Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Longest Ride

Wings Over Greenland II is the longest expedition on skis in full autonomy ever - as of today, 03/09/2014, and to the best of our knowledge.

During our circumnavigation of the Greenland icecap we covered a total of 5067 km!

5067 km. The longest ride ever. Wings Over Greenland II, 2014, Michael
Charavin and Cornelius Strohm. Start and end at sea level in Qaleraligd
Fjord, close to Narsaq. Click to enlarge.

Just enough to beat the previous record of 5013 km established by Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour  in their  attempt to circumnavigate East Antarctica with the "Antarctic Ice Expedition" in 2011-12.

5013 km. Antarctic Ice 2011-12, Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour. Points
were taken from the book "Beyond the challenge". Not all intermediate
positions were reported. Start and end: drop-off and pick-up on the icecap
by airplane. Click to enlarge.

Which had exceeded the former longest ski trip of 4804 km by Rune Gjeldnes on his "Join! expedition" in 2005-06.

4804 km. Join! expedition 2005-06, Rune Gjeldnes. Points were taken
from the book "Beyond the poles". Start: Novolazarevskaya Station in
Queen Maud Land, end at sea level in Terra Nova Bay in Victoria Land.
Click to enlarge.

We are excited to see what will come next! There is still a little room for more in Greenland, and a look at the map of Antarctica allows one to dream of distances beyond 7000 km! If someone has the necessary ideas, courage, and legs strong enough to set out and complete Dixies original plan...

Distances, as given by the expeditions. In our case: as calculated by the Garmin Foretrex 301, including start, landfall, camps and arrival.

Books:

"Beyond The Poles" by Rune Gjeldnes
ISBN 978-82-995661-4-8
The book can be ordered from Runes website: Rune Gjeldnes, Adventurer and Lecturer

"Beyond The Challenge" by Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour
ISBN 978-94-6161-052-2
The book is available through amazon.com

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Photo Gallery and Video Trailer

We now have a photo gallery online!

Wings Over Greenland II Gallery

Mika is still in Iceland for work, and with him basically all of the video footage. Until he is back, and the time to edit a full length video, a short trailer made from a few shaky sequences with one of the still- and one of the POV-cameras will have to do...



Friday, August 8, 2014

Temperatures

The inland ice of Greenland is definitely a cold place. And one of the first questions many people ask when talking about our expeditions is on how cold it actually was. Yet the answer is far from obvious. And even though we almost always carry a thermometer, we rarely ever have a look at it. And when we take a measurement, its often because the weather either feels remarkably cool or warm. But what about the average? The lowest temperature at night? The maximum temperature during daytime?

Wouldn't it be nice to have a continuous recording?

Cold chain surveillance


At first sight, there is a huge choice of temperature loggers available on the market. But a closer look immediately rules out most offers by the demands imposed by polar kiting expeditions:

- temperatures down to -40 degrees Celsius
- autonomy (memory and battery) of more than 2 months
- shock-proof
- small, lightweight package
- easy connectivity, preferably via USB port
- a data format allowing simple extraction of the data for further treatment and presentation
- resolution better than 1 degree Celsius
- affordable price

To my surprise, there is one industrial application meeting exactly all the above specifications: temperature loggers for cold chain surveillance of frozen food and medicals. After some research on the web, I settled on the 3M TL30 (manufacturers website) and bought two units for a test during Wings Over Greenland II.

We had two 3M TL30 temperature loggers. Originally they are intended for
cold chain surveillance. They are small, lightweight (30 g)have an autonomy
of up to one year and are  not afraid of cold temperatures. We protected them
in plastic bags against  moisture and white (spectacle) pouches from
absorption of sunlight.
In order to avoid malfunction due to condensation or accidental immersion (sea ice, surface melt puddles) the units were sealed in tiny plastic zip-lock bags. Professional outside thermometers have sophisticated ventilated white housings to avoid absorption of direct sunlight. As a first approximation, I packed our loggers in small, white spectacle pouches, that I found at the french  sport store "Decathlon".

How and where to measure?


As with every new device, it takes some time to figure out how to use it, and in this case also to define some routine. And so, the units sadly spent the first part of the trip waiting  inside an electronics bag, that rarely ever left the sled. In the meanwhile we observed, that the pulks and our new yellow/red tent heated up considerably during daytime and got interested in temperatures again. Only then did I decide the units should be outside the pulks during progression, and one outside and one inside the tent at the camps respectively. From camp 16 on, unit 1 was placed outside the tent, and from camp 20 on, unit 2 inside the inner tent pocket close to the entrance. During progression both were attached to a small backpack that I always wore to carry a few fragile things. 


At the camps, logger number 1 left outside, close to the tent entrance. It
was covered with a few centimetres of snow to avoid direct illumination.

At the camps, logger number 2 was stowed away inside one of the tent
pockets in order to get an estimation of the inside temperature. It would
have been better to suspend it somewhere in the middle, to  avoid direct
heating through the tent wall when the sun was on this side of the tent.

During progression both loggers were attached to my backpack. Next time
I would avoid attaching them to a black surface.

These were practical choices and all three locations have their shortcomings:

The backpack is black and tends to heat up, at least when its not exposed to the wind. This becomes particularly apparent in little marked spikes in the outside temperature, just before sensor 1 was put onto the snow during camp. But also during the days there are spikes that are too sharp to be realistic. Its likely that at least the maximum temperatures are exaggerated.

Because of the wind, logger 1 was on the snow, attached to one of the tent pegs and covered with a few centimetres of snow at the camps. The snow surface temperature does not necessarily follow the air temperature.

The inside thermometer was always in the inner pocket close to the entrance. This may significantly exaggerate the reading depending on which side of the tent is exposed to the sun, and it would certainly have been more wise to suspend it somewhere in the middle of the tent. 

But once I realised all of these issues, we had already completed a substantial part of the trip, and I thought it better not to change protocol once more mid-way. 

I thought its worth sharing these experiences anyway.

How cold?


The following image shows the temperature trace of  the "outside" logger 1 for the entire expedition. The black vertical line delimits the first part, where the logger was still inside the pulk, from the time, when it was systematically placed outside next the tent entrance or attached to my backpack. The large relative shift in the data makes the problem directly apparent. 

The first striking observation are the large oscillations due to the diurnal variations of the temperature. The temperatures are strongly correlated with the height of the sun above the horizon. A closer look shows, that the average temperature is globally decreasing during the first half of the trip before rising again in the second half. This correlates well with the latitude, as the start and end of the trip was the southernmost point, and we reached the turning point at latitude 81 N on 19/05. At the same time, the diurnal variations appear to decrease while heading north and to slightly increase again on the way back south. The effect is however barely significant, as the days were still getting longer and cloud cover and the spikes in the data play an important role.

Temperature readings from logger number 1 (outside). Click to enlarge.

To make this a bit more visible, the next graph shows the evolution of the daily average temperatures, along with the minimum and maximum values. (The minima and maxima were determined using a moving average over 1 hour, in order to smooth out spikes.)

Average temperatures (black), along with the minima and maxima. Click to
enlarge.

We have passed two automatic weather stations on the icecap (Nasa-U: news "Sport meets Science" and Humboldt-Gl: news "Humboldt - turn right".). It will be interesting to compare the temperatures for these days, as soon as this years data from the weather stations becomes public (supposedly soon).

Cosy interior


The following graph shows the temperature inside the tent together with the outside temperature for one week starting on saturday 17/05. Its impressive how much the tent (Helsport Svalbard 5 Camp)  with its yellow and red tissue heats up in direct sunlight.

Temperature readings from both loggers for the week from  May 17. 
Click to enlarge.

The image below of our 'analog' freezer thermometer and Mika, taken at the very beginning of the trip shows, that sometimes it can get really hot inside (news "Sauna")!


