a wild & tropical paradise
My mission to design a 2 day expedition whilst I’ve been in Antigua is complete! I’ve linked together marked trails with new routes (thanks to ‘Mike’ the Machete) which exposes you to the real wild side of Antigua. This mini expedition takes you through its tropical rainforest, over its highest peaks, descends an incredible ridge line to a beach where you can string your hammock for the night and then the last leg is along it’s windswept coastline to the finish in English Harbour. The views are incredible, the vegetation is fascinating and the journey is rewarding.
This route gives you the opportunity to disappear into tropical paradise and discover its wilder side, its hidden treasures, jaw dropping views and varied jungle and coastal terrain.
Trek beneath the thick rainforest canopy, past giant bamboo stalks and weave your way around hanging vines. This jungle experience is unique for its tranquil atmosphere. The ambiance here, is completely different to any other jungle I have explored.
''As I ventured further into the thick of the vegetation, the atmosphere transitioned from the musical Antiguan tones to an undisturbed, calm atmosphere. When I stopped, to catch my breath after the first climb, I expected to be surrounded by the sounds of wildlife buzzing, but the utterly calming silence caught me by complete surprise. It was surreal. I looked up at the sun breaking through the gaps in the canopy, the light created a dappled effect that surrounded me with this incredible glow. I was in utter awe of the ambience this place had. It’s not like any other jungle I have ever been to before. It had this calming energy, that makes you want to breathe, and inhale the refreshing air. Utter paradise.''
This journey highlights the islands stunning features and is designed to show you its wilder side, from the highest peaks to the windswept shoreline, it's offers an all-in-one package. Hack through the vibrant jungle, take to the peaks to absorb the island views, descend a spectacular ridge line, establish camp on the white sandy beaches, cool off in the turquoise Caribbean waters and trek the rugged windward facing coastline to return to base in English Harbour for a deserving swim and a beer.
‘’When I first broke through the rainforest canopy, and emerged through the lemongrass fields to the summit of the first peak, Mount Mcnish, I followed the horizon all the way around, admiring a full 360 degree panoramic of the island. I could see the entire island, including my next destination, Boggy Peak. It was an ideal advantage view point which help me to visually map my route to continue my trek, and link together the next point.’’
I have been visiting this island for the last six years of my life, and cannot believe it has taken me until this year, 2022, to really explore its wilder side. I’ve been on the hikes and visited the white sandy beaches, but I have never put on my backpack to truly explore it. So, I’m writing this, as a present to all those who spend time in Antigua, year on year, to entice you into the mountains. Pack your adventure gear and go and see its wild side! I promise, that beer at the end, when you're tired, scratched, and midge bitten, will be extremely rewarding.
The distance we travelled each day varied greatly and depended on the terrain, conditions and group dynamic. Our chosen journey was focused around exploring new routes alongside learning how to survive and thrive in the wilds of this extreme old environment.
Our journey began navigating our way through saddendalen and Fulmardalen…two immense glacier carved valleys to the base of Elfenbien Glacier which meets the sea ice on the east coast…(polar bear hunting ground). From here we crossed into Agard valley and tackled a hefty climb that took us onto Sveigbreen glacier.
After almost two days of steep climbing, and uncertain of whether our intended route down would be possible, we reached the top Sveigbreen. The views from the pass were spellbinding with endless vistas of sharp mountains living up to their name sake; Spitsbergen.
After a successful decent, we faced our final challenge, another solid climb lay ahead of us to get back to Adventdalen. After 7km of climbing we topped out at the pass and looked back at the impressive view into Reindalen and beyond. It sure was a solid climb. Our descent into Adventelva (a frozen creek bound by steep walls) provided a few adventures, the first a 20m lower of our sleds by rope followed by a comical tumble and jumble of skis, skiers and sleds down into a snowy bowl. We continued down the creek for 4km before finding a flat camp site just before 6pm, a few kms short of Adventdalen.
We skied the last few kms down the frozen and snow covered Advent river and onto the broad plains of the upper Advent valley. We made it! It was a tough trip with some truly bitter days and nights and some grinding climbs but an extremely rewarding journey. Here’s to the Arctic.
Hammock and Mozzy net
Blanket/Liner (it can pretty cold at night)
Toiletries - wipes, toilet bits, disposable bags, sunscreen, toothbrush etc
Mozzy head net.
Water bottle - carry 3L each
Snacks - high in salt content
Food 2x lunches, 1x breakfast, 1x dinner (possible to buy on route) - see food recommendations
Bin bags - rubbish and useful to put gear on top of on the beach
Cash - road side snacks, taxi.
