This May I was offered the opportunity to travel to Spits Bergen Norway to film with the legendary Warren Miller film crew. I was told that we would be traveling to Spits Bergen an island north of Norway just 500 miles from the North Pole. We would be living on a glacier for 3 weeks and skiing couloirs that have never been touched by humans before. Once in Norway I met up with professional skier Reggie Christ, legendary artic explorer Doug Stoup along with Professional photographer Will Wissman, world famous videographer Tom Day and his hard working assistant Collin Witherill. I could not believe I was going to spend 3 weeks living on the ice with so many experienced men.
Once I got off the plane in Svalbard I was instantly struck with the cold conditions of northern Norway. My bags didn’t show up until three days after my arrival delaying our departure to the Atom Fiella, a glacier 13 hrs north of Svalbard where we would ski handfuls of first descents. We left the day after my bags arrived and bundled up in preparation for the 13-hour snowmobile ride to the moonscape land we would be living in. After the long ride we made it to our new home the Atom Fiella.
The morning after our first night on the ice, we were hit with a crazy blizzard. Just as we were rubbing the sleep from our eyes and “brewing up” a micro burst came shooting down, grabbed our expedition floorless tent and flung it all the way down the glacier. It instantly disappeared in the extreme white out conditions and Wissman took the initiative to chase it down. I quickly realized our “very” important fuel bottles were rolling away from home base down the glacier along with the rest of the camp. Sleeping pads took off like kites, pots and pans rolled like tumble weeds across the desert. I grabbed things left and right and laid on top of them so they wouldn’t blow away. Reggie and Tom hopped on the snowmobile to help Wissman chase down the tent and Doug stuffed the remains of our home under me to save them from the intense gusts while Collin got it all on film. The chase team finally got a hold of the tent when they found it crushed up against a rock face at the far end of the Atom Fiella. Two of the tent poles snapped and sliced through the fabric, making a few holes, somewhere along its long tumble down the glacier. Talk about a crude awakening to the reality of the artic world. Not even 48hrs into the trip and we loose our home sweet home. Thanks to Doug we had all the tools we needed to fix our o so important living structure and we built a very big, very strong, snow wall made from blocks of snow to protect our home from the winds that may or may not come later. We also decided to stake our tent down with our skies and we reinforced the stakes with webbing tied tight to the snowmobiles and equipment sleds. If a hellish microburst were to come again we were ready for it or at least our home wasn’t going anywhere.
The only other bad weather we experienced was one day of heavy snowfall that came just when we needed a refresh. Other then that we had clear skies and stable snow conditions, the perfect equation for an amazing shred fest. The average day on the Atom Fiella started with a very precise morning routine. We would start with artic yoga led by myself. Reggie and I would get out of our sleeping bags and slip strait into our down suits, move our sleeping bags out of the way and proceed with a moderate yoga session to get the blood flowing. While we stretched Doug would start the constant process of melting snow so we could cook the very delicious customized freeze dried meals of oatmeal and coffee for breakfast and meals such as Jamaican Jerk chicken or chicken mole for dinner. Lunch consisted of handfuls of dried fruit, beef jerky, chocolate, and a variety of nuts. After Yoga we would start the long process of drying our liners, boot shells, socks, and gloves. Any drop of moisture turns to ice minutes after exiting the tent and icy gloves or liners makes for a very miserable and even painful day of ski mountaineering. Once everything was dry and the camera crew got their gear in order we would go to a “zone”, hike to the top of it, wait for Tom and Will to find their angle and once every one was ready, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 dropping. In just minutes you look back at your tracks and smile because you know they were the first tracks to ever mark that area. You come up with a name that expresses your experience and claim it. Because there is 24 hours of daylight in Northern Norway in May, we were able to do this four or five times a day and at all hours. We even found our selves skiing first descents at 2, 3, 4, 5 and even 6AM in the morning.
After over two weeks of skiing every thing in sight around the Atom Fiella it was time for us to leave. We packed up our gear and started back home. What was a 13hr snowmobile ride out turned into a 3-day adventure back. We just couldn’t stop. Around each corner, we found new zones and epic backdrops. In those three days we even ran into 7 different polar bears including a mama bear with two cubs that decided to walk right up to us, so close that our snowmobiles were further away from us then they were. Being in such an untouched remote area doing what you love is unexplainable. I could not have asked for a better team to experience it with, or better conditions to live in. The trip could not have gone more perfectly and we all had the times of our lives. I cant wait to experience more places like this and ski more first descents in such remote areas. Thanks to everyone involved in this great expedition it was the best experience of my life!!!!!!!!!
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