Svalbard Polar Expedition

All-in-one polar expedition and training

The heart of the Arctic

This expedition takes place in one of the most beautiful places on Earth - Svalbard. Its largest island, Spitsbergen, has an expansive feast of mountains, glaciers and icecaps and at almost 80º north, it is a frigidly cold place in March, making it the perfect stage for both a polar expedition and cold-climate training. We guarantee that this 9-day (8 night) program will whet your Arctic appetite, at least temporarily, and set you up for survival and savvy in almost any polar or extreme-cold environment.

  • Gateway Longyearbyen, Norway
  • Distance varies
  • Days on Ice 9
  • Daily Distance varies
  • Temp. Range -15 to -35°C
  • Sled Weight 40 to 50kg
  • Challenge 4 What's this?
  • Conditions Cold, wind, dark nights, beautiful early spring light and long shadows. Later in March the days are getting longer.
  • Challenges Cold management, sled hauling, long ascents and descents

Trip Itinerary

EXPEDITION 1 - March 4 to 12, 2023

PREP DAY March 2

Meet at Lagerservice warehouse at 4pm with your expedition clothing and equipment (see Getting There).

You require accommodation in Longyearbyen for this night.

PREP DAY March 3

Tutorials on stove lighting and tent pitching, food packing, ski practice.

You require accommodation in Longyearbyen for this night.

March 4

Oversnow transport to start, approx. 2 hours. Begin expedition.

March 5 to 11

Our route will be dependent on snow and ice conditions but we will be traveling in expedition style - skiing and towing sleds and moving in a continuous style covering 10-20km per day depending on terrain and conditions.

March 12

Ski to the outskirts of Longyearbyen and bus shuttle into town, end of trip.

(You will require hotel accommodation unless you fly out immediately. Do not book a flight out earlier than 2pm if you want to depart the same day)


EXPEDITION 2 - March 16 to 24, 2023

March 14

Meet at Lagerservice warehouse at 4pm with your expedition clothing and equipment (see Getting There).

You require accommodation in Longyearbyen for this night.

March 15

Prep day - tutorials on stove lighting and tent pitching, food packing, ski practice.

You require accommodation in Longyearbyen for this night.

March 16

Oversnow transport to start, approx. 2 hours. Begin expedition.

March 17 to 23

Our route will be dependent on snow and ice conditions but we will be traveling in expedition style - skiing and towing sleds and moving in a continuous style covering 10-20km per day depending on terrain and conditions.

March 24

Ski to the outskirts of Longyearbyen and bus shuttle into town, end of trip.

(You will require hotel accommodation unless you fly out immediately. Do not book a flight out earlier than 2pm if you want to depart the same day)

Inclusions

  • Oversnow transport to expedition start point
  • Bus transport at end of trip
  • Food and stove fuel while on the ice
  • Icetrek guide(s)
  • Use of technical equipment including sleds, skis, tents, sleeping bags, cooking equipment. This equipment is returned to Icetrek after the trip (see equipment list)
  • Safety/navigation/communications equipment
  • 20% discount on selected Icetrek Equipment

Exclusions

  • Meals and accommodation in Longyearbyen (you require 2 nights accommodation at the beginning of the trip and another at the end if you decide to stay the night)
  • Additional costs (accommodation, meals etc.) due to changes beyond our control ie. weather delays
  • Evacuation, hospitalization and repatriation costs and/or insurance
  • Personal clothing and footwear

Our Svalbard Expedition covers a wide range of topics and terrains, preparing you for a full-on expedition to almost any polar environment.

We meet in Svalbard’s main town Longyearbyen, on the island of Spitsbergen (Norway). After two nights and a full day of preparing equipment and packing sleds, and a couple of technical seminars on equipment and navigation, we travel by oversnow transport to Eskerfossen waterfall. We ski only an hour or so in the afternoon before camping, using the remaining light to pitch tents and make a secure camp.

