Saturday, May 31, 2014
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
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).
- 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
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
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.
- 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
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
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.
25/05, camp 34.
Distance today: 94 km
Total Distance: 3017 km
Position : N76.730 W29.347, alt: 2090 m
Moving time: 7 hours
Yes, sorry, just the same story again... More than 500 km skied on this really annoyingly wrinkled field, the "corrugated sheet" of the northern latitudes. Yesterday was one big of a day, by the size of them, their amount, shapes...
We went through them using our biggest wings, at speeds almost averaging 25 km/h for hours that we tried to hit sideways.
With the Speed 19, propped quiet high in the "window", we even sometimes use the momentum to take off the ground for a few meters. The pulkas do the same, tirelessly.
All our equipment is under great challenge due to the friction. It's amazing : i've never destroyed as much equipment than here, on this trip ! In the beginning we were constantly trying to repair every little hole and break. Now, we just realized that we're not gonna win this battle : holes are everywhere : even small sneaky ones make it to the powder food container, spreading our breakfast powder chocolate just everywhere : this even sneaks into the other food containers ; nothing is sealed anymore, the chocolate managed to go all the way into the sled itself. Wonderful, isn't it ? Even in some of our wings we have holes now.
Basically everything that is hard is going to pierce everything that's softer...
As we cannot reverse the destruction process, we have to accomodate to it : some of the equipment is not going to be re-used. We are more concerned with the electronic equipment (even though we have carefully protected) and our cooking gear (only one set left). All of our absolutely necessary equipment is now on our backpacks, for how long as it needs. At least until we get on better grounds.
Our bodies are also pretty challenged in this "shaker". Even though we have been accumulating fatigue after 3 weeks travelling, and exposition to cold temperatures, we have come to observe our increasing appetite at dinner time. We're sleeping more as well. And unfortunately we are travelling smaller distances ! We would like to do better, we don't manage these days. The ground condition is very difficult.
Today sastrugies were still going strong. But it was a bit smaller than yesterday. But the wind conditions (south-west) forced us to go a bit against it with our biggest wings, which requires a heavy foot work. And that's where my (Mika) feet are showing signs of fatigue : the pain is getting so big that we just have to stop at km 94. Without immediate solution i can only hope it's not gonna disturb systematically our progression...
We are now at the edge of the land of Reine Louise and have skied just a little over 3000 km.
I (Mika) dedicate those to my parents : since 3 years the Greenland authorities have changed the rules when it comes to take an adventure on the inlandsis, in order to avoid the greenlandic society to bear the cost of unfinished and abandoned expedition on the icecap that required heavy and expensive rescues and evacuation. Our expedition we need a cash guarantee of almost 30 000 € that could be used by the authorities in case of a need for evacuation for other reasons than sanitary, like because of the loss of cooking gear for example :-).
My living choices and conditions did not bring me to the condition of having even half of this guarantee, even though i'm 43 years old. My parents found the way to lend me this money ; here is my chance to say sincerely thank you again !
Cornelius wants to dedicate those 3000 km to all those he has had the chance to spend wonderful time with, going back country skiing, climbing, kiting and on other Arctic journeys. Experiences that nourished the idea and greed for this biggest expedition in the cold arctic environment...
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Distance today: 130 km
Total distance: 2923 km
Position: 77.538 N 30.476 W, alt 1870 m
Hours kited: 10h30
This morning there was a little air of spring. We are again more shifted into the 'day' and got up, when the sun was already warming the tent. Outside, the wind was not as cold as the last days. Everything felt a bit easier today. And for the first time since at least two weeks we started kiting without the down trousers, down jacket and over-boots.
We were travelling south-south-east with our Speed 3 19 m2 at 160 degrees, while he must have been heading north-north-east at about 25 degreess. After about 80 km, the tracks of our skis and sleds crossed those of his pawns at 77.963 N 30.980 W. We are not alone!
Today we had the rare chance to observe the absolutely unexpected: polar bear tracks far into the 'Inlandsis'.
While this big predator is known for his enormous autonomy, necessary to survive in the cold of the arctic winter, this seems absolutely remarkable to us. There is no food to hunt for here on the icecap. We estimate the shortest distance between the point where we crossed the tracks of the animal to the shore in Jokulbukten (Glacier-bay) in the east to about 200 km. And if we naively extrapolate his heading to the north eastern shore, he would have nearly twice this distance to go in order to reach Danmark Fjord.
We should likely be more happy than worried. This animal was certainly determined in his direction, and we follow our heading for some time. At an angle of 135 dgrees, our tracks had to cross somewhere. Looking at the prints, some had already become positive. The compression under his huge weight has prevented the softer snow from the erosion by the wind. There must have been some time since he has passed. How long? And how incredibly small is the probability for a meeting in both, space and time?
We are legally required to be prepared for such an encounter, which is indeed possible in particular close to the coast. (Post on our blog: "Firearm permit - aiming at safety".)
We had a break at this remarkable place, put on our down-trousers again for the cold of the evening, and continued. The wind was picking up and we tried to switch down to the Speed 4 10 m2. An unlucky choice, and after 15 km of waving and some loops we were quickly back on 19 m2 before we finally set camp after covering 130 km when the wind increased again.
Today, we have crossed the latitudes of Longyearbyen and Barentsburg in Spitsbergen.
We didn't mention sastrugies. They are still there and have become a part of our daily life - likely still for a long time. They come in an infinite multitude of shapes including ridges sometimes separated by canyons, shark fins, breaking waves, spinxes and table mountains. And while they are all different, their common principle of formation through the wind gives them an artistic unity. The lighting can turn them into fantastic landscapes. Yet from a skiers perspective, they look a little less romantic. We have entered and left regions with and without, and we can sometimes observe their formation. We are wondering how they disappear, and when ...
