Greenland Crossing 2016 – post expedition summary

Icelandic Mountain Guides (IMG) finished their 10th crossing of the Greenland ice cap in May 2016. This time, Maxime Poncet was the expedition leader of a five person team. The crossing went very well in general. The weather was good most of the time and they were able to move on every single day. The team was strong and no major problems came up with health or other issues.

With Maxime were Calvin Shields, Gareth Owain Andrews, John Willis and Matthew Burnell.

 

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Maxime Poncet, the Greenland Crossing 2016 expedition leader

 

As usual, the most challenging part of the route were the last three days when they traveled through the ice fall on the West side. Mid May it´s getting warmer and a lot of melting is going on. This was no exception and the team had to battle through uneven terrain, navigate through fields of water pools and cross streams of flowing water.

IMG has always crossed from the East to West, same direction Fridtjov Nansen chose when he became the first one to cross in 1888. IMG starts from either Isortoq or Hahn glacier and exits the ice cap at Point 660 near Kangerlussuaq.

Now let´s learn a little bit more about the expedition and take a look at some of the photos taken during the expedition.

 

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The route a cross the ice cap

 

Maxime and his team originally flew from Iceland to Greenland on the 19th of April. After two days of preparation in Tasiilaq, they were flown up to Hahn glacier on the 21st of April and came off the ice very early on the 15th of May. That makes the total length of the expedition 31 days including the departure and arrival date, there of 24 days spent on the ice cap it self. Total distance covered is about 540km.

 

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The pulkas made ready

 

Preparing for a long expedition is a lot of work. Whole lot of gear was sent over to Greenland from Iceland some days before the team arrived. They then of course brought even more with them. When it all had come together, plus even more that was picked up in Tasiilaq, it was all organized and weighed.

 

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The pulkas are heavy in the beginning

 

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When all of the gear was sorted out, the team was flown up to Hahn glacier

 

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Ready for take off

 

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The team was dropped off on Hahn glacier

 

The first days after the team started skiing it was very warm, making the conditions sub-optimal. The progress in the beginning was rather slow. When the snow is wet, it´s harder to ski and drag the heavy load.

But it came colder and after that they picked up more speed. They managed to cover more than 20 km each day.  It actually came a lot colder. At camp 12 the temperature went down to -35°C during the night, very cold in the day also. The wind was also blowing a bit making them feel the cold even more. Extreme weather is something to be expected on an expedition like this.

 

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Happy team members inside one of the tents

 

During the whole expediton the physical condition of the team was overall good. Some blisters but nothing serious. That was all.

When asked how their daily routine was, Maxime told us that they started every day at 8:30 and stopped skiing at between five and six. It took them about 40 minutes to build a wall to protect them from the wind and then they pitched the tents. At ten o’clock usually everyone was asleep.

 

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High walls have to be built around the tents to protect them from the strong winds

 

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In the morning the camp looks a bit different than the evening before. If the wind was strong, part of the wall might have fallen down and snow sometimes builds up around the tents

 

They reached their highest point on the ice cap on the 5th of May and put up camp 15 at 2480m. From there it took them four days to reach the DYE II radar station. Since the highest point on the route had been reached, from there on they would be skiing a bit downwards. That meant more kilometers covered each day and less effort into skiing and dragging the load.

 

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The abandoned DYE 2 radar station

 

DYE II, the bizarre remnants of a cold war radar station is out there on the ice cap. There were 4 cold war radar stations across Greenland, two of them on the ice cap DYE 2 and DYE 3. Those were abandoned in 1988 in 72 hours and almost everything left behind. Inside the strange dome you will find a fully equipped kitchen and other remnants of the necessities for daily life. Time will erase all of this and one day ski explorers will simply ski past without even noticing, since the structures are slowly sinking into the ice.

 

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Past the radar station, now heading towards the end of the the route

 

The excitement was building up as the team go closer to the end of their journey. The last part, the ice fall, is usually the trickiest one. Navigating through can be a tough feat since you constantly need to change course in order to find the best way out of this labyrinth that the cracks and ridges of the ice have formed. Temperature was high the last few days before so there was a lot of flowing water to tackle.

 

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The ice fall is a labyrinth of  crevasses and ridges.

 

And the ice fall proved to be really tricky with crevasses and cauldrons and it was slushy and wet. They did not ski at all the last day but dragging the pulkas along, wearing their boots and crampons. Needless to say they were very tired after working for 24hours. They just wanted it so badly to finish this so they kept on going and didn´t stop until they came off the ice and reached Point 660, early morning of the 15th of May.

