svalbard ski and sail

Svalbard Ski Touring

Packing for our Ski & Sail Mission on Svalbard

The final packing has begun! Chaos, madness, and too many things to pack will make this a crazy week.

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First off, maps. Turns out Gaia GPS offers Norway Topo maps, but for some reason I’m not seeing them as an option to download on my phone. First snafu; email sent to Help. I created a bunch of Google Earth and TF Outdoors topo maps in CalTopo, for upload to Avenza. Not ideal, but it’ll work. Next, there’s a TopoSvalbard app, but it’s not apparent how to use the app offline. (I”m betting on pilot error, but still futzing with it.)

Naturally there are paper maps to be printed/purchased, but these are 50m contour lines and 1:100,000--useless for fine navigation. This is a work in progress.

The next monkeywrench in the whole process is Mike Arnold’s wedding. Mikey and I founded Vetta together, in 2014, after we both earned our pins. He’s since moved to Italia and has engaged himself with a absolutely wonderful woman, Elena. I’m headed to their wedding after Svalbard, skis, boots, luggage in tow. If they were marrying in their home town of Aosta, Italy, the skis might serve me, but they’re tying the knot in Faro, Portugal, far from the mountains.

Rebecca and the boys will meet me in Faro. The boys, of course, want tuxedos for the wedding, but that’s on Rebecca’s plate. I had to buy a suit on next-to-no notice, but that’s another blog entirely. All I can say it, it’ll be awesome to see them, but then I have to stash skis and luggage in Portugal after Mikey’s wedding, because we’re headed to Morocco. After Morocco, the boys and Rebel fly home and I’ll go see family in Italy. Rebecca, ever the saint, agreed to shuttle my ski bag and roller home at that point. God bless her.

Rebel and the punks, before they were international travelers!

Rebel and the punks, before they were international travelers!

Have you used SpotWx? It’s a small operation,  so consider donating  to keep the site running! They offer Canadian and American weather models, long- and short-term. Great service.

Have you used SpotWx? It’s a small operation, so consider donating to keep the site running! They offer Canadian and American weather models, long- and short-term. Great service.

With all that in the background, I’m packing for our ski & sail mission on Svalbard. The ten-day forecast looks like relatively warm (just before 0C) temps, with a bit of precip on the way--heavy snow, rather than rain (phew!). I’m psyched...Tom Wolfe’s (sawback.com) photos from last year were spectacular. Friends who’ve been rave about it.

Funnily enough, our former au pair, the lovely Alicja Juzkow, has a friend living and working on Svalbard. I just friended her on the Facecramp and we’ll connect in Longyear, the capital town. Small world.

The Norwegians have quit daily avy advisories for Svalbard, but northern zones like Lyngen have been bouncing between Low (1) and Mod (2) for the past few weeks. Relatively mild, stable weather means Svalbard is probably in a similar cycle, but we’ll have a few days before guests arrive to assess conditions, gather data, and start making informed terrain choices.

Stay tuned for photos and routes from Svalbard--it’s almost here!

Svalbard Ski Touring

The Svalbard Sore Shoulder: Ski-Touring Under the Midnight Sun

Less than three weeks until we travel to Svalbard, for our high-Arctic ski-and-sail expedition under the midnight sun.

Touring above the Arctic Ocean and endless blue sky

Touring above the Arctic Ocean and endless blue sky

It’s been a schlep, figuring out guns, permits, travel docs, etc. Tom Wolfe--my co-guide and owner of Sawback Alpine, based in Canmore, Alberta--should be bringing me a 12-gauge shotgun. He’s opting for a rifle, but as I’ve shot fewer than 20 rounds through any kind of rifle, I’m sticking with a shotgun.

My “sore shoulder” comes in because of this. A good buddy of mine is a former US Marine Corps Recon sniper, so I begged him to dial my nearly skilless shooting a bit. Almost 150 rounds later, I’m *maybe* a tad better with the gun. I woke up the morning after our range session feeling like a mule had kicked me in the shoulder, though. Way to go, tough man.

Just like avalanche rescue and crevasse rescue, I’m going with TOTAL AVOIDANCE of polar bears. I’d love to see one, or a mom and cubs, from the boat, but man, the last thing in the world I’d want to do is have to shoot (at) a polar bear.

That said, the boat captains are careful and we’ll land with good sight lines and the proper caution. We can focus on the skiing, for the most part!

The 110-foot Noorderlicht, docked in the harbor at a Russian coal-mining outpost

The 110-foot Noorderlicht, docked in the harbor at a Russian coal-mining outpost

We’ll be ski-touring out of Longyearbyen for three days before boarding the Noorderlicht on May 22. Despite a quick warm up here in Colorado, there are still ice climbs to be done and it’s currently snowing pretty well here in Boulder (5600ft; 1700m). Spring!