The end of a polar myth: in direct sunlight, the temperatures inside the tent 
can rise far above zero.

Lessons learned


Temperature loggers for cold chain surveillance are a simple, way to document the conditions during a polar expedition. They are intrinsically robust, have a long battery life and are made for continuous use at low temperatures. It turns out, that getting correct temperature readings is anything but an easy task! It is worth to be carful with the packing and  and to think about the placement of the loggers. I would do it differently next time. Pulks, bags and tents heat up far above outside temperatures. Speaking of cold chain surveillance: it is far from safe to assume that the food is always below freezing temperatures during a polar expedition.

The software required to read the logger is only available for windows, and the battery is not user replaceable.

If you are interested in using this type of logger during an expedition, drop me a line, I would be glad to help and to share experience - properly done, learning from our mistakes, carrying loggers is certainly worth the effort!

Thanks to Florian for helping me out with a windows computer to read the data loggers - I do not own such a thing anymore.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Time to say thank you!

We would like to thank all of you, family, close friends, and people unknown to us, who have shown interest in our adventure, followed our blog, and left kind encouraging messages to the expedition. During the two months out on the ice, we enjoyed reading your messages, forwarded by Romain and Laurent, as much as trying to share a little of our daily routine.

Admittedly, being watched and followed by others catalyzed new energy, when we had to surpass ourselves. Completing the same trip entirely incognito and without news from the outside world would have been a totally different challenge, - much closer to what the great explorers have achieved about a century ago ...

If we simply managed to convey our dream and distill some taste of adventure through our daily updates, we may have been able to give a little something back to you. And we may have reached one of our goals, share the experience for what it actually really was: the desire to surpass ourselves, the selfish pleasure to achieve something unique. Thanks to all of you!

We were only the two of us out on the ice. But in the shadow (no relation with the dark side of the force...) a small team of close friends had formed spontaneously around the project to run the office, forward your messages to us, and to provide all kind of necessary and unnecessary information:

- Maestro Laurent Jégu, logisic coordinator and chief webmaster. Laurent is a guide heading a small travel agency in Iceland (www.aventuresenislande.fr). If you would like to visit Iceland, his agency is certainly a good place to start! He also accepted the huge job of translating the french (Mika) and english posts (Cornelius) posts on our two blogs. Bravo and thanks a lot!

- Romain Moissard, secretary of the Association Wings over Greenland, chief postmaster, second webmaster, and coordinator of the communication on Facebook for Mika. A solid pillar to rely on in all circumstances!

- Rémi Charavin, Facebook coordinator for Mika. How many 'likes' thanks to you? A pleasure that you joined the team! And first virtual footprints in Greenland! Maybe a stepping stone to leave real traces on greenlandic soil or snow one day?

- Sylvie Boileau, Mikas girlfriend, and agent 008. In charge to inform us on the progression of the 'competing' team of Dixie and Eric. We simply called them 'the Belgians' - who knows why? Maybe because Canada is a small country ;-)....? Sylvie even got up during the night to check the position of her favorite team!

- Thomas Roth, a really trustworthy friend of Cornelius. The 'map guy' reporting our daily position on various maps, and agent 009 in charge to get intelligence on the position of the spanish team around Ramon, the inventor of the polar ice vessel, an ingenious kite powered sled raft. They would be surprised to find out about all the fantastic facilities and luxury we imagined this vessel would feature. Maybe it will make an appearance in the 7th episode of Star Wars?

- Not to forget Marc De Keyser, our very sympathic meteorologic router. We had contracted him for this expedition through: www.weather4expeditions.com. He really cared! Excellent double agent (joke), as he also routed 'the belgians' (true). He daily provided detailed yet clear weather and aerologic informations, gave precious routing advice and had always an encouraging word or two for us! You did much more than only the contract and the professional duty. Without you, this huge trip really would have become looong. Thanks also to his colleague Fritz who took over from time to time! Thanks for everything!

Team Wings over Greenland, - our achievement is also yours. We really appreciated you being part of this adventure and gratefully acknowledge your participation!

This project was nearly entirely self-funded. As we were at the limit of what we were able to finance ourselves, we created the Association 'Wings over Greenland' to raise some additional funds.
Laurence & Luc, Hervé, Pascal "Golgoth", Jérôme, Francis, Corinne, Bernard & Jacqueline, Cécile & Pedro, Nolwenn & Pauline, Amélie, Mathiouse: sincere thanks for your support and your contribution! Your names are forever attached to this circumnavigation of the Inlandsis!


Many thanks to our three official partners for believing in this project and to have followed the adventure:

- Roger (SNOWSLED Polar ltd, www.snowsled.com), its for the second time, that we partner up for a big kite-ski trip. And it was once more an incredible journey without any problem for the 'ice blue pulks'. You probably don't even imagine, what we had them go through? We feel safe to say, that if they they survived what we made them suffer, they likely can take everything. Excellent job once more with this 'new' bigger 'expedition' version. Thanks for the reliability of your equipment, the excellent preparation of the rafting kit and the double hull system, and your implication in our project.

- Ramon and Ernst from Flysurfer Kiteboarding. Thanks for trusting us. We are fully aware of our very particular and specific use of the Speed 3 19 m2 and Speed 4 10 m2 kites. We know that most of your clients are different from us and look for something else in these kites. But we believe that every kiter is somehow fueled by the spirit of adventure and dreaming of performing his preferred sport in wild and remote locations. Being with us in this endeavour, Flysurfer now owns the 'designers- and manufacturers-record' for the longest kite - ski trip ever realized!

- Oliv et Joh from the french magazine 'Carnets d'Aventures', thanks for all your messages of encouragement. Thanks for following us closely, and for relaying the information on the 'expemag' website (www.expemag.com) and its Facebook page. See you soon back home in the French Alps!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Narsaq

We are still in Narsaq, a nice little village in southern Greenland featuring a natural harbour. The place is surrounded by fjords, islands, penninsulae and mountains. When we left at the end of winter, the landscape was wrapped in snow. What a surprise to find everything in vibrant green, when we came back here after two months on the ice.

When we left at the end of winter, the landscape was wrapped 
in snow.

What a surprise to find everything in vibrant green, 
when we came back here after two months on the ice
The people here do all they can to make our stay really pleasant. We had informed Jacky Simoud (Blue Ice Explorer: info@blueice.gl) about our expected date of arrival. All his boats were out this day, but he made sure there would be somebody who could pick us up. No later than half an hour after we had hauled the last bit of gear down the steep moraine in Qaleraligd Fjord, Karl picked us up with a small open boat. When we arrived at the harbour, Helgi Jonasson, the owner of the Narsaq Farmhouse hostel (helgioutfitter@greennet.gl) was already waiting with a trailor to drive us up to the Narsaq Farmhouse, where we could stay a few days to sort our stuff. He brought his friend Edward, who had been on the Sirius Patrol, to help us unloading and to share some experience.

The next morning, just after the first shower and the first night in a real bed, Paul Cohen, who had already helped us with our preparation in 2008, and once more this time, came to our place to welcome us to Narsaq.

One day later, Eloisa, who is working for Tierras Polares (the company of Ramon Larramendi who is still sailing the inlandsis) gave us a ride to 'town' and we had a little chat. Later, she and her friend Sergio surprised us at coffe time with a delicious home-made apple crumble they had prepared for us! The same evening we enjoyed an excellent dinner with local fish specialties and our first salad in more than two months at Monikas and Pauls place.

Sergio, Eloisa, the delicious homemade apple crumble, and Mika.

We thought it would be practical to have a new crate of different dimension, to send all our equipment in one piece. In less than half a day, a local workshop had accomplished the job...

Thanks to all the people here in Narsaq!

The only thing we do not have yet, is a fast internet connection - we are still using our satellite modems or our cell phones. And, there are moskitos now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Finish rock'n'roll !

