Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

“I don’t even know if you have a tweet account” My technologically challenged mother

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I’m still having to pinch myself, this place is incredible. And it just seems to keep getting better.

Thanks to my nocturnal sleeping pattern during field work, I wasn’t always in town during the middle of the day. It came to a rifle collection day and I had to be in UNIS by midday and during the walk down, I suddenly noticed the street lights had been switched off! This wasn’t the first day of this happening, but it was the first time I had noticed it. It is finally light enough for a few hours during the middle of the day to switch off the street lights.

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Ice cave fun!

During my last two weeks of field work, I’ve also kept pretty active at the weekends. The first weekend, I revisited the ice cave with a few different friends. It is such a remarkable place to be! And a beautiful hike not too far from town.

The following weekend, we went all out and hiked both days. The first day was the Trollsteinen hike. About 820m in altitude (with a small horizontal distance, making bits of the hike quite steep). Tuesday 16th Feb was the day the Sun officially crossed the horizon, but thanks to Longyearbyen being surrounded by mountains, we won’t see the Sun for about 3 weeks. The aim of the Trollsteinen hike was to see the Sun, but it was a bit cloudy by the time we reached the top at about midday. It was still a beautiful hike up and we had a lovely, still day so weren’t hit my freezing cold winds as we made the last bit of the hike to the top.

The trip down Trollsteinen was where all the fun began. Β Time for ultimate sledging!!! UNIS lend out those fantastic little bum slides (or bum shovels, as the Aber-7 like to call them).Two of the group (Heather and Noel) were on skis and a few of us walkers had the bum slides.Β On the way down the ridge, we hit a massively steep section which was also powdery snow making all the snow collect right underneath you as you slid down. I also managed to sadly lose my bum slide after stopping once. Luckily it flattened out so the slide stopped, but I missed out on half a slope. Decision made, lets walk back up and slide down again! Me and Jack headed up for another slide whilst Heather and Noel headed up to ski again. The rest of the group went to visit the ice cave which we’d passed on the way up. I wasn’t too fussed about visiting it for the third week in a row.

Before the second slide began, due to the speed of the last run I decided I needed to kit up better for the next run. I had an ice climbing helmet which I decided was necessary considering the speeds we were hitting on the way down, and the ski goggles were absolutely necessary due to the amount of snow flying around. The next run down was much more successful, the extra kit meant I could continue sliding the whole way down and I didn’t lose the bum slide this time!

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Post bum slide round 1 when fully kitted up. So much snow!

Now to continue on down… Two weeks ago, after our first trip to the ice cave, this section of the walk was not bum slideable. No matter how much we tried, the snow was far too powdery and the slope wasn’t steep enough. But after two weeks of tourist trips picking up and people skiing more now that it is possible to see without a headlamp in the middle of the day, the snow was much more compact. This made for pretty perfect sledding conditions, and we had an absolute blast whizzing down the glacier on the bum slides. I even ended up sliding down one section and hitting an ice lump so hard it chucked me off face first into the snow (luckily a very soft and hilarious landing). As you approach the bottom of Larsbreen, the channel gets steeper and narrower, with high rocks either side (helmet = good call!). This was quite intense, but still so much fun! I also managed to slide off at one point and I just continued sliding down the slope on my stomach thanks to the steep slope and compact snow.

As if this day wasn’t already good enough, Heather then let me hitch a ride on her skis along the last, slightly flatter bit back to the barrack. It had just started snowing big beautiful snowflakes.

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Ski for Two. Photo credit: Noel Potter
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At the bottom, high on life after an epic day skiing and bum sliding.

I then got to watch Wasps win away at Bath and then go and get an amazing burger from Coal Miners Bar & Grill. This is definitely in the running for best day ever!

And this was all on Saturday…

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A reindeer looking suitably fabulous.

Sunday was a trip to Adventdalen. We headed out the front of town and straight across the valley. We passed the fjord (but didn’t go fully around the other side of it). It was a pretty laid back hike following the mad Saturday. We went via one of the husky kennels and admired them for a distance. Just as we walked passed we got to see a group getting ready to go out on a trip and saw them setting off down the valley. We also got to see quite a few reindeer out on our trip! They are regularly spotted in town, but there were a few more out in the valley. Ryan also found some antlers! We reached the other side of the fjord and wondered around for a little bit before heading back across. From the bottom of the valley, we managed to spot the EISCAT radar which we also saw on Saturday from the top of Trollsteinen. We could also see the top of Trollsteinen from the other side of the valley.

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The valley we crossed, Longyearbyen town on the left. Trollsteinen can be seen left of centre of the picture, the mountain with the little peak.

Did we take another group photo?

Of course we did!

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We got to revisit EISCAT in the daylight last week week and also went to see Sousy and SuperDARN, that’ll all come in the next blog post πŸ™‚

SkΓ₯l!