Haakon VII topp
Richard McLellan, responsible for UK participation. Denise McLellan, wife and (climbing) partner.
Tony Jenkins, UK participant. Chris Ottley, UK participant.
Jukka Nurminen, from Finland. Johannes Nygaard, from Gausdal.
Fredrik Brun, from Bergen. Arnt Flatmo, from Sunnmøre.
Greg Slayden, from Seattle. Petter Bjørstad, organizer.
Seil Norge had chosen a top-rate crew of three:
Mats, Kjell Erik and Johannes, (left to right).
The trip begins.
Day -1, Thursday, June 6th. I travel to Svalbard.
Several things had to be purchased in Longyearbyen. With people scheduled to arrive in the afternoon on Friday, it would indeed be a gamble to get everything in a couple of hours, then leave Saturday morning. A late flight would then possibly delay our departure. I therefore decided to arrive on Thursday, and get the local buying under control before the group would arrive. I flew up on an SAS flight that had several seats occupied by Cellos, a music festival as well as this being a long holiday (Monday off), explained why tickets (unfortunately) were expensive. I figured that an extra hotel night would be well worth the added margins to secure a timely departure.
The shopping was actually a bit harder than expected. Where do you find 25 liter containers for water? At last, I discovered 2 containers at the local gas station, they were supplemented by 3 10 liter containers to make a total of 80 liter. Next, gas cartridges for the mountain stoves. Somewhat surprisingly, most stores carried 3-season, not 4-season (or winter) mix. I picked up the propane for our planned common cooking on Jan Mayen and most issues were now under control. I stayed at the somewhat rustic Mary-Ann's Polarrigg. I made friends with the reception and we agreed that they should offer us a reasonable deal for an overnight Saturday to Sunday when we planned to return. Finally, I made a reservation for 10 to have dinner on Friday night (1930) at Kroa. This should be a good way to kick off our expedition.
Day 0, Friday, June 7th. The team arrives.
Both SAS and Norwegian were on schedule and by 1400 everyone were at the boat with all baggage. Our skipper, Mats came with SAS and the only man missing was Johannes, he should arrive with a very late (midnight) flight. All our provisions arrived and needed to be repacked and checked against the list specifying every item. Arnt and I started this work. It was tedious and complicated as the food delivered did not keep the same items in the same box. Thus 8 kilo of flour might be scattered across 4 different boxes, implying that we needed to check almost everywhere for each type or item on the shopping list. Mats announced that we should depart at 0800 the next morning, that people should prepare for a late breakfast, no need to get up early. We then all met at Kroa and had a nice evening with good food and arctic beer.
Day 1, Saturday, June 8th. We sail from Longyearbyen.
I woke up around 0800 and immediately noticed that we were not sailing. Why? A check with Mats revealed that the flight that got in at midnight with our third crew-member Johannes, had left most of its baggage behind, including our dry-sacks, our dehydrated food for the mountain, all the personal gear that Johannes needed for the trip etc. Since it was Saturday, no stores would open before 1000.
We went shopping at 1000. Arnt bought 2 bags (for himself and Anne), while Fredrik bought one. That left one bag to be purchased by 6 on the team. (Richard brought one bag with him and wanted Denise and himself excluded.) The team also needed 20 drytech meals to compensate for the 20 that did not arrive with the flight.
We left Longyearbyen around 1240. The trip out Isfjorden was nice, impressive mountains and glaciers then the Russian town of Barentsburg. Soon, we were headed out on the large, open Atlantic with a great circle course in order to minimize the length of travel. Tony and Chris are seasick. Greg and Johannes are not feeling great. Several have used the adhesive drug that is attached behing a ear. I am fortunate to never get any symptoms from being at sea.
Day 2, Sunday, June 9th. Good wind.
Today, we have good wind, last night the boat made as much as 11 knots (maximum measured) with a good 9 knots average. The engine being turned off and the boat moves both better and is more stably with sails only.
Day 3, Monday, June 10th. Calm seas.
We continue to sail, but the wind is dying and we employ the engine to assist us with reasonable progress.
Day 4, Tuesday, June 11th. Calm seas.
The sea is flat and there is only a very weak wind. We would fall behind schedule if we did not use the engine to help us cruise at about 6-7 knots.
Day 5, Wednesday, June 12th. Arrival and hike to glacier camp.
We arrived in Kvalrossbukta on the west side of Jan Mayen shortly after 0100. By 0200, we were anchored and could start getting the group and gear onto the shore. Mats decided that the best spot was a bit right (south) of the main landing area on the beach. We took 2 persons plus some baggage in each run with the dinghy. Jump into the sea at waist depth, then wade up onto the beach through a small surf. The operation took about 4 hours. By 0600, we were all on shore, the tents had been established and it was time for a first night of sleep on stable land, it is fair to say that several of us had been looking forward to this a few days!
