Archive for the ‘Beerenberg – The Climb’ Category

Jan Mayen Talk at Arthur Beale’s

Monday, October 6th, 2014
Beerenberg's Rim

Beerenberg’s Rim

Thursday 9th October 2014 There are still some places left for my little talk about sailing to Jan Mayen in a 26 ft Vertue and climbing Beerenberg – the most northerly volcano in the world. It is on this Thursday 9th October and starts at 1845 lasting a bit over one hour. Ideally email to book your place but I expect there will be space on the night. The talk is free of charge. Arthur Beale’s Yacht Chandler, 194 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8JP

A Few Pictures of Beerenberg

Monday, July 18th, 2011

The Sumit of Beerenberg

One of the Many Crevasses

The Crater Rim

About to Walk the Line Around the Volcano Rim


We are underway

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Position N70,22.86 x W009,21.67
A quick update while conditions remain moderate. Sumara left Jan Mayen at 1630 yesterday and Thembi left a little before. Sarah is now on Aurora and Charlotte is with Sumara. Sarah’s puffin is still on Sumara but we will look after her. The forecast isn’t
great with strong south westerlies forecast for this evening. We are hard on the
wind making 3 kts but tracking 308m. That gives us a VMG of 2.4kts to Kulusuk
which is a long 690 miles away. We will plug away as best we can. Tonight will
probably be too rough to report in so I’ll update in a few days.

Sent at 12.17GMT 11th July 2011

Off Towards Greenland

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

Position N70,58.16 x W008,41.29
Now I’m sitting on Sumara with John, Tim and Sarah discussing plans for a quick departure. Our Charlotte is off sailing on Aurora for a day trip with some people from the Main Command Station. The grib weather data doesn’t look too good as far as wind direction goes so it will be a pretty tough sail. A depression is building off the Greenland coast which may cause concern later. We propose to leave in a few hours at around 14.00 and beat as best we can with the North Coast of Iceland as an option for lee or a short stop if needs be. Sarah will transfer to Aurora on their return. She has been wonderful crew on Sumara so we shall miss her. If it is rough and wet we may not update the blog for a while to ensure delicate equipment doesn’t get trashed. If we can’t get through the ice then we will end up in Iceland.
Last night we were entertained on Aurora by Siggi and his father Jon to a spendid feast of salt cod curry and an out of this world rubarb pie with cream. It was brilliant. They have really looked after us wellon the mountasin and at anchor. Charlotte and Stuart took a walk to base station where Charlotte had a beer in the outdoor hot tub! They bought us presents of Beerenberg Badges (on Dans Credit Card!).
We will miss Jan Mayen, it is a very special place.

Sent at 12.15GMT 10 July 2011

The Mighty Beerenberg Conquered!