15/06, camp 50
Distance today : 67 km
Total distance : 5067 km
Position: N61.027 W46.766, alt about 100 m 
Moving time : more than 9H

16/06, Fjord Qaleralik, pick-up location for boat evacuation
Distance today: a few hundred meters...
Total distance: 5067 km
Position: N61.027 W46.762, alt 0 m 
Moving time : 2H30

It was close to 4:30 am when we finally set up camp after a 11h long kite session without a break. For us it was dinner time (soup, and dry meal). We used the time to send Marc our position, so he could get us an updated weather forecast for the next 3 days, according to an estimated progression (now, after one day, and after 2 days).

In the meantime we looked at the previous forecast, received about 15 hours earlier : Marc said then that we should try to finish in the next 36 hours (21 remaining) or else there was a risk of total absence of wind for several days.
Our dilemma : if we decide to rest we'll have to mergin any longer regarding wind conditions. And if this final wind window isn't working as planned (it's such a difficult excercice to predict the wind so precisely, at this exact position, where the landscape itself can generate its own weather system), then we'll be stuck without wind, at only 70 km from the final point of the expedition...

None of us wants to take the chance of getting stuck : instead of getting in our sleeping bags, we wrap up the camp, drink coffee and get going ; we'll sleep later...

At 10 am we set off, in a nice and gentle easterly blow. We need our "big guns" (speed 19m²). We soon realize that the wind 30m higher is a lot stronger than the surface wind ; our speed 19m² are way too big : with them in such winds it would be too difficult to stop quickly (and there are quiet a bunch of crevasses here). We decide to swap our speed 19m² for the speed 10m².
Unfortunately the slope gets less steep (almost flat) over the 20 next kilometers, and we get trapped a couple of times. We have to be patient, and manage to progress slowly, until the slopes get better again. At km 35 we stop to observe a serie of little "waves" in the snow, clear indicators of snow bridged crevasses. The snow bridges seem strong enough. We therefore decide, instead of zigzaging between them, to force our way through them, full speed. It's anyway probably more risky to try to go slowy between than to power throught them.

A bit further down we can see beautiful turquoise blue lakes formed on the surface of the snow ; we have no intention to go bathing in them and manage to navigate around them. We have now come to a point on the glacier where the snow is melting very fast. This is a critical zone : the snow is more of a slush, our skies leave heavy traces behind, it's difficult to slide on the snow (the pulks make us have hard time dragging them) ; we really have to use the full power of traction of the kites to get everthing going forward. But things would be so much more difficult without kites, if we had to drag things on our own, or even if we needed to set camp here.
The further we go the more confindent we get on power through all of this. We shall not stop, or then would start to be difficult even to get out of this on our own.

Further down we get to some hard ice areas. It gets easier to slide, but one thing reauires all of our attention : the snow cover is more and more missing, and crevasses are now quiet open. And again, zigzaging through those hauling ourselves the pulks would be such a difficult mission, and the risk of falling through snow bridges into crevasses wouldn't be lower. We decide to power through the area.
As much as possible, when we know of a clear and safe grey snow patch we ski along it, but there's no more choice, we need to face the crevasse, looping our kites to gain speed, and ski over the bridge making sure our skies or pulks won't get caught in the crevasse.

Later on we are litterally ski surfing : melt water is running on the white-grey bare ice. We crossing dirty grey landscapes, and ski around a few turquoise blue little ponds which beautfully contrast with the low tone colours that we've seen over the past 2 months. The only risk here is to fall flat in one of those pond... and get really wet !

We make our way through a maze of bare ice and slush.

A bit further the wind drops ; we decide to tak our kites down, about 8 km away from the fjord. We're now hauling the pulks by feet or skis, on a light grey bare wavy ice. It's sometimes very hard work, when the pulks are getting stuck on some bump in the ice, but sometimes we kind of have to run in front of it when it starts sliding down the slope, if we don't want it to run over us...

2 kilometers before our target ending point we walk passed the place where we set up the first camp, 2 months ago. There we have a small depression in the glacier, where the ice tongue comes to and end by an medial moraine. This one being snow free, we have no other option now than to carry our stuff : 8 forth-and-backs, one and a half hour work.
Another slope down, a bit steep on the right hand side of the outlet glacier takes us to the only place we can get out of it, cause everwhere else the glacier ends up as a frontal cliff line over the land.
It's now about 7:30 pm, we've been moving for close to 9 hours without a break, and near 20h over the last 26 !
Last camp and last dispatch from the expedition above Qaleraligd Fjord.


Even though we're only at 100m elevation, we have to will to keep going, carrying all of our things any longer towards the Qaleralik fjord for today. We decide to get some rest ; there's no place to pitch the tent, so we decide to "bivouac" there, on the rocky ground of the moraine. If a couple of small rain showers woke us up during the night, it didn't really disturb much our sleep...

The last meters on dirty ice. The remaining meters we went back and forth,
carrying our stuff.


In the morning of the 16th of june, we went up and down forth and back to get all of our things down to boat pick-up location. At 11 am everything is ready on our end to be transported away, at the place where we cam 58 days earlier to start this expedition. The sky gets darker again and it's already raining a bit when we can see the 90 horse power rib-boat coming to pick us up. We sail accross the fjords util we reach the small village of Narsaq ; Wings Over Greenland II comes to a sucessful end...

We'll keep you posted with our latest news in the next days !

Monday, June 16, 2014

5067: Wings over Greenland II - success !


This morning 11 h, 59 th day of the expedition, we have reached the steep coast of Qaleraligd Fjord after covering a total of 5067 km in 58 days (the departure was April 19th, 13 h).

Position: 61.027 N 46.762 W, elevation 0 m.

The longest kite ski journey in full autonomy ever, and probably also the longest trip on skis!

A small boat picked us up shortly after noon. We just have arrived in the village of Narsaq, ready for a good shower, a few beers, and some 'local' champaign !!

More details on the last 48 h without sleep, but packed with action and emotion shortly here on this blog ...
We would like to gratefully acknowledge the people here in Narsaq, who have helped and supported us a lot: Paul Cohen, Helgi Jonasson (owner of the guesthouse where we stay), and Jacky Simoud (boat transport).



Sunday, June 15, 2014

5000 km and counting

15/06 camp 49
Distance today: 153 km
Total distance: 5001 km
Position: 61.6072 N 47.0510 W, alt 1700 m
Hours kited: 11 h

We just set camp, had dinner (at 6 o clock in the morning), and read the forecast once more. It appears that the last good weather window to gain the coast for some time is right now.

After 30 minutes of sleep for Cornelius, and none for Mika, we decided to get going straight away and try to get as far as we can. Wings over Greenland goes the extra mile...

We will come back with more details later.

Cornelius would like to dedicate the 5000 km to his parents who put him on skis early and to the memory of uncle Wolfgang, who introduced him to the world of flying objects - the two passions at the heart of this journey.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Getting closer

13-14/06, camp 48
Distance today : 118 km
Distance totale : 4849 km
Position : N61.899 W44.228, alt 2260 m
Moving time : 8 H

Good winds in the morning, but the dense cloud coverage and the sleet shower decrease the visibility. On top of that the surface condition and risk of finding big crevasses on the way make us decide to wait for better  conditions, which were planned for later in the day.

Around 6:30 pm we take off under a very low cloud, still waiting for the sky to clear up. We can see to our east hand side, from time to time, the massif Runde Keglefjeld and different ridges, about 2100m high, in the area of fjords Tingmiarmut and Morgens Helnesen.

Still progressing in a "terrasse" environment we get trapped into a valley, so we need to take out our "big gun" in order to get out of it...

And then, slowly, as the snow layer smoothens and becomes really comfortable, some katabatic wind joins forces with the wind we were travelling with so far. That clears up the sky, and finally we can start to get going properly.
Back to the Speed &à we find enough pressure to tack down wind, as the moon is beautifully rising.

