Rúnar Óli Karlsson

Jan Mayen with a bang!

We did a private trip to Jan Mayen 1-10 April with Swedish skiers looking for winter conditions and steep skiing down Mt. Beerenberg (2277m). On the trip was Fredrik Schenholm, a great ski photographer who is working on a book about skiing in the Nordic countries, and his skiing friends. We departed from Dalvik in North Iceland in good weather but had some winds and cold weather on the way to Jan Mayen. We made it there on April 3rd in the afternoon. The sails got frozen due to icing which made it difficult to pull the sails down before anchoring. The landing on the sand beach below the old meteorological station was a bit hectic in the waves. We almost capsized once, but it was OK because everyone was prepared for the weather wearing their survival suits. After putting up camp and cooking dinner, everybody fell asleep on firm ground. 

Our camp on the island

The next day, the weather was a bit cranky with snow and wind. We spent the day skiing some smaller stuff, but sea legs made things a little more difficult for us. The next day would be our summit day. If weather allowed.

Skinning up in “Lord of the Rings” landscape

On the 5th we woke up early to use the daylight for the summit push. The weather was quite miserable with strong winds, and -10°C temperature that made a heavy icing that caused everything to freeze together. The ski goggles got plastered with thick ice in just few minutes. When we got higher on the mountain, we began to be more optimistic that we would make it through the clouds. Our positive thinking paid off and at around 1.400 meters we were in the sun and oddly enough the winds began to die down as we got higher.

Finally out of the clouds

Self portrait. Getting to the steeper slopes of Beerenberg

The light was magical and cameras were all over the place. Getting to the summit ridge was a big relief and part of the group decided not to go all the way to to the top which was only few meters higher. Fredrik was afraid that he would loose the light and wanted to get good photos. I continued with those that had the summit fever and we reached the top 12 hours after starting from camp.

Almost up!

The crater rim bathed in afternoon sun

Beautiful snow formations on the ridge

The top 

The top team, Oscar, Pelle, Gustav and Martin

We didn´t spend much time on the top since light was fading and we had a long ski descent ahead of us. About 15 km all the way to camp.

Gustav skiing down

The snow conditions were very good and everybody enjoyed the descent the best they could. We were in camp just before darkness fell on us. After eating dinner, the northern lights put on a show for us before we fell fast asleep. 

The last two days on the island we just relaxed and did some ski runs close by. There was a jump competition down by the water and Fredrik got some cool shots. 

We left the island around 5 in the afternoon on April 7th for the sail back to Isafjordur. Captain Siggi wanted to wait for few hours to let a low pressure system pass that was to the South of us. We moved to Walrus Bay and anchored there to wait out the storm. The bay was not a sufficient shelter, but the Island doesn’t offer much shelter anyway. The next morning the wind started to pick up and the waves got bigger. We let out all 90 meters of heavy chain to keep us anchored, but the chain rattled and tugged as the waves continued to hit us. Finally there was a big bang and the lock attached to the anchor broke. Our only choice was to start sailing back to Iceland.

Heading out through the surf

The first 48 hours went quite well but the forecast was for a strong Southerly gale all over Iceland. We decided to pull into harbour in Husavik on the North coast which is few hours shorter sail than to Isafjordur. We pushed Aurora as hard as we could to make it to harbour before the storm hit us. Both engine and sails up and running. At 6 in the evening on the 10th the gale started. The wind was up to 70 knots and we´re not making much progress, maybe half a knot at most, and we only had 20 miles to go. It would take us 40 hours to go the last 20 miles with no other option of save harbors near by.  Siggi decided to call our friends from North Sailing whale watching company in Husavik and check if they could pull us in. They were more than willing to help and were on their way towards us on one of their boats. There was no emergency on board, the Swedes just didn´t have time to wait out the weather because they had to catch their flight back home. We got a long rope between the boats and all went well to the harbour in Husavik. We were there in total darkness and howling wind which made communication extremely difficult, even with the handheld radios. I let go off the rope and Siggi continued into the harbour as quick as we could. All we wanted to do was to tie Aurora up somewhere, but she is hard to steer in strong winds. All of a sudden the engine died and we were drifting to shore. I managed to bull up the storm jib and Siggi tried to turn starboard towards the harbour. Aurora didn´t turn and we hit the rocks…!
The whale watching boat arrived shortly and pulled us out of the rocks. Luckily, Aurora only suffered minimal damage from the rocks. We learned later that the towline got tangled in the propeller causing us to hit the rocks. While the rope was getting tangled in the propeller the whale watching crew was pulling it in at the same time. One of their crew members was standing in the coil of rope when the propeller pulled it in the opposite direction. The rope wrapped so tightly around him it and it ended up breaking one of his legs. One of the other crew members decided to jump into the water to avoid the rope from wrapping around his leg…!
Of course we are extremely sorry about all of this and are very grateful for the help they gave us. The crew member with the broken leg is healing well and Aurora is in good shape now after spending some time in the slip yard in Husavik. 

I want to thanks the Swedish crew that were great company and very relaxed through the bad storm. I hope to see you again sometime. 

Now the skiing trips are running smoothly in the fjords here in Iceland and everything is back on track.