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Artikel: Expect the unexpected while ski touring the Arctic

Expect the unexpected while ski touring the Arctic

Expect the unexpected while ski touring the Arctic

Celine har været på Svalbart – det er der kommet denne gode artikel ud af.

You’ve probably seen those Arctic movies that portray the extremes of nature and weather conditions the Northern will bring. For example, in ‘Against the Ice,’ Nikolaj Coster chillingly states: “you might freeze to death,” or ‘Arctic’ with Mads Mikkelsen when Polar bears ferociously attack, not to mention the crazy storms disorientating people daring to challenge the white desert. Well, that’s pretty much what it felt like, at least the first day. Temperatures dropping to -12 °C, and the wind howling like some gigantic arctic ghost, oh, did I mention the warnings of polar bear attacks? What were we getting ourselves into!

What to expect when touring the Arctic.

Photo credits Katrina Follows

Expect the unexpected and experience this magical place! The magic sets the scene as soon as you fly into Longyearbyen as the clouds delicately draw their curtains to reveal a landscape from a foreign planet peppered with Glaciers, snow, and ice.

As for the unexpected… anything can happen at any moment. One minute you’re tightly cuddling your only source of heat from a cup of tea. The next, you’re performing a strip drown for your companions as the scorching sun bakes the Arctic desert. Not knowing if a polar bear is waiting for you while you are not only half-naked but skiing full speed round corners of the snowy mountains. Instead, you almost run over a little furry friend peacefully going about its daily survival duties. Be prepared for any snow condition, from dry Arctic powder to spring snow and everything in between. We even managed to ice-ski on a frozen waterfall- because why not!

Svalbard, the Arctic wilderness, majestically boasts the most incredible nature and finest ski touring you will ever experience! These ski expeditions run between May and June, opening up the opportunity to encounter the endless daylight and low sea ice. This leads to more options for navigating around in a sailboat because skiing is not all in Svalbard.

The trips cannot be planned in advance due to the unforeseeable weather and sea conditions. Polar bear warnings are a severe threat, and avalanches are occasional. The guides meet up the evening before to plan out a possible route and then on the day take a decision depending on what will be the best outcome for everyone. – Each day became a whole new experience with zero expectations. The endless terrain reaches 40,000km2 of untouched landscape, gifting countless opportunities.

The Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is an extreme place, perfect for extreme people.

We arrived at our new home for the next 7 days – The Rembrandt, a beautiful large wooden ship holding space for 30 adventure enthusiasts. You are surrounded by all these inspiring people from all ages, places, and cultures, but when it comes down to it, you all have one thing in common – the love for adventure. 7 days of bonding, sharing countless stories about what challenges you have accomplished. People that have completed 7 of the highest peaks to racing ‘The patrouille des Glaciers’ (The course leads from Zermatt via Arolla to Verbier). To crazy Danes and a dutch jumping into the Arctic water. All inspiring the next adventure.

How we were kept on our toes for 7 days – Our survival guides

Our legend, the man of the week, the one who made this happen, Gilbert Crettaz! If he’s not in Verbier running ‘Adrenaline Guides’, sharing his top spots in the Alps, he’s planning a trip around the world; Alaska, Greenland, Himalayas, you name it! I saw him buying a map of Antarctica – who knows if this will be his next epic trip.

He definitely kept us on our toes along with the perfect crew of guides running Oceanwide expeditions- Phil, the man who knows every crack and crevice of the seemingly infinite landscape. A true David Attenborough of the North. And Maximo, the Italian mountain goat that will squeeze in as many summits as possible, if you dare to venture with him, make sure to “suffer in silence,” as he so politely put it.

Skinning and skiing in the safari of the north.

On our first day out, we were all super excited to see what Svalbard had to offer us, first having to take a zodiac (dinghy) out to shore. We got our skins ready while my body and everyone else’s began to shiver like a leaf. It was a cold, grey, windy day, and we had to get moving to build up warmth! We covered ourselves head to toe, not exposing any skin to the wind. All I remember that day was trying to balance keeping my body moving and then not going too quickly because the more you would sweat, the colder you would get! I remember recalling Nikolaj Coster’s voice, “you might freeze to death”!

