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HE'S A GLACIER KIND OF GUY; ICE-COOL WELSHMAN MIKE SKIS EUROPE'S LONGEST ICE RIVER.

Byline: KIRSTIE McCRUM

kirstie.mccrum@walesonline.co.uk A DAREDEVIL Welshman has completed a death-defying ski across one of the most dangerous glaciers in Norway. Mike Emery, from Llanmaes in the Vale of Glamorgan, has become a member of a small group of adventurers to have successfully tackled the Jostedals Glacier - regarded as a rite of passage in Norway.

The ice river is the longest glacier in continental Europe, stretching for nearly 70km and across the west of the Scandinavian country.

It connects Norway's highest peaks with its fjords and is a maze of crevasses, 2,000m peaks and windcarved holes that appear out of nowhere and drop 100ft.

Mike, who moved to Norway a year ago with his Norwegian wife Marie Lovise who he met when the pair attended Atlantic College in Llantwit Major, says that the opportunity came about thanks to his father-in-law Jan Paulen.

"My goal was to earn the respect of my wife's family and every Norwegian I would meet in the future," the 30-year-old said.

"We have the sort of relationship, my father-in-law, Jan and I, where if one of us suggests something, it ends up happening because neither of us like chickening out."

When Jan asked Mike to go up the glacier with him, he was concerned.

"Skiing the Jostedalsbreen entails a three-day trip on cross-country skies, carrying 25kg on your back and it means sleeping for two nights on the ice," he explains.

After years of cross-country skiing with Marie Lovise's family, Jan said that Mike, who works as the director of fundraising for children's charity Right To Play in Scandinavia, was ready to make the trip.

"On the first morning I woke to -10[bar]C and a stiff back from a night in a tent sandwiched between two snoring Norwegian men. We got up and melted some snow for water, ate some breakfast for energy, and then emerged to a snowstorm," he said.

As part of a group of around 40, the guides were keen to point out the importance of two points: staying well-fed and avoiding avalanches.

"On our first day we were 400m above sea level when, five minutes into our ascent, an avalanche roared down the opposite side of the valley stopping short of us by about 300m. It took everyone by surprise. I realised then that if an avalanche happened, we were sitting ducks."

Visibility on Mike's trip ranged from 5m to 60m, with a steady -10[bar]C temperature.

"The day became about skiing, eating, drinking, warming up my fingers, ignoring my cold toes and hoping I didn't get a blister."

The risk of tumbling into a crevasse, up an incline called Lodalsbreen, was so severe that the team roped up to stay together for their four-hour ascent.

"On the second day, the sun came out, but every horizon we reached led to another ridge. I learned on the trip that Norwegians have an amazing way of acting like everything is easy even if they find it hard," Mike laughs.

When the group reached the highest part of the ski trip, H[degrees]gstebrekullen, Mike brought out the Welsh flag for a victorious picture opportunity which has sealed his place with his Norwegian family.

"Moving to a new country should be an adventure. Skiing Jostedalsbreen in Norway was certainly an adventure and the rewards of being able to look across the country from one of the most incredible natural features made the effort of getting up there worth it.

"The challenge tested my will power to the limit, but the world I saw on top of the glacier was undoubtedly worth the trauma."

CAPTION(S):

Left, friend Lasse, Mike Emery and Mike's father-in-law, Jan Mike Emery on Europe''s longest glacier, Jostedals, in Norway
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EXNO
Date:Jul 8, 2012
Words:627
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