/ Winter climbing on Svalbard?

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Calum Nicoll - on 24 May 2013
I might have a week or two spare in december on Spitsbergen. I'm keen for the climbing, is there much done in winter?

Aware it will be pretty dark, and pretty cold. Is there likely to be enough moonlight to get some vis/not have to use headtorches (for fairly easy routes). Is there any twilight or just uniform darkness?

Also, likely to be cold enough to not need to bring waterproofs?

Probs be sticking within area 10 cos it seems like less hassle, but not sure if there is enough worthwhile hills there for a couple of weeks.

Thanks all
Solaris - on 24 May 2013
In reply to Calum Nicoll:

Polar bears?
davidbeynon - on 24 May 2013
In reply to Solaris:

Can they work a belay plate without opposable thumbs?
In reply to Calum Nicoll: I only know people who have ski toured there, not climbed. You need a gun to leave the main town, and from what I remember you need a license to hire one there. My friend had to go to a local gun club and pass some exams before he went to Svalbard. Might be harder in the UK with the strong laws meaning fewer clubs?
Blinder - on 24 May 2013
In reply to Solaris: Do Polar bears not hibernate? I would have thought it would not be a problem (but really have no idea as I have never been there.)
mike kann - on 24 May 2013
In reply to Blinder: No, they are sometimes up. If they get disturbed they are pretty hungry/angry. Picture a hormonal missus who has just arrived home to find you in bed with her sister and mum combined with her carrying a bee hive that you've just shaken vigorously and thrust at her. You really don't want to f*ck with them in the winter, even if they are mostly asleep - you can't take the chance. When I was over there we were told about the local trapper who over winters there. Apparently he has a gun rack inside his front door with a shitload of loaded shotguns so that if he steps outside and if there's a bear who's not backing down, he can reload easily and quickly. You have to bear in mind that their prefered method for killing you is by sticking your head in their mouth for a "cuddle" and then shaking you till you're neck snaps. They then start at your arse and eat till you're gone.
Blinder - on 24 May 2013
In reply to mike kann: I stand corrected. But they look so cuddely on the TV.
mike kann - on 24 May 2013
In reply to Blinder: They do. Although I'd imagine on a 3d telly with them charging at you'd think different... you'd definitely want nappies...
Dauphin - on 24 May 2013
In reply to TobyA:

if you go to university there or are part of any of the survey teams the license/rifle situation is taken care of as part of the induction

d
GrendeI on 24 May 2013
In reply to Calum Nicoll:

Winter... How well can you climb in wind chill temps of -50?

It is dark from around November 14th to January 29th (the dark season), then its twilight or the blue season as we like to call it.

Svalbard is not really renowned for its climbing. Whilst there are routes in the north, in the Atomfjella region, they only see a handful of ascents a decade... if that. Mainly due to the redonkulous logistical requirement, insurance costs and legislation concerning nature reserves. The best and most spectacular mountains are in the south and the west but these are essentially inaccessible at that time of year, unless you have a boat or a helicopter.

MA10 is pretty much dominated by choss/scree, messed up sandstone and shall. The mountains are all plateaus with relatively gentle slopes, with the only good stuff being towards the north around Templefjorden and Billefjorden where it's harder limestone... but still all choss. That lends another problem as some of these areas are in nature reserves are require a permit to travel. You will also be limited by scooter transport as the fjords wont be frozen that time of year.

Otherwise there's just the generic mountains that have all been done to death and are only really good for skiing.

On polar bears, there's a massive amount of info and legislation online, you can look that bit up. They are active throughout the year and are everywhere. Forget all the bullshit about them only mooching around sea ice etc. They can go any place and will. Central Spitsbergen is relatively bear free around Adventfjord and Sassenfjord during winter, as most bears go south and east. Their main denning areas are Hopen and Edge°ya, but are also well known around Agardhbukta through the winter. This means they can mooch up into the central area quite easily. For this reason you will need a rifle, flare gun, and satellite phone as a minimum of safety equipment at all times outside of Longyearbyen. Beacons are also available. This kit can all be hired but you need a permit from the governor before you can hire a weapon. To get the permit you need proof you're competent at shooting/ handing firearms (e.g. a licence or shooting club membership), or a letter from a police department that you aren't a nutter. Add in tripwire flares for your camp and it all starts to become a tad more exciting.
AlH - on 24 May 2013
In reply to GrendeI: Agree with Grendel its a very full on place. The temperatures and winds in winter can be truely ferocious and are nothing like the UK (except maybe the Cairngorm plateau on a bad day) or the Alps.
The mountains are chossy plateaus for the most part near human habitation.
Go skiing for short trips IF you can meet the requirements for hiring a rifle and other safety equipment.
Do not under estimate the bear threat at any time of year (away from town park rangers wont walk 10m between 2 huts without being heavily armed and approach corners of buildings by giving them a wide berth and peering round in case there is a bear about).
Cuddly they may be but they are the ultimate mammallian killing machine. 0-30 as fast as your car, flipping huge seals out of the water with one paw etc. etc.
Its the only place I've been where the locals bikes all have rifle racks. When we were there we locked our rifles in a cabinet to go into the supermarket and checked them in at the bar to go for a drink.
Calum Nicoll - on 26 May 2013
In reply to Calum Nicoll: Thanks all for the advice.


