Ski Mountaineering

Norway and Greenland

July 2-9, 2003

Reiner Stenzel

No, this is not another SMS trip report, but perhaps it may stimulate a ski adventure in the future. It was a "business" trip (really!) to Tromso in northern Norway above the Arctic Circle where the midsummer sun does not set.

The high mountains were still covered with snow and one could have done great ski tours by day or night. Even more stimulating were the views of Greenland from 35,000'. It's a wild terrain for real ski expeditions.

Since pictures say more than a thousand words, I'll mostly show them with only brief descriptions:

Most of the Atlantic was covered with clouds, but as we crossed the southern part of Greenland the weather cleared. First, a few high mountains peaked through the clouds. Then a vast range of snow covered mountains became visible.

Glaciers from the white hinterland were flowing toward the sea. Although skiing in this terrain appears feasible, it carries serious risks due to polar bears, crevassed terrain, unpredictable weather and total remoteness.

Glaciers are impressive features of flowing ice. The view from a distance is sometimes better than standing on it. At times we could spot half a dozen glaciers flowing into the sea and breaking up into icebergs.

Some glaciers don't make it to the sea but end in mountain valleys. There they form colorful lakes and streams. The color comes from the silt when moving ice grinds down the underlying rock and the fine particles are washed into streams and lakes.

When glaciers flow over rocks the ice bends and usually cracks, forming crevasses. In gentle terrain the wave-like pattern of the crevasses is quite regular and one can easily infer the flow at right angles to the crevasses. Although they appear as fine hairlines from a large distance, the cracks are often huge on a human scale. Skiing through this terrain is painfully slow, requiring roped travel, good visibility and extreme caution.

If a ski trip to Greenland appears too scary, there is plenty of safer skiing possible in Norway. Most of Norway is mountainous and ideal for "telemarking" which originated in the region of Telemark, Norway. People have skied in Norway for thousands of years, as judged by cave paintings. Every type of skiing is possible, downhill, skating, touring, jumping. Even the King of Norway liked to jump at Holmenkollen, before it became an Olympic facility. If one looks down the long, steep slope of this prime jumping facility one wonders whether skiing in Greenland is not safer.

If you pass through Norway you cannot escape the history of the Vikings and the story of the trolls. The former were intimidating, the latters are cute little fellows. The Vikings built the most beautiful boats and rowed/sailed across the Atlantic to North America without map and compass. How did they do this without the 10 essentials?

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