Over the next 8 days we haul our sleds over a magnificent polar wilderness, slowly increasing the number of hours we move, from 5 to 6 to 7 and perhaps more. Our route, determined at the start of each trip, is designed to maximise seasonal conditions and usually includes a component that our guides have not done before, all of us seeing things with fresh eyes. This is part of Icetrek's exploratory heritage.

Deep valleys, glaciers and mountain passes are always on the itinerary, so too are animal tracks, frozen lakes and reindeer in search of buried grasses. There is an abundance of photographic opportunities so for the photographers among us, you won't go home disappointed.

Temperatures can drop to -35c so do not underestimate the severity of this trip. After the sun sets the cold descends on the camp and only stoves, polar sleeping gear and high-energy food can keep you warm. With proper polar clothing and equipment and the best guides in the world you will learn not only how to survive but how to thrive.

For those using the expedition as preparation for an expedition to Antarctica or Greenland, we work with you to ensure you come away from the trip ready for the next level.

Svalbard Operational Area

We wake at 6am to maximise our usable hours. First thing we do is light the stove to bring some warmth to the tent and begin heating water for breakfast and drinks. We also make sure that our thermoses are topped up with boiling water. A quick look outside reveals the perimeter wire connected to flares, our alert system for polar bears, and beyond a magnificent landscape of sharp snow-capped mountains, and the glacier upon which we are camped.

By 8.30 we are ready to go with sleds packed, skis on and a sturdy climb into the mountains ahead of us. We travel in single file, the trail-breaker (usually the guide) doing most of the work, the team following in the tracks to conserve energy. And if you want to lead the group for a while we fully encourage it, in safe and uncomplicated terrain. In spring most of the glacier’s crevasses are filled in and pose no problem, but we always carry glacier travel equipment if the need arises to rope up.

On skis we continue up the glacier, watching as peaks emerge into view, come alongside and recede onto the skyline. Soon we are at the top of the glacier and on snowfields that undulate into the horizon. A quick break to drink from our thermoses and eat from our snack bags before we find our stride once again and lock into the polar plod, listening to the glide of our sleds, the swish of our skis and the rhythm of our hearts. Everything is in sync.

Lunch is a scenic spot overlooking a frozen fiord. We sit on our sleds or foam seats, eating hot ramen noodles, cheese, salami and crackers and a collection of nuts, dried fruit and chocolate. We never go hungry.

The afternoon brings some additional excitement as we reach a pass between the mountains after which we can straddle our sleds, skis on either side, and toboggan down a long slope. The ride is exhilarating as we glide down the incline, using the ski edges to steer and the rope traces thrown under the sled as a quick brake if needed.

Down in a broad valley we pass fox tracks and see small herds of reindeer grazing on invisible grass. Polar bear sightings are rare but we are always prepared, armed with flare guns and firearms. It is not permitted to travel in these areas without them.

The mountains lining the valley now obscure the sun and the temperature drops a few degrees as we march through the giant shadows. An hour later we ski into the fading light, our shadows long and golden across the valley floor. In the last light we set up our camp, securing the shelters to the ice and snow using tent stakes and ice screws, and shoveling snow onto the tent flaps to prevent any drift snow entering the tent layers. The guide rigs up the perimeter wire and we climb into our tents to light the life-giving stoves. Slowly the interior gains some order as mattresses, sleeping bags, kitchen and belongings find their place. Soon enough we are enjoying a hot soup followed by dinner and some saved chocolate.

Something you will never be short of on an Icetrek polar expedition is sleep, we allocate a minimum of 8 hours every night so that you recover adequately for the day ahead. A weather forecast predicts light winds and blue sky, another perfect day in paradise. Sweet dreams!

Flights

There are flights with SAS and Norwegian Air almost daily from Oslo, Norway to Longyearbyen. Flights are not included in the price.

Visa

A visa is not required for Svalbard.

Arrival

When you arrive at Longyearbyen airport you can either take a taxi or the shuttle bus to your hotel, both accept credit cards. If you are staying at an AirBnB tell the driver the address or show him a map of the location and you will be dropped at the nearest hotel or convenient location.

