The latest Svalbard adventure was conducted in April 2019
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Our goal was simple. Travel to untouched nature with ski mountaineering opportunities straight from camp. However, Svalbard had much more in mind for us!
As a visitor to Svalbard, one must stay within Administrative Area 10 (F10) unless one has special permission or is transported out by certified drivers. But even within F10 you have many opportunities to experience Svalbard’s wilderness. Starting from Longyearbyen, you have many opportunities; head south to Barentsburg, or north towards Pyramiden. There are many options! We chose the last option and rented two snowmobiles with two sledges for equipment, filled up gasoline and went to Bünsow Land
Before the trip we envisioned that the snowmobile stages were going to be a boring “transport” ride to the actual fun areas. However, the transport ride was far more than just transport and became one of the highlights of the trip. In addition to accessibility, we used snowmobiles to scout for peaks / runs and other adventures. This includes “scooter skiing”, that is, driving a person up a hill to ski down again. Many of the peaks on Svalbard have less than 1000 hm from start to top and if you are hungry for more skiing in the areas where the snow is actually good, you have the opportunity to capture several hikes in the same day.
After arriving in Bünsow Land, we set up camp in between several raging peaks. The surreal feeling of stepping out of the tent in the morning, choosing a peak, gather the equipment and start the hike. Absolutely amazing sense of freedom!
We were so lucky to have some good weather days at the beginning, but as many know Svalbard is not always sunny.
So we mounted the crampons and the ice axes and found some hikes in the lower terrain or played in the crevices that we knew were safe.
In addition, we were able to do excursions using the scooters. We left to the coast and went to the top of Gipshuken, a classic route on the wild coast of Svalbard towards Sassenfjorden.
The next day we went to the Pyramid to be arctic tourists. The Pyramid is a Russian coal mining town that was abruptly abandoned in 1980. The small ghost town is reminiscent of the heyday of the Soviet Union, with the statue of Lenin looking out over the communist landscaped square, with a residence based on gender.
After a somewhat over-eager day of “scooter skiing”, the inevitable had to happen. We were a bit sloppy attaching the skis to the snowmobile and suddenly heard a “CRACK” during the ride. And we were like “What!! Again!! This happened the last time we were at Svalbard”. It has now become an unfortunate tradition to break a ski when visiting Svalbard. As always, the solution is duct tape and more of it. Fortunately, this was towards the end of the adventure. Tor, though, wanted to use the ski for a 35-degree rock-infested surface of a steep mountain near the camp. And it worked like a champ! Or, did it..?
On the journey home we chose a slightly different route with an exciting challenge; We had to climb a steep hill with the heavy loaded scooters. Before we arrived at the challenging area (Kapp Schoultz), we had to cross the fjord Tempelfjorden. Just before we got over the ice, the adrenaline level hit the roof when we discovered some great fresh polar bear tracks. After a little while scouting in the binoculars on the reserve rifle (the other rifle snapped in half during the inbound trip) we spotted a male bear. Fortunately, it was at a safe distance of 500 yards and with the right wind towards us. The exciting ground we were going to climb with a little too heavy sleds immediately became even more exciting with a polar bear waiting for us at the bottom if we had not managed to get up. The bear looked cozy though, and we considered the opportunity of a good bear-hug (no, we were shaking of fear and excitement).
With a fine margin, Kapp Schultz and the steep hill were conquered! After arriving back near Longyearbyen, we were still hungry to ski and found a perfect chute near Longyearbyen.
Even from Longeayrbyen there are many opportunities for mountain adventures. We chose to go to Lars Hiertafjellet with a detour down inside the glacier. The cold and dark glacier crack was a pleasant diversion from the icing 15-20 m/s winds on the upper side.
The loser of the stumbling contest (internal stuff..) also had to jump in the Barents Sea to great laughter from the two spectators! However, we all jumped in at the end, so that he would not be all alone out there!
Top 5 tips for making your own Svalbard tour:
- Plan ahead of time
- Have close dialogue with the Svalbard authorities and others who can advise on trips and areas – and obtain permissions for your adventure!
- Book snowmobile rental, weapons, GPS, signal guns, trip wires and such early
- Always have a plan B (if a ski breaks, the weather gets bad etc)
- Add extra margins with regards to risk and time spent. Help can be far away!
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