Friday, May 23, 2014
Distance today : 82 km
Total distance : 2796 km
Position : N78.654 W32.088, alt 1775 m
Moving time : 7 hours (with the Speed4 10)
... for this lttle wheatear. He might have come from the warm western africa to find his nesting place in the northern arctique area, as he does every spring. Powered by its survival instinct this animal went flying over the glaceir cap. Unfortunataley the wind consumed all of its forces ; the bird landed to collect some strnght back, and never took off again. It's here, standing on its feet, frozen forever. By coincidence our paths meet here on the ice.
Our migration takes us now through the land of King Frederik VIII. The progression is hard because of the heavy and very unfriendly sastrugies fields. The glacier cap looks like a newly furrowed ground, or like a frozen rippled field.
We have to either ski following the "swells", up and down, or slaloming through them trying to find the smoother possible. In those conditions we're not downcoting the kilometers fast enough, and we are prepared to encounter similar grounds for another few hundreds of kilometers. Today we passed the latitude of Ny-Alesund (N78.55), Spitzbergen.
So far we haven't mentionned in our daily reports a quiet important fact : 2 other teams are thrown into the same challenge as ours : trying the first ever circumnavigation of the Grenland inlandsis ! They're only a couple of hundreds of kilometers from us ; All our best regards to them :
- the belgo-canadian team : 2 quiet famous persons amongst the polar expeditions, Dixie Dansercoer and Eric Mac Nair Landry. They're also on kite-skis.They left around 10 days before us after being dropped with a helicopter on the south-east coast of the glacier, in Ammassalik area. They are now about 300km in our south-west. Dixie is the world recordman of the amount of kilometers done in a kite-skis expedition (5013 km in 74 days in Antartica, with Sam Deltour) ; Eric broke another record : the amount of kilometers kited in 24 hours (602 km, during a south-north crossing of Greenland, with Sebastien Capland).
- the spanish team (5 persons) led by a glacier "veteran", who has an unbeatable knowledgeof the inlandsis and wind powered expeditions, Ramon Larramendi. They started on the west coast (airplane drop off) about 2 weeks after us ; they're now a few hundreds of kilometers to our west. This team travels aboard an extraordinary "glacier vessel" made of 2 big sleds tied together, pulled by an impressive wing surface. Being 5 they certainly intend to travel without stopping much, working around the clock...
Back to us, we would like to express our sincere gratitude to a bunch of people :
First of all, thanks you Rom "the postman" who makes sure we get your messages.
Also, thank you all that are commenting and giving some news, follow our progression and daily stories, support us. Here, far from all, in our daily routine of moving as many kilometers forward, your messages are a huge incentive.
Thank you Cécile and Pedro, Joh and Oliv from Carnet d'Aventure, Sophie (for the alpine sunshine, greetings to all of the "castelroussins"), Clara, Jo (good luck on the bike trip, friend), Sébastien Carrière (and the poppy fields), Thierry (we're full on ;-)), Steph Favaretto (excellent message, rgeat final bit - the frier :-)), Gilles (that helps us form far away), Alain (see you in Iceland this summer maybe) and Julien, Sophie "Larzac", Phil, Jaak "Liverpool land 2010", Corinne "football fan", Pascal the Queyrassin, our friend Jean "we won't give up", Laurent from "le vieux campeur" Grenoble, Clotilde, Birdy Kynook, Blablablog, Bertrand "glides in the way down", Florian for his great analysis of the situation... We don't forget Sylvie, Laurent, Thomas, Rom and LN, Rémi (our great team), and probably forget many (please forgive us)...
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
21/05 camp 31
Elevation: 1844 m
Distance today: 71 km
Total distance: 2711 km
Position: 79.368 N 32.949 W, alt 1844m
Hours kited: 6
Driving snow contributes a lot to the beautiful ambiances of the polar regions in the light of the low sun. Yet it can also seriously drive you mad. The minuscule ice crystals, finly ground through their ethernal wanderings over the icy desert find their way into everything. They literally flow through zippers and find the the tiniest holes in any equipment including ski boots, the interiour of the sleds, pockets, tent vents and dry-bags. It accumulates in the shadow of the wind, buries tents and pulks, and quickly fills any open gap not exposed to the wind. We take utmost care where we put the equipment like skis and shovels that have to sleep outside, as they get buried within minutes. It also limits the time, we can open the sleds and bags and manipulate a number of things outside the shelter of the tent. Handling equipment with under-gloves or even bare hands or simply turning our faces into the wind is limited to seconds.
When we set camp yesterday, the absence of any driving snow despite high winds was striking and welcome from a practical point of view. Yet it came at the price of a hard surface devoid of any relief from its sculpted sastrugis ("L'Enfer du Nord - Paves de Sastrugies").
Waking up in the morning we were even relieved to hear the noise of the tiny ice crystals hitting our tent again, flowing around and accumulating behind, in the expectation it may fill the gaps in the ground and soften the surface.
Indeed the going with ou Beringer 8 m2 skisails was little less rough, yet not as much as we had wished for. The wind started to weaken and we were clamping our bars, slowly counting kilometers, hoping this may continue a little longer. The winds being a little low for the skisails, yet still high for the Speed 4 10 m2, the prospect of kiting with these surface conditions was not very appealing.
When it was time to switch to the kites, there was the accumulated fatigue of the last days with an irregular rythm of sleep. And I had a hard time digesting one of the last meals. Strange, as we enjoy almost everything we brought with good appetite. And we are looking forward to our meals as pleasant moments of our daily routine. Yet today, my stomac was rumbling and caught my attention, where my mind would usually wander around, or simply enjoy the skiing through the dreamscape of this remote place.
We finally set camp after only 71 km, while we had hoped for much more.
We have past the latitude of the southermost point of Franz Josef Island.
Image: Mika on Beringer 8 m2. "... clamping our bars, slowly counting kilometers, hoping this may continue a little longer".
P.s. We often sleep during the day when the sun is highest. Already some time ago, we discovered, that the red and yellow tissue of the "Svalbard 5 Camp" apparently let pass enough light for our foldable Brunton solar panels to charge equipment even inside the tent, albeit slowly! This makes life a lot easier.
