Get wet and wild in the ice kingdom of extreme sports

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 February, 2010, 12:00am

It's wet, it's wild and it's very cold: this is Norway, the ice kingdom of extreme sports.

Take scuba diving for starters. Divers familiar with Asia will recall strapping on a tank over their swimwear and not much else. In the waters off Norway, wetsuits are necessary - and the sights below the waves are out of this world.

One of the most exciting dive spots is at Saltstraumen, a 150-metre-wide, three-kilometre channel between two fjords that's prey to incredible tidal currents reaching up to 20 knots.

At Gulen, on the west coast just south of the Sognefjord, the sea bed is littered with wrecks from the second world war, one - Frankenwald - is 90 per cent intact, including its masts. Lofoten is renowned for its rich kelp forests and masses of fish, while in winter the waters are patrolled by killer whales. Narvik is another place for wrecks, and there's even a German fighter plane in the lake at Hartvikvannet. Rare marine life abounds at the Trondheim fjord, which also boasts a coral reef at just 35 metres below sea level.

Just as thrilling, white-knuckle white-water rafting is really taking off in Norway. Two of the major venues are the Jostedalselva and Sjoa rivers, each of which runs through beautiful natural countryside and promises plenty of adrenaline-inducing rapids. The best time to go rafting is in spring and summer, as the snow and glacier melt ensures rivers are at their fullest during these seasons. Trips can be tailored for families or seniors, and experienced guides make sure everyone has a full safety briefing before setting out.

It's a country that's predominantly alpine and scaling the heights of some of the more challenging peaks is a favourite sport. The Lofoten Islands offer a wealth of rock climbing and bouldering opportunities year-round while, thanks to the midnight sun, there's almost unlimited climbing time in the summer.

The Troll Wall, or Trollveggen, makes up part of a mountain massif in the Romsdal valley on the west coast.

The Wall is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, 1,100 metres from the base to the highest summit, while at its steepest, the summit overhangs the base by almost 50 metres. There's even climbing to be had just outside the capital, Oslo, at Hauktjern and Tokerud.

There's climbing - and then there's ice climbing, although this is only for highly experienced climbers. In the past few years the waterfall at Rjukan has become northern Europe's top destination for ice climbers from all over the world, and it even hosts a competition every February. The season runs from October until early April. Other major ice climbs in Norway include Hydnefossen and the waterfalls around L?rdal at the head of the Sognefjord.

Getting to the top of a mountain or an ice fall is one thing - flying above them is a whole new ball game. Called both snow kiting and ski kiting, the latest craze in sporty Norway is taking its aficionados to the skies at speeds of up to 100km/h.

Instead of queueing for a chairlift, snow kiters - equipped with skis, harness and a kite - can use the wind to power them up a mountain to untouched powder snow. The best locale for this is Varanger, in the north. Right next to the Arctic Ocean, it offers an opportunity to snow kite while looking out over the sea. The strong and constant winds make this the most dramatic of Norway's extreme sports.