Christian Edelstam is the best kind of mountain guide—one with a constant smile on his face.
by Malin Eurenius
Based in the town of Abisko in Sweden’s far north, as far from anywhere as you can get, Christian Edelstam’s work as a mountain guide takes him all over the world. Having skied for as long as he can remember and climbed for three decades, nowadays he runs his own international guiding company—yet still loves the solitude and wilderness of northern Scandinavia. During winter he focuses on ski touring, off-piste skiing and ice climbing, while in summer he gives classes in alpine climbing, rock climbing and glacier travel. Work takes him to locations in Scandinavia, the Alps, Spain, Greenland and Japan.
We meet up with Christian in Abisko on a cold day in March. Just returned from a few weeks guiding in the Alps, he’s happy to be on home turf again.
“I love the Scandinavian mountains, there’s something about their remoteness,” he says. “That sense of freedom you get when no one else is there to steal your fresh snow or climbing route, the constant change of light—from the aurora borealis to the midnight sun. Not to mention that late-spring skiing deep into the night overlaps with the start of climbing season, so it’s a great place to share with adventurous guests.”
“That sense of freedom you get when no one else is there to steal your fresh snow.”
The sky is blue and the air frosty as Christian and Karin Eknor—both members of the Tierra Test Team—prepare to climb the icefall “Lillpakte” near Abisko. Such mid-winter climbing missions are nothing new. Although he grew up in Stockholm, he spent a few ski seasons in the Alps during the early 1990s before climbing took over. Since then, Christian has mixed his climbing exploits in the Alps, Scandinavia and other parts of the world with expeditions to the higher peaks of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Alaska, Ecuador and Peru.
Despite so many expeditions, he still thinks back to his first great adventure in 1997, when he crossed the Greenland icecap in 53 days—a distance of 920 km that included a climb to Greenland’s highest summit. It was a big test that delivered equal reward.
“I was homesick a lot but also experienced the strongest sensation of ‘adventure happiness’ I’ve ever felt,” he says. “Nothing since has come close to the same boost of self-confidence—either mentally or physically.”
“I was homesick a lot but also experienced the strongest sensation of ‘adventure happiness’ I’ve ever felt.”
Christian was first introduced to Tierra when he began working in the brand’s Stockholm store in the mid-1990s. Ever since, Tierra has sponsored many of his expeditions, while he has employed Tierra clothes in his work at the Kebnekaise and Abisko mountain lodges, as well as with Swedish Mountain Rescue. No surprise, then, that Christian has been a member of the Tierra Test Team since its inauguration in 2006. “I almost don’t possess any other clothes and can’t really picture myself in anything but Tierra,” he says. “The testing feels meaningful because it’s obvious our feedback is listened to. We’re not just here for show, so I’m a proud Test Team member and Tierra ambassador.”
“I almost don’t possess any other clothes and can’t really picture myself in anything but Tierra.”
It’s impossible not to be impressed by the humility Christian exudes despite his impressive breadth of experience, and his positive outlook makes it easy to understand why he’s succeeded with his expeditions. It must be that constant smile on his face—the reason why his guests, too, are always smiling.