Ski Sunday: Presenter Ed Leigh's Svalbard expedition

Ski Sunday presenter Ed Leigh and Co took six hours on a sled to travel from Longyearbyen the capital of Svalbard - and one of the world’s northern most permanent human settlements - to the Arctic wilderness
Ski Sunday presenter Ed Leigh, renowned big mountain rider Xavier De Le Rue and mountaineer Sam Anthamatten take six hours on a sled to travel from the capital of Svalbard, Longyearbyen, to an unridden mountain region called Atomfjella near the North Pole for a special expedition. Pictures courtesy of Tero Repo
Ed Leigh: "The temperature is -20 C and I am wearing everything I have bought with me and am still cold, the wind penetrates everything, including my merino wool thermals with ease. My feet are numb and all of my joints are sore."
Ed Leigh describes the weather conditions: "The temperature is -20 C and I am wearing everything I have brought with me and I am still cold, the wind penetrates everything, including my merino wool thermals with ease. My feet are numb and all of my joints are sore."
Head guide is Englishman Steve Lewis, who is on the lookout for polar bears. Polar bears can do a two-minute mile and climb 300m vertically in under 10 minutes. Trip wire is laid to alert us of any intruders. Ed said: "I've been told if I hear the trip wire then under no circumstances do I get out of the tent."
Head guide is Englishman Steve Lewis, who is on the lookout for polar bears. Polar bears can run a two-minute mile and climb 300m vertically in under 10 minutes. Trip wire is laid to alert the camp of any intruders. Ed Leigh said: "I've been told if I hear the trip wire then under no circumstances do I get out of the tent."
Ed Leigh on paramotoring: "It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Having spent most of my adult life living and working in the mountains I have seen a lot of different mountain ranges around the world from different angles. But I can easily say I have never seen mountains as majestic and pure as the Atomfjella. There are no roads, no trees, no cars, no buildings, and no evidence, anywhere of human existence. It took my breath away."
Ed Leigh on paramotoring: "It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Having spent most of my adult life living and working in the mountains I have seen a lot of different mountain ranges around the world from different angles. But I can easily say I have never seen mountains as majestic and pure as the Atomfjella. There are no roads, no trees, no cars, no buildings, and no evidence, anywhere of human existence. It took my breath away."
The amount of gear that accompanies the expedition is phenomenal and shows how remote our camp is. A full mess tent is decked out with reindeer hides and a four burner stove, a media teepee where a kerosene burner, hand warmers and sleeping bags try in vain to keep data transfers and camera battery charges rolling. There are three sleds, an army of fuel tanks and a walled snow toilet
The amount of gear that accompanies the expedition is phenomenal and shows how remote the camp is. A full mess tent is decked out with reindeer hides and a four burner stove, a media teepee where a kerosene burner, hand warmers and sleeping bags try in vain to keep data transfers and camera battery charges rolling. There are three sleds, an army of fuel tanks and a walled snow toilet
Xavier and Sam are reaching speeds of up to 70mph in a tight chute with variable snow, compulsory drops and a gradient so steep that stopping is not an option. They have to commit - there is no escape and they are six hours away from basic medical care should anything go wrong
Xavier De Le Rue and Sam Anthamatten are reaching speeds of up to 70mph in a tight chute with variable snow, compulsory drops and a gradient so steep that stopping is not an option. They have to commit - there is no escape and they are six hours away from basic medical care should anything go wrong
Weather conditions can change rapidly and the expedition wake up to find an overnight snow storm has all-but buried their tents
Weather conditions can change rapidly and the expedition wake up to find an overnight snow storm has all-but buried their tents
Xavier De Le Rue enjoys the midnight sun before heading down an extremely steep descent. Within the space of a month from March to April Svalbard goes from total darkness as the sun still sits under the horizon to being bathed in light 24 hours a day. During that period the length of daylight grows by 45 minutes every day - a staggering fact that gives you an insight into the extremes life is subjected to this far north
Xavier De Le Rue enjoys the midnight sun before heading down an extremely steep descent. Between March and April, Svalbard goes from total darkness as the sun still sits under the horizon to being bathed in light 24 hours a day. During that period the length of daylight grows by 45 minutes every day - a staggering fact that gives you an insight into the extremes life is subjected to this far north
Ski boots have to be warmed so the plastic doesn’t shatter when trying to put them on. Ed Leigh sums up his trip by saying: "It is an experience that I can’t ever see being bettered."
Ski boots have to be warmed so the plastic doesn’t shatter when trying to put them on. Ed Leigh sums up his trip by saying: "It is an experience that I can’t ever see being bettered."