End to End Svalbard, an epic journey.

November 3, 2023

Follow the journey of 7 mountaineers crossing the endless glaciers of Svalbard, South to North in just 40 days.

As a trusted, and proud, supporter of the End to End Svalbard project, Madshus is excited to share the following interview about the project with Jonas Haass. 

End to End Svalbard is an expedition and a movie project. I (Jonas Haass) had the idea some years ago, when I was being trained to become an Arctic Nature Guide. Since I always loved being on very long trips, covering huge distances, crossing Svalbard from South to North on Skis (almost 700 kilometers of distance) was definitely on my bucket list. 

So, I asked some friends, a group of very experienced guides to join me. And even more importantly my best friend Moritz, who accompanied me on almost every long-distance trip or alpine adventure. He is a professional and very experienced filmmaker in the outdoors and was the perfect companion to shoot a documentary about the trip. "End to End Svalbard" is a 90-minute documentary that follows seven friends – six experienced Arctic guides and a filmmaker – as they journey 700 kilometers across Svalbard on skis. Navigating storms and overcoming hazards like crevasses and thin ice, their personal challenge evolves into a tale of resilience, friendship, and self-discovery. Set against the breathtaking beauty of the Arctic, the film captures their moments of laughter, drama, and unexpected encounters, inviting viewers to experience the Arctic's magnificence and the unbreakable bonds formed in the face of its challenges.

How do you get the idea to realize such a project?

I always loved long distance trails, outdoor adventures and especially the challenges that come along with it. I crossed Scotland, the Pyrenees, the Balkan Mountains and did many more trips. Being out there, exposed to the elements, is a unique experience not many people have the chance to get. Some years ago, I quit my job and moved to Spitsbergen to become an Arctic Nature Guide. I started to work as a ski guide up there but from the beginning, I wanted to have my own projects. So, I came up with the idea of crossing the whole island from South to North and shoot a documentary about the trip. My goal was to make a movie that reaches a big audience, showing everyone the beauty and fragility of the Arctic Environment up there. There was no specific trigger that made me come up with the idea, rather, I believe it was something I always wanted to do. As with every project it starts with a utopia (40 days on ice already sounded thrilling to me when I was younger). By starting my education on Svalbard, this utopia turned more and more into an idea from which I then derived an actual plan. Being out there with guests is very nice but following up on your own project, fulfilling a lifetime dream is something different. And since I already had the best camera man and filmmaker (Moritz Krause) the decision of following up on that idea was quickly taken.  

Which challenges existed in the planning phase?

By far the biggest challenge was finding sponsors. A project like this is not cheap. Even though the team and I know many people on Svalbard, which led to a huge price decrease in terms of logistics, it was still very expensive. So, 1,5 years before the trip started, I began searching for sponsors. This was quite demanding, especially since I have a full-time job. The whole team was relying on that, especially since most of them were working as guides and did not get any salary during the expedition. 

Luckily Madshus was the first sponsor to jump in on the project. Even though I am not an influencer and none of us had a big media reach, they were the first to believe in us. After having one brand on our side, others followed and all of a sudden, I was able to finance the whole expedition, which I never believed would happen. We then started organizing all the logistics, insurance, movie equipment, food and so on. I invested hours and many late-night sessions into that. The other 6 team members tried to help where they could, and I was surprised how well everything turned out. On Svalbard shortly before the trip started, we packed the rest of our gear, made some final route adjustments and were finally ready to go. 

I believe most of the near nervous breakdowns I had were during the planning and preparation of this project. As soon as we started it was just us and the demanding environment of Svalbard. 

What was your biggest fear?

Honestly my biggest fear was getting injured before the trip started. I invested pretty much all of my money into the trip and most sponsors would not have paid for anything if I had been injured and not been able to join. During the trip I feared not being able to shoot a nice movie, but Moritz did an amazing job. As I’ve been guiding on Svalbard quite a lot, we were not very scared of the dangers of polar bears, cold weather, glaciers or similar. Of course, they were all big threats, but we were trained to cope with them. 

What was your most memorable event?

This is very hard to answer. We were out there for 40 days in total and therefore experienced many different things. 
We had sudden weather changes with strong storms, forcing us to dig a snow cave on an exposed glacier and stay in there for 48 hours. 
We had the most beautiful sunsets and as the midnight sun came closer and closer these sunsets lasted for hours and we were skiing underneath beautiful red skis.
We had amazing nights skiing under the midnight sun on sea ice. 
Days being weather stuck in the tent, playing cards while the storm outside sounded like the world was ending. 
But most of all the most memorable thing on the trip was not an event but rather the team. We played along the whole trip so perfectly that it was almost unrealistic. Thanks to an amazing team we were able to enjoy every single day creating core memories 40 days in a row. I believe this is really rare. 
For me the whole trip was a memorable event. Facing challenges, exploring my physical and psychological limits in this way taught me a lot about myself and my life. I learned the most valuable lessons on this trip that will probably change the way I think forever. 

What are your plans for the future?

As soon as we have our premiere, which will happen on the 6th of November in Munich, I will start preparing my next projects. There is still a lot to do, and I believe there are many trips that people would love to watch on a big movie screen. After all, it is a brilliant way to showcase nature’s demands to an audience who also cares for nature. 
My biggest goal is actually to cross Antarctica and make a movie out of the trip. Unfortunately, an Antarctic crossing is extremely expensive, so I probably need ten times more sponsors than on the Spitsbergen crossing. But I’m optimistic that at one point we’ll find a company that shares our passion and would love to be part of such an expedition. Of course, this is nothing comparable to what we did with this project as this would require more planning and training but with the right team anything is possible. 
And if it takes too much time to finance an Antarctic crossing, there are still other destinations like Greenland and others. 
My lifetime goal for the future is to professionally go on expeditions, explore the world and show it to people.