Greenland: At the Start

As the first rays of morning sunlight touched the upper reaches of the icefall, the cold blue of the polar night gave way to the warm pinks and oranges of our final day on the glacier. Standing there, in quiet awe of what surrounded us, with weary legs and frozen toes, I felt the sense of an ending of a very special, very personal journey. Crossing Greenland had been a boyhood dream, finally realised.


I cannot recall when I first heard the tale of Nansen’s daring adventure across the frozen interior of the Greenland ice sheet. I can however remember thinking of the crevasses, ice rivers and storms that marked his journey with a feeling of excitement, tinged ever so slightly with that of terror. Over the years my thoughts often turned back to Greenland and the polar regions and thus I decided that one day I would see it for myself and retrace the steps of Nansen’s first crossing.

 


Our team of five began our unsupported journey on the Hahn Glacier on Greenland’s East Coast. A huge glacial tongue that winds it’s way from the ice sheet to the sea, choked with the remnants of Winter’s icebergs and pack ice. In the shroud of the coastal mountains, we began our long haul up the glacier. Ahead of us lay 3 days of the hardest hauling any of us had experienced, calling upon every ounce of mental and physical stamina just to reach the ice sheet itself and begin the 560km crossing.

 

The journey that followed will last long in my memory. It was an adventure of the highest order; bone-chilling cold, hidden crevasses, raging storms, huge melt rivers and the ever present, very real threat that we wouldn’t make it across at all. In the last days we were always one crevasse, one river, one fall away from not completing the crossing. It’s not an adventure if you know what’s going to happen in the end, and the ice sheet kept us guessing until the last step.

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