Around kilometer 90, we can see 2 nunataks  on the horizon, to our south, south-east. The one to the south, like a rampart, peaks at about 2820m and is well above the glacier cap. We're heading towards the other one.

It's 2:30 am when we drop the kites ; daylight is now rising already. We can see like a ridge of nunataks to our east, peking between 2000 and 2300 km. We're not gonna go further in that direction.

Tomorrow we're gonna head westwards to go around the big glaciers sloping down towards the north side of Narsarsuaq.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Room with a view

12/06 camp 47
Distance today: 174 km
Total distance: 4730 km
Position: 62.9393 N 43.8304 W, alt 2200 m
Hours kited: 12 h

We set off early a little north of the latitude of Nansens Bugt, where Nansen finally landed after a perilous journey across drift and pack ice. We must have crossed the 'tracks' of his historic east west crossing during our first kilometers, tacking down light tailwinds with our Speed 3 19 m2.

Very soon, we got a first glance at three marked peaks playing hide and seek with the ethernal succession of small depressions and terasses, that we were navigating across. We likely saw the Treforken, dominating Thors Land, Skoldungen and Kong Skjolds Land with their altitude of 2150 m.

We were already excited, not yet suspecting the spectacular views, our journey along Kong Frederik VI Kyst would still have to offer. We soon got panoramic views of Lokes Nunatakker separating the glaciers of Rimfaxe and Guldfaxe and Skirners Bjerge extending towards the east coast. There were heavily glaciated rocks and sharp peaks separated by huge glaciers and icy domes, and we were wondering how many of them have ever been climbed or skied.

For a long time we only had seen the light blue milky skies typical for the large extended ice surface and the far north. Today we enjoyed a dark blue sky with marked stratospheric clouds and sharp lenticularis over the coastal mountains, indicating very high winds at altitude. Stratocumuli started to overtake at considerable speed, and suddenly, the light northerly breeze strengthened to a point that we had to hurry to take down our 19 m2 kites in time after about 80 km. The temperatures were mild, and the sun powerful enough to melt the first centimeters of the snow, not unpleasant after 55 days of predominantly hard surfaces.

We continued with the Speed 4 10 m2. When crossing the drainage basin of Heimdal Gletscher, a succession of huge crevasses apeared along our intended heading. They were well bridged, but we did not take chances and navigated around them, while enjoying a full Mountain panorama to our east. Progress was excellent, until we hit the gigantic, nameless basin draining the icecap towards Tingmiarmiut Fjord. Its slopes are heavily crevassed, and in the center, there were seracs, where the ice is flowing over the mountains and bedrock below. We had to move our route a little more westwards to avoid the dangers that come with this majestc view. In the end we avoided any difficulties and only crossed one tiny bridged crevasse.

The sky got more covered, leaving us without contrast and a surface that quickly got iced and crusted again. We set camp after 174 km with an incredible view down the drainage basin towards Tingmiarmiut Fjord. Framed by the majestic mountains to the left and the right, we can see the pack ice in the Fjord, the islands of Ingmikortukajik and Uvtorsiutit, and very far to the horizon we even distinguish the almost black sea. Room with a view!

We are again below the latitude of the southermost point of Iceland. Once more bye bye Laurent ...





Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Darth Vador


10-11/06, camp 46
Distance today : 165 km
Total distance: 4557 km
Position : N64.403 W42.597, alt 2090 m
Moving time : 11 hours

Darth Vador, you know, the bad guy in Star Wars. The one of whom we don't see the face, always hidden behind a black mask...
That's now my daily routine : to dress up like him (sometimes up to 3 layers of balaclavas. I'm not intending on conquering the empire with a laser sword, but rather protect my face from frostbite. On top of the mask, a helmet, ski goggles, a buff and all the available hoods over the helmet. Only my mouth is exposed to direct contact with the glacial air.

Everyday, before every kite session, dressing up is a routine that takes us quiet a while...
Underwear : we're always in them, even at night time. We rarely change them (i'm wearing the same warm underpants from day 7 !!)

Then we have fleece jacket, goretex overall, goretex jacket, down overall and jacket. For the hands we used undergloves, gloves and mittens (depending on how cold it is). Therefore everyday there a bunch of gloves hung in the tent, drying for the day after.
Before to start everyday we wrap our feet in plastic bags so we don't wtten our socks and shoes. If it looks disgusting, we figured that was the best way to insulate this part our bodies. Feet are so important, and so sensitive to cold. Also that way we don't have to change our socks too often (i used only 2 different pairs in 52 days !!).
Now comes the delicate moment : get into the ski boots : when it's very cold the plastic of the shell is so rigid that it takes a few minutes for the feet to settle properly in. Once the boots are fitted and well closed, then we put them into some neoprene overboots...

Hands and feet are very sensitive to cold. The purpose of wearing fleet and down overalls is to keep our body cores warm enough so it can irrigate well the extremities (hands and feet) with blood. The neoprene overboots are a pretty important addition to the feet insulation.

Once the camp is wrapped, the kites set, and the pulks closed tight (this would require an entire chapter on its own), we still have to get into our harnesses, check that all buckles are tight, double check that the shoes are all good, use the carabiners to connect ourselves to the kite's limes, get on the skis, hook ourselves to the "chicken loop" of the kite, and its safety line (the 5th line), adjust the ski goggles, the mask and helmet, turn the GPS on, set the right bearing, confirm the heading angle, put on gloves and mittens...

If we're lucky enough the kite will take off properly and we'll finally be able to focus on our most important daily mission : travels as many kilometers as possible, as long as we can...

Today it's june 11 ; it feels like it should be soon enough time to get rid of Darth Vader suit...

One more time we hope the evening katabatic winds will be with us we take off at around 22:30. Just before midnight the sun sets below the horizon, and rise about an hour and a half later. Our Speed 19m2 is still lit by the reflection of the low sunlight and, as we're getting into twilight we're heading towards a full moon, just about setting on the south horizon line. The atmosphere is wonderful.

Our Speed 19m2 is still lit by the
reflection of the low sunlight.


Around 1 in the morning the katabatics get stronger, and on this fast surface our sails are too big. We therefore start to use our storm wings. But after only a few kilometers, the wind drops a bit... We swap the Beringer 8 for the Speed 10m2, and the wind takes this opportunity to get stronger again. The progression requires all our attention.

Moonset ...

... sunrise.


To our south-east we see the snowy summits that looks over Koge Bugt bay, and only a few kilometers from us the slopes of the ice cap look like they're getting steeper, and quiet crevassy. We make sure our trajectory will avoid those conditions ; here the the snow is made of a lot of undulations which make us travel for about 2 hours on a tricky-foggy-undulated ground... with snow drifts. Nice !

Around km 120 we can see to our east hand side (at about 20km) 2 nunataks that look over the fjord Gyldenloves a bit below. That is there that a very famous norvegian expedition landed after drifting through the sea of ice after the first crossing of the inlandsis in 1888.
A bit further heading south, south-east we can see the mountain ranges of the Land of Thor and Odin. We're entering the region of King Frederik VI.

We're now at the latitude of the lower third of Iceland.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The bubble

09/06 camp 45
Distance today: 143 km
Total distance: 4392 km
Position: 65.8510 N 41.9093, alt 2000 m
Hours kited: 7h30

Image: The sun once again touches the horizon. Today, we have crossed the polar circle. From now on there will be 'night', even though short, and likely with enough luminosity to stay out and use the coldest hours for kiting.

When looking at expedition images, people often spontaneously express their admiration and their desire to enjoy this incredible freedom and majestic scenery themselves. And when looking at the pictures, detached from their original context, choosing the right moments and the most suitable frame, I only can agree, what incredible opportunity we have, to realize our dreams.

