Day 1- On The Ice!

May 14, 2010 9:31pm

As I write this, we are in the tent for our first night on the ice!
Woke up early in the ghostly hamlet of Narsarsuaq to finish packing. Yesterday we arranged for a local fisherman to take us to the mouth of the glacier. But word came that there is a lot of ice drifting between the islands which could make this challenging. After a short sleep in the kiddy bunk bed, I finish individual packing of daytime snacks. In all, we each have six kilos of chocolate! And enough candy to give any dentist a coronary! On the trail, that sugar translates to instant fuel. At home, you could just as well rub it on your thighs, ’cause that’s where it would be going!
The boat is waiting for us at noon. We arrange to have our bags shipped to Qaanaaq, some 2300 kilometers away where 45 days from now, with luck on our side, we will make our exit from the ice.

Last minute check, and we load our four sledges–two each, packed with close to 450 pounds of food, clothes and survival gear–into the small open skiff. The powerful engine rips through the glassy waters, speeding past the ice chunks littering the fjord. We stop in Naarsaaq, twenty minutes away, to get the sign off from the local police by presenting our approved application, our insurance and emergency equipment–a personal locator beacon and two iridium satellite phones.
Thirty minutes later, we pull out of the small picturesque harbor into the choppy sea of the bay. The wind picked up and we are getting a taste of its cold bite. The water gets thicker with ice and our driver shows no signs of slowing down, even as his boat gets pummeled by the progressively bigger chunks. We finally slow down, as the outboard is getting seriously manhandled. So much so that we twice end up perched on top of a slab! Pretty soon it is becoming clear that we’ll not get through. The glacier is visible three miles ahead, but there is simply too much ice to make it through. We pull out of this mess and we are told that he will approach it from a different route. This adds two hours to the approach. The wind pierces right to the bone but the water is open and we soon pull into a quiet cove at the mouth of the giant glacier. We unload the sledges, and bid our farewell. As the engine sound fades into the distance, it is now clear that the real adventure begins now! The next stop is on the other side of the continent! Without wasting time we haul our heavy sledges, one at a time, up onto the ice. When the slope softens, we tie both sledges together and begin the laborious task of getting up on the ice sheet. The sun is low on the horizon and we slowly gain ground and elevation.
We walk over the bridge of our first sizeable crevasse, some forty feet deep. After four hours, 2.8 km and 208 meters in elevation, we call it a day. Its is 9:30
PM. We avoided the volcano’s ashes; the baggage capacity scare; the iced out waterways; and six days after leaving Los Angeles, we are finally pulling our cargo across the ice!
Tomorrow will be tense, as we negotiate the crevasse fields. Easy does it. No kiting for the next two days. But the crevasses will keep us focused and alert.

One Response to “Day 1- On The Ice!”

  1. Asa Bruun says:

    Great blog! A pleasure to read.

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