Distance today : 161 km
Total distance : 2640 km
Position : N79.989, W33.776, alt 1800 m
Moving time: 7 hours
The "Paris-Roubaix" of kiters...
We are now heading east-south-east. Preparing an evening session is a bit tricky, as the temperature is at the coldest , and constantly decreasing. We're taking off under great blue sky around midnight ; the west-southwest wind is growing. Its strength and direction is more favorable than the last days, and we decide to use our storm wings Beringer 8, a lot easier to use than our other kites. The difficult and "breaking" ground confirms this good decision, as those wings are just easier to handle ; it's better to progress with them under those difficult conditions.
Our speed is quiet good, sometimes well above 30km/H, and the ground is more and more tricky. We quickly notice something important : the snow is not blown anywhere. The wind is sometimes greater than 50km/h...
No snow blown shows the lack of precipitation at this area on the glacier, probably due to dry cold air. But that means big and strong sastrugies, sometimes even vitrified by the wind. Tens of kilometers in this battle field challenge a lot our legs, and our equipment, the poulkas are sometimes flying high despite their 150kg weight.
Cornelius is feeling pain on one knee, we need to paus equiet often so it eases out. I start to get more and more concerned by a tenderness on the heel, that i've been feeling for about 12 days now.
I feel it even more at the 60th km.
Km 120 my pain at the heel becomes quiet serious ; i even finish the day on one foot (about 40km) As soon as i out my injured foot's edge down i nearly fall, which makes me suffer even more. But using only one foot for edge support can only be a short term solution, as it's very hard to ski that way.
Km 160, it's not reasonnable to keep going this way ; the ground is as hard as it can and the way is stronger than ever.
Around km 80 we noticed that one of Cornelius's poulka went open. A quick check tells us nothing seems to get lost. A bit later th same thing happens again, but this time we realize we lost our main cooking stove, as well as one of our med kit. Luckily we have both one med kit and one cooking kit extra. But it means we now have no spare ; and those things are quiet vital. Let's hope that type of problem will stop here ; we have to be even more careful with our gear.
So all is still allright now, but we'll have to be more careful if we want to keep going.
PS : our best greetings to the 2 doctors that helped us prepare our med kits : Dr Marie-Anne Magnan (Ifremont) and my good friend Sophie Castets.
Monday, May 19, 2014
18-19/05 camp 29
Distance today: 206 km
Total distance: 2479 km
Position: 81.001 N 39.993 W, alt 1920 m
Hours kited: 11 h
When we left camp, we did not have any particular expectation, except a favorable forecast for the day and those to come. It took us 4 km to find out that 10 m2 were not enough, before we switched to the Speed 3 19 m2 for the rest of the day. As we were heading nort-east, the wind strengthened and the surface gradually improved. Sastrugies gave way to alternating hard icy patches and finely ground driving snow with a velvet feeling to it. Kilometers were now passing quickly, and we were approaching the unadmitted objective:
When the windspeed attained the absolute limit for these kites, and our legs were tired from the enormous friction of the cold snow, our GPS not only read 206 km but also 81 N 40 W, - the northermost point of our expedition.
In the end we have made a good distance, entered the North East Greenland National Park, exceeded the latitude of the northermost part of Svalbard (Nordaustlandet island), attained the northermost point of the expedition, covered nearly 20 degrees of latitude since the start, and set camp at about 150 m from the "confluence point" 80 N 40 W and at 1005 km from the pole. A busy day!
We had hoped to see "land" from here, yet unfortunately we do not, - at least not with the cloudy conditions and driving snow.
From now on we are heading south - back "home".
Reaching 81 N is arbitrary, yet it meant a lot to us. When we sketched the first versions of our future route, it turned at about 80 N. But we thought, it didn't look right, and that we were cutting short. Without further thought, we moved the northermost point a little higher. As time passed, we were busy with a lot of other things in our preparations. Until we had to find an insurance for our project. It turned out, that the company that had covered us in 2008 could no longer make an offer for a kiting expedition. Nor could most of the big insurance companies. Ultimately we were left with only two options. A very competitive one, covering only up to 80 N, and a much more expensive offer if we were to go beyond. We chose the latter.
Image: Confluence points are the intersections of parallels and meridiens. And while their location is purely a result of the convention of the coordinate system in use, some people take it as a fun challenge to go out and look what the world looks like at exactly these places. We thought we should do the same, as we were already so close by.
Thanks to the team Vieux Campeur Grenoble for their help and their patience, and to Laurent for his message.
We would like to take the opportunity, to acknowledge our partners, without whom we wouldn't be here:
Many thanks to Ramon Schoenmaker, Ernst Novak and Flysurfer Kiteboarding, for helping with the kites that are powering our progression. Thanks to Nico Lelarge, Flysurfer France.
Its a pleasure to have the support from Roger Daynes and Snowsled Polar for the sleds. Its not our first expedition with different models of the ice blue plastic pulks, and once more they do not let us down.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
17/05, camp 28
Distance today: 121 km
Total Distance: 2274 km
Position : 79.912 W48.990, alt 1960 m
Moving time: 9 hours
(kites used today : Beringer 8, Speed10, 33m long lines, and 21 m long lines)
Knud Rasmussen land is gonna be our "long and winding road"
So much snow was drifting wind the wind ! this announced a promising progression today... but the snow was so cold and dry, that it was quiet difficult to glide properly with our heavy pulkas : we realized that every kilometer today would be the fruit of proper effort !
Our bearing is now North-north east, and we were pushed today by south-south west wind : completely into tailwinds. That makes the heading choices a bit tricky, as well as the choice of kites. And none of the solutions we had were really great ; we often either used too big, or too small of a kite...
On top of that, navigating with tailwinds mean basically that we constantly have to change our heading ; we sometimes had to get "off-target bearing" by 30 or 40°.
here is a bit of an explanation :
- the bearing is the angle (in relation to north) that we intend to follow in order to get to a certain point (that we decide in advance and mark on the map).
- the heading is the "real-time" angle of direction that we are following, in relation to the north.
