We left Dye 2 early the following morning, now on a new bearing. With 5 days of good weather ahead of us we began what we hoped would be the final push. We had 7 days’ worth of food, and we knew 6 days to get off the Icecap would be a real push, but would have to try as we still would have another day once we came of the ice to make it to the coast.
(Reference points not included)
After three 12 hour days in a row we had covered 110 kilometers and were extremely pleased with our progress, we felt there was no chance we could of given anything more, so once we got a fix on the phone and called Lars for our latest update we were shocked to hear him tell us that from our progress 6 days would be a “push” and now we should look at realistically making it in 7.
(Always wear your UV protection boys and girls)
It hit home to us both what kind of ninja we had running our mission control. Remembering he had told us he had made the run from Dye to the Ice cap finish in 4 days made us appreciate the level of expertise we had watching over us. The addition of another day when we have been pushing so hard hit our morale, we would have to ration our food on the last day to make it last until the coast which was another 45km off the Icecap. On the evening of the 4th night we set up camp, when we were inside and melting snow Louis began to complain of something in his eye, on not seeing anything in there the pain began to increase to the point he could not see anything out of his right eye. That day he had forgone wearing his eye protection, and despite it only being a cloudy day the inevitable had occurred. He had gone snowblind in one eye. In a great deal of pain and unable to stand the light we flushed his eye with saline and kept the snow goggles on him. The following day it got gradually worse, going in an out of painful spasms where his eye would continually water steaming up his goggles rendering him all but blind.
On our 6th day with only 26km left to go we knew the terrain was due to get extremely complicated so left camp a lot later then usual as we knew we had no chance of making it in that day. With around 13km left to push we replaced our skis with crampons as the snow had been replaced with a vast network of ice cliffs, frozen rivers and crevasses. With Louis vision causing increasing problems I led us through this horrible section of ground, the pulks yet again began to have a mind of their own careering headlong over the cliffs trying to drag us into oblivion. With my nose taped from frost nip, we must of looked like a pair of dilapidated pirates making are way through this frozen network of vexation. By 8pm with the sun bidding farewell to the day, we were a mere 5 kilometres from the finish. We had this. After a brief chat discussing our options we were unanimous in the decision that we were going to push it in tonight. Easier said than done.
Our pace had slowed from 3.5km per hour to 3 then to 2 and now over this extremely complicated terrain we were covering a mere 1.3km per hour. We would half climb half crawl up perilously steep blocks of ice, only to come tumbling down them a few meters further into a network of frozen rivers that would smash and crack under each footstep we took slowing us down even more.
Two Mad Explorers, one half blind, the other, half stupid, made their way cloaked by darkness surrounded by crevasses, inch by inch, ever closer to the edge of the second largest body of ice on the planet. Then the inevitable happened.
Traversing along the edge of an ice block, one of the pulks careered headlong over the edge into the darkness below. Managing to arrest it before it dragged me over, I turned to give Louis the heads up about the dodgy ground as he climbed over the crest of the ice. Despite heeding the warning his feet were not placed solidly when his pulk followed mine. The jerk pulled him back with them into the darkness below.
A sickening smash ripped through the night air, followed immediately by an unnerving silence. Shining my headtorch I saw Louis sprawled in the broken ice of a frozen river five meters below me. Shouting
No response. I couldn’t get down to him with my pulk still overhanging the edge and I desperately called out to him again.
“Dude how did I end up here?”
His response caused relief and worry to flood through me and, after informing my friend he had just been knocked out, I pulled up my pulk and made the long way around and down to him. By the time I had reached Louis, he was up and though not one hundred percent compos-mentis, he knew where we were and was still keen to push on. Panic over; for now at least.
We continued more carefully than before and within a kilometre of the icecaps edge, out of nowhere, we began to see footprints. The Icecaps edge is a tourist destination of sorts and a road,
from a settlement called Kangerlussuaq (our finish point) runs right to it. These footprints were the evidence that our finishing point was within grasp. A bird that took flight on seeing us, was the first living thing we had seen since stepping off the boat all those weeks ago. Elated at our achievement we set our tent up hastily using the pulks to secure it. The frozen soil would neither take peg nor ice screw. We had managed DYE II to Point 660 in six days, as we had wanted and still had one day’sfood left to fuel our walk to the coast tomorrow.
Phoning Lars in the morning we were congratulated whole heartidly and told to make it to the road as he had arranged a pick up for our gear. What followed was a long, but pleasant walk to the west coast of Greenland and the settlement of Kangerlussuaq, where we were booked into a hostel. We waisted no time in getting a shower and making up on that calorie deficit we have been enduring.
(Been round the bazars have you lads?)
Also staying in the Hostel was a fellow Mad Explorer and all round legend; Colin O’Brady, World Record Holder for the Seven Summits and Explorers Grand Slam. He had been with one of the other groups on the ice preparing for a polar endeavour later this year; however he had a prior engagement so ended his crossing prematurely. He informed us the Fall crossing of Greenland is considered one of the hardest polar challenges. (much harder than spring due to the amount of snow and hours of light) He added that 500 people successfully summited Everest this season, whilst only 12 people embarked on the fall crossing of Greenland. That statistic hit home to us, what a significant challenge we have achieved, completely unguided and unsupported with zero polar exploration experience behind us. We were the fastest group crossing the ice this Autumn despite our inexperience.
A huge gratitude must go to Petter Thorsen from Wild Norway, who made sure we were adequately prepared for every eventuality. Also to our Weatherman, mentor and all round polar badass Lars Ebbeson, who ensured when we could get in touch, we knew exactly what to prepare for and what we needed to do.
Without these legends, I am sure we would not have been successful in this endeavour. Anyone looking to try any kind of polar adventure, with little experience should look these guys up.
Four down, one to go. Despite Baffin Island being the smallest of the five; logistically it appears to be a monster.
(As we look forward)
Bear with us as we return home, take stock of what we have done and look to learn. The final leg will be as epic and mental as the rest. The ultimate crossing will definitely be a finale that reflects the magnitude of our journey so far.
We appreciate every person who has followed our journey so far. If you feel connected with this chapter of our adventure, you can donate to our two chosen charities via the link below.
If you are interested in starting your own polar adventure and wish to undergo the same training we did to successfully cross Greenland you can check out Wild Norways courses on there website here: