The last part of the Arctic Nature Guide program consisted of being fully responsible for two ski expeditions in May and June 2014.
Trollheimen! The mysterious area north of Isfjorden. An area accumulating snow in such large quantities that it survives the short Arctic summer, being pressed together and converted into ice until the pressure and weight force the masses through the valleys and down to the sea, where 40-meter-high blue ice walls calve into the sea. For both trips, we chartered the Dutch schooner “Noorderlicht”, providing a magical sailing towards Ymer Bay and Esmark Glacier.
It was our job to arrange all the preparations and logistical tasks, as well as guiding guests safely through 75 kilometers of glaciers and mountains. These trips were not about my own nature experience, but about my ability to convey this to my guests and lead them safely from one natural attraction to the next. It provided me with mastery to be responsible for the establishment of the camps, taking polar bear safety, avalanche risk, crevasses, and wind directions into account. On Svalbard, the weather is part of the experience, and to travel several hours in a ‘white-out’ is an experience in itself. It gives you a real expedition feeling to trudge along in a long line, while all you see is a seemingly endless white world, without any reference points. People lost their balance on several occasions, even though we traveled through (almost) flat terrain. Under such conditions, navigating becomes challenging, but GPS, map, and compass proved to be good tools to have.
I am pretty sure I like winter camping more than summer camping. Snow is a wonderful building material! You can dig and build anything: emergency bivouacs, snow walls, a kitchen, a sitting pit with benches and a table, and much more. Our camp in the heart of Trollheimen, at the foot of the majestic “Great Troll Mountain” was one of the nicest I’ve ever seen. In between, we caught a glimpse of jagged peaks with enchanting names taken from Norwegian troll mythology, sticking up from the glacier ice around us.
After several days of ‘conservative’ ski guiding on the relatively flat ice cap, the last days of both expeditions included crevasse navigation. After a reconnaissance of a safe route, we took our guests inside the blue world of glacier ice. For many guests, this little adventure became the highlight of the trip, only topped by a wonderful last night under the ever-shining midnight sun.
During the trips, we saw no people and no traces, just virgin snowfields and glaciers. Imagine that you are skiing, slightly downhill, under the sun, and without any winds. Below you can see the sea, while a bay covered with sea ice and sunbathing seals unfolds itself in front of the glacier. To the front and left crevasses appear, but to your right, a nice ice tongue without cracks provides a gentle descent from the glacier, while the blue ice glacier front shows itself from its most beautiful side. You pass some polar fox trails and just when you think seals are beautiful but lazy creatures, five enormous walruses with tens of centimeters long tusks appear, sunbathing on an ice shelf on the shore. You try to be quiet for 5 minutes to enjoy the Arctic silence, and the only thing you hear is the breath of the wind and waves of the sea, interrupted only by birdsong and grunting walruses. Just when you think the day could not be better, you catch a glimpse of a two-masted sailing ship, headed straight toward you. They wave and send out a rubber boat. On board, you are welcomed by the chef cook serving a delightful three-course meal while the sailings ship heads for Longyearbyen.