The forecast was good and should be used to our advantage. We all got up around 1200 and prepared for leaving. By 1500, we were on the way to Beerenberg. It is a frather long walk from Kvalrossbukta to the mountain. I did not feel great and needed to catch up with the team a few times as we walked along the road and later driving track. It felt good to finally start moving uphill on snow. We arrived at the last convenient place to bivu on dry land around 2300. Everybody seemed tired and all agreed that we should spend the night here. The elevation was only 650 meter, ideal for a climb to the main summit, however less ideal for an extensive exploration of the crater rim.
Day 6, Thursday, June 13th. We climb Haakon VII topp.
A beautiful morning, the clouds/fog covering the lower part of the island. We have a somewhat slow start, partly due to our late arrival yesterday. We are moving by 0900, the first part of the glacier is indeed very gentle and quite long. We rope up well before any crevasse. Since Jukka and Johannes would like to explore the small humps on the crater rim, we decide to form two rope teams, 5 people each - one "slow" and one "fast". The plan was that the fast team could summit, then traverse the crater rim back to where our planned route would ascend, meet the slow team there in order to take over the rope, thus having two 60 meter ropes for the rest of the technically more challenging rim. I volunteered to lead the "slow" team.
As we headed towards slightly steeper ground, the other team stopped to consider the route, left or right of the nunatak. In my mind the choice was evident, up the snow slope to the right, then enter the compression (no crevasses) zone above the nunatak to gain the U-shaped glacier above. We headed that way and the "fast" team was now behind us. The route worked well and as we rested beyond the nunatak, the other team caught up and continued uphill, seeing an old track from the previous week as guidance. The head of the Jan Mayen station had been up here the week before, then Børge Ousland and Torleif Torleifson.
As we gained higher ground a few of my party (rope) got tired and we called for a good rest. The remaining ascent was easy and we quickly gained the rim going left in order to avoid climbing the hump that formed the highest point of our ascent ridge. The other team had not yet climbed the top, they were resting in the col before the last false summit. Jukka and Arnt returned from the summit while Johannes were on his way there. I continued along the last (easy) stretch with Greg just behind. Behind us, Richard was organizing a rope to take Denise, Tony, Richard and Fredrik along.
I arrived at the summit around 1615, Greg followed a few minutes later. A perfect day, no wind, mild temperature and the entire island of Jan Mayen without any cloud cover. I told Greg I would give this ascent a 10 (for quality) on Peakbagger and he agreed.
Day 7, Friday, June 14th. Return to Base Camp.
I woke up in my warm and comfortable bivu, the weather was still nice and there was no need to hurry. We had a fantastic day yesterday, all 10 on the summit! We slowly broke camp and started downhill a bit independently. Several wanted to climb the characteristic Eggø,ya on the return hike. I felt that the hike back to BC would be sufficient today, I could always visit a small hill along the way if I felt like doing more walking.
I left around 1000 and ran into two crew members, Johannes and Kjell Erik coming uphill. They asked about the route and crevasses. Assuming that this was a (short) day-hike, I told them that they most likely would turn around before any crevasse issues. Johannes did not accept this reply, so I asked what time they planned to return. "Tomorrow morning", they said. Now I understood that they could reach the summit and I explained the most important sections of the route.
I had a long, but nice walk back to Base Camp. Jukka was ahead of me, while the rest of the team had made a side-trip to a peak called Eggøya (it is not an island). We all had a well prepared common dinner when everybody had returned. Mats had informed me that he wanted gto sail Valiente around the island to Båtvika, assuming that most (all?) would like to do this. This was of course, not in line with our plan. Still, if the skipper on the boat wants to move it, that is his decision.
Day 8, Saturday, June 15th. We sail around the island.
Day 9, Sunday, June 16th. I climb Rudolftoppen.
Today, Arnt, Chris and I decided to climb Rudolftoppen, the highest peak on the south side of Jan Mayen. We left the boat around 1030. Following the good trail up into the flat area just south of Midtfjellet. We had fog (the cloud cover) in this area and the ground was covered with snow here. We turned left and headed up the valley that runs in the direction of the peak. The first, nicely shaped (false) peak came into view.
Day 10, Monday, June 17th. Visit to the Jan Mayen station.
The last team members, eager to hike and explore as much as possible, came back on board around 1900. The boat was prepared for departure and we departed around 2100. It was a nice evening as we sailed north along the east side of the island, making a brief stop for photographs at the bay under the Eggøya island. Near midnight, the distance to the island increased as we sailed towards Svalbard, more than 1000 kilometer away. A last look back to say farewell to this magic island in the Arctic Sea. The visit had been very successful, incdredibly nice weather and all team members reaching the two main summits on the island as well as many minor summits.