 

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The team had to cross streams of water and travel over slushy snow/ice and big ponds of water in some places

 

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Finally they could see Point 660 that is by the terminus of the ice cap

 

Later in the morning, they were picked up by people from Old Camp, a guest house in Kangerlussuaq. There they spent two nights and after sorting out the cargo being sent back to Iceland they flew over to Nuuk, the capital and the largest town of Greenland. After one night in Nuuk they flew back to Reykjavík Iceland where the expedition officially ended.

The team was greeted by Björgvin (IMG‘s expeditions operation manager and a guide) and Einar Torfi (one of IMG‘s owners and a guide) on the airport. To celebrate the end of a successful crossing they opened up a bottle of sparkling wine and made a toast when back at the guesthouse. After that the group headed for a goodbye dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant.

 

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The GC 2016 team celebrating a successful crossing

 

It´s was great to see how happy the team was after this long and challenging trip. Also to see how well all the expedition members seem to have gotten a long and have been able to function well together. A strong and competent team like this makes the experience more enjoyable for all and most important, memorable.

Calvin, Gareth, John and Matthew, thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again one day. Maxime (EL), many thanks for an excellent job, we here at IMG expeditions really appreciate your expertise and deep knowledge and experience.

 

– bh

End of a successful Greenland ice cap crossing

In the morning of the 15th of May, the team was picked up from Point 660 and driven down to Kangerlussuaq. There they spent two nights and after sorting out the cargo being sent back to Iceland they flew over to Nuuk, the capital and the largest town of Greenland. After one night there they flew back to Reykjavík Iceland where the expedition officially ended.

The team originally flew from Iceland to Greenland on the 19th of April. They were flown up to Hahn glacier on the 21st. of April and came off the ice very early on the 15th. That makes the total length of the expedition 31 days including the departure and arrival date, there of 24 days spent on the ice cap it self.

The team was greeted by Björgvin (IMG‘s expeditions operation manager and a guide) and Einar Torfi (one of IMG‘s owners and a guide) on the airport. To celebrate the end of a successful crossing they opened up a bottle of sparkling wine and made a toast when back at the guesthouse. After that the group headed for a goodbye dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant.

It´s was great to see how happy the team was after this long and challenging trip. Also to see how well all the expedition members seem to have gotten a long and have been able to function well together. A strong and competent team like this makes the experience more enjoyable for all and most important, memorable.

Calvin, Gareth, John and Matthew, thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again one day. Maxime (EL), many thanks for an excellent job, we here at IMG expeditions really appreciate your expertise and deep knowledge and experience.

 

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The GC 2016 team celebrating a successful crossing

Arrival at Point 660

Yesterday was a tough day for the team but they succeeded in reaching their goal for the day the fabled Point 660, which they have been aiming for all along, thereby completing the traverse of the Greenland Ice Cap from east to west. Congratulations!

Maxime the EL, called us last night and confirmed that they would continue into the early hours of today in order to reach Point 660, estimating arrival there around 1.00 am. He said that the ice fall was proving to be really tricky with crevasses and cauldrons to navigate through and the slushy and wet conditions had not been favorable. The team was not skiing at all yesterday but dragging the, by now lightweight pulkas along, wearing their boots and crampons. Needless to say they must all have been very tired, yet elated on reaching Point 660.  Let´s hope they all enjoyed a good night´s sleep off the ice.

Happy crossing to all the team members!

Going through the Ice fall

Maxime just called and reported that the team was on the edge of the ice fall and would spend the day getting tackling its obstacles. Last night they camped at the edge of the ice fall and spent, hopefully their last night on the ice. If they complete the navigation through the ice fall they will set up camp on Point 660, a small and barren hill at the edge of the ice. Weather is not bothering them too much today, even though they would appreciate slightly lower temperatures.

Navigating through the ice fall can be a tough feat since you constantly need to change course in order to find the best way out of this labirynth that the cracks and ridges of the ice have formed. Temperature has been high the last few days so there might be some water to tackle with as well. We wish the team all the luck with getting through the ice fall and look forward to hear how they dealt with this last obstacle of the expedition. We will of course report as soon as the team has come off the ice.

Getting closer to Point 660

This morning the team is 89 km from Point 660 and if all goes according to plan they will stand on Terra firma on Saturday evening. They have been doing great in the last 2 days, covering 30 km despite difficult conditions, wind and wet snow. There has also been some rain making their lives even more difficult and views have been limited due to fog.

