What can I say, this trip has been everything I had hoped for. This dream trip was the brainchild of Iceaxe founder, Doug Stoup. For the past decade he had been basing out of Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen for his North Pole expeditions. After years of staring at the amazing snow covered peaks that few — if any — had ever skied, he chartered a sailboat and brought his dream to fruition.
The Spalberg archipelago is located within the arctic circle, only 500 miles from the North Pole. Blanketed with snow year round, it is home to seals, walruses, whales, reindeer, the elusive polar bear and a few thousand humans. For the past week we have sailed up and down the fjords laying anchor to slay a few peaks and lay tracks back down to the water.
The light, the land, the views — everything is so surreal, inspiration abounds. Kind of helps that we have 24 hours of day light to play. Our watch and phones were soon left behind . Best light comes out after midnight. For the most part, we choose to stick to the late night hours for our touring. Something about putting on sun tan lotion at 11 pm. Our motis operati is fun, flexible and unpredictable — the stuff dreams are made of.
One moment we are skiing down to the water at midnight; the next we are watching reindeer bounding by. Sure you have to earn your turns. Sometimes it is 3-5 hrs of up with a long approach, but can you think of a better way to enjoy the journey?
For me, the pace was relatively slow. After all, the camera gear has a way of adding quick pounds to the typical gear list of crampons, ice axe, shovel, probe, skins, harness, back up layers, water and food…. Lucky for us only the two guides have to carry the token gun. That’s right: nothing like climbing mountains with a World War II rifle in tote just in case you have an encounter with a hungry bear.
The crew was all-star. Andrew McLean was Doug’s right hand man. With a lifetime of skiing seven continents under his belt, it is hard not to feel safe with him leading the charge. Then there was my good friend and fellow camera man, Tom Day. This time he was on vacation, no assignment or heavy glass and medal to haul. Luckily for me he still skis as well as anyone I know and was always willing to hike for the camera. The girl power on board was the surprise addition. Between last year’s World Free-Ride Champion, Norwegian Ane Enderud, and Telluride ripping Telluride mama, Kim Havell, the boy testosterone was kept in check and we had many a good laugh.
The week went by way too fast. I looked across the ten blissful but tired goggled, tanned faces toasting over our departure dinner, realizing yet again that this was another modern day serendipitous adventure for the record books….