Ski touring in Spitsbergen: Travel border of extreme

It took several days before suffering the spot. Here it is, after a long stretch, that appears behind the mouth of a frozen river. Around us, the scenery is magnificent: on both sides of the fjord along which we glide, the mountains are shaped like castle battlements. We see her, but above all we hear. If compressing on herself, she snores, growls and cracks on the surface. Plates, cracks and imperfections snowdrifts trace on her white and flat immensity, it looks like some places have been carved by an abstract artist. As an old door badly oiled, it squeaks in a shrill whistle, rather disturbing. Everything But still, the ice seems -vivante.

Four days of ski touring were needed to reach her at the rate of ten kilometers and six hours of skiing a day on average, in the beautiful and deserted panoramas. Our group of nine is led by a French guide. We started from Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen main town (2,000 inhabitants), the most northerly in the world. It is located on the largest island of Svalbard, an archipelago under Norwegian administration, floating far beyond the Arctic Circle. The North Pole is 1,338 km, 2,313 km to Oslo. In early April, a hard, icy snow still covers the whole territory (39,000 square kilometers, about 61,000 of Svalbard), the highest peaks reaching 1,700 meters. At this time of year, the day is almost continuous: the sun hides two or three hours after midnight, leaving a bluish twilight in which we can easily move without artificial light. At the lower the temperature down to – 20 degrees. We have, it seems, are in luck. Previous -semaine, he made up – 32 degrees.

Face cold and polar wind

On the first day, however, is not the cold – you get used surprisingly quickly with the right equipment – that welcomes us, but another companion of Spitsbergen: the wind. Blowing from the east, it takes us face as we go up the valley of Adventdalen. The Norwegian who minivan drove us to our starting point, just outside Longyearbyen, warned: “The worst thing is the wind, everything depends on him. “Under a gray sky, veiled and hostile, it cools the atmosphere, stolen snow dust in all directions and increases the intensity of effort required. I wanted to discover the Arctic? I am, and I wonder a bit why I subjected me this event – it will not be the last time this week. Under these conditions, the first step is exhausting. Such a ski tour, engaging, otherwise warrants an excellent physical preparation. The habit of snow is an advantage: among my fellow travelers, mountaineers seem much more comfortable. Luckily, the weather is with us that week: the bulk of the hike takes place under a generous sun and a comforting blue sky.

The expedition is all the more tiring it is not limited to push all day on sticks to move, dragging a pulk (sled) behind 20 kilos, in which transports its business material and food for six days of hiking. In the evening, we also set up camp where we spend the night. Spitsbergen, shelters do not exist. Using saws and shovels, we first dig a trench in the snow round and then draw a table around which we spend all the time we do not sleep. The blocks extracted are used to maintain and protect the town from the wind tent, called “mess tent”, a large red tipi son hanging by our skis planted in the ground. Then, mount the individual tents to dry wet clothes and boil snow tirelessly with the two stoves brought with us. It is with hot water that comes out that one is drinking and makes edible freeze-dried dishes constituting our meals. Tonight the yellow powder turned into a delicious invigorating aligot seems. In this all-white universe of discomfort, hot tea and a soft brownie taste like little treasures.

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