the climb

The next two days melted into one giant never ending day.
In the morning we pack which takes forever. Men. Less talk, more action, as Mr Kalda would say. Almost everyone aims to The Mountain. Only Rolf takes a huge box with drone and Fred with him and wanders off towards the south.
The plan is to follow first the military road and from the Southern Lagoon walk some more to find a place to rest a bit, start the climb towards the top at about midnight and be up there around seven. And then down and back 'home'.
The road. A Norwegian touch of civilization on the otherwise wild place. Not paved, not very scenic. For us on this day it turns out to be more scenic than it's meant to be because Beerenberg clears out almost immediately and it stays that way. A goal clearly visible the whole day.
Everyone follows his own pace so the row of people becomes quite long. We meet up at the Southern Lagoon for picnic and admiring a rare Norwegian blue hedgehog. We haven't made much progress on terms of height being almost still at sealevel although the hike has lasted for about four hours.
From there on we finally leave the road and start climbing up along a dry riverbed. Ups and downs, stones and moss. Skuas attacking. Views across the southern part of the island and the lagoon remind me of the Alps or something similar. At about 400 meters above sea Karl-heinz and Vidar turn back. Karlheinz has reached his walking time limit which is understandable. The rest originally planned to conquer the summit but are starting to back out. Seems that only three of us are going. Magnús, Martin and me. Dom, Marcus and Erling accompany us to the resting and eating place. With a waterfall. After having fun with Serbian nudels and pasta, forbidden for sale in Italy, we bury some of the so-called food for bad days to come. Water wasn't clearly the problem.
We lay down on moss for some hours and from the warm sleepingbag I look into the cloudy nordic sky. First the mountaintop and then the rest of the surroundings have hidden themselves into clouds. Everything is quiet except for an occasional bird scirp. I watch a tiny bug minding its business on the moss. When I wake up everything is damp. The cloud has fallen down to us. The tent footprint which was supposed to defend me and my sleeping bag against getting wet is under the matress. Too bad. I turn things around. Better late than never. Dry socks on my backpack are not dry anymore. Boots are also not dry. Who could have foreseen this happening?
We get up about 3:30, leave sleeping gear packed storm-proof and take with us some food and good wishes from the three support group members. Everything is foggy. And the mountain is gone. I follow in Maggi's blue colored footprints over wet snow patches. Then we rope up. I'll be in the middle. The first time I do something like this. The rope has to be tight but not too much. Falling into a crevass shouldn't be a problem if you walk on the rope correctly as Maggi explains. I'm not sure I want to try.
It now goes up and up and up along a wide white field. Dark blue depth on the left and rising grey clouds in the right. Then we disappear into whitness. Visibility is only about til Magnús and back. The rope vanishing into a haze. No horizon. Just a steady and slow rise. Sea floor pattern on the snow. It feels like forever. Must aim into the footprints. Watch the rope. Try to make a few pictures. Then the sun starts to shine through like some nuclear war aftermath. And the top starts to shine through. White and silent against deep blue sky. Now I believe that it's possible to reach it. Then there are the crevasses. Long holes in snowfield leading into some unknown depth. Framed with shining icicles. Beautiful but scary. I would prefer seeing this on a picture not in real life. What the hell am I doing here anyway. I wasn't suppose to climb up. Seems to be too late for turning back now. All right! exclaims Magnús after a crevass. And I think, what all right, I wanna go home. Can't say anything though.
We reach a higher point, nunatak. Put on crampons. It gets steeper and hotter and more crevassed. At times we stop for some rest. I'm afraid to look down and afraid to look up, feeling like a fly on the wall. But it's beautiful of course. All clouds are now below us like some huge bedding. White and soft. The top is still a steep climb away. My nose is totally burned. What was it about Jan Mayen being one of the gloomiest places on Earth?
Finally the rim. But it's not over yet. King Haakon VII is still some way to go. Some downs, some ups. No moss. Stone is somewhere close. On one side the snow covered crater, on the other side steep white into the clouds. Snow frozen to form delicate patterns.
At around twelve we phone Siggi to let him know that three people stand on top of Beerenberg. Mandatory mountain top pictures. There's a hole in the clouds towards Weyprecht's glacier.
Now comes the part that I was trying not to think about. We have to go down. This was to be expected of course. We choose a different route and manage to avoid some of the crevasses. It goes faster. When we take off crampons then it goes a lot faster. Boots are soaked and I feel as if I had two small swimming pools around my feet. Wet snow around the ankles doesn't make it better. Backpack together with the harness is killing my hips. But down we run. The summit disappears into white fog again. As of it never was.
Back where we left our sleeping bags we heat up some nudels and continue down. Over stones and moss and wet snow. Some ups, more downs. Finally the lagoon becomes visible. It is still a long way to go, remarks Martin with his usual optimism. Magnús stays at the lagoon to enjoy heated moss. Or something. I know that somewhere in this fog must be a place with hot tea, warm food and tent. Reason enough to continue. The road seems longer than before. And duller. Something huge is standing in Kvalrosbukta when we bend around the corner exactly 36 hours after we left. The supply ship. There is food and hot tea. Icelandic-Estonian-German team has worked rather well.
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arrived
Next
day for resting

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