After many years organising and running Greenland Ice Cap expeditions, this expedition combines all our experience of building and properly preparing a team and arranging the most cost-effective, reliable logistics. This expedition does not cut corners: If you want to join an expedition team based upon a deep knowledge of the Ice Cap and the preparation required to succeed, read on.
A classic crossing of the vast Greenland Ice Cap – one of the 3 big polar expeditions. Following the line of the Arctic Circle between Isortoq and Kangerlussuaq, we will attempt a ‘full crossing’; that is, from coast to coast. Instead of being flown onto the Icecap, we plan to start the expedition at sea level on the East Coast, and finish on the shores of the fjord in Kangerlussuaq. Travelling by ski, hauling all our equipment in sleds, the crossing is likely to take around 27 days. Starting with heavy loads, we will make our way up the initial steep slopes onto the icecap, from where the slopes gradually ascend to the summit, before gradually losing height until we reach the terminus of the ice on the West Coast. Instead of being picked up there, we will continue on foot to the sea’s edge – the final stage in making a complete crossing of Greenland.
A crossing of Greenland’s Ice Cap is a major undertaking and demands a great deal from each and every team member. There’s no way that the expedition guide can ‘carry’ anyone. Our greatest focus in building ice cap expedition teams is to find people with sufficient commitment to train and properly prepare – both to ensure you’ll get the most from the trip but also to find the right team members for you. Please do contact us if you feel that this approach could work for you.
Ascent from the East Coast
To us, a true crossing of Greenland starts on the shores of the east coast and finishes on those of the west; flying by helicopter high onto the Icecap takes much away from the adventure of the journey. The initial and final sections can be challenging but that’s where our local knowledge comes in; we use the experience of many previous expeditions to search out the best route we can find through the crevasse fields. It is possible to start out from the village of Isortoq, but we prefer the remoter Nagtivit fjord – a beautiful & peaceful place to start the expedition. In April 2007 the Pirhuk team, following a GPS course, ascended the glacier and reached the open plateau in 6 hours.
Once out of the coastal region, our route gradually ascends in the course of c. 240km to the highpoint of the expedition (2500m above sea level). The incline is almost imperceptible but the daily distances covered before and after the summit are telling. Within several days of starting, the mountains of the East Coast drop below the horizon. Once over the summit, the next significant way-point is the abandoned Dye-2 Distant Early Warning station, an eerie reminder of the Cold War (built by the USA in the ’50s to detect missile attacks).
Descent to the West Coast
As the team nears the west coast, we will enter an area of ice disturbance & potential melt-water and work our way through that to gain land at Point 660. Carrying only essential equipment, the team will then undertake the 40km hike out through the tundra to Kangerlussuaq fjord (musk oxen are often seen in the area).
The pulks are at their heaviest and the slopes the steepest when the team sets out from the East Coast. We therefore always plan on gradually ‘acclimatising’