Ideally we try to match heading and bearing as much as possible (we can see both written on our GPS in order to move on as straight of a line as possible (the more straight we go, the shortest the distance is to target).
Basically on a day like today, the real distance skied is about 1,3 times more than it could be from departure to arrival point.
Then we have the kite switching (3 times today), or adjustment of length of the lines (1 change)...
So, even though we travelled a modest distance today, our day was pretty busy. The next 2 days kind of look the same...
We just went pass the Glacier Petermann's outlet, and leave to our north-west Hans island (dear to our friend Emmanuel Hussenet;-))
PS: warm greetings to Ludo and Nico, from the shop "Vertige Gap" !
Saturday, May 17, 2014
16/05 camp 27
Elevation: 1950 m
Distance today: 104 km
Total distance: 2152 km
Position: 79.140 N 53.158 W, alt 1950 m
Hours kited: 6h
When we left our camp, the sky was covered, and the wind was driving snow over the surface alternating icy patches and sastrugies. The sun appeared as a faint disk behind a curtain of foggy clouds. There was visibility, but no contrast, and we were kiting through a universe of shades of white. The sky was matte, while the snow was luminous but pale. The sastrugies appeared in brighter tones, but without any shadow, that would allow to appreciate their hight. Lacking any notion of distance, they could as well be right in front of us, or still hundred meters away. Sometimes even the slightly darker line separating the ground from the sky disappeared, and everything blended into a uniform cotton-white.
Relying mostly on tactile feedback while skiing, we had at the same time to be supple to absorb the never ending bumps, yet strong to hold the edge and keep the direction. Our heading was once more almost downwind. Skiing like this, we were frequently reminded of the scene in their film "In the footsteps of Nansen (?)", when Borge Ousland commented on Thomas Ulrich: "You are skiing like an old lady". Coucou a Jean qui nous a souvent rapellé cette citation lors de notre dernier séjour a Finse.
Later, the sun acquired an orange glow, the sky gradually cleared, and the visibility improved significantly. We made a break under the nice parhelic generated by refraction from tiny ice crystals suspended in the air. For the last 20 km we enjoyed the excpetional lighting only places like this can offer before our legs had enough and we set camp.
Image: left parhelic, Darth Vader, right parhelic.
Friday, May 16, 2014
In the picture, Sastrugies, Humboldt, and our campsite. Once more, the wind vane was pointing south, this time this is less annoying, as we will start to head north-eastwards from now on.
We camped right there, which is certainly not recommended. But in our 148 km we had quite some slow progression and 100 km of sastrugies and icy patches in our legs and were tired. We paid attention however. The tent is downwind and north of the station, in order not to cast shadows, alter the wind flow, or generate snowdrift around it.
Distance toay : 148 km
Total distance : 2048 km
Position : N78.528, W56.840, alt 1940 m
Moving time : around 8 hours
... for us at least !
In 2008, while we crossed Greenland from south to north we never went over 78°N. Now we're further, leaving south west from us the village of Qaanaaq, and the small settlement of Siorapaluk (68 inhabitants, lat N77.8), the most to the north in Greenland and probably in the North-american Arctique region.
Stepping into the Knud Rasmussen land (named after the famous danish explorer), at the very North-west of the inlandsis, closes the first part of our journey (which was close to be about similar as about a dozen of other expeditions, including WOG in 2008).
This is the beginning of a world totally unknown by us.
A few ski expeditions went up there (above 78°N), crossing the whole glacier before us, like the famous norvegians Gjeldnes and Larsen, the only guys that went from the very south to the very north of Greenland (from Cape Farewell to Cape Jesup Moris).
But those expeditions haven't been many.
If we've encountered so far pretty good surface conditions compared to 2008 (when we crossed about 800km in very icy sastrugi fields), it could be very different in the next days. maybe it's because we've been skiing at a bit lower altitudes lately (below 2000m), that our "best ennemies" the sastrugis are back properly. We've had about 100km amongst them today.
The growing wind that we experience today, and the increased risk of fall convinced us to use a smaller wing (speed 10 instead of speed 19).
On those very shaky fields, at average speeds up to 30km/h we had to be very focused today, and carve as much as possible, to avoid falling.
After about 4 hours of this "rodeo" rythm, we were happy to see Humboldt weather station, near which we set up camp for the night.
- Cornelius dedicates those first 2000 km to the little Aura, who must be widening her circumnavigations every day.
Mika dedicates those km to his miss Sylvie !
- Very warm thanks and regards to the doners of the association that we haven't yet mentionned here : Francis Baret, Matthieu Roquetaniere, Bernard et Jacqueline Charavin.
- Dear thoughts to the team Vagabond, who finishes to hibernate on the eastern coast of Baffin island :-)
- Finally warm thanks to all of you that send us messages and encouragements; this really touches us deeply : Thanks Claudine and Polo, Aurel, Eliane, Béa, Phil Deluchat, Arno, Thierry "Pif", Gilles Dreyfus, Corrado, Paul Kerrien, Georges Bagouin, Eric Brossier, Nico Sousbie, Niko and Lucile, Alain, Miss Steph Levaillant Corinne David, Florian Perrin, Pauline and Nolwenn, Pedro and Cecile, Pascal "le Queyrassin", Laurence and Luc, Ludovic LG (we'll speak about kite in Iceland if you're ok with that), and all that i could forget here...
Thursday, May 15, 2014
14/05 camp 25
Distance today: 62 km
Total distance: 1900 km
Position: 77.387 N 53.606 W, alt 2280m
Hours kited: 3h30
We were a little late to make the best of the morning session. Winds of 10 to 18 km/h got the Speed 3 19 m2 flying on the 67 m lines. Sometimes even well powered. The wind direction wasn't too bad with respect to our north-westerly heading, yet progression was sluggish. We stopped for lunch. We continued. Until we admitted that we wouldn't go any further. We set camp after only 62 km to wait for better conditions in the evening, leaving the kites outside, ready to go on. Parking the big wings with a closed cell construction on long lines precisely isn't always easy, so we stopped at about 50 meters distance of each other and put the tent in between. The evening did not bring better conditions, as expected.