Jumper - cold at night
Clothes to sleep in (recommend long bottoms)
Long hiking trousers - you will get scratched
Shirt - long sleeve to hike in
T-shirt - spare
Good shoes - trainers with good grip or hiking boots
Shoes for eve? Up to you (camp is by the beach, useful to have if you want to collect firewood)
Medical kit - foot care, antihistamine, bandages, gauze, tape, plasters, tweezers, antibacterial, paracetamol, ibuprofen, burn cream, after bite, disinfectant.
I recommend that you carry an Epic pen - please ensure you know how to use it. This route will expose you to wasps and other insects.
Fire lighting equipment - cotton wool, lighters, kindling.
Machete - helpful when it gets thick!
Items to carry in your pocket:
Map of route
Food Menu Suggestions:
I have marked shops and cafes you will be able to reach on route if you need to. I recommend planning ahead as a team and provisioning before you leave for the trip. It is better that you have everything you need so that you are not relying on finding food. You will be hot, tired and hungry at the end of the hike, and if you are delayed for any reason, you may not be able to source food as shops will be shut.
*Reminder* it will be hot...only pack food items that won't perish. Chocolate will melt!!!
1x Breakfast: Snack bars, banana's, PB wrap.
2x Lunches : wraps, sandwiches
Plenty of snacks (2 days) - nuts, crisps, energy bars, peanut butter and crackers, bananas, apples etc.
1x Dinner: There is a local Bbq spot when you reach the road where you can restock on water supplies and provision. They sell a mean grilled jerk chicken!
Fire food: Pita breads, aubergine/courgettes, jarred pesto, sun-dried toms (not in oil).
I have bought a fish from the local fisherman on the beach before! Keep you eye out for them!
KMZ ROUTE FILE
#1: WE ARE READY
After two days of skills instruction and packing we are ready to depart on our Svalbard Polar Expedition 2.0. Dinner at Stationen restaurant was a nice way to round off our prep. Temperatures over the next 9 days are well into the -20’s and bottoming out at around -32ºC at our highest point on the route, a small icecap called Hellefonna. Bring it on, we are ready!
#2: FIRST DAY
After gathering at the warehouse this morning for last minute preparations, we loaded up the belt wagons with sleds, skis and adventurers, and began our journey out to Eskerfossen, our start point for the expedition! The weather was perfect for a scenic drive, sunny and blue skies. Not so scenic for the people in the back though, who had a view for about 5 minutes before the windows iced up! After a hot noodle lunch (the first of many!) we left our sleds and skied in through a short winding valley to check out the frozen waterfall ‘Eskerfossen’. Due to the recent warm temperatures followed by the cold snap we are now in, the icy waterfall had almost doubled in size since the last expedition! This little jaunt without our sleds allowed us some time to practice gliding with our skis and finding a comfortable and efficient stride. Back at the sleds, feeling the chill of -20 degrees, we got ready for our first hauling session. With a slight wind on our faces we were sure to cover up using masks and buffs to avoid exposing too much skin. Everyone on the team made great decisions on what to wear and how to dress for this session, and our first hour went by without a hitch! Being the first night, we stopped to make camp after our first session, ensuring plenty of time to get set up for the night. The sun disappeared and the temperature dropped to -25. It’s cold! Colder than we’ve experienced so far this year. Everything is crisp, the snow is squeaky and our clothing crinkles and crackles as we move. It’s funny, not much survives at temperatures like this, and yet the world feels bright and alive, sounds are sharp, the surroundings look crystal clear, feelings are acute, and smiles are radiating around us. Pairs worked together to choose a flat area, erect tents, cut snow blocks, inflate sleeping mattresses, organise their equipment in the tents, and get their stoves started. Henry and Ram were feeling the cold in their fingers, and so had the extra challenge of setting up their tent with their big polar mitts on. Certainly a tricky feat on the first day! Everyone clambered in for the night, eager to get warm and settled, doors zipped up and we said our goodnights. After some issues with our fuel pump, we had to turn our stove off and swap the pump out. With our burner off for 30 seconds or so, it was nice to hear tent partners chatting away over their humming stoves, perhaps comparing their dinner choices! We are camped in Sassendalen, and will continue skiing up the broad valley tomorrow with Tempelfjorden behind us and speccy views all around. Looking forward to our first full day! Time to put the kettle on to fill up our hot water bottles for the night, I think we’ll be needing them!
The -27c overnight low was a bit of a challenge for some, it takes more than just warm sleeping bags to remain comfortable in those temperatures. But the team are here to learn and a few adjustments will lead to increased comfort and better sleep tonight. The next day saw us ski up Saddendalen, following a snowmobile trail for the sake of convenience, knowing once we turn up Fulmardalen we’ll be free of them. At the first break all our faces were festooned with ice. Yet the low sun was for the first time bringing warmth to our faces and lighting the valley and surrounding mountains with sharp light. Spring is well under way. I called an early lunch before slipping into the dense shadow of Fulmar’s valley wall. Watching Henry ski up with Heath and Mardi I could see he wasn’t in great shape and not at all surprised that he wanted out. The cold and activity has challenged him to the limit and he asked for a vehicle to come and get him. We pitched camp and the Hagglunds arrived at 5pm taking Henry and Heath back to Longyearbyen. Heath hadn’t been feeling well and took the opportunity to head back and rest. We wish both of them a quick recovery. We’re now camped in the still cold of the valley. Twilight has settled on our camp, stars will shine and maybe the glow of an aurora will grace the skies. Here’s to the Arctic.
