Whiteout on Foxfonna

Monday, July 18th 2016

The following day was my last on Svalbard. Ever since I'd started planning this trip months before, I'd had my eye on a trip marketed as an "Arctic challenge", which involved kayaking across the fjord and then climbing Hiorthfjellet on the other side. I'd booked myself in for the challenge and I was excited about taking it on, but when the agency came to pick me up at the airport, they said that we couldn't do the trip. There was already a strong wind blowing across the fjord, and the prediction was that it would get worse and worse all day. The kayaking would be impossible.

"So," they said, "we'd like to offer you an alternative. How would you like to climb Nordenskiöldfjellet?" I'd already been chatting to the guide about what I'd been doing in Svalbard, and she'd given me a slightly sheepish look when I said I'd climbed Nordenskiöldfjellet yesterday.

The rest of the group signed up for that, and I told them what a great time I'd had up there, but luckily for me there was a third alternative, a trip to the Foxfonna glacier. I'd seen this advertised and I thought it sounded a bit tame, but it was the only thing I could do today. And it was a lot better than I'd expected. We drove up the valley in increasing rain and by the time we were hiking, we were in thick clouds. So for most of our trek across the glacier we couldn't see a thing.

We stopped for lunch in utter whiteness. It was very disorientating. Our guide had tried to cross Greenland the previous year before a medical emergency had forced her team to abandon the trip and get airlifted off the ice cap. She said that most of the crossing until then had been in conditions like this. Crossing Greenland is an ambition of mine so I talked to her about how she tackled it.

Finally it was time to descend. Rain was battering down on the campsite when I got back. Luckily I'd already packed up my tent and didn't have to dismantle it in the downpour. I headed to the airport and left the arctic, hoping to be back again soon.

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