The snow was quietly falling vertically on our tent, instead of being driven horizontally as hoped. When we packed the kites and tried to haul the sleds closer to the tent, we finally understood. It was almost impossible to move the sleds alone. The snow was again cold, squeaky and sluggish. The resistance of our sleds on the cold snow held us back. Already during dinner, the thermometer plummeted to -25 C, followed by a cold night. When lying on my back, slowly breathing, tiny ice crystals fall back on my face with the rhythm of my respiration.
We realized, that already yesterday we passed the latitude of Grise Fiord in the south of Ellesmere Island.
Image: Speed 3 19 m2 on long lines.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you must have understood this : our daily life is bound to constant decision making, as of deciding to depart, or to rest, in relation to weather forecasts and observations on location. Also it's all about the choice of the wings we're using, when, how long of a line we use, or the bearings we go...
Those last days choices were very difficult, and we're not that happy about our decision. This hasa created a bit of a frustration, as you can read in the daily report (below this article). During 48 hours we have set up camp 3 times ; between the first and the last of those camp, only 5 km!
First we tried to get going with a weak wind, in order to grab even a few kilometers, but so we could keep progressing. Even with 70m long lines on our biggest kites, nothing happened, and we had to set up camp after 300m.
Then we took off in the middle of the night, at the coldest hour, using the growing "catabatics" on our 70m long lines and our biggest wing ; we figured that was not the best of choices, and everything got tangle. The time to fix we started to get very cold feet. We just had to stop, get back in a warm sleeping bag, and get better ; this was just a question of safety : our "orange" alert light within ourselves turned on ; that was the only wise decision for our feet to prevent frostbites and such.
When conditions get extreme (storm, glacial winds....) the line between success and failure is very thin ; it doens't need much to mess everything up. On a thin line. We had one knee down...
Position: 77.021 N 51.731 W
Elevation: 2390 m
Distance today: 309 km
Total distance: 1838 km
Hours kited: 13h30
False start: Yesterday we had moved camp by 300 m wrote Mika. But this was not even the end of this frustrating day. The wind picked up during the night and we packed up our stuff and got going in the coldest hours. After 5 km, the security of my Speed 3 19 m2 released without reason during a short halt to change my face mask, and the lines got tangled up while the kite was on the 5 th line. The time I had sorted my lines Mika had gotten cold feet, we were tired from waiting the entire day, and set camp for a second time, after only 5 km (74.293 N 49.847 W). Misery.
We got up rather late, knowing that the best was to be expected during the following night. The wind was a little stronger than we expected and we started on 10 m2 with 21 m lines, but extended them quickly to 33 m after 40 km. The wind was not only stronger, but its direction was also much more favorable than the last days - more easterly - and we were quickly making ground. At our first real break after 140 km we already knew, that there was everything to make a good distance. Yet we also very badly needed it. Marc had made it very clear that our best bet is to reach 78 N by wednesday, if we wanted to avoid getting buried again by weak winds.
The kilometers were now flying by quickly at speeds around 30 km/h for most of the time. We got thirsty in the dry air, and when we made a short stop to drink a cup of tea at 240 km, we already felt, that we could make a nice distance. In the early morning hours, the wind turned to the south, and we were happy to stop for some sleep after a finish with tailwinds, and our longest distance ever so far.
We had started out on a flat surface with accumulations of soft snow here and there. During our progression, these wavelets got more frequent giving the impression of skiing on a frozen ocean. Soon we encountered shark finned sastrugies bumping our sleds around, and raising our worries for their contents. At the end of the night the wavelets and sastrugies ceased to big, long undulations every now and then, yet still to frequent to always avoid them, making our huge sleds jump seemingly effortlessly, as if they were weightless.
We have passed the latitude of Pitufik Airbase, from where the USA continuously maintained planes equipped with nuclear warheads in the air during the cold war - ready to strike. It happened what had to happen, one of the planes burned and crashed on the pack close to the base. Conspiration theories still speculate whether all nuclear inventory was recovered after the accident.
We are also only a few kilometers short of the latitude of another curious location of cold war history: Camp Century (77.1833 N 61.1333 W). An underground village in the ice featuring everything including a church and nuclear power station. Seriously. The story of Camp Century is definitely worth a search on the internet. You may find an account and a propaganda video, on the moment when the reactor was made critical for the first time. Weird, but strangely entertaining. The reactor has since then been removed and the camp was left to the ice a long time ago. When it was visited several years later, the ice had already started to crush its galleries.
One needs to see it in the context of this period. The time when I was in elementary school already saw the first anti nuclear movements. But the technical books for little boys of my uncles childhood still envisioned nuclear power everywhere. In ships, for space travel, for airplanes, and for cars!
When we made camp, the nuclear power source at the center of our solar system illuminated the driving snow -pushed by an invisible force over the surreal ice desert - with the glow of the early morning light. Its visible rays are for a good part at the origin of this very same force pushing our kites. They illuminate our solar panels, allowing us to communicate regularly. Nuclear, but very differently.
P.s. The two first tent spills go on my account... :
1)Toothpaste contains water - and freezes. I must have warmed inhomogeneously before using it. Uponpressing on it, it popped open on the wrong side, covering me with its precious white contents, while still nothing went on the toothbrush. Regards to Phillipe Battu who must just have returned from his own expedition to Liverpool Land.
2) When leaning back for some last relaxation before packing up and heading out, I tipped over the bowl of coffee, that was supposed to make this an enjoyable moment. Regards to "flat bowl" Thierry.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Distance today : 0
Total distance : 1525 km
Position : same as yestderday
Our rythm of progression and current life is tightly connected to weather conditions. Nothing is planned or written. And that is a challenge : we constantly have to adapt and be flexible. A day could last for about 30 hours if the wind allows for great progression. A rest time can be very short if the wind is constantly changing and we need to be on our toes to grab every little bit that's possible.