Their prayers, and ours as well, for a drop in temperatures have gone unnoticed up until now but their spirits are still high and they are far from moaning at all. Yesterday they met 2 groups coming up from Point 660 so they have recent news of the conditions of the ice fall. A minor cold has been bothering Gareth but he is getting better. They will continue today in less wind and if the forecast is correct they will have no rain either and hopefully some views since the peaks leading up to the ice cap should be within view those last few days.

We send our good thoughts to Maxime and his team hoping for some great last days on the ice and can not wait to hear how they tackle the ice fall.

The team reaches the radar station DYE 2

Yesterday morning we got a message from Maxime and were relieved to hear that all had gone according to plan despite the storm on Sunday. True, this was a long day and conditions difficult but skiing from 08.30 in the morning to 7 o´clock in the evening did the trick and they reached DYE 2, the bizarre remnants of a cold war radar station out there on the ice cap.

There were 4 cold war radar Stations across Greenland, two of them on the ice cap DYE 2 and DYE 3. Those were abandoned in 1988 in 72 hours and almost everything left behind. Inside the strange dome you will find a fully equipped kitchen and other remnants of the necessities for daily life. Time will erase all of this and one day ski explorers will simply ski past without even noticing, since the structures are slowly sinking into the ice.

Luckily the wind is slowing down and Maxime and his group continue today heading for the Point 660 enjoying the stable conditions of the ice cap before the real ordeal starts, finding a way through the labyrinth of the ice fall

Yesterday the team covered 35 kilometers despite strong winds from the south. After yet another windy night, this morning it is still quite windy but they are intent on continuing. Weather forecasts show that the wind will lessen somewhat today so hopefully the team can enjoy the last days on this immense ice cap in relative calm.

30km away from DYE II radar station

We received a phone call from Maxime tonight (Saturday, 7th of May) at camp 17, now only 30km away from DYE II radar station. The last three days have been going really well, they´ve been covering over 30km each day. So they will hopefully reach the station tomorrow.

Maxime aims at reaching Point 660 in 7 days. But let´s see about that. The fact is that the last part on the western side is extremely wet according to people in Kangerlussuaq and the water might slow them down. They have also had this confirmed by two Norwegian teams they recently met that started their crossings on the west side. They also saw a flock of geese flying over yesterday but did´t manage to get any useful information out of them 🙂

If they reach Point 660 in 7 days, they will be there on the 14th of May. If this goes as planned, they would like to do the awesome two day hike from Point 660 (the western edge of the glacier) and down to Kangerlussuaq village.

So far the weather has not been too problematic. But now this coming Sunday and Monday the wind is picking up quite a lot, blowing from the south, not really calming down until late Monday or Tuesday. It´s also getting warmer and it continues to be warm, not exactly what we hoped for since there is already a lot of melting happening on the western side.

So there might be challenging times ahead and challenges is something that is to be expected on an expedition like this one. The good thing is that the team is strong, everyone feeling good and healthy and spirits are high.

Highest point of the route

Maxime brought us good news yesterday, they have reached the highest point of the route.

“We slept at the top of the ridge 2480m.  On the way to dye2. should take us 4 days.” So from now on they will be going a bit downwards.

We will try to get more info from them on conditions in the area. The weather has been stable lately and we hope it will stay like that.

 

Much colder than before and a bit windy today

We got a message from Maxime and the team this morning, now just about to leave camp 12 (at 2345m altitude). After the first warm days, it´s getting way colder. Maxime tells us that it is now “-28°C at 7 am. -35°C yesterday night. A bit windy 12m/s. it s going to be pretty cold today.” But all is OK and pretty extreme weather something to be expected. Now it´s cold but in general the weather is stable.

The condition of the team is overall good even though some have blisters, “but nothing bad” Maxime assures us.

We will  stay in touch with the team and report about how they are doing but because of how cold it is at the moment, they can’t stop for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time during the day. So we can´t expect them to be texting that much, mainly in the night after they have set up the camp.

Here is a short description of how their daily life goes: “We start every day at 8h30 AM and stop at around 17h30/18h. take 40 min. to build the wall and then we pitch our tents. At ten o’clock everybody is asleep. Max”

More later…

At camp 9 and conditions improving

Maxime sent us a message last night. They are at camp 9 and did 25km yesterday and 20km the day before that. So they are picking up speed and overall doing pretty well. Its been very warm lately but now it looks like it’s getting colder and the conditions for skiing and dragging the supplies should get better.

It was a bit windy yesterday 12m/s) and it was snowing. The forecast for the next few days looks good. It’s still going to be colder than the last few days, some precipitation but only light winds from the North. Let’s hope that will be the case.

“I think we will reach the highest point in 3 days” Maxime said. Now at camp 9 they are at 1977m.

More news from the team coming up very soon.