Voyage to Beerenberg: Scaling the Volcanic Peak of Jan Mayen

It is thanks to Beerenberg Volcano that the island exists at all. Dominating the northern part of Jan Mayen, the world’s northernmost active stratovolcano bursts straight up from the Arctic Ocean, culminating in its fearsome peak, 2,277m above the sea level. Inspired by this foreboding mountain, Straum’s founders assembled an expedition unit and set off in search of the summit. 

The goal of the mission was clear: To study the rarely disturbed nature of the island, its geology, and the volatile weather systems that frequently batter its shores.

This is the story of how it went.

The voyage

Officially part of Norway, Jan Mayen lies 600 km northeast of Iceland, 500 km east of central Greenland, and more than 900 km northwest of the Norwegian mainland. There is no permanent population and the only inhabitants are seasonal workers, manning an important weather station on the west coast of the island.

The only reliable way for civilians to reach this volcanic strip of land is via boat, which requires a journey of almost five days across frigid and featureless waters.

Life on the boat

It is a very strange feeling being in the middle of the open sea, with no land in sight for days. We worked on the boat in shifts, which messed with our perception of time. The days melted together, becoming one big blur. At least we had the chance to form fast friendships, thanks to spending all that time together on a small boat...

Open seas

Almost immediately we ran into a storm — seven-meter-high waves and heavy winds. Things were flying around inside the boat and people were falling over. Our sail even ripped in two. We managed to take it down and stow it safely, but were forced to limp the rest of the way to Jan Mayen on the motor alone.

Planning the summit

Jan Mayen is not just hard to get to; it’s hard to land at also! You are only allowed to drop anchor at two places, both quite far away from Beerenberg itself.

To make matters worse, getting to the black shore of Jan Mayen itself is not a given, as making a safe transition from the boat to the land is heavily dependent on weather conditions. Once ashore, we had to get to the foot of Beerenberg, and then climb the 2,277 meters of rock and glacier to reach the crater rim. The hike itself is easily 20–24 hours with no chance to rest on the frigid slopes of the world’s northernmost stratovolcano. The weather forecast predicted -14 degrees celsius and 20m/2 wind on the peak. We did not have time to wait for better weather conditions, we just had to push for it the second we landed at the beach.

Landing in Kvalrossbukta

We landed at Kvalrossbukta, an old whaling beach. Its forboding black volcanic sand was decorated by scores of sun-bleached skeletons, which set the tone for our stay on the island. This was harsh and unforgiving place. Preparation and focus were key to survival. As such, we spent the next hour setting up our temporary camp and checking the equipment we would need for the climb.

The approach

The first part of the hike was dominated by a combination of long black beaches and sharp black and green rock formations. To our eyes, it seemed an alien landscape, and the experience was akin to being on a different planet.

Kronprins Olavs Bre

Most of Beerenberg is covered by glaciers. We had to walk in tightly roped teams. Traversing crevasses up to what we approximated to be 30 meters deep. As we ascended, the gradient became ever-steeper until we were forced to rely on our hand axes and crampons to keep ourselves attached to the mountain.

Over time, little things started to build up. Little pessimisms would creep in.


Our glacier guide Lars Petter Jonassen has a serious talk to the team about playing with margins. If we chose to continue, we would no longer be on the safe side, if we wanted to turn around, we should have done so then.

As a team, we decide to play the margins a bit more, and continue climbing towards the crater rim.

It's around 500 meters left to the summit of altitude climbing. It's been shitty conditions for a long time. People are smiling, but I think that's because we're boys.

Straum summit

We made it as far as the mountain would allow, and that we would come to realize, was far enough.

We named that place Straum Summit, at 2,089 meters above sea level.

Friendships forged

As soon as we resolved to leave the peak in peace, Beerenberg showed us a kinder face. When we began our journey we did so as a group of willing strangers united by our goal alone. Now at the end of it all, we are united by a shared experience that will bind us forever, and perhaps become the first chapter of a lifelong adventure like no other.

Our heartfelt appreciations to


Rob Nudds

Aksel Jermstad

Johannes L. Dyhre

Chrisander Bergan

Lars Petter Jonassen

John Macken

Carl Emil Gottschalk Lie

Morten Sangvik



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