Rythms are also different amongst us : one could need more sleep than the other ; or prefers mornings over evenings ; or would like to stop while the other one would prefer to keep going...
We don't even kite at the same speeds : our weight are different enough so that we don't have the same feelings using the same wings : one can have to small of a wing when for the other it'd seem plenty.
Those small differences have effects on our directions, speed and behaviours while kiting. It's not always very easy to deal ; we constnatly need to adjust our behaviour accordingly.
We daily receive weather forecasts (from Marc) ; from there each of us go on with his own analysis. Then we take decisions and makes choices. It's not always easy to agree on everything. There is always the question whether we're taking the right decisions. We're always trying to understand how this mass of ice works, accoring to winds, temperatures. It requires a lot of observation, previous knowledge, forecasts and advices we got. But it's a very complex mixture, and we sometimes realize that we totally got something wrong.
2 days ago we stayed in our tents while we now think we should have gone out and kite on some weak (but real) winds just to go a few extra kilometers forward. This morning, after a short rest we packed everthing and decided to kite... we set up camp about 300m further : there was not enough wind to drag us and our pulkas.
Today there is no air at all where we're located, it's rare enough to mention it ! The forecaast for the next days is not very promising. Today we're more dreaming of the "Maelstöhm" than anything elase really...
we wanted to warmly thank :
- Damien Fourcy, who gave us access to valuable tools that allowed us to anylize the surface of the inlandsis and of the glaciers thanks to satellite images. Thanks Damien, for the great work.
- The Flying frogs team (Narsaq-Kangerlussuaq with kites in 2006), especially Bernard Schmidt (for sharing with us his expedition datas and logs), and Frederic Donze
Sunday, May 11, 2014
10/05 camp 21
Distance today: 72 km
Total distance: 1524 km
Position: 74.246 N 49.829 W, alt 2310 m
Hours kited: 5h
We hoped to be there already the day before yesterday, but with the fading wind, we had to stop a little more than 20 km early. And yesterday we did not move at all - with mixed feelings. Today we have finally reached and passed the automatic weather station NASA-U.
And even though this is just pole a few meters high in the middle of nowhere, we were excited as kids in a candy store. The thing looks a little like a christmas tree made of aluminum profiles, decorated with scientific instruments and crowned by a solar panel and an antenna.
There are wind, temperature, humidity, snow height and albedo measurements as far as we could recognize.
We had a closer look at the "Young" wind vane measuring wind speed and direction. It was pointing along the same direction as the arm holding what we believe is the albedo measurement. In order to avoid measuring its own shadow this arm is likely a good implementation of geographic south. This observation just confirmed once more what determined our day: almost tailwind. The little propeller was spinning merrily, but we would have preferred it a little more in a hurry.
There are many cables from the instruments converging in a box labelled "Campbell Scientific". They certainly were once nicely rolled up, but now after braving the winter storms they looked a little like the "Spaghetti" found behind most office PCs. Its certainly a tough place for a weather station.
Our expedition has no scientific aim or mission, but during the preparation of the project we have benefitted enormously from the public scientific data on the Greenland Icecap. And while out here, we experience the instantaneous and local parameters, whose averages and statistics are in the focus of climate research. There are actually many of these stations scattered on the icecap, and we had a close look at the data gathered by these instruments for the preparation of this trip. This may explain part of the excitement when we finally had the chance to see the real thing.
I would like to take the opportunity to thank Koni Steffen and the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) for access to this exceptional resource, when we prepared our first trip in 2008 and once more for this project. It was a pleasure to work with this data. I am also grateful to Koni for providing the Ekholm Digital Elevation Model which is at the base of the maps on which Thomas Roth kindly reports our daily progression. Danke Thomas!
Many thanks to Thomas Mote who helped with surface melt data, in order to get an idea about surface conditions we might encounter at later stages along our planned itinerary.
Hello to Marc our meterologic router, who yesterday tried to figure out what the weather stations are going to measure tomorrow.
Coucou to Aurelie who would have liked us to take a good number of "Schott" flasks to collect some more or less fresh air from the icecap. Regards to Francois (no meteorites so far) and Marion (le passage de sastrugies ne doit pas etre tres agreable en carriole...).
In view of the conditions, we were finally quite satisfied with 72 laborious kilometers on the Speed 3 19 m2, the last 15 km with lines of 69 meters.
Saturday, May 10, 2014
Same position as yesterday.
We already knew since some time, that there were a few days with significantly less wind ahead. Yet after 3 days of good progression, we had somehow forgotten, that its entirely possible not to move at all. The worst is however that there actually was wind. We could hear it in the tent. It was moving the tissue of the tent and when we paid attention, we could even hear it in the tent lines. So we woke up with bad conscience of a missed slot for kiting.
When we finally got out to measure the wind speed, it was around 15 km/h. Peaking at 18 km/h. Definitely enough to fly our biggest kites and to get moving with our pulks - in principle.
Yet the wind was blowing from southerly directions, and we ought to move northwards. Contrary to what one may think, this is about the worst case scenario for efficient kiting. While its perfectly possible exceed the speed of the wind by far along directions perpendicular to the latter, we can go at best at windspeed along its direction. Yet in reality its often less.
With big distances behind us and a positive attitude towards the days to come we decided not to move, at least for the moment. Back in the tent, with no anthropogenic noises any more, the wind again attracts our attention and slowly winds up a feeling of bad conscience and of a missed opportunity.
We get out again, armed with the anemometer and some hope. Again, the reading is a little low taking into account the direction and the bearing to follow. 14 km/h.
Back in the tent we hear the wind. Get out again. On our faces, we feel the chilly air stronger than it actually is, as the sun goes down and temperatures plummet. 13 km/h. The game repeats itself at least one more time, until we accept our fate.
The sun is now low and bathes the the snow and our tent in beautiful colors. Facts, bad conscience, and possibly missed opportunities. In the light of the last days there was no point in trying to get going in the morning. Considering the situation in the evening, the slot in the morning appears as a missed opportunity. Its pretty cold now. With these thoughts, we try to find sleep after having rested the entire day already.
