Part 2: Beerenberg
Continued from Part 1 – Sailing to Jan Mayen
Back to the introduction
June 12 – Day 5 and on our way to Beerenberg
The Base Commander woke us up around 9:30am (we had all decided to stick on Norwegian time, even if we were in a different time zone). I was a total zombie but was able to notice that Petter got up and talked to him. He would return a couple of hours later and check the passports.
He returned a couple of hours later, along with some colleagues from the military and the meteorological station. We had a nice chat with them and the foreigners in the group got their Jan Mayen stamp in their passports.
After “breakfast”, we got ready to hike out and left Kvalrossbukta around 16:30. We had 30km ahead of us to the top of the volcano and our backpacks were heavy. The backpacks contained all equipment needed for glacier travel and rescue, bivouac (sleeping bag, mattress, Jervenduk), food for 3 days, Jetboil, plate + cutlery, extra clothes and personal stuff.
The UK team walked very fast. It took me by surprise. I had to up my game in order to keep up, but once I got accustomed to the pace, it was OK. After 14km we were at the foot of the mountain. I did much better in the uphill than in the flatlands, but it was still bloody hard work.
We headed up the mountain in thick fog, hoping that we would get above it at some point.
And at 22:30, we left the valley of fog and entered a mountain in sunshine. Oh, what a glorious feeling!
And then the mountain appeared in front of us…
But despite the sunshine, the hike was a struggle for most people, so after 6,4km – at 650m above sea level, we decided to bivvu around 23:20. The plan was to bivvu at 1300m, so we were quite behind plan. But there was little energy left in the group and the decision to stop was wise.
Jukka was carrying a massive tarp that Petter had planned to be used by everyone. But given the good weather, most people decided to sleep where they put their backpacks and there was no reason to have other shelter than provided by the sleeping bags. After dinner (freeze dried food), I went to sleep with a massive headache. Most likely because of dehydration.
Pictures from Kvalrossbukta and up to the bivvu camp
June 13 – Day 6 and summit day
Trying to save weight, I had brought little extra food, besides dinner and 5-6 small slices of bread. Breakfast was some kind of soup that I put into my hot water. The headache had not gone away, but the summit was in sight!
After a long walk up the snowfield, we decided it was time to gear up for glacier travel. We divided the group into two teams, 5 persons on each 60m rope. As we wanted to give Jukka and Johannes a good starting point for the rim climb, we defined one “fast” team and one “slow” team. The “fast” team consisted of Richard, Fredrik, Jukka, Johannes and myself. The idea was that Jukka and Johannes would head from the crater and up to the top, then back to the crater entry point where they would meet the “slow” team and trade ropes.
As we approached the upper part of the glacier, we had to find a route that bypassed the crevasses. We saw tracks, one pair probably belonging to Børge Ousland, a Norwegian extreme adventurer that had been up here a few days earlier.
The crevasses were indeed for real, but not really scary. It was quite easy to find a safe route here.
Finally, we reached the crater rim and were blessed with a mighty view.
The “fast team” lost its momentum. Only Jukka and myself continued up to the top.
I had my crampons on while Jukka hadn’t. When I got to a short, exposed ridge just before the summit, I reckoned Jukka had to turn back to get his crampons, but he found an easier route. We continued together to the top and celebrated with a real “manhug”.
We then returned down to the others. The “slow” team had now arrived at the crater. Johannes was on his way up and Richard was organizing a roped team.
I didn’t catch anything that was going on, because I simply collapsed. I don’t know why, but I was totally flat out.
But, I noticed that everyone had summited. A great success for the team!
It would normally be very tempting for me to try the rim climb, but not in my current state. Jukka and Johannes eventually headed out.
When the others returned from the summit, I was quite eager to get off this mountain, hoping it would improve my situation. Perhaps it was the altitude. I normally get a strong headache when I fly, which is roughly equivalent to 2100m.
We quickly organized a rope team consisting of Petter, Greg, Fredrik and myself. As we left, we saw that Jukka and Johannes had turned around on the hump before Mercantontoppen. Too bad for them, but at least the rest of us wouldn’t have to worry about their safety. Johannes later said that he lacked the energy to go through with this. Having been flat out myself, I can relate…
It didn’t take long before I was my usual self, and reckoned it was the combination of altitude, dehydration and some fatigue. When we had passed the crevasses, we split up and Fredrik and myself were the first ones back to the camp at 650m.