Those perfect moments truly exist, and they are big part of the motivation to get ou there, over and over again.

But often, when I think back at the instant a photo was taken, or when I am again immersed in an expedition, I strangely get drawn into "the bubble". A small but strong prison of often ridiculous momentary constraints.
Wasn't this the day we wished to go further - but had to stop early? Why doesn't the other wait for me - I can't follow his pace? Why does the other lag behind - the going is excellent? I am cold - but dont want to stop the progression to cover myself. I would like to scratch my nose - but its covered by a full face mask and ski googles. Wouldn't it be more comfortable to tighten the ski boots a little? Shouldn't we change kite size before its difficult to take them down? Why does the hood of my jacket always slip off my helmet? If I dont close that tiny gap between the ski googles and the face mask soon, I may get frostbite. Couldn't the surface be a little more smooth?

As strange as it may sound, there is almost always a little something that is not quite right and distracts from the incredible pleasure such a trip can offer. Trapped in the bubble. Fotunately, we can have a look at the pictures later ...

After dinner and a few short hours of rest we headed out early to take advantage of the excellent conditions and to make good some more distance. After 15 enjoyable kilometers with the Beringer 8 m2 Skisail in the strong katabatics of the early morning, the wind eased and we switched to the Speed 4 10 m2. We quickly crossed the latitude of the 'saddle' separating the 'Summit' of the icecap from the 'South Dome'. In the beginning, the surface was again covered by sastrugis. After about 50 km, they gradually smoothened, and we were wondering wheter this is coincident with leaving the vast drainage basin funneling the katabatic winds towards Helheim Gletscher and Sermilik Fjord over a shallow ridge. NNE of Isortoq this ridge terminates in 'Greenspeed Ridge', starting point of many expeditions relying on helicopter logistics to access the icecap.

We are now far south, low in altitude, and late in the season. The temperatures have risen significantly, and the snow shows first slight indications of surface melt.






Getting out of this hole...

8/06, camp 44
Distance today : 222 km
Total distance: 4250 km
Position : N66.853 W39.932, alt 2080 m
Moving time : 9 H 30

Are we finally gonna get out of this hole at some point ? As sailors in convergence zone we are desperately waiting for it to desolve, and surf again on our trade winds (the katabatics)... But Eole seems to be on vacation for a little longer than planned...

We've been on standbye : yesterday our weatherman Marc told us that the wind will start to pick up during the night. We woke up at 2 : nothing ; sencond try qround 4, still nothing. At 8 in the morning, we started to feel a glimpse of wind, and start to get ready. At 10 we decide it's just enough to try it. And there we go, heading south-west at speeds up to 35km/h on an amazingly smooth and flat snow. Yes, we're out of there !

We go through a 2900m high ridge, and start the descent toward a wide bassin, the accumulation zone of the giant glaciers Helmein and Fenris, which then crawl down into fjord Sermilik, about 100km further east, close by Ammassalik. Get lower in altitude leaves us with even strounger winds ; but the ground gets rougher : the sastrugies are back full power ! We need to kite with our speed 10m², in a strange tailwind situation, quiet uncomfortable 5never happy, are we ?), that requires all of our focus.

Around 8 pm, we're tired, the wind still blows a good 40 km/h drift snow and we decide to set up camp. The sun still offers crazy lights; like a piece of glowing gold on wavy milky surface. For probably the last time [we still a few minutes above the polar circle, latitude where the sun, only once a year, stays exactly on the horizon for 1 day a year, at the summer solstice], we observe the sun going down to the horizon line before to come up again. At around 150 km to our north-east stansd the summit of the Schweizerland, Mt Forel (3380m).

PS :
- Again we'd like to thank all of you that send us great support messages : Johanna and Oliv, Paul Kerrien, Remi, Loulou, Aurel, Florian Perrin, Georges Bagouin, Roger Snowsled Polar Ltd. 5pulks perfectly survive), Gilles Dreyfus, XD's mom, Peter Van der Linden, Cathy from Alixa, Laurent Sénéchal, Phil Deluchat, and all the others... Thanks to our "postguys" Rom and Laurent.
- Special thanks to our kite friends, specially  Francis, Thierry, Jean, Valère, Jojo Civel, R'mi, Alex and the others from the Hautes-Alpes ; and to the Grenoblois, and other kiters that follow us in this adventure...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

What is left

06/06 camp 43
Distance today: 15 km
Total distance: 4028 km
Position: 68.3518 N 36.5136 W alt 2900 m
Hours kited: 5 h

What is left? 1000 km remain to be covered. Only two days ago this seemed almost like a detail after a few days of excellent progression. Today, Greenland once more appears as big, as it actually is, and 1000 km still a long way to go. We have been blocked without wind or with headwinds for about 4 days now. Today, we moved a laborious 15 km, tacking into headwinds with our Speed 4 10 m2.

You may wonder, whether we are going to make it?

The autonomy of an expedition is 'rocket science' in a certain way. The more food and fuel we take along, the further we can go. The higher the redundancy of all equipment, the easier we can make up for damage and loss. But on the downside, the heavier the load, the more difficult is the progression hauling all the provisions.

In the beginning we clearly felt the influence of the weight on our progression. The sleds weighted nearly three times as much as myself, and more than twice as much as Mika! For a given windspeed one would usually choose a kite at the scale of the body weight. But here we need to use kites to propell the combined weight of ourselfs and the sleds, while we still can only use our bodyweight to oppose and re-direct the vertical traction, absorb the gusts, and to start and land the wings!

Living on limited supplies, managing the stock, and improvising with the 'means of board' is an integral part of the adventure. Each breakage or loss changes our options and we have to compose with the new reality. We broke a shovel - and could sew it with a piece of steel wire. We have lost a stove and use our spare, and we have lost half of our medical kit. Hot chocolate has become a rare thing, and we got used to the fact that all food bags are covered by a thin layer of chocolate powder. But luckily we have been spared from any big desasters so far.

What is left? We have food for another 20 days, fuel for nearly 30 days, and our insurance is valid until 22/06. We also have enough Sudoku for a few more days without wind. The forecast for the following days looks promising however. Lets hope we don't need them any longer!

Image: Mika with Speed 3 19 m2, the last day before we lost the wind.





Friday, June 6, 2014

Pleasures, hazards, games...

05/05, camp 43
Distance today : 0
Total distance : 4013 km
Position : same as yesterday
Moving time : 0

GEB (Georges Bagouin, blog reader) was asking us a question, a very important one to us :

"Can we really enjoy such an expedition, where duties, hazards and risks are so important, building up stress and permanent need for being ready ?"

Pieces of answer...
Challenge is one of the most important component of any expedition. And obviously there is satisfaction to take it. But the goal of an expedition can be something else : discover new horizons, see new places, meet new people and cultures, unexpected uncounters and experiences... For example most of my journeys (Mika), some of them we can call them "mini expeditions", are motivated by the discovery on new and different landscapes. My main goal is to find satisfaction in those discoveries...

In the case of the circumnavigation we're undertaking, it's a bit different : challenge is our incentive. In this case, we find our satisfaction lays in the daily handling of the hazards and unknowns, and is hidden behind the scale of it.
Even though our experience and knowledge of the traveled grounds help a lot minimizing those risks and hazards they're still always here and we constantly have to deal with them. Risks and hazards are a source of stress, spread over the whole journey, but with us at every minute.

The issues of this expedition. They are very personal and definitely subjective. They generate some tension, which takes away some of the pleasure, for sure. To understand this without being tempted to judge too quickly, one needs to know in what mental state we are :

It's a project never ever achieved until this year (that makes it a journey to the unknown). Not only it's a proper circumnavigation, the goal is also to achieve one of the longest (if not the longest) unsupported ski journey. Finally we are unconsciously in a kind of a competition, as we are 3 teams trying this at the same time, even though we are all doing it in a bit of a different way.