#4: GOODBYE TO ONE VALLEY, HELLO TO THE NEXT!
We were treated to a slightly warmer night last night (-17), and absolutely stellar conditions today with blue skies and minimal wind. The nearby mountains however, shaded us from the morning sun and by the time we packed up camp we all had cold fingers and toes. Our first hour of hauling went by quickly as we raced out of the shade to the nearest sunny spot, reaching the -relative- warmth just in time for our first break. Our horizons changed as we turned out of Sassen valley and entered the broad base of Fulmar valley. This change in direction brought a brand new panorama to feast our eyes on, just as spectacular as the last, as is the nature of this stunning archipelago. It blows our minds to think about how much there is to explore here! We fit in three hour long sessions before enjoying a sunny lunch break, then continued up the slowly narrowing valley. After two more sessions, it was nearing time to find a campsite. The area we were in however, was very shallow snow, with rocks and solid permafrost beneath, near impossible to pitch our tents on. We pushed on, headed for a nearby frozen lake where we would be able to make anchors with our ice screws. The terrain that followed was trickier to navigate, the valley narrowed slightly and steepened, and the floods and warm temperatures last week had created a slick icy slope. Favouring small ‘islands’ of snow and roughed up ice on the surface, we navigated the slope without too many slips, slides and falls. Our efforts were rewarded with some beautiful frost flowers at the top of the icy section. Having coming unstuck on a particularly slick patch before making it onto the snow, Ram and I found ourselves at the back of the group, staring at a steep climb. Feeling the weight of our sleds we hauled up the pinch and were delighted to come over the crest and look down at the team taking off skies and putting on big down jackets, having found a flat area of deep snow perfect for pitching tents, what luck! We are camped at the base of the Marmor glacier. Hoping to get some views of the East coast tomorrow, fingers crossed our weather luck continues!
#5: SUPERB DAY
Another cold night of -22 and no morning sun on the tent courtesy of the high valley walls. Light clouds threatened to obscure our view of the east coast but after two hours of skiing we topped a pass and were rewarded by magnificent views over frozen fiords. A winding track, some of which we tobogganed on our sleds, led us down to the base of Elfenbein glacier where we lunched next to it’s glistening terminal ice face. From here we are on virgin snow, nobody comes out here. We saw quite a few reindeer among the moraine though saw nothing of anything nutritional on the ground. They only live an average of 7 years, their teeth becoming ground away from the constant gnawing and eventually die of starvation. After crossing Agard valley a hefty climb took us onto Sveigbreen glacier where we found a flat site overlooking the fiord. The team are pretty good at setting up camp now - tents pitched and secured, bags filled with snow blocks for water, latrine dug, Mardi sets out the polar bear fence, and we’re in for the night. Another night of -20’s forecast.
#6: GLACIER CLIMB
We usually wake at 6am but I declared a 7am start to give some extra sun time on the tents in the morning. Alas, it was overcast. And a balmy -13C night to go with it, too warm for the Arctic pumps on our MSR stoves, though they were absolutely required the first 3 nights. After pack up we ran a quick seminar on setting up a crevasse rescue Z-drag and a debate ensued about the ratio of mechanical advantage in a typical set up. At lunch Mardi proved that a system with 1 block and 1 return at the anchor and 2 returns on the rope creates a 9.1; for every 9 metres a rescuer hauls the rope a casualty is lifted 1 metre. So long as it works I’m happy! The glacier proved to be a grind from start to end with a 2 hour stretch of sastrugi for good measure. It was important to get our layering right, too many clothes and we’d sweat dangerously into our base layers, too few and we’d struggle to keep out the light but chilly breeze blowing up the glacier. We made camp below the final steep push to the pass between Steig and Såte glaciers. The surrounding mountains are virtually all white - although camped at only 427m elevation it has a distinctly alpine look and feel. As with all of our expeditions, we introduce areas that we’ve never been to, exploration being at the core of our intent. Our maps and GPS give us an idea of what lies ahead but we’ll see it all with fresh eyes.