Image: our "Svalbard 5 Camp" tent in the low midnight sun.
Friday, May 9, 2014
Distance today : 193 km
Total distance: 1452 km
Position : N73.621 W49.265, alt : 2355 m
Moving time: 12 hours (105 km with the Speed 10 and 88 km with Speed 19)
The tree, it's the 400km we kited over the last 2 sessions of 12 hours. Pretty good. The forest, it's the low winds we'll encounter in the next 3 days, if Marc's predictions are correct. We could start to feel the slower winds yesterday evening already ; we had to improvise a 2 hours "sudoku break". But despite our hopes of an efficient night, the catabatics never really came.
While we notice low clouds moving, only a few hundred meters above the glacier, the air layer on the ground was very stable, allowing for fog formations at times. Around midnight the sceneries were totally surreel, we could progress in such a low sunlight, which from now on will not set anymore. And we love that :-)
We've passed the latitude of Upernavik on the west coast of Greenland, and of Pond Inlet (Baffin Island).
the next days will allow us for only difficult and probably slow progression. We'll have to struggle every of the kilometers we'll gain in our journey...
- Greetings to Pascal Giraud (the "Queyrasin") ; we wish you a wonderful norvegian recovery, to Mathieu "the neighbour", and Thierry "the addictive" ;-)
- Thanks to Nono, PalBrudevoll, Alain Rumeau, Jo Blancho, Christine Berton, Quentin Gaudiliaire, Corinne David, Johanna, hervé "350", my brother and parents for your kind messages
- Hi, and thanks to Amelie Gendron, from Grenoble
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Distance today: 235 km
Total distance: 1260 km
Position : N71.938 W47.917, alt 2300 m
Moving time : 12 hours
For the last 48 hours the aerological and climate conditions (-20°C and catabatic winds) have been favorable to us ; we feel that's something is happening ! We're fully into it ; condition are serious and we've had to take the decision to shift our pregression time over the night hours, so we can avoid the calm times of the middle of the day.
But the dropped down temperatures of the end of the day force us to be even more concentrated ; our preparation time before kiting is also getting longer. We've had to add down insulation layers to our Gore-tex shells, and neoprene boots are now over our ski boots for better insulation ; 2 balaclavas are fully protecting our faces. Of course big down mittens are necessary now...
We usually start the session with our "big weapons", as the catabatics are pretty nice in the beginning. We use a lot the Speed 19, which makes us progress really well for a good amount of kilometers. But as soon as the wind gets over 30km/h this is too much of a wing, and we have to switch for a smaller Speed 10. The switching process takes us a good 45 minutes, in the cold and the growing winds... Refreshing !
While standing in such colds we would be quiet happy tuse our storm wings, so quick to use. But the low temperature as well as the dryness of the air makes the snow difficult to slide on ; with our heavy pulkas we need to use bigger wings.
This first big day covers up for the "no wind" day that we had on sunday. Are we finally started ? We'll know better within the next days...
- Dear regards to all donators to the association WOG ; thanks Cecile and Pedro, thanks Corinne too, for all your encouraging messages :-)
- Hi Pauline and Nolwenn ; we've passed tonight the latitude of Uummannaq, and left behind us the Store glacier, and the good memories of our sailing adventure on board of Gambo...
- Dedicated thanks to Johanna, Olivier, Alexis, Coralie and Alexandre ; the fine team of Carnet d'Aventures. We hope your readers also wander around our blog...
Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Distance today: 127 km
Total distance: 1025 km
Position: 69.921 N 46.121 W, alt 2120m
Hours kited: 7h30
We were warned: "Any wind you will experience in the morning will die out soon" and: we should consider to get shifted and kite through the night. And even though we got out a little later, we still were fooled. The wind weakened, and despite changing the lines of our Speed 3 19 m2 to 42 m, there soon was no choice but waiting.
At around 19h30, the wind picked up again. We did as recommended, and kited through the night. And while there is always twilight at our position at this time of the year, there are still a few hours where the sun drops below the horizon. So we enjoyed the sunset a little on the left of our northerly heading and did not stop to kite until it appeared again a little on the right of our course a few chilly hours later.
We finally had good going with a few moments at speeds exceeding 50 km/h, despite the very cold and a little slow and sticky snow (making loud squeaky noises at each, when we were walking to prepare the kites and to set camp). We quickly left the latitude of Illulissat behind us.
After sunset the wind strengthened, and covered the ground in thick driving snow. We switched down to the Speed 4 10 m2, for the last 50 km before mounting the tent at the latitude of Quervain Bay and Disko Island in the orange glow of the snow drift in the early morning light.
Before leaving, I had replaced my gore tex jacket, as the old one had already quite some mileage. I wanted to be absolutely sure that there wouldn't be a seam or zipper causing trouble while out here on the icecap. Not certain, I have made the good choice: it came with many labels an stickers reading "pro" and I do not remember what, and it has ripstop inside and out. But yesterday, the tongue of the slider of the front zip broke without any good reason. And while it does still close, it needs taking off the gloves and fiddling around. Not very nice. In 2008, Mika had an even more annoying case. On his jacket of a different brand, the front zipper stopped working entirely.
Image: Cornelius, fully geared for a cold night. Down trousers and down jacket worn above a base layer of wool and a gore tex shell. Full face mask, helmet, ski googles, over-gaiters over the ski boots, under-gloves and mittens. Not exactly easy to dress up for a night out on the icecap....
P.s.: Mika wishes to dedicate these first thousand kilometers to his brother Remi.
Monday, May 5, 2014
Distance today: 0
Total distance : 898 km
Position : idem
Moving time: 0 H
Hopeless kiters looking desperately for some wind...
Marc, our weatherman, told us this morning about a quiet tricky weather window where we are currently on the glacier. And, despite an early breathe, it's is very true ! But that was too early for us, that went to sleep at about 3 o'clock in the morning. And on top of that the temperatures are heavily going down : about -30°C are expected over night.
