With any expedition, preparedness and bonding are the key to success, so we made a trip to Norway for a weekend of winter training.
At the beginning of March 2019, the Jan Mayen crew travelled to the Sirdal Valley in South West Norway for a few days of team bonding and training. The objective was to get to know each other, test some equipment and practice our emergency procedures. It was also a great opportunity to get a few ‘ski-miles’ under our belts. The conditions from the outset were challenging, with hard-packed ice under foot and strong winds.
Visibility remained poor over the long-weekend, however, this provided a reasonable simulation of what we could expect on Jan Mayen. We opted for Nordic skis and expedition rucksacks, allowing us to cover significant distances carrying a similar weight to what we will carry to reach Mount Beerenberg. The Norwegian terrain was also similar to Jan Mayen; deep valley systems, mountain scarps and huge granite buttresses, at around 1100m above sea-level.
Our route involved cutting through these valleys, crossing frozen lakes and traversing steadily to gain altitude. At the end of the first day, we looked forward to reaching our accommodation: a snow-hole and mountain hytter (Norwegian mini-lodge). On arrival at the base camp area, we dug into a well packed lee-side of a gully and created a significant ‘block and cave’ snow-hole. Within 200m – a relatively luxurious hytter was available for planning and enjoying a hot drink out of the weather.
Also cutting through this small base camp was a running stream that joined two huge frozen lakes. This provided fresh water (saving on fuel) and served as a bath for the keener members of the team! Arthur was the first in, followed by Paul and Will.
The four days proved an excellent opportunity to practice many of the skills needed for the expedition, including crevasse rescue and route selection. The 40-50 km we covered gave the team a chance to stretch our legs with some weight on our back. There is a good balance of mountain and nautical pedigree, among the team, combining many years and miles of expeditionary experience. All bodes well for a successful voyage and climb.
Paul Mattin Esq.