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

Jan Mayen Beerenberg Walking the Line

Position N70,58.162 x W008,41.350 Wind northerly Force 4

On 7th July we sailed Sumara and Thembi up the coast 6nm to Stasjonbukta where we joined the Icelandic yacht Aurora with our Charlotte and Siggi, who was to be our mountain guide. The anchorage was calm then but is exposed to the north and west. We all went over to Aurora to discuss our plans to climb Beerenberg and decided to set off that afternoon and make a base camp a short way up. We could then set off in the following morning for the main climb. After a frantic hour or so assembling the gear we were taken ashore in Auroras Zodiac. Sarah, Stuart and Siggis father gallantly remained on the yachts to act as anchor watches.
We hiked up over rough volcanic rock and moss to 460m above sea level and pitched our tents. Siggi knew there was some freshwater nearby which is very rare on the island and the soft moss made for a surprisingly good surface to camp on. It was a good move as we had knocked a little bit off the next days climb and base camps are fun!
In the morning of the 8th July we set off up the volcano. The team consisted of Charlotte, Dan, Tim from Yacht Thembi and John, our Charlotte and myself from Sumara plus Siggi our wonderful mountain guide from Iceland. Beerenberg’s height is 2277m with a massive crater which makes it one of the largest volcanos and it is the most northerly in the world. There was a long walk through sugary snow on the glacier surface until we rose above the cloud level at about 1000m.
When the team eventually stopped I thought “marvelous it must be little chocolate break”, on close examintion I noticed Charlotte hadn’t got any legs. Adding the evidence up I realised she had fallen into a crevasse and was trying to pull herself out. We decided to proceed to the rock a few hundred metres ahead and rope up. Apparently roping up normally takes place after the first person has fallen down a crevasse in the same way as crampons normally get put on after the first person has had an accident on the ice. To be fair, the first long section of the glacier was not heavily crevassed but that was about to change. Once we were roped up into two teams the Thembi crew of Tim, Dan and Charlotte lead the way through some massive and very beautiful crevasses over fragile snow bridges. I preferred this section of the climb because the pace was slower and as a rank amateur I could relax and enjoy the climb while the experts judged the best way to proceed. There was little wind and lovely sunshine. As it never gets dark there were no real time pressures. At about 1500m height the gradient steepens as the climb leads towards the volcano rim. By now I suppose we had been climbing continuously for about 6 hours. The final climb to the rim was slower going with lots of crevasses. We all managed to get across them safely. The rim of the volcano involves walking along thin ridge of snow with a steep drop into the crater on one side and a steep slope on the other. It was a truly amazing experience with breathtaking views and a real sense of adventure. The rim led towards the final summit called Haakon V11 which is a steep mound of snow covered rock. We finally climbed onto it at about 1800 after a total of 11 1/2 hrs climbing from sea level. It was a very emotional moment after all the years of planning to finally be there. It was a real delight to climb with such a pleasant and supportive team. The views were totally beyond description. It has been the best day of my life without doubt. After a team photo call we dropped down a few metres to get out of the wind and take a well earned break in the sun.
I believe we started to descend at 1900hrs. The descent was much faster. Eventually we were down to cloud level and back at base camp. The tents were packed away and our back packs were once again very heavy.The Thembi crew and Siggi walked on ahead while the Sumara crew took it a bit slower. By the time we were in sight of the yachts the Thembi crew were onboard Auroras Zodiac about to tackle the surf. The conditions at the anchorage had completely changed. There was now a heavy swell and a moderate onshore wind producing breaking waves on the beach and severe rolling for our small yachts. The Zodiac was pushed by Siggi and his father, who were wearing survival suits and standing in the water, while Tim and Dan paddled frantically to clear the surf. They made it. We weren’t so lucky. When our time came the Zodiac wouldn’t move forward when the time came because she was stuck on a rock and the next wave proved to be a massive roller which crashed over the boat completely soaking us. Another three waves broke over the boat, our waterproof Ortlieb bags were floating in a foot of icy water, so John and I jumped over the side to help drag the boat up the beach to empty her. The water temperature was just 3.5 degrees! Our second attempt was wet but successful. Sarah greeted us back on a very rolly Sumara with a curry and Champagne. What a day!
Now, it’s 9th July and John is frantically trying to dry out our seaboots. We have sailed back to Kvalrossbukta to try to find some lee under the cliffs but the swell is working its way in. We may attempt a shore landing later to light a small fire to dry out our gear. Hopefully we will sail to Greenland tomorrow.

Sent at 15.56GMT on 9th July 2011

Another amazing day up here

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Position N70,58.18 x W008,41.43 Calm
We went ashore yesterday together with the Thembi crew and decided to walk the five or so miles to Olonkinbyen on the south side of the island to introduce ourselves to the Station Commander (Per Erik Hannevold). Actually we met him en route in his Mercededs Land Rover and he very kindly said that he would greet us at the Base Station in an hour or so. We walked along the dust road over the hill and along Sorlaguna and the air strip and eventually arrived at the main station where 18 people work providing radio and weather services. With huge kindness the Station Commander offered us all a shower (it may have been in his own interest!) and laid out seven clean towels. After coffee and an interesting chat about the history of the island we were asked to stay for diner, traditional Norwegian fish cakes, yummy. We were then asked if we would like to send postcards as the supply ship was arriving today and they could take them to Norway. The Station Commander stood patiently by as we wrote the cards even though he would have to supervise unloading the ship overnight. By now it was about 1800 and we decided to take a look at the alternative anchorage Batvika near the base. It was small and rocky but looked fine for one or maybe two boats. They keep a 30 ft dory there ready to evacuate the island if Beerenberg or any of the other volcanos erupts. There is an earthquake about twice a week on the island. At the end of January a large one of 6.2 occurred.
On the way back to the anchorage, Tim and Dan, of boundless energy decided it would be fun to climb a hill in case we can glimpse Beerenberg as the cloud level was lifting. It whacked me out and I was very sad to see it was only 198m high! The view was grand and the soft moss made a good rest spot before the descent back to the boats.
When we arrived back at Kvalrossbukta the supply ship was there and we watched it being unloaded by a warm fire. The Jan Mayen nurse offered us all a beer! By the time we arrived back on the yachts I was certainly pretty tired and it was now past midnight. We eventually bedded down and fell into deep sleep when a hoot and general commotion woke us to see our Charlotte arriving on the large yacht Aurora with Siggi at the helm. They came alongside wondering whether to drop Charlotte off but Sumara was full to the brim so we suggested she stayed onboard until the morning when we will sort ourselves out. Aurora proceeded on up the coast to Stasjonbutka where the climb will start. We will join them today. Hopefully we can start the ascent on the Mighty Beerenberg later today or tomorrow morning.
That was yet another “wow!” day!