In those conditions even our big weapons (the speed 3 19m2) cannot be used. This "pit stop" is seriously ruining our plans of aver 100km a day average, with 2 rest days within the 5 last ones spent on the glacier. But it's not like we're having any choice anyway.
Now we're working against the clock, and no progression is given and easy : we have to work on every kilometer, just so we can get things going a bit, even though the wind is so weak at the moment. This is our only chance these days to get over 100km in one day. It's a bit like a sailing course at sea, except that we need to stop every day to get some sleep...
- Warm greetings to Pascal Nollet et Jérôme Thielland, wanderers of the icy Liverpool Land
- Cheers to our friend Jojo Blancho, mountain kiter, that we wish he could have been with us now.
- Our best regards to Micel Caplain who, during "Wings over Greenland 1" in 2008, helped us with his experienced weather advises. Michel : thanks again for accpeting this mission back then.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Distance today: 107 km
Total distance: 898 km
Position: 68.819 N 45.283 W, alt 2095m
Hours kited: 7h
We spent a good part of the morning in the tent, and quite some time on repairing the broken Lexan blade of Mikas shovel. We decided on stopping the propagation of the crack with a hole, molten with a pin we heated red-hot on the camping stove, and did a few more holes to mend the crack with a good number of stitches with steel wire - hope this helps at least fore a while. Last time we did this in Iceland with my shovel this worked out fine, but I have switched to an aluminum blade for winter camping since then however.
Maybe you can see the stitches in the picture - if resolution allows... The small sticker on the blade actually reads: "LEXAN Blade is impact tested & warranted if you brake this blade we'll replace it FREE". Not sure whether they deliver on the Greenland icecap.
After two days with good distances on the Beringer skisails we had secretly hoped this may go on. We quickly understood that there was no chance, and started on the Speed 4 10 m2, but after barely more than 10 km we had to admit that even this was not enough. Back to the Speed 3 19 m2, and zillions of loops. Antoine, we have done the kilometer dedicated to your winning entry in the loop count calculation contest as promised! And we actually did about a 100 more kilometers of loops.
We kited until 1 o clock in the morning without missing our headlights. While there is no night any more, we do not have midnight sun yet. But heading north and with the advancing season we hope this will soon be the case.
We are about at the latitude of Aasiaat, 5 th biggest settlement in Greenland.
Saturday, May 3, 2014
Distance today : 132 km
Total distance : 791 km
Position N67.862, W45.544, alt 2080m
Moving time : 7:30
Kite used today : Beringer 8s
The choice of the equipment we bring along haas been discussed over and over again, and very well thought. But sometimes we undoubtedly trust without thinking (maybe like a lucky charm) some gear that we've been using forever, that has never failed, that seems unbrakable. This morning, as i was trying to dig out of the snow one of the ancres that was holding a corner of the tent down to the ground i broke my Lexan made shovel. This shovel has travelled the world, and never showed any sign of weakness. And there this morning, crack, it broke ! when we realize the use of such a tool on an expedition llike this one, it certainly is a bit emotional. We'll keep you posted regarding the post recovery operation of the shovel, cause we'll definiely try to fix it somehow.
Back to business ; it looks like we got out of a first 100km of sastrugas, not very high, but very wavy and annoying. Then about 50km were in a kind of white daylight, so we couldn't even notice the contrasts on the snow. At that point we didn't get the landscape information from our vision, but more from shockwaves as we could only react to lanscape changes. Here and there some lack of edge control (very close to make us fall) would wake us up, and keep us fully fucused on our day's mission...
We've passed Sisimiut's lattitude today (Greenland's second biggest town ; about 5 460 inhabitants).
- Antoine, we haven't gotten the chance yet to honour you with a kilometer of loops
- Special greetings to Francis "le Grec", that we wish to find in great shape !
- Dear regards (and thanks) to my suiss friends Luc and Laurence ; we are going to think of you today while kiting...
Friday, May 2, 2014
01/05 day 13
Distance today: 154 km
Total distance: 659 km
Position: 66.701 N 46.144 W, alt 2070
Hours kited: 9h30
"The morning preparations took us far too long"
This remark of one of the great polar explorers (Nansen or Amundsen ?) remains unfortunately still true for us today. We got up at 7h20,
but when we had finished breakfast, packed up our belongings, digged out the tent from the snow drift of yesterdays little storm, and loaded the sleds, it was already nearly 12 o clock.
The wind was a little lighter than expected, but still strong enough for our 8 m2 Beringer Skisails, and the weather was a little better than announced, so we didn't complain. We covered about 110 km in nearly perfect conditions, before the wind weakened and we switched to our Speed 4 10 m2 kites.
DYE 2. After 20 more kilometers, we reached the abandoned american military radar station DYE 2, one of the impressive relics remembering the geographical role of Greenland during the cold war. It was part of the distant early warning line (DEW line) and its purpose was to detect Soviet intercontinental nuclear missiles in time to allow a response, before they would hit the United States. When it was abandoned, it was left on the ice as is.
Camp Raven. Just a few hundred meters from DYE 2, the americans prepare runways to train (Hercules) pilots for missions in Antarctica every other year, the even years. Camp Raven is occupied by a couple of two radio operators, Marc and Lou, who regularly prepare the runways with a Ratrack / Pistenbully, and ensure the radio contact with the pilots. During our South-North crossing from Narsaq to Qaanaaq in 2008, we had the pleasure to be invited by Mark and Lou, together with two other expeditions who happened to cross this place at the same time! We would have enjoyed meeting the couple again, but the camp was not yet installed. Its probably just going to happen these days, as the runways were already marked with flags, but not yet prepared, and the tent of the camp was not yet there... Greetings to Mark and Lou.
So we continued our way for another 24 kilometers before we set camp. We have passed the latitude of the northermost point of Iceland (bye bye Laurent) and crossed the polar circle by the way.
In the morning we had started on a near perfect surface, which gradually got rougher during the day. And even though there are barely any sastrugi worth the name yet, we have to complain first little damage (holes in bags for example) from the friction and shocks in the eternal shaker the sleds have now become.