Seven girls, nine days, and 149 kilometers on skis

Six out of seven expedition girls. The seventh was behind the camera.
Photo: Maria Philippa Rossi

From minus 35 to plus 75 in nine days. The ski expedition with seven girls started rough with biting cold for several days. But it ended in cozy warmth at Kokeriet at Isfjord Radio.

“The first few days were so cold that we struggled to get the stove going. The sub-zero temperatures also made it a bit challenging to sleep. But then it got warmer, going from minus 35 degrees to minus 20,” says Karen Kyllesø (20).

Crossing Svalbard – from Agardhbukta in the east to Kapp Linné in the west. With varying expedition experience in tow, the girls have covered 15-18 kilometers on skis daily for nine days. With approximately 40 kilograms of equipment in the pulk, plenty of energy and strength are needed to tackle both the weather and Arctic terrain. Navigating correctly in wind and whiteouts is crucial. And it’s essential to take turns breaking trail.

“Svalbard’s nature was surprising. And very different compared to other expeditions we’ve been on. The valleys are so beautiful, and they just keep coming one after the other. Something completely different from what we’ve experienced in, for example, Greenland, Antarctica, and mainland Norway,” says Karen.

Polar bear guard during the Arctic night.
Photo: Maria Philippa Rossi

Throughout the night, the girls took turns keeping polar bear watch in the bright April night, but the King of the Arctic kept his distance. “Just as well,” says Karen. “We encountered a lot of reindeer, and they’re much nicer than unpredictable bears.”

It’s the first time the seven girls have been on an expedition together. Each day started with a morning meeting to plan the next leg, based on the weather forecast and daily condition. They made sure to share the load and take turns leading. The final stretch towards Isfjord Radio went over Linnévannet, and almost at the station, they were met by a skier with a rifle on his back. Kaja Raa Storaker from Isfjord Radio accompanied the girls the last stretch to the station. And there, they were greeted with a warming fire, freshly baked buns, and coffee.

A welcoming treat at Isfjord Radio.
Photo: Maria Philippa Rossi

“Isfjord Radio was a mini-expedition in itself, nestled in the wilderness. It was, of course, lovely to curl up under a warm duvet and enjoy local catch, but at the same time, we still had that expedition feeling in us. Out there in unpredictable nature,” says Karen.

“As for swimming in the Arctic Ocean? No, but several of the girls tested the water temperature. Instead, I enjoyed the warmth of the sauna.

Well deserved after long days in many, many sub-zero temperatures.

Participants in the expedition April 2024:

Karen Malena Kyllesø (20)
Jannicke Øien (33)
Annik Falck (34)
Regina Johansen (32)
Hedvig Hjertaker (30)
Ragnhild Ongstad (28)
Maria Philippa Rossi (40)

Congratulations on completing the expedition!

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