Exweb interview with Norwegian World Record skiers on Greenland: Strategy, experience and weight-cutting

Posted: May 15, 2015 02:36 pm EDT


(Correne Coetzer, edited May 16, 2015 13:00 EDT, to reflect correct time) During the last day, hours from breaking the World speed ski Record across the classic horizontal Ice Cap route, the storm hit the team. Winds were up to 100 kph. They were halfway down the Icefall, negotiating crevasses and determined to pull through. ”We were so psyched on making it work that we would have crawled if necessary,” they tell Explorersweb.


Ronny Andre Kjenstad, Vegard Jørstad and Ole Christian Kjenstad set a new speed ski world record at 7 days 10 hours 20 min over 560 km across the Greenland Ice Cap. They started on May 6th at Point 660 in the West and finished at Isortoq on the East coast on May 13th. [Edited May 16, 2015 13:00 EDT, time previously given as 7d 12h 20 m, but hours are actually 10h, "the 2 hour miss was due to a mix up with UTC / local time / European time in the moment of joy".]


Exweb caught up with the Trio on Greenland via their mentor Lars Ebbesen, who managed the interview via satellite phone SMS. Here go: 


Explorersweb: Where did the idea come from to go for the speed record? When have you started to prepare for this and how did you prepare?


Ronny, Vegard and Ole Christian: We have been talking about this ever since some Norwegians we know tried to beat the record in the early 2000's. We started the real preparations two years ago. 


We have been talking with a lot of experienced people and expeditions who have tried for the record earlier. It has also been a lot of long training days in Femund and in our home mountains in Snåsa, Norway.


Your sleds weighed 24 kg, right? That is amazing. What did you have in your sleds? How much fuel did you take? Surely you didn’t have spare clothes? Was there anything you wish you had taken with?


The sleds were 26-28kg when we started at point 660. We had only what we needed: tent, sleeping bags, one stove with rep.kit, sat.phone, PLB, medical kit and one down vest. All as light as it could be.


However, one of our team mates broke the agreement we had made and secretly brought an extra wool sweater that he pulled out of his sled when it was very cold on day 5 - we were very jealous. 


We brought 7l of fuel, but only used 2,5l since we never boiled the water. We had one spare wool shirt, but only got to use this one cold night.  So we could have shed a bit of fuel and that shirt…


The weight was not extreme. It was finely balanced between experience, desperate weight-cutting and strategy. Strategy in the sense that we wanted a strong tent, we wanted maximum rest during the hours at sleep and even if food ran out on day 8 we would have fuel enough to ‘save the day…’




Skis: Fischer superlight

Skins/wax: brought both, but only used wax

Boots: Alfa tx30 GTX and Alfa Horizon Dynamic

Sleds (with skis attached?): Paris with short skating skis attached

Clothes: Klattermusen all over. Ask-jacket and their Njord pants + down west


How did your strategy (day/night) routine look like? And the last day?


The strategy was to walk 17 hours per day and then see how far we would get at the end of the day. Tried to get 5 hours sleep every night, but for the last two nights we only managed 5 hours in total.


Soon after you started you heard from the weather forecast that you will be going into a storm on the East side. Was this a motivation to ski fast and do long days? On the other hand didn’t it add to the psychological pressure?


We didn't discuss this much, but always had it in the back of our mind. The plan was to go as far as possible each day and then just summarize at the end.


Once we had started there were nothing we could do, so we just focused on each day. The pressure was more before the start, choosing when to go. We arrived early and was ready to go from the 2nd of May with the 14th the projected latest. 


We arrived in stunning weather and it was very, very tempting to go straight away. But we monitored the expeditions before us and talked to the Fram Expedition, who reported soft, quite deep snow and strong head-wind.


The East side storm was anticipated but with no confirmed hit-hour, so as soon as the wind died on the West, we took off.


How was the terrain and the snow conditions?


We timed it perfectly on the start and the snow conditions were good until we reached the ‘summit'. From the ‘summit' and down it was actually very bad, with lots and lots of sastrugi that hampered both rhythm and speed. But all in all we have to say, we have been lucky with the conditions.


