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.


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.


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.


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.


The pulkas are heavy in the beginning


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


Ready for take off


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

Mt. Gunnbjörn 2016 expedition comes to a successful end

The team landed safely in Akureyri yesterday (4th of June) where they then staid one night before continuing to Reykjavík. There the expedition started officially and that´s where it ended. Yet another successful Mt. Gunnbjörn expedition in the bag for Icelandic Mountain Guides.

Like before we collaborated with Norlandair, the experts in getting us to the Watkins mountains area and back safely. This time we also collaborated with our friends at Adventure Consultants. Thanks to both for a fruitful cooperation.

Even thought the team got to Greenland one day later than planned, they came back to Iceland one day ahead of schedule, mission accomplished fast but safely.

You can find plenty of photos and info in previous post but let´s take a look at some more photos Ívar brought back …

There was a lot of new snow and the plane sank in quite a bit. They actually had to “dig it out”, get some snow out of the way before the pilots could move it again and start the takeoff process. The landing site was at 2215m.


This photos was shot the last day when they were almost down to the landing site, looking back towards the summit. We can see their tracks there and Mt. Gunnbjörn is right in the centre of the photo.


After landing, the team moved higher up the valley, about 3,4km away from the landing site at 2415m and set up a camp.


Mt. Gunnbjörn highest peak of the Arctic (3694m).


Ívar looks back and snaps this photo of Simon, Travyn and Thomas when they were on the way up towards the mountain. The distance to the summit from the camp was about 6km. They started out from camp at 10:30 GMT and stood at the top around 16:30. GMT.


The track is well visible on the ridge leading  towards the summit.


A selfie on the summit of the highest peak in the Arctic.
They said the views were amazing and countless peaks around. This photo proves that.


At base camp, looking down towards the landing site. After the summit was in the bag, they staid one more night in the camp.

For those who are interested in the Mt. Gunnbjörn 2017 Expedition, please check out IMG’s website for further information. After doing Vinson, the highest peak in the Antarctic, Mt. Gunnbjörn is a logical next step 🙂

In the air…

Now we know that the ski-plane landed safely 12:38 GMT today, close to were the Mt. Gunnbjörn team was waiting.

Takeoff was at 13:08 GMT. We haven’t heard yet if it happened in first attempt or if they needed more tries to succeed.

But the main thing is that they are on their way and all is good.

They will stay one night in Akureyri and the fly back to Reykjavík in the morning.


And the ski-plane arrived.


This one is shot out the window of the plane during takeoff. There we see Mt. Gunnbjörn, right in the centre of the photo.


Flying high above, awesome views.


Countless peaks, falling glaciers and ice fields.

Flying back to sunny Iceland from sunny Greenland

Right now (10 o´clock) the ski-plane is about to depart from Akureyri to pick the Mt. Gunnbjörn team up and bring them back to Iceland. Ívar has called in and talked to the pilot, assured him that conditions are ok. Well, the snow is still heavy and when the team and the gear is in the plane, it´s heavier than when it was trying to take off last time. But we are lucky to be cooperating with Norlandair and their crew of true expert staff and pilots that know the area well and have done countless landings and take-offs there in all conditions.


The team on the way to the landing site. Just about to be picked up.


The weather is good and all looks fine for a landing around or soon after 13:00 today. It makes things easier to have people on the ground to tell us how the weather is, tell us if the clouds are likely to be teasing us. It´s different on the way out when we only have the forecasts, computer models to tell us how it most likely is.


Waiting for the plane to land. Plenty of everything so no reason to get bored or hungry.


The waiting for the plane won´t be too much of a torture for the team since it´s warm and the sun is shining. Ívar told us actually that he´s wearing a T-shirt, working on his tan I guess 🙂 The sun will stay with them cause here in Reykjavík, Iceland we have exceptionally good weather now and the sun is shining bright. A warm welcome is waiting them.


In the Arctic… but it’s warm in the area right now.


We wish the team a pleasant flight back to Iceland.

On the summit!