I went over to a snow field where I stood naked and rubbed myself with snow. It was both nice and painful (icy crust) at the same time. It was super-nice to enter the sleeping bag after dinner, feeling somewhat clean and no longer thirsty. The only downside was the headache, but I hoped a good night’s sleep would cure it.
Pictures from the trip from and to the camp on the mountain
June 14 – Day 7 and return to camp via Eggøya
I will always remember the morning of June 14. I woke up early morning, before anyone else. The weather was still gorgeous and my headache had gone away. I realized that I could sleep at least another hour before anyone would move around in the camp.
For the first time since I left Svalbard, I gave some thought to the world I had left behind. I wished my girlfriend would be here to share the experience, but I was also ever so grateful that she took care of the dog. I hoped that she had been following Petter’s SPOT tracking and saw that we summited the day before. I wondered if she had posted something on Facebook. She probably had, yet not knowing if I had been to the top. And when we returned to Longyearbyen a week later, I saw that she had.
After breakfast (I had only half a cup of soup left) we got ready for the descent. When I lifted the backpack, it didn’t feel quite as heavy as one the way up. Bonus! But just before we headed out, someone shouted “who’s taking this rope?” Sigh! I had carried a 30m rope up the mountain, and now I had to carry a 60m rope down the mountain.
By the time we reached the foot of the mountain, my left knee ached horribly. I had tried to put more weight onto my right foot, resulting in several blisters. The hike back to camp would be long and painful for sure!
Petter and Jukka were way ahead of us, independent of each other. Petter, who had deviated from our ascent route, later told us that he had met Kjell Erik and Johannes on their way up the mountain. They had been brought by car to the foot of the mountain. Apparently, the crew had gotten some solid “bonus points” by inviting the base to a sail around the island while we were on the mountain. A sail that the base crew had really appreciated! And they were served home baked bread too! Kjell Erik and Johannes returned to the boat 18 hours later, quite tired. Johannes mentioned the “zombie” word when I spoke to him later. I know exactly what he meant…
But the others had no plans to return directly to camp. Next up was the top of Eggøya! I have to hand it to them. They’re a bunch of extraordinary hikers. As the plan was to leave the backpacks, I decided that I could probably limp my way the 2km+ and the 200+ vertical meters to the top – and back. And so I decided to join.
The hike wasn’t so painful now that I didn’t have to carry the backpack and even if the hike to the mountain and the ascent was on sand, I really enjoyed it. I would for sure have regretted not going there. Apparently, there is never snow on this mountain in winter. The ground is too hot. If I got this right, Eggøya is an old crater, where the sea-facing side has eroded.
On top, I learned the technique of determining the high point using a bottle of water. And then it was time for a group picture. Too bad Petter and Jukka wasn’t here!
The descent went swift, as any descent in sand normally does and soon we were reunited with the backpacks and could prepare for the final 15km to camp in Kvalrossbukta. I spent half the time walking by myself and the rest together with Greg. I really enjoyed his company. We had a lot of common interests, mountain web sites being one of them.
When we passed Sørlaguna and Søyla, cold mist was blowing in. We sat down for a short rest and we wondered how cold the water in the lake was. I decided to find out and put my hands in. I told Greg that he should do the same and then we looked at each other. 20-23 degrees C.? Very surprising! But I was way too tired to even consider taking a bath.
Eventually, we reached camp 8 hours after leaving the bivvu camp and could start preparing dinner. Fredrik was the chef for the day and served Spaghetti Carbonara in two rounds. Afterwards, Richard served us all a zip of fine Whisky. I guess we had all earned it.
Later in the evening, Petter launched the idea of moving the camp to Båtvika. The main idea was to give us easier access to the mountains on the south side of the island. This suggestion was not applauded by everyone but after some discussion we decided to go ahead with the move. I supported the suggestion and expressed my opinion. Having easier access was one thing. We had all walked the boring road from and to Kvalrossbukta twice, but I found Kvalrossbukta itself quite depressing. It was a dump, literally. The only upside was the outdoor toilet. Kudos to the base who had concluded that also people who visit the island need to go to the bathroom. With that in mind, perhaps there was a toilet in Båtvika too?
Pictures from the bivvu camp, Eggøya and return to Kvalrossbukta
Continued with more hikes on Jan Mayen