The weeks went by, as well as the kilometers, our minds were more and more tuned up towards our goal (we've grown this goal for a few years now), probably not enjoying every second of our experience (but ask a seaman like Francois Gabart how much of tension and distraction he had during his Vendee Globe victory).

One thing is for sure : if the scale of this project makes us go into our "warrior" mode more than the "observation" one, we have fortunately kept on being amazed of these wonderful lights, of the chant of the winds on the ice and the sight of far away unknown mountain ranges... And that is what will remain for us, at the end of this "out of this world" journey.

This was written after a completely windless day, somewhere on the east hand side of the greenlandic inlandsis.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

4000 km done, now we look forward to 5000 !

03-04/06, camp 42
Distance today: 151 km
Total distance: 4013 km
Position : N68.443 W36.244, alt 2845 m 
Moving time : 7 hours

We were kind of expecting it... The belgo-canadian team (Dixie and Eric), who went through this are a few days ago, made significant progression. To do so, one need not only good winds, but also excellent snow/surface conditions. You don't progress 300 km in 14 hours if you're not on a "pool table" kind of surface!appes de brouillard

Unfortunately when we started there was was no "pool table" surface to be found here : we kept on going down into a large depression, the catchment of Glacier Kangerlussuaq ; this is one of the big natural corridors of the east side of the "inlandsis", which convey the katabatic winds to the coast. We are gradually going towards lower altitudes ; every "stage" we lower we need to ski kind of old ladies, to compensate for any possible edge mistakes, as because of the speed we need to ski "flat" in the middle of the sastrugies.

Unreal lights. Around midnight, the sun, right to our back, is getting close to the horizon. Fog patches start to form here and there. We can observe white mountain tops to the east, probably from the Prince de Galles mountain range....

All of a sudden, when we finally stop going downhill, the sastrugies disapear ; the ground surface gets smoother and smoother. About 20 km further we even start to leave behind our beautiful track into the immaculate white of the new thin powder coat. We can't believe it. So, it is actually possible to find that type of snow in Greenland ! Just to make it complete a double halo forms around the sun.
Our big kite is chuck where it belongs in the window we're now firmly following our heading.
The lights are stunning, we're quiet happy with our heading... Everything would be just perfect if the cold was not that cold cold, biting our fingers and forcing us to wrapping ourselves in layers of warm things.

At about km 100, around 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning, the wind gets stronger, so we get our speed 3 10m² out, so sure we're only at the beginning of a long and successful kite session... But only 20 km futher the wind drops again, we need to get our "big guns" again. Another 20 kilometers, and that's it, the wind just stops blowing, leaving us at 2845 m elevation, on a shoulder leading to the summit of the Schweitzerland to our south-east. We have to stop there, the "robbery of the century" is not gonna happen !

We are now on the land of King Christian IX, to the west of theDauphin Frederik's mountains, and to the north-west of the Schweitzerland mountain range's summit, Mont Forel.
We passed under the latitude of Tromso, in the north of Norway.

NB :
we dedicate those 4000 km to our common friend Aurelie. She made us 2 meet in the first place, and we owe her our best polar expeditions :-)

Finally we would like to congratulate warmly our "inlandsis" companions Dixie Dansercoer and Eric MacNair-Landry, who just finished thier circumnavigation : 4045 km in 55 days. Well done !
Now 2 teams remain on the cap with the same objective : the one of Ramon Larramendi, 2098 km so far ; and ours, with a clear target : 5000 km !!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Push!

02/06 camp 41
Distance today: 159 km
Total distance: 3861 km
Position: 69.6335 N 34.4239 W, alt 2660 m
Hours kited: 9 h

"You push me, to go the extra mile..."
In 2005 the polar community was electrified by the daily updates from a team of three Norvegians crossing Greenland south to north from Narsaq to Qaanaaq.

"... keep on pushing, like nobody ..."
At this time, many people outside the still very confidential world of polar kiting considered exploiting the wind with kites just as an additional progression aid, rather than the true motor of an expedition.
But they used freeride equipment instead of nordic touring skis and soft boots.

"... every race I win ..."
They kited upwind, and announced incredible distances. They broke the 24 h distance record for landkiting, and back then, they were the fastest expedition on ice ever.

" ... you push me, when I want it all to end ..."
And later they published a short video on YouTube, bringing lightness, speed, and elegance into a world of frozen beards and tired faces.

" ... every move I make, every step I take, every thing I do, its all because you push me ..."
We must have watched it hundred times, scrutinizing every detail of this incredible adventure. We witnessed the birth of an instant classic.

"... to go the extra mile, when its difficult to go ..."
The video is still there (short version) There is a little secret. Mute the sound and start the clip synchronously with 'Push' by Madonna to reveal its original power ...

"Keep on pushing!"

Hello to Niklas, Trygve and Karl.

The weather is once more determined by a katabatic regime, with the Greenland anticyclone pinned close to our west. We were navigating the narrow corridor avoiding its "swampy center" without wind on one side, and the more pronounced slopes towards the border of the icecap to our east on the other side. With our Speed 3 19 m2, we first ascended up to 2860 m, looping our kites most of the time, crossing the shallow ridge that extends from the summit of the icecap towards a little col and the mountains around Gunnbjorn Fjeld in the east. From there, we were tacking downwind into the large funnel dominating Kangerdlugssuaq Gletsjer, which is draining the ice towards the homonymous fjord.

Marc had predicted "unlimited visibility", and despite the formation of some high clouds, we shortly got the view on some snowy summits very far to the east south east, right before setting camp after 159 km. It could well have been Gunnbjorn Fjeld, the culminating point of Greenland situated at a distance of about 165 km from our route.

We have come a long way back south since our northermost point! Today we passed the latitude of the North Kap of Europe, and in the evening we already feel that the sun is again much lower above the horizon.
















Monday, June 2, 2014

A swan, here ?

01/06, camp 40
Distance today : 174 km
Total distance : 3 702 km
Position : N70.783 W32.921, alt 2680m
Moving time : 11h30

Between the eastern edge of Greenland and the inlandsis, between lat 74 and lat 66, over a stretch of about 1400km, one can find very dens and impressive mountain ranges. Away from everything, as wild as it can be, unknown even by locals, this area hides wonders, like the Stauning Alps, or Watkins Bjerge (where the summit of Greenland lays - 3693 m), or Schweizerland...

We left to our left hand side the Land of Charcot, and a bit more to the east and to the south the above mentioned Stauning Alps and the Renland. We are now at the latitude of the Land of Milne (very popular amongst skiers for its very steep couloirs) and the bottom of the fjord system of Scoresbysund, the deepest fjord system in the world (about 400km). We at the same latitude as Liverpool Land (small mountain massif) by the sea shore that i used to travel through quiet a bit those last few years, and very close to the latitude of Ittoqqortoormiit, a small village of about 450 inhabitants (the northeast settlement on the east coast, 800 km away from its neighbor village Tasiilaq, and 450 km from Iceland's shore).

After our freezing cold 1st of january night we left our camp 39 with a NNW wind, quiet consistant. This proper tailwind was though not strong enough to "carry" us using our Beringer ; we therefore started with the speed 10m2. It took us a little while to get proper speeds, using our favourite loops techniques using the whole frame of the "window", Around km 100, the wind was really getting weaker ; we then used our "big guns" (Speed 19) tacking in wide turns in a beautiful lowering light that made us feel in the spring. We even were overflown by a beautiful swan...

PS :
- here's a chance to send greetings to the friendly team with whom we crossed entirely the Liverpool Land 2 years ago : Pascal "Golgoth" Nollet, Malik Rhamani, Alain Knibily, Jean Dietz, Raymond Vidonne, Michel Pincemaille, Seb Escande. Cheers guys !
- We just got out of the national parc "Nord-east Greenland" (the widest national parc on earth, as big as Egypt) ; we were in there for 15 days and went over 1300km of it.
- We just passed south to the latitude of Jan Mayen, a small norvegian island in the north of the Atlantique North.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Land!

