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 !

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