On top of Mt. Everest

2017 East Greenland Kite Expedition

What is it like to undertake a journey that has never been attempted by anyone, ever?

The journey ahead

This is precisely what one of our founders, Leifur Örn Svavarsson, travelling with Hallgrímur Magnusson, Einar Stefansson, Tomas Juliusson and Skuli Magnusson, a group of elite Icelandic mountaineers that will undertake a journey through East Greenland, traversing east Greenland via the Greenland Ice Cap in a southerly direction for a total 1200km over a period of approximately 40 days. The planning for this trip has taken months; months of logistical organisation, meal planning, gear preparation and route plotting.  This isn’t just an adventure, it’s an expedition.

After arriving in Akureyri, north Iceland on Thursday April 27th and a short press conference, the team will leave for Constable Point in Scoresby Bay. The group’s first task upon landing and picking up the equipment will be traversing the ice fields at the bottom of Scorsby Sound, the world’s largest fjord system, the deepest of which reaching 216km from shoreline to inland. This will ultimately give the team access to the Greenland Ice Cap, where the majority of their journey will be undertaken.

The Proposed route through east Greenland
The proposed route through east Greenland
Sleeping in for the night on the Greenland Ice Cap
Camping in for the night with a snow wall

The going

How will they find their way across the ice in order to access the ice cap? As is common in modern expedition practices, the group has sought the guidance of expert local Greenlandic dog sledders that will be able to lead them across the ice onto access point for the Ice Cap. The team will have a boat in case the ice is too thin to support the traverse. This stage of the journey could take 2 to 5 days.

Kite-assisted skiing


The uncertainties of the expedition life

What will the exact route be? Where precisely will they access the glacier? What will their access point be? Although a tremendous amount of planning goes into an expedition such as this, many of these details are not known. Local weather conditions by the day will dictate exactly where the Ice Cap can be accessed.  These are the types of uncertainties that the expedition encounters,  and many kinds of allowances need to be accounted for, primarily with regard to food supplies; if the weather turns for the worst, it is often necessary for the team to sit and wait for the weather to improve, rather than turn around. Sometimes, it it necessary to wait up to a week in the same spot. The team will be travelling with 40 days of food to allow for this, which could be stretched to 50 if needed.

Making tracks with the Nordic Skis
Making tracks with the Nordic Skis across the Greenland Ice Cap on a previous expedition.

After having traversed Scorsby Sound, the team will need to complete a 1500m ascent to reach the Greenland Ice Cap, 500km of additional mountain passes will need to be traversed before reaching the plateau of the Ice Cap, also heading for Greenland’s highest mountain, Gunnbjorns fjell (3694m).

Once on the Ice Cap, the group will travel by Nordic skis, with pulkas behind them holding all of the equipment and supplies. For extra propulsion, they will be travelling kite-assisted, using the wind to pull them along. This will allow the group to travel greater distances while expending less energy. Where the team would regularly be able to travel 20km by cross country ski alone, they will be able to travel up to 70km per day with the kites in good weather. Each team member will have 4, closed-cell kites with a maximum surface area of 18, strung with up to 80 meter lines, to catch the high wind streams above the Ice Cap.

A kettle in a tent on a previous expedition
The expedition life: a kettle

The team will come down off the Ice Cap near the Schweizerland Alps and Mount Forel (3389m) whose South Face necessitates some technical climbing. From ‘Schweizerland’, the expedition is to be taken to its terminus, the small hunters village Isortoq, South of Ammassalik Island and then Kulusuk, whereupon they will fly back home to Iceland.

How about some first ascents along the way to top it all off?

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the team will, when they “need a break” (Leifur’s words) stop their regular expeditioning and attempt to summit the peaks that they see along the way. Many of these peaks will have never been trodden by man, making them first ascents.

Air Greenland for the Kite expedition
Flying in to the start point

We wish you the best!

For Leifur, and indeed for the rest of the team, this is the latest expedition in a lifetime of adventure, with Leifur himself having reached the seven continental summits and both the North and South poles, completing the Adventurer’s Grand Slam. There are two other Everest summits on the team and countless other expeditions and adventures, lifetimes of mountaineering experience.

We at Greenland Adventures and Icelandic Mountain Guides are immensely proud of him, his vision, achievements and successes. As he continues to push the boundaries of what it means to explore vast, unknown territories, and tread where no one had trodden before. With warm hearts, we wish Leifur and the rest of the team the very best on the next chapter of a very adventure-filled life.