interaction between nature and humans seen in a long-term perspective. The purpose of such communication and experiences is to promote interest as well as understanding in terms of thematics, and to create increased levels of value and innovation.”
Visit Norway’s Oldest Ice, written by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Klimapark 2469