Re bears - yeah, I'm aware they're a serious issue. A friend of mine was involved in a bad incident with one on Svalbard a few years ago.

As far as I have found out, it doesn't seem that hard to hire a gun on svalbard, just need to apply to the guv for a permit in advance.

Another interesting thing I've heard of is people renting a dog and using it as an early warning system, might allow us to sleep a little easier. Obviously can't take a dog up hard mixed routes, but then hopefully polar bears cant climb above AD.
Calum Nicoll - on 26 May 2013
In reply to GrendeI:
> (In reply to Calum Nicoll)

Really useful post. Thanks alot

> Winter... How well can you climb in wind chill temps of -50?

I don't know. Coldest windchill I've been in is roughly -35, I can remember thinking it was alright when covered up. Took my gloves off for roughly half a minute to re-tie a shoelace, franticly bending the laces, hands go numb, struggle to get gloves back on, took 10 minutes of rewarming before they were mobile enough to tie the other boot. So I can see that anything that requires de-gloving is almost certainly impossible. But covered up, I could see it being OK.


We'd stick to stuff that was easy/simu climb stuff, not psyched for waiting at a belay for several hours in severe temps.

Alot of the attraction is I fancy the idea doing some cold climbs, and this is a good way to see if I can handle it, relatively cheap/low hassle.

> It is dark from around November 14th to January 29th (the dark season), then its twilight or the blue season as we like to call it.

Much moonlight generally? I ask as I can think of the odd day in scottish winter where it's been midnight, but light enough to just about read a book by the moonlight and the reflection of the light of the snow.

> Svalbard is not really renowned for its climbing. Whilst there are routes in the north, in the Atomfjella region, they only see a handful of ascents a decade... if that. Mainly due to the redonkulous logistical requirement, insurance costs and legislation concerning nature reserves. The best and most spectacular mountains are in the south and the west but these are essentially inaccessible at that time of year, unless you have a boat or a helicopter.


> MA10 is pretty much dominated by choss/scree, messed up sandstone and shall. The mountains are all plateaus with relatively gentle slopes, with the only good stuff being towards the north around Templefjorden and Billefjorden where it's harder limestone... but still all choss. That lends another problem as some of these areas are in nature reserves are require a permit to travel. You will also be limited by scooter transport as the fjords wont be frozen that time of year.

I definitely need to get a map but this seems really useful.

> Otherwise there's just the generic mountains that have all been done to death and are only really good for skiing.


Stalking about on google maps, I found Eskerfossen, it's not much but it'd give some entertainment, you know it/any others? Of course, it might not be formed that early. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/34255481
In reply to Calum Nicoll:

> Stalking about on google maps, I found Eskerfossen, it's not much but it'd give some entertainment, you know it/any others? Of course, it might not be formed that early. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/34255481

If you want cold and early season ice, why not got to Lapland? A big selection of climbs to do. Hire a car for a few days and you can go between venues to get the best conditions. Some easier routes are said to be better pre Xmas as they don't get threatened by snow build up.
GrendeI on 26 May 2013
In reply to Calum Nicoll:


> We'd stick to stuff that was easy/simu climb stuff, not psyched for waiting at a belay for several hours in severe temps.

That is probably the most you will find. Depending on snow conditions all gullies will be out, either capped by cornices or totally laden with unconsolidated powder. December is the main month for snow. And it has become common for rain in January.

> Much moonlight generally? I ask as I can think of the odd day in scottish winter where it's been midnight, but light enough to just about read a book by the moonlight and the reflection of the light of the snow.

There is often more than enough, but it all depends on weather conditions, loads of people ski all through the winter if snow is good enough.

> I definitely need to get a map but this seems really useful.

You can purchase all maps from any of the outdoor shops in Longyear, the supermarket, museum or direct from NP.

> Stalking about on google maps, I found Eskerfossen, it's not much but it'd give some entertainment, you know it/any others? Of course, it might not be formed that early. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/34255481


People climb there, but I never understood why, its 5m at best...

Try Hyperittfossen...

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_-9afo62ImN0/TFnCD29K7zI/AAAAAAAABfw/9W1Pkzcz-Q0/s1600/P1010148.JPG

But like Toby said, mainland Norway or further north has some excellent early season winter climbing, our season started 29th of October, but when you say you will have a week or two spare is that specifically in December? i.e are you there to study, or is that the only time you have? Otherwise I would recommend waiting until around February... Far colder and better conditions... with some daylight.
MaybeSailing - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to GrendeI: You seem to know a lot about the Svalbard Islands. I would love your opinion.

I manage a tall ship. Right now we are looking to confirm our 2014 voyage programme. We are looking at the feasibility of sailing the Norwegian coast/ fjords north to the Svalbard Islands (Arctic) in July/August 2014.

Is there any interest out there for sailing a tall ship into ski touring, mountaineering and climbing locations from Norway to the Arctic?

What mountaineering, skiing and climbing locations are not to be missed from Stavanger north to the Svalbard Islands?

Any thoughts and suggestions are welcomed! Feel free to forward this inquiry to anyone in your network who may have some ideas.

Check our our boat: http://www.maybe-sailing.com/index.php

Many thanks,
Shannon

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