Winter on Svalbard consists of two different seasons. During the dark winter or Polar Night from roughly October to March, there is hardly any daylight. For weeks, the sun does not even rise. During the bright winter, from roughly the end of March, until the beginning of May, the sun does hardly set anymore, but there are still heaps of snow. It is the perfect season for long ski expeditions.
With my fellow Arctic Nature Guide students, we undertook an 8-day ski expedition, crisscrossing through Nordenskiöld Land National Park. We crossed the wide Reindalen Valley twice, as well as a series of glaciers, with Slakbreen Glacier as the longest and coldest of them all. At its top at about 700 meters above sea level, we camped in temperatures almost 30 degrees below freezing. The southernmost point was at the – then still operational – Norwegian mining settlement of Svea, where we skied on the sea ice of the Van Mijenfjorden.
Due to frostbite and symptoms of hypothermia, some of our fellow skiers had to be evacuated by helicopter halfway through the expedition. The wide wilderness and loneliness, and especially the cold in this desolate corner of the world taught us some valuable lessons.
6 out of 7 basecamps were established with the tents we dragged through the snow and ice on our pulkas. The last night, we found abandoned snow caves, a welcome and cozy way of concluding this adventure.