Day 39–Last Moments of Immersion

June 18, 2010 10:12pm

Organizing our things on the tundra before setting up the sleeping bags in the open

N77°42.446 W69°27.128 Elevation 22 Feet

The time is finally upon us. As I sit on the narrow beach facing the frozen bay, amidst ice chunks the size of cars, the expedition is coming to its final phase. It is one AM, and the sun has just chased away the high clouds that dominated the sky for most of the day, and is bathing us with warm, golden rays. We started this expedition at ocean level–at the foot of a glacier near Narsasuaq in the south–and forty days later, we finish at ocean level at the base of a mountain near Qaanaaq in the north, having traveled some 2300 kilometers unsupported using nothing but natural energy to propel us. Five days shy of what we had planned for, and two days less than I had anticipated. As the sun warms my spent body, there is a lot to contemplate. And nothing quite like this wild, serene, and unspoiled environment to do it in.
My head swirls with images from the scenes of our adventure, so many that I try to process and organize in my mind. But right now, my back and feet are still mad at me for what they were subjected to this afternoon!
After speaking with the helicopter base to negotiate a price, I got confirmation of a pick up for tomorrow morning. Eric and I then set off with our sledges one last time. If yesterday’s experience proved anything, it is that this promised to be a back breaker!
I carried all my sensitive equipment in a backpack–cameras (which I have seven in total, all told!), Iridium communication, HP laptop and iPack, and various electronics–and stuffed all the rest in the sledge bags, careful to use sleeping bags, jackets and anything soft laid out to soften the shocks… The rare patches of snow offered a desperate relief for the sledges: we sat on top of them, shot down and let it rip! But those were very short lived. Mostly, we descended over the treacherous terrain in what can only be described as more extreme a sport than crossing the entire Greenland ice sheet on kites! It was intense! The rocks were unrelenting, and as the slope got progressively steeper, the sledges would catch up on their way down, and threaten to take us with them. On the bright side? That gravitational pull forced us to move faster than we would have, and we just about galloped down the mountain in about three hours. By the time we reached level ground, the bottom of the sledges were torn to shreds! But this was the last of our need for them… They will retire in Qaanaaq–hopefully to some kids who could find a use for them.
Upon securing in a landing area for the chopper, I called the pilot and confirmed our coordinates. Weather pending, he will be here 1100 hours–ten hours from now.
We spread our gear on the tundra, and organized our bags, and both went on separate hikes: it was nice to walk around, with my thoughts and camera: just like old times! For all the open space and the travel, this type of trip is not for casual strolls. You’re either geared up and putting in miles; or in the tent resting and keeping warm. This evening’s hike was a nice way to get reconnected to land, and let the legs do their work (although I will admit that mine feel the miles and–more precisely–the natural Stairmaster of the last two days!) But given this incredibly remote and pristine location, it felt wrong sitting down!
Tonight we will sleep out in the open–it’s pleasant enough and too uneven to set the tent. Besides, the moss is soft, the sun is out, and the air about 5C degrees above zero. I’ll keep an eye open, and my camera (!) in case a bear wonders by!
It is so quite and so peaceful as I gaze ahead at the pouring glaciers to my side; the iced plateaus in the distance; the frozen bay ahead, and the icebergs beyond. And I claim it to be a fact: it feels good to be alive…!

One Response to “Day 39–Last Moments of Immersion”

  1. You made some good points there. I did a search about the topic and hardly found any specific details on other websites, but then happy to be here, really, thanks.

Leave a Reply