Accommodation

Accommodation in Longyearbyen is not included in the price. There are many hotel and hostel options and some AirBnB’s. Use your preferred accommodation booking service to find the wide range of establishments in Longyearbyen. Some popular options include:

Radisson Blu - close to town centre, 5 minutes walk to warehouse where we prepare

Funken - 10 minutes walk from town, 20 minutes walk from warehouse

Svalbard Hotell/Lodge/Vault - in town, 10 minutes walk from warehouse

Mary Anne’s Polarriggen - 10 minutes walk from town, next to warehouse

Coal Miners’ Cabins - 15 minutes walk from town, 25 minutes walk from warehouse

Guesthouse 102 - next door to Coal Miners’ Cabins

Finding Lagerservice warehouse

What is a Svalbard Polar Expedition?

Svalbard Polar Expedition is a 9-day ski and sled hauling expedition on Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. It occurs in spring when the fiords are frozen and the mountains and glaciers are covered in a thick later of snow.

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What will be the temperature on arrival in Longyearbyen and during the trip?

The temperature will be anywhere from -10 to -20C, 14 to -4F

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Where do we meet?

We meet at Lagerservice warehouse at 4pm, two days before the start of your trip (see Getting There).

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Can I leave bags in Longyearbyen?

Yes. We have a secure storage facility in Longyearbyen where you can leave bags.

Icetrek Svalbard Lagerservice Storage © Eliza Brown

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How heavy will my sled be?

For the Svalbard Expedition program your sled will be 45 to 50 kg, 100 to 110 lb.

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What if I am not a skier?

Some of our Expedition customers have never been on skis before. It is useful to have prior experience but not mandatory as we will train you at a manageable pace while you are on the ice.

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What is the Guide to Client ratio?

1:5

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Will there be any crevassing?

Svalbard glaciers are crevassed though this time of year they are still mostly filled in with snow. However we always carry glacier travel equipment - ropes, harnesses, rescue gear - and use it when necessary.

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What type of sleds do we use?

We use Icetrek Nilas and Polynya sleds made from slippery HDPE plastic. These are purpose designed and built by us to give optimal performance on ice and snow.

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What type of tents do we use?

We use Hilleberg Keron 4-person tents for two people. There is plenty of room to get comfortable but small enough to warm up quickly once the stove is operating. You are responsible for setting up, managing and taking down your tent.

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What type of sleeping bags and mattresses do we use?

We provide you with a roomy synthetic outer sleeping bag to use over the top of your 4-season down sleeping bag. The combination will be rated to -40. We also provide an inflatable and foam mattress combination with a minimum 6+ R-Value. We also provide you a protective mattress sleeve that converts to a chair to sit up and rest comfortably in the tent.

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What will we eat on the expedition?

You can find our menu here

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Who cooks the meals and melts the snow for water?

You do! This is a normal part of expedition life. We train you in how to use the stove.

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What if there is an emergency and how will we communicate with the outside world?

We carry an Iridium handheld phone and an Iridium modem, we can use both to call services in Longyearbyen and post daily updates and images to our Iceblog. We also carry a tracking beacon with emergency function and a Personal Locator Beacon which can be activated in an emergency. Signals from both are received by emergency services and relayed to Longyearbyen rescue services. We are also in mobile range for much of the trip.

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How long do we ski every day on the Svalbard Expedition trip?

We start relatively gently, skiing for around six hours on the first day. We cover this by skiing one hour, then have a short stand-up break, then another hour with a sit down break. We do the same again and have lunch and then another 2 hourly sessions before camping. When everybody feels ready we extend to seven and perhaps eight hours per day.

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Where can I find more information about Svalbard Polar Expedition?

Once you have signed onto the trip you will receive a Svalbard Trip Information Booklet which has full details of how to plan for your trip.


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Feel free to submit your own questions.

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Svalbard Polar Expedition

€3,950
Per person ex-Svalbard (€250 discount if you are booked onto an Icetrek North or South Pole trip)
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