#7: TWO GLACIERS IN ONE DAY
I woke expecting a whiteout so was overjoyed to see a clear day for our ascent to the pass between Sveigbreen and Satebreen glaciers. It was a hefty climb taking us over an hour to cover around 1km. The views from the pass were spellbinding with endless vistas of sharp mountains living up to their name sake; Spitsbergen. But we didn’t linger, the temperature plummeted as a stiff breeze blew drift snow around our feet. I was hoping for a quick toboggan descent of Satebreen but it just didn’t have enough slope to get a good glide. We nevertheless enjoyed the easy and picturesque ski. Lunch in the sunny valley below was blissful, Mardi even had a little snooze. Reindeer and fox tracks are everywhere, thankfully no polar bear tracks. We’re now snugly camped, stoves roaring among lively chatter. One of the best days I’ve had skiing in Svalbard.
#8: ANOTHER BIG CLIMB
We knew another solid climb lay ahead of us to get back to Adventdalen and we braced ourselves for a big day. The start of an unnamed valley was an inconspicuous cleft that slowly broadened to a beautiful open glen flanked by mountains and glaciers. The usual reindeer and fox tracks criss-crossed the snow as we ploughed ever upward. Just before lunch a bitter wind blew down from the pass ahead and left us chilled as we’d dressed lightly for the climb. Thankfully we found a windless sun-drenched spot where we ate our ramen noodles and melted cheese, salami and crackers. Nom. After 7km of climbing we topped out at the pass and looked back at the impressive view into Reindalen and beyond. It sure was a solid climb. Our descent into Adventelva (a frozen creek bound by steep walls) provided a few adventures, the first a 20m lower of our sleds by rope followed by a comical tumble and jumble of skis, skiers and sleds down into a snowy bowl. We continued down the creek for 4km before finding a flat camp site just before 6pm, a few kms short of Adventdalen. A big day with big rewards.
#9: FINAL DAY
The temperature in the tent dropped to -17C overnight, wouldn’t be much different outside given the heat from our bodies is well trapped inside our sleeping bags. We skied the last few kms down the frozen and snow covered Advent river and onto the broad plains of the upper Advent valley. It wasn’t long before we hit the snowmobile highway and ground out 12km to make just short of the road where a bus will pick us up tomorrow. It’s already our final night. What an adventure. It was a tough trip with some truly bitter days and nights and some grinding climbs. We missed Henry and Heath on the trip but they had very good reason to leave us on the second day, Heath with Covid and Henry with some mild frost damage to two toes. We look forward to seeing them again tomorrow. Mardi also tested positive on the 4th day but persevered, isolating in the single tent. She’s tough as nails. Thanks for following our trips this season. We’re sad that our North Pole expeditions were cancelled due to the Russia Ukraine conflict but Svalbard and the people who joined us brought us so much joy, we hadn’t guided a polar trip since November 2019. We will go home very happy.
Leave someone a copy of your route plan and an agreed time of return. When you can, check in with them and let them know how are you are getting on. There is signal in most places on this route, however it is important not to rely on this. It is very important that you inform them of your plan of action in the case of an emergency. Please make note of the emergency services contacts and carry suitable medical supplies (see medical kit list).
Manchioneel. Tree - This large poisonous tree grows commonly behind Antigua’s beaches. The fruit resembles a small green apple. The Caribs took the white sap of a broken twig and spread it on their arrowheads as poison. An immediate antidote is seawater. Do not touch any part of the tree or stand under it in the rain, as the sap from the fruit is poisonous and can cause painful blistering. If you do accidentally find you are under a tree wash yourself immediately in the nearest source of water.
Paper Wasps - Found in the trees. If you are swinging a machete you may provoke them. Their stings are quite painful and can produce a potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction in some individuals. I advise wearing long sleeves and long trousers.
Centipede - Very black and anything up to a few inches long, these creatures are not often seen but their bite can be painful.
Tarantulas -Horse Spiders: very rarely seen, not poisonous. The most common time to see them is following VERY heavy rains when their holes in the ground become flooded.
Dogs - be alert. Dogs here are used as guard dogs.
Sunburn - wear suncream and a hat
Heat Stroke - Wear a hat and carry a sufficient water supply. It is hot and humid. I advise carrying a minimum of 3L per person.
Check the weather:
www.weather.com - for maps of the area
www.caribwx.com - excellent for anyone out on the water or planning to be.
www.intellicast.com - excellent site to use during the hurricane season with reports updated daily on any storms and their predicted paths.
EMERGENCY - All: 911 or 999
AIR/SEA RESCUE - 462-3062
AMBULANCE / HOSPITAL - Queen Elizabeth Highway Tel. 462-0251
ADELIN CLINIC - 462-0866/7
FIRE - Factory Road, Tel 462-0044
MOUNT ST. JOHN'S - Tel 484-2700
MEDICAL EMERGENCIES - 999, 911 or 562-2433
POLICE - American Road Tel 462-0125
OFFICE OF DISASTER PREPAREDNESS - American Road Tel 462-4402
LET ME KNOW HOW YOU GET ON
GET IN TOUCH TO ASK ME A QUESTION