Reindalen was vast and beautiful – a wide, long expanse edged by flattened mountains that looked like a giant line of piled white sugar subsiding into the valley. The surface was mostly icy crust, again with puddles of snow, so pulling the sleds was relatively easy but we were accompanied always by the loud scraping sound of skis over uneven, frosty ice. It was too loud to talk. We progressed in our own individual worlds. Every hour or so we would stop for a very quick break – put on a down jacket, drink some water from our flasks, sit on our sleds and eat a few nuts or a biscuit, swapping our hands in our mitts between each action to prevent the fingers becoming painful from cold. Despite my best efforts they would hurt anyway, and it was always a relief to get going again and for the pain in the fingers to gradually diminish.
I am in Longyearbyen on Svalbard, the Norwegian archipelago at around 80 degrees North.
On my way to Svalbard I spent a day in Oslo. I visited the Fram Museum and saw the polar expedition ship that I had read so much about. It’s rests in a dry dock on the peninsula of Bygdøy, housed in a triangular-tent-shaped building where one can circle the ship whilst reading about polar expeditions past.