Day 32–Clouds, Rest and Greenland Travel

June 12, 2010 7:16pm

Sitting on the sledge deliberating when to set up the tent. Again.

Clouds over the ice

N77°29.865 W61°12.009 Elevation 6305 Feet

One inescapable fact which I have long since come to terms with, and which is the deft reality of any outdoors enthusiast, is that you cannot get mad at the weather. In fact, while it can often test your resolve–and your patience–the weather is a sort of humbling supporting character in the unfolding play of your travels. On a kiting expedition, where wind is central to your success, weather takes on a starring role, but all the same–you cannot get mad at it for not showng up. Just as the wind had pinned us down in the tent for six days in the southern tip, so the lack of it–especially as time becomes pressing–can test us in the final phase of the expedition by forcing us to sit. And wait. Waiting for the wind, in kiting terms, is synonymous to kiting itself. Even in Greenland, reputable–at least in part–for its winds. Most challenging in this context is the unpredictable nature of our traveling schedule, which is a misnomer: there is no schedule; apart from a starting point, and a finishing one. And now of course, we are focused on the later. But the fact remains that we travel when the winds tell us it’s OK to do so. And sometimes–often–they change their mind.
And so it was this morning, as we set off on a gloomy overcast day, with featureless terrain, but dramatic skies. Fresh from yesterday’s good distance, we optimistically thought that we would close a significant portion of the gap that separates us from our finish line. We have 270 kilometers left of kiting and four days to do it in, including today. The winds were light, but enough to get us going, and we set off for what felt like a day of work, but one that might yield 150 kilometers or so. Twenty kilometers from camp, they started dropping, and the weak gusts were all we could rely on to keep the kites in the air. Eventually, travel was reduced to a crawl, until the nylon sail simply folded in the air and, without ceremony, fell limp to the ground. We had traveled a total of 30.6 kilometers. Unsure what to do, as this was so early in our day, we sat on our sledges, trying to avoid the unpleasant reality of having to rebuild a camp we had striked just two hours earlier. One token of mercy was that this sad plot unfolded under remarkably complex and visually stunning skies, the likes we have not come across thus far. Unique to this latitude, as we begin our descent towards the ocean, is that while thick clouds competed, as usual, with a timid and often recluse sun, way ahead, on the horizon, the sky was clear, forming a band of blue. Inside that blue strip, and cut off by the horizon line, was another set of thick clouds: these were clouds that sat perhaps a thousand meters above the ocean, but from our position (significantly higher than that still) we could see above them. This effectively allowed us a view of both the bottom of the clouds above us, and the top of those in the distance. Needless to say, I spent some quality time with my cameras until came time, inescapably, to build the tent again.
One of the more challenging aspect of this expedition certainly is the random turning of the clock from day travel to night travel, at the whim of the weather, or the wind more specifically. My young friend is a master at adapting sleep, and will take it as it comes, wherever and whenever. Perhaps it is an age thing, but though I require less sleep, I am beginning to find the unpredictable switching taxing on my rest. With essentially ten days left, more or less, of the expedition, I am looking forward to a good night on a nice mattress with–what a novel idea–a pillow under my head! As we sit here in the tent, it is 11PM, and I am beginning to hear some flutter of the tent’s walls. If it increases, I will wake my teammate up, and we will set out for a night sojourn–hopefully under sunlight! As it is, the temperature has dropped considerably from the afternoon, and will set to a night chill. We have 240 kilometers left of kiting, and three days (and a night) to do them in. I will make an offering of chocolate and nuts to the wind gods–and ligten my sledge in the process…

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