Louis' Svalbard Adventure

Day 2

Face to Face with a Polar Bear

It had been a long day of attrition, with our skis in constant battle with the sea ice, desperately fighting for grip. Cold and hungry, we were about to stop for the day when Kjell's arm suddenly jolted into the air indicating for us to stop. What had he seen? As the minutes ticked by, the suspense continued to build, until we could bear it no longer and trudged up the slope to join him. I stared in disbelief at what appeared before me, a huge female polar bear and her cub were quickly clambering over the rocks towards us.

Face to Face with a Polar Bear

I rubbed my eyes, were they playing tricks on me? For a moment time seemed to stop still as I stared, transfixed by these majestic creatures. Then I felt an overwhelming sense of fear as I realised that not only were the bears coming straight towards us, they were speeding up. We were stood in line, Kjell in the middle with a whistle in between his lips and a flare gun in his hand. I felt like I was in the front line of an army bracing for the cavalry charge. Kjell suddenly blew two sharp bursts on the whistle, but still the bears came.

They were now only 50 metres away, the boisterous cub leading his mother, eager to meet us. There was so much power and grace in their movements, as they hulked their huge frames over the rocks and ice. Kjell cocked the flare gun. Suddenly I heard a loud 'whoosh!', like the sound you hear when a firework shoots up into the sky. A bright red glow lit up the ground in front of the bears.

Surprised and confused, they paused for a moment, trying to process what had just happened. To our relief, the flare stopped the bears in their tracks, they quickly swivelled around and dashed back down the slope disappearing into the Arctic abyss. We too retreated and quickly clipped on our skis before speeding off in the opposite direction, fuelled by adrenaline.

Making camp

That night we took turns to stand watch over camp. Every hour the bears would appear in the distance, prowling the sea ice in search of seals, this time the mother leading her son. We prayed that seal was the only course on their menu that evening.

Discover the Kit

OutdoorGB have teamed up with suppliers such as Berghaus, Salomon, Suunto, Exped, Sealskinz and Helly Hansen to provide Louis with cutting edge, high performance equipment.