Day 11, Tuesday, June 18th. We sail from Jan Mayen and into trouble.
I woke up around 0800. It was easy to feel that the weather had turned more rough. We had variable headwind as strong as 30 knots ( 15 m/s ). The course was north of our desired direction and we sailed with one of the smaller sails up front. The engine provided most of the progress. Suddenly, the engine stalled. It turned out that we have caught some rubble in the propeller. Pretty bad news since the headwind makes tacing necessary and moreover, the forecast calls for the wind to die down tomorrow.
Day 12, Wednesday, June 19th. XX.
Woke up before 0600. The sea waves are about the same as yesterday, but the wind is somewhat weaker. We are still on course towards Lofoten in Norway. The distance to Svalbard has increased since yesterday. The closest land (except Jan Mayen) is now Norway. The forecast predicts even less wind later today. If the sea calms we may be able to dive and untangle the objects that have shut down our propeller. On the other hand, less wind means less progress. Only time will show. It seems likely that we will be delayed and perhaps end up in Norway rather than Svalbard.
We have identified the rubble in the propeller as some sort of bag from a Russian trawler. Good news, as the day progressed, the wind remained and now the forecast says it will turn to south-east, pretty good for us. ´We are again on course to Longyearbyen. Pancakes with blueberry for lunch was uniformly popular. Tony showed up after the two first dys on his bed. Just now, it looks like we will get to Longyearbyen on Sunday.
Day 13, Thursday, June 20th. We fix the propeller problem.
Woke up around 0700. A very nice morning, calm seas and sunshine. Around 0930 Mats decides to make a go for removing the garbage that has blocked our propeller. His main motivation for this potentially dangerous and definitely difficult mission was a new forecast predicting very weak wind. We might not arrive until Monday. This would be a big headache for all, the team missing flights and for Seil Norge since they have a scheduled trip from Longyearbyen already on Sunday.
A few hours work and repeated diving under the boat, results in success! Mats succeeded in cutting the Russian basket loose from the propeller. We got our engine working and now we have both sail and propeller to help getting us to Longyearbyen.
Nice lunch with pasta, everybody in a good mood as we now will reach Longyearbyen on Saturday. At 1455, we see 3 big whales swimming right next to our boat. They follow us for a while, then dive and disappear from sight.
We have risotto (good tasting with brocolli) for dinner and brownies for desert. Quite a few participants were worried for a possible delay, missing a day on work, missing flights, etc. However, now the mood is definitely relieved as we use the engine to compensate for the missing wind. The North-Atlntic is indeed very calm, almost no wave can be detected. It seems very certain that we will be in Longyearbyen (well?) before dinner time on Saturday.
Day 14, Friday, June 21st. Calm seas and a new scare..
Today,the sea is even calmer than yesterday and there is virtually no wind. However,around 1000, the engine suddenly stops again. What now? Another Russian trawlerbag? No, this time we had the main propeller axle overheating and in need of more lubrication. After 2 hours of busy work, the problem has been adressed and we continue towards our destination. As I write this, the time is 1315 and we are 260 kilometer from Isfjorden and the engine has been stopped again! Just as we believed that arrival in Longyearbyen would be around 1400 on Saturday, this is now again a bit uncertain.
Repair/maintenance work is needed and the engine is too hot to be worked on. We lower the dingy and attach it to the boat. With my 2 heavy bags in, it provides about 2-3 knots of forward speed. Unless we have some success with this repair, it seems that a Saturday arrival is again a bit optimistic. We start the engine again at 1645, but this lasts only 2 minutes. Shortly, we again run, hopefully more sustained at 1650. The problem seems to be leakage of the lubricant from the main bearings supporting the propeller axle. A repair has been tried, but in any case Seil Norge has authorized that we continue sailing to Longyearbyen on moderate/low rpm (speed) on the engine.
Day 15, Saturday, June 22nd. A memorable arrival in Isfjorden.
Woke up at 0530 after a good sleep. The sun is shining and we can see Svalbard in the distance. The engine has been running smoothly, so the repair yesterday seems to hold nicely. It is a beautiful morning, calm sea, blue sky and white mountains both south and north of Isfjorden. We have a very nice journey in the fjord and arrive at Longyearbyen around 1500.
I reserved a table at Kroa for 2000. We all meet for a common meal, just as we started the trip 2 weeks ago.
Day 16, Sunday, June 23rd. Longyearbyen and travel home to Bergen.