Seems as if you were skiing like machines, were you ever tired and cold? Have you ever doubted that you would not make it before the storm arrives, and then you record will be thwarted?


We were of course extremely tired every night. Since we were either skiing or lying in our sleeping bags the cold was not any big issue actually.


We were living in the moment and were taking one day at a time. When you do things outdoor, you have to expect Mother Nature to surprise you, so we did not care. 


That said, we were more worried the sastrugi would trip us than the storm. The storm was due 21UTC and the estimates was that we would easily beat it. But then it changed its mind and hit 6+ hours earlier.


So it hit us like a wall halfway down the icefall. The wind jumped from 10-12 m/s (36-43.2 kph) to 24-28 m/s (86.4-100.8 kph) very quickly. But by then we were so psyched on making it work that we would have crawled if necessary.


Still, we got off lightly, the wind was reportedly topping 40 m/s (144 kph) later that night.


What made you a world record team?


We have known each other all our lives and been on trips together since we were kids. We know each other's limits.


Daily distances?


Not 100% sure, actually. It is a bit confusing as the last days and a half were not really made for an Excel sheet. But we did plus minus 70 every day, than the last sprint was 60 and the stint before that 80 km, separated by a 2 hours and 40 minutes rest. Does that add up?


We had a stint a bit shortened one night as the temperature dropped so much we could not work up enough body temperature, so we camped not to risk anything.


Anyway, we got it covered in 7 days, 10 hours and 20 minutes.


Anything else?


Well, probably a lot, but our heads are not quite in the thank-you-speech-modus yet. But we spent a lot of energy on building a good team at home and were very lucky to get a lot of support and sponsors from our home region, Snåsa. 


There are some great companies and people there who know what this is all about and have been super supportive, especially Norsk Navigasjon (who has been to the South Pole themselves – which helped!).


And in all this talk about strategy, we had Marc de Keyser (for weather forecast) onboard, and was in daily contact with him to hit the best possible window for the trip. We think that did the trick!


Records on this horizontal route, 560 km:


May 2002 West-East: 9 days, 4hrs 30mins (Norwegians: Holmann, Nilsen)


Late August, early September 2002 East-West: 8 days, 9h 30min (Norwegians: Trond Hilde, Ivar Tollefsen and Odd Harald Hauge)


May 2015, West-East: 7 days 12 hours 20 min (Norwegians, Ronny Andre Kjenstad, Vegard Jørstad and Ole Christian Kjenstad)



All three new record holders are 27 years old.

Ronny Andre Kjenstad, is studying outdoors at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences. Ole Christian Kjenstad is a veterinary student and Vegard Jørstad is in the police.





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Greenland: Focus on beating the storm


Norwegian Greenland speed ski update: Day 2


Exweb interview with Tom Avery: Greenland speed record attempt


Greenland kicks off with speed record attempts (2015)


The elusive Greenland speed ski record: Three Norwegian dark horses (2012)


ExWeb interview with Bengt Rotmo, Greenland Fall vs. Spring


Finland’s Jaakko Heikka talks to ExWeb about Greenland’s horizontal ski route


Wings Over Greenland II: The Icecap Circumnavigation 2014


Greenland ICE expedition completed circumnavigation


Greenland ski wrap-up: New kite world record


Greenland climbing: Christian Eide and team on Gunnbjørn Fjeld





Weather4Expeditions (Mark de Keyser)


Interactive maps at Windyty


and Earth Null School 




Norwegian Expedition sites



SPOT tracker
















One of the team secretly brought an extra wool sweater that he pulled out of his sled when it was very cold on day 5, "we were very jealous." From the left: Ole Christian, Vegard and Ronny. The guys sent this photo from Greenland to Exweb, asking, "Is one from Isortoq ok? We did not over-document this trip…"
courtesy Snasagutan, SOURCE
"We wanted a strong tent, we wanted maximum rest during the hours at sleep and even if food ran out on day 8 we would have fuel enough to ‘save the day'." Image, the last day down the Icefall to Isortoq.
courtesy Snasagutan SPOT, SOURCE