Ívar just called us from the summit of Mt. Gunnbjörn. The weather was good and no real reason not to go for the summit today. And that´s what they did. At 16:30 (GMT), 03.06.2016, the four of the stood on the summit. Congratulations! But they still have to get down and we hope for a phone call or a message after they reach camp tonight.

Simon Gower, Thomas Rhall and Travyn Rhall along with the expedition leader Ívar Finnbogason (behind the camera) made it to the summit of Mt. Gunnbjörn on the 3rd of June, 2016. They have now all been to the highest summits of both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Congratulations!


Ívar Finnbogason, expedition leader, standing on the top of Mt. Gunnbjörn for the second time.

Since the goal has been reached, we will see if it´s possible to pick the up already tomorrow. If that will be the case, they then have finished what they came for in just three days.

Like we mentioned before, it took the ski-plane many attempts to take off after the team was dropped off. The reason being wet and heavy snow. Ívar told us that last night it was warm, sleet and quite windy. So probably the conditions haven´t gotten any better.

We are in contact with the pilot an we will make a decision early tomorrow morning if it´s a go or no-go.

More info soon.

Earlier today when the team was leaving the camp, heading towards their goal.

A phone call from the Watkins mountains

Ívar, the Mt. Gunnbjörn expedition leader, called us tonight briefly. He told us that it´s a bit hard to drag the pulkas cause of how the snow is. But they have now moved away from the landing site and closer to the mountain. He told us that the ski-plane also had some difficulties taking off. It took few attempts.

It was a bit windy today but according to the forecasts, the wind shouldn´t be a problem the next few days. We of course hope that will be the case indeed. Ívar told us that they will probably be aiming at Saturday as a summit day.

We will post more news as they come in.

Touch down on the glacier

Great news! Our Mt. Gunnbjörn team has managed to land in the Watkins mountains area where Mt. Gunnbjörn is located.

The plan was to fly to Greenland yesterday (1st of June), but since the weather conditions in the landing area were not good enough, the flight was postponed till today. A new departure time was decided 07:00 this morning. It was not 100% sure if they would be able to land but today looked like the best day according to weather forecast, out of the next three days. So we gave it a go.

All went well obviously cause the ski-plane touched down at 11:21 this morning. We don´t yet know exactly how the weather was but good enough for a successful landing at least and that´s all we need to know right now.

Now we wait for some news about how things are going. We are confident that the team will do well and manage to summit on Mt. Gunnbjörn in the next few days.

Ívar sent us some photos while still having mobile coverage. Please take a look…


Next stop after Akureyri was Ísafjörður. The shortest distance to the landing site is from there. Here we see the ski-plane being filled up with fuel.


Inside the ski-plane. Lot´s of gear of course.


The view soon after takeoff from Ísafjörður.


Here is an old one. It shows similar ski-plane and Mt. Gunnbjörn to the far left.


The Mt. Gunnbjörn 2016 team off to Greenland

The Mt. Gunnbjörn 2016 expedition has begun. Early this morning, the team flew off to Akureyri in the north of Iceland. There they will board the ski-plane that takes them to the Watkins Mountain area in Greenland after a brief stop for more fuel in Ísafjörður, a small town in the west fjords of Iceland.

Mt. Gunnbjörn is Greenland’s highest mountain. It´s also the highest peak located north of the Arctic Circle. Therefore it does not just hold the title of being the highest peak in Greenland but is also the highest peak of the Arctic (3694m).

The expedition leader Ívar Finnbogason is one of IMG’s most experienced guides and with him are Simon, Travyn and Thomas, all three from Australia. They are scheduled back to Iceland on the 5th of June if weather and conditions allow.


The Mt. Gunnbjörn team ready to depart from Reykjavík domestic airport. From left: Thomas, Travyn, Ívar and Simon.

It´s a short expedition but still we will post here information they manage to send us while out there. The weather in the area looks good for the next few days. The ski-plane needs very good visibility to land and the only question at this point is weather they manage to fly from Iceland today, and land, or if they need to wait until tomorrow.

We´ll keep you posted.