31/05 camp 39
Distance today: 171 km
Total distance: 3528 km
Position: 72.3340 N 31.6164, alt 2770 m
Hours kited: 10 h

We again started out with our Speed 4 10 m2, navigating a succession of dimples, depressions, and ascents in terasses. On our progression map, one can actually see some wrinkles in the isolines close to our route. And the surface was still rough. But soon something else caught our attention. After about 10 km we got a glimpse at two summits to our left, at a bearing of about 135 degrees. In the roller coaster of the hilly terrain, we repeatedly lost and caught their sight again before the panorama of an entire mountain range finally magically unfolded in front of us.

We have not seen land for more than 30 days. This is incredibly rewarding after a period of difficult progression! Even more so, as we had hoped we may get a view of the secondary icecaps of Peary Land at our northermost point, or the rocks of Dronning Louise land a few days earlier. Yesterday we even started to worry whether we would finally be able to see those big mountains.

Image: Mika in front of the Mountains of Kong Christian X Land.

We wonder how many people had a chance to enjoy the view of these mountains from the icecap since the meeting of the motorized (weasels) icecap crossing expedition of Paul Emile Victor, and the geological sledging party of H. R. Katz in 1951 at Cecilia Nunatak? And how many people have actually reached this place on skis?

We were aware of how close were scratching the Nunataks of Kong Christian X land to our east, and during the preparation we worried how far we could actually approch the border of the icecap.
" ... but the weasels always broke through the snow bridges which covered the large crevasses. We were forced therefore to leave them behind.." H.R. Katz 1951.

On the other side, we really wanted to see land!

"We found that the crevassed area at the edge of the icecap extended much further westwards, than we had expected and to an altitude of more than 2600 metres. ... a large barrier of extensively crevassed terrasses, icy slopes and hills falling towards the nunataks lay to the east of our route. On skis however, we found that we could cross it without too much difficulty." H. R. Katz 1951.

We originally planned to stay at 2700 m, but moved the route even a little further up after a detailed look a satellite images showing the region at the end of the season with the lowest snow cover. In the end we did not encounter open crevasses nor any visible snowbridges.

When we started to loose this incredible view, another welcome surprise compensated for the loss. The undulations of the terrain became weaker, and the surface quickly changed from a cheese grater to that of a billiard table. We even found stretches of this perfectly smooth surface covered with a thin layer of soft snow with a velvet feeling. Similar to what Eric had mentioned for the regions further south during our satellite phone call.

After 100 km the wind eased, and we swithed up to our Speed 3 19 m2 to continue a little further. The kilometers were flying by quickly, and we enjoyed the feeling of effortless progression, that we had entirely forgotten during the last two weeks. After 171 km we set camp a little south of the latitude of the summit of the icecap.

The report "Journey across the Nunataks of Central East Greenland, 1951" by H. R. Katz can most likely still be found on the internet.









Friday, May 30, 2014

Undulations...

29/30 mai, camp 38
Distance today: 113 km
Total distance: 3357 km
Position : N73.858 W30.900, alt 2720 m 
Moving time : about 9H30 (using Speed 10)

We are now on the Land of King Christian X. We left to our north-east the great glacier Waltershausen, which leaks out into the Kesjer Franz Joseph fjord, and can see on our south-east the Petermann mountains and the Land of Glaciers.

Within a few days we gained about 1000m of altitude (from about 1700 to 2700m). While the Inlandsis slowly and smoothly goes down in the north-east (which allowed us to travel at lower altitudes) here it collapses against high mountain ridges, which we have to go around the peaks at quiet high altitudes.

For a few hundreds of kilometers we have kited onto a pretty corrugated ground. On the land of King Frederik VIII already we felt like crossing some kind of small depression valleys, without really being able to measure properly the scale of it, because of the possible magnification due to light reflection for example.
Close to the Land of Queen Louise we could notice wider undulations, as we were getting higher in altitude.
Today the corrugated grounds were even more noticeable. Every uphill bit was marked by a strong flow of katabatic winds. On those grounds we saw the biggest sastrugies we've ever seen : some kind of "monsters", with edges up to about 40 cm high. No way we were gonna try to get or skies through there ! With winds up to 40km/h we tried our best to take them sideways, and navigate through them as good as we could ; we had to be very focused and pay attention to our wing positions and to what was going on the surface.

In one of the difficult bits in a tiny little lack of attention my pulks managed to get stuck in between 2 sastrugies. I tried to play with the wing to create enough force to get the pulks unstuck... I lost the game, and ended up falling myself, before the wing did the same and literally planted into a sastrugie. During a good 5 minutes i tried hard to pull and pull on the lines, hoping they'll eventually pop out of the monster. But no, that was not gonna work either ; i have to untie myself and walk out there to undo the mess. Of course as soon as it was free the wings was happy to take off and start to pull the 140 kg pulks again. It managed to catch the barre, luckily cause if not, i would have been left on my own !
A suspention line is now just flapping around... WOG a mess !

The temperatures tonight have been a bit colder than the last (about -25°C), and with the 30-4- km/h wind it's been hard to keep our finger tips very warm ; every break was a bit painful for the fingers.

Today we passed the latitude of the Bear Island (between the south of Spitzbergen and Cap nord in Norway).

PS :
- Again, thank you Damien (Fourcy) for your satellite pictures ; we're now going through a difficult terrain, very close to the mountains, and a careful analysis of your datas keep us away from the major crevasse areas.
- Humongus thanks to all of you that send us messages ; Hervé "350", Chrys, Alain, Cyril (have a nice journey home), Sophie, Thomas, Pascal #Golgot", brother Rémi, Niko and Lucile, Eric, Mai and the kids, Niklas, Corinne, Eric Gruyere, Matt le voisin, Aurel, Xav Ducros, Bernard and Jacqueline, Carène, Laurence and Luc, Nico and Anne-Laure (i'm doing my best for the 14th ;-)), Jean (we're still waiting for the "rattrack") and the others... We're delighted to read you all !

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Surprise

29/05 camp 37
Distance today: 70 km
Total distance: 3243 km
Position: 74.773 N 29.264 W, alt 2500m
Hours kited: 7h

"... sun is shinin' the weather is sweet, make you want to move your dancin' feet ..." a little fresh snow without wind the last night, excellent weather, rest, some good music, and the prospect for a good night of kiting. In short: a feeling of holiday. We had reached the eastmost point of our expedition yesterday and we ought to move sout westward from now on. Wings Over Greenland II does not cut on corners:

Farthest south, starting point on the pack in Qaleraligd Fjord: 61.019 N 46.732 W
Farthest west, automatic weather station Humboldt: 78.528 N 56.840 W
Farthest north, "confluence" 81 N 40 W: : 81.001 N 39.993 W
Farthest east: 75.354 N 28.291 W

Admittedly, east is cheap at this latitude, and For this one Marc was a little scared we would be "blown off the continent"!

Yet the best of the day was a surprise. First we received mails via July Brown and Laurent on one side, and from Marc on the other side, that Dixie and Eric were kindly asking for an appointment for a satellite phone call! We were tent bound, waiting for the wind to turn a little north easterly to get out of our last 'corner'. And sure enough at the end of the suggested time slot, our satellite phone rang! Dixie and Eric took precious time to share their experience, and to listen to ours. The precise content of the conversation is probably even not that important. But hearing their voices and spending a long moment connected with the two people who likely know best what we live, who face similar difficulties, and who experience similar moments of reward is a really generous gift here on the ice. And we thought it would be great to meet all of us one day off the ice. Thank you very much Dixie and Eric.