We managed to see the brutal arctic life during this cold, windy day. We passed a reindeer leg lying isolated on the barren snow, which may have been carried up by an arctic fox, and soon after, we came across the other leg sprawled across our path. As we kept skinning in this crazy new world, we stumbled across its antlers and finally close by a herd of healthy living reindeer. What an introduction to the trip! That evening soup had never tasted so good, the shower so soothing, and the bed so comfy and warm!

Credits to Nick Vang

Every morning we got a wake-up call from a singing Phil, “Good Morning! We have arrived at Skansbukta. The sun is shining, and it’s -3 degrees outside, with moderate wind. Breakfast will be served at 8.30. And, again, good morning!” The sun? Shining!? I had to see this, so I ran up to the ship deck. And, just as he had hollered, I swung open the door to find myself blinded by the sun. The sky was bright blue, and it was surprisingly ‘warm’ outside. What a change from the day before!

What can I possibly expect from today? The moment we stepped off the Zodiac, we saw polar bear tracks only a few hours old. We passed multiple glaciers (60% of Svalbard’s landmass is covered!). And after a few hours of skinning, we meet our little furry friend, the Arctic fox. He leads us up the summit – hoping that we leave a few crumbs on our way. Cheeky little guy.

Of course, we all wanted to see the bear of the north, the mighty polar bear! But may reconsider if it came too close. On our first day on the ship, we were given a safety course about the boat and the roaming polar bears. What to do and what not to do if encountering a bear. It is by law to carry a gun when exploring the islands, but not legal to kill. Therefore, the weapon is only to scare off the bear, so we sincerely hoped the bear would back off for all our sake. As we were not lucky or unlucky to see a bear, we did enjoy the excitement of seeing its tracks. And the pleasure of spotting a moving dot out in the distance, believing it was a bear. You see what you wanna see!

Each day consisted of about 6 to 7 hours of exploring, touring up mountainous peaks of about 800 to 1000 meters. After countless hours of clocking out from the external world and entering ‘the zone,’ time flew by! One moment you’re taking in the beautiful enormous ice walls to then standing on the top of a peak looking out over the islands and fjords surrounding you. The white and the blue mixing in with the Glaciers brought a sense of tranquility and peace. This was just one of the many days we had. Each mountain top is as beautiful as the next. Then the adrenaline kicks in as you end your day racing down the face of the mountain towards the waiting boat below. You may not reach as many peaks as when you are in ski resorts having access to ski lifts, but you appreciate the time you took to get to the top on an island where it’s just you, your team, and no one else.

Another day, our legs feel tired from the multiple kick-turns on the steep mountain. At the top, we had to flatten out the snow to get our skis off, hoping they wouldn’t slide down the long trail we had just come from. Boot crampons on, skis on our backs, and up we go. We made it to the top, and all fear was stripped away. All tiredness is converted to energy as you stand on top of the mountain, speechless from the immaculate landscape. We all embraced and savored this moment together before skiing down the other side, high on life and playing in the powder!

We got closer to the shore where our Zodiac was waiting for us to take us back to the ship to enjoy a well-deserved beer from ‘Bobby’s bar.’ You would think a long day would knock us out, but it was quite the opposite. The tunes dropped, and the dancing erupted. Apres-ski is quite something on a boat in the Arctic! Time is a strange thing as you have the unique midnight sun. Sorry mum, no curfew tonight.

If you consider yourself an explorer and would like to put your skiing levels to a unique experience, I can only strongly recommend going to Svalbard. You will experience the peaceful nature and the most stunning landscapes, and even if you are lucky or unlucky, stumble across some Arctic animals. Skål to everyone who made this trip an experience of a lifetime. Please contact Oceanwide for touring trips in both the north and the south and Adrenaline Guides for guided off-piste tours in the Alps, and keep an eye on their next trip worldwide. A fantastic crew mixed with adventure and laughs.

Day 1: Longyearbyen
Day 2: Skansbukta – Högskulefjellet
Day 3: Ymerbukta – Sten de Geerfjellet
Day 4: Sankt Jonsfjorden – Vekkerøfjellet
Day 5: Olssønfjellet


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