It is estimated that the origins of snowshoeing date back around 6,000 years, to an age where this means of getting around was vital to fur traders, trappers and those whose lives depended on the ability to navigate areas of heavy and frequent snowfall. In recent years, snowshoeing has developed into an exciting polar sport and makes a great alternative to ordinary trekking by combining aerobic activity with ease of walking through the snow without sinking. The activity of snowshoeing works by distributing a person's weight over a large area, so that their feet do not sink into the snow.
Snowshoes will be provided free of charge onboard. Snowshoes are easy to use and don't require any technical skills. They make it easier and safer to walk on snow surfaces and will fit all boot sizes and can be used in combination with the rubber welly boots supplied onboard. Fairly easy excursions on snowshoes will be made to see wildlife like bird colonies.
Besides gentle walks on the extensive tundra, you might have the opportunity to climb some accessible mountain peaks for views of snow covered mountains and frozen fjords. These climbs demand some stamina but are often optional.
The hiking options onboard our Arctic voyages are varied, from short leisurely walks to longer and more demanding hikes. Many of our hikes in Spitsbergen involve the exploration of rarely visited islands across scarcely trodden paths to areas which are home to more reindeer and polar bears than people. In general we aim to offer several onshore hiking opportunities during Arctic voyages, which range from around 3 hours, up to a maximum of 8 hours in duration. For the longer hike, packed-lunches will be provided; meanwhile between the shorter walks you will return to the ship for lunch. There will be easy, moderate and more demanding walks available in the vicinity of the landing sites to suit everyone's capability.
In Antarctica, hiking options are much more limited, due to more challenging rugged terrain, steep cliffs and crevassed glaciers. The islands located in the Northern part of the Weddell Sea and on Deception Island are more suited to hiking as the gradients are often gentler and have less snow / ice covering. South Georgia offers great hiking opportunities, providing hikers with the chance to retrace some of Shackleton's famous expedition route.
We recommend that those wishing to partake in hiking excursions bring a sturdy pair of hiking boots and gaiters. The hikes involve traversing through a multitude of terrains, so that sense of being a real polar explorer sets in as you navigate through rivers, rocky paths, barren mountains, gentle tundra and often steep ascents and descents. On selected voyages, rubber boots are provided for all passengers.
Please contact us for details about our dedicated hiking and snowshoe Arctic voyages and for dates and prices of other polar voyages in which we can incorporate snowshoe walking.
Hiking is subject to weather conditions; more so in Antarctica than in the Arctic. Hiking is also limited by strict environmental regulations in both Polar Regions.
For the snowshoeing excursions, we recommend that participants be in a good state of health and able to walk up to 6 hours over often rugged terrain, both uphill and downhill. Due to safety reasons, any participants who are incapable of walking for at least 4 hours may be asked to sit out hiking excursions.