We are learning more about the birds. I mentioned to Charlotte that I saw a Fulmar with an orange patch on its stomach and she said she had seen one too.(This is going to be confusing, as we have two Charlottes, I think we will have to prefix our Charlotte with “our” but it by no means signifies ownership!). We wondered if they were a different colouring so when we met two scientists researching Fulmars on the Jan Mayen cliffs I mentioned it and they said they were patches of sick. Fulmars, if they are threatened, can projectile vomit as a defence mechanism. Tim and Dan have both experienced it and Tim reckons it smells so revolting that you have to incinerate your clothes!
I was attacked by an Arctic Skua as I walked along the track. I was quite a thump on the back of my head but no blood drawn. The Skuas are horrible birds!

Sent at 08.55GMT on 7th July 2010

It’s so beautiful!

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Positon N70,58.189 x W008,41.469. Anchored in 8.2m
Kvalrosbukta, Jan Mayen

We have had a truly amazing day. Gentle winds with occasional calms wafted us north towards the east coast of Jan Mayen whilst being entertained by Northern Bottlenose Whales, Fulars and Puffins. The Mighty Beerenberg Volcano has been very shy and hid all day behind low cloud cover and drifting mist patches. However the sail around the North Cape of Jan Mayen was stunning. The cliffs are the wildest imaginable covered with patches of soft green moss, snow, and black lava ash and then slashed through by ice blue
glaciers calving off into the sea. The rock is bent and twisted and piled up and broken off with patches of rust red and piles of grey scree. It was just so so beautiful!As we ghosted along towards the large rocky hill sheltering the anchorage from the North we saw the unmistakable sight of the Thembi crew standing on the hill crest waving! Soon Thembi came into sight looking gorgeous against the rugged cliffs and we luffed up and set our anchor in 8m. Tim, Dan, Charlotte and Stuart rowed out from the beach to greet us and we were soon all snugged in Sumaras cabin drinking fortified hot chocolate. The whole sail from the Faroes about 600nm south has been a real pleasure at times almost unbelievably comfortable with the yachts gliding silently through calm seas. We must be the luckiest sailors around.

Anchor Tackle – Boring Technical Stuff
We are using a Rocna 15kg bower anchor and carrying a Fortress kedge and a folding fishermans. The chain we are using is 60m of 8mm grade 70 galvanised which is about twice the strength of most yacht anchors chains (normally grade 30 or 40). It is called Aqua 7 and I brought it in from Italy. There is more information about it on the gear section of the website. We use a nylon three strand snubber with a Wichard anchor hook fitted with a plunger. Our chum is about 15kg of bronze with a Davy and Co anchor shakle. We position about half way down the chain. The anchor has a tripping line connected to a spare fender. We lay out 12 x the square root of the depth. Sumaras samson post has heavy slotted stainless plate on the aft side to snub the chain. It can be very useful for getting a stubborn anchor to break free by snubbing the chain while the yacht is pitching forward and allowing the swell to drag the anchor out – thanks for that Terry, it works a treat! Sumara is also carrying 100m of 16mm polyester octoplait anchor warp and 100m of nylon 16mm octoplait and 60mm of 14mm three strand. We are hoping that this ground tackle will be bullet proof as there are no secure anchorages in Jan Mayen and we have to expect bad weather at some point.

Sent at 22.21GMT on Tuesday 5th July