Dixie and Eric are now on their final stretch to complete their circumnavigation. All the best for the remaining kilometers!

Speaking of corners, there is one of these points we will have to visit a second time, in order to close the circle. For us this is still a challenge and a long way to go!

After a nice morning and this incredible surprise, We started with high spirits and good hope. Unfortunately our progression today was a little unlucky, and we didn't make the best of a really favourable slot.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Getting a bit confused here...

27/05, camp 36
Distance today : 153 km
Total distance: 3174 km
Position : N75.354 W28.291, alt  2400 m
Moving time : about 10 hours

How many days, haw many camps, what's the day today ... ? We sometimes loose track of all this, It's even harder to tell what of the week is today, probably because it doesn't make any difference for us now. But what's noticeable is that we're also loosing track of time within a day !
Our daily rhythm stretches over a 28-30 hours of time. It's not like we've decided it that way, but in the end it seems to be a good balance between effort and rest. A kite session (the moving time only) is for about between 1/3 and half a normal day time. Intermediary sections would be pitching and wrapping our tents, another one (important) is the food time, in the tent (dinners and breakfasts ; in the northern parts of the trip, because of extremely cold temperatures we even had lunches in the tent, before to start our kite session ; we added snack pauses while kiting during those hours.The rest of the hours go into sleeping , resting and communications.

During the first weeks we don't need to rest as much, and we use more time kiting than resting or eating ; that enable us to keep our daily routine into the 24 hours frame. But as tireness kicks in the routine stretches a bit, we need to rest more (we can't skip a rest time), and 28 to 30 hours is the time we need in one day. That's made easier by the never ending day light.

Considering this daylight it's no problem to live a 30 hours-a-day life, as long as we don't have to follow any accepted standard, or if we don't have to attend social life. What gives the tempo here is the aerology. Catabatic winds are often stronger during the night hours for instance, while winds directly connected to the weather are more unstable and don't follow any rhythm.

This extra long daily routine makes us therefore sometimes miss some good catabatic windows unfortunately... But the presence, force and direction of winds are so hard to really understand in a very precise way, despite all the information that we collect and observe, and despite the deep analysis we get from our routers Marc and Fritz every day.

To be short, our challenges are strictly connected to our direct environment, so it's impossible to establish a regular rhythm. As we're trying to follow the catabatics which happen to be often at the coldest hours we continuously shift a little our rhythm by a few hours, forth and back, and we just simply loose tracks of time ; it gets really confusing. We just sometimes can't make head or tail of it all.

For 130 of the 153 km kited today we used the Beringer 8, with wind speeds up to 50 km/h and drifting snow (that gave us wonderful lights when we departed around 3 in the morning. If we were a bit challenged in the beginning skiing upwind, it got better after ; we even kited the last 20 km/h downwind, with a bit slower winds.

This is got to be the most eastern point of our trip now, at the longitude W28 ; we plan to head south-south west for now on. We've now passed the southern latitude of Spitzbergen.

PS :
- special greetings to our norvegian friend Niklas Norman, who did the first longitudinal crossing of Greenland. He still has got the time record for it : 2300 km in 21 days, in other words about 110 km per day. Niklas, thanks for your message, we really measure its value :-)
- Greetings as well to my friend Loulou (we don't forget Franck and the other family members), for the good memories of the "T-shirt times" of the first Latitude Nord expeditions. Thanks my friend for all your help, i don't forget that...
- Alain R ; don't worry about Iceland this summer ; the message was aimed to Alain K ;-)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Food for thought and thoughts on food

26/05 camp 35
Distance today: 3 km
Total distance: 3020 km
Position: 76.7023 N 29.3240 W, alt 2080 m
Hours kited: 1h

Food for thought

Rest day - Marc had strongly recommended a rest day, as the south westerly and westerly winds would make progression along our route difficult without being pushed too far east. We thought we knew better. We had an entire day of upwind kiting (on 8 m2 Beringer Skisails) in strong winds in 2008. We had made our first precious kilometers to gain altitude upwind uphill at the beginning of this trip. And we had kited slightly upwind yesterday in lighter winds with our Speed 3 19 m2. And anyway, at home, or in Finse, without the pulks, this would just be ridiculously easy. We tried with the speed 4 10 m2. The kite was fully powered at windspeeds of at least 30 km. But we could not find a comfortable going. Soft at the edge of the window, strong opposition in the center when at speed, but we didnt find the golden middle. Underpowered on the Beringer 8 m2. And we even tried an unnamed 12 m2 spare kite (a bit too sporty in its original handle configuration on long lines in these conditions) on the Speed bar with 21 m lines as a last resort. Nothing worked comfortably. We admitted that a rest day would be a good choice, in particular with a favourable forecast ahead. And while went out as if we were going to work this morning, we will certainly be eager to kite againg tomorrow or already tonight. Its a little weird. We absolutely need the rest from time to time. But when the occasion is there we always first consider it a loss, instead of appreciating it right away for what it is.

Nivology - there is not that much precipitation, especially here in the north east. And while we had a short occasion to kite in dry powder on the western side of the icecap in 2008, this is probably rare, as the fresh snow, if dendritic, is quickly transformed to fine grains through the continuous mechanical action of the wind. But here the snow likely falls already in small crystals in most occasions. It gets quickly hard packed. When the surface snow gets covered and lowered into the mantle it would gradually turn into more or less compact ice under the increasing pressure. Sometimes there would be surface melt. Generally the snow would undergo destructive transformations. Thats what I thought, and I didn't really look any further. Yesterday, when digging a little when mounting the tent, I was therefore surprised to find a continuous layer of large grains (platelets/faces planes or maybe even beakers/gobelets) of 80 cm thickness right below the hard and partially glazed crust on the surface - a clear sign of constructive transformation under medium to strong temperature gradients close to the surface. It may also explain the surprising surface cracks that had started to appear on the icy patches between the sastrugies.

Thoughts on food

Polar menu:

Breakfast: different varieties of crusty muesli, with chocolate, red berries, and nuts. Hot chocolate, coffee, and effervescent soda drinks.

During the day: Muesli and chocolate bars. Water, tea/infusions in our thermos bottles.

Lunch: Wasa bread, cheese, sausage, dried fruits (Raisins, figues, melon, mangue, papaya, coconut, banana, raspberry, peas, peaches, abricots, ananas ...), and chocolate.

Dinner: Nuts and grains for aperitif (Peanuts, cachew nuts, walnuts, macadamia, noix d'amazonie, salted almonds ...) followed by a soup, a freeze dried main dish, cookies and tea/infusion.

Nutrition facts - our daily routine here is strenous for the body, even if we are often not aware of it. There are the typically 5 to 11 hours of progression. This may not really appear to be an effort, as we are pulled by the kites, and the main force goes directly to the harness and from there to the sleds. Yet we have to continuously hold an edge, re-direct the traction of the kite to the sleds, absorb the shocks, and fly and work the kite which generates some pressure in the bar. Although an incomplete analogy, one may try to compare it to downhill skiing. 5 km are surely considered a long descent in a ski resort. 100 km would find their equivalent in 20 runs in one day .... Add mounting the tent, and the continuous exposure to the cold. Our insurance even requires a daily ration of 5000 kcal per person and day to be valid, more than twice the usual calory intake recommended for an adult man. And while we were unable to eat the full rations in the beginning and kept some spare, we now start to enjoy the entire portions, as Mika wrote yesterday.
Image: lunch ration with Wasa bread, sausage, cheese, dried fruits, and chocolate.

Many thanks to the Epicerie Arax in Grenoble for their help and patience in selecting about 10 kg of various dried fruits, and 10 kg of nuts and grains! We also gatefully acknowledge the fromagerie Barbieri from the marche de l'Estacade for choosing different varieties of cheese that would withstand the conditions of transport and travel, and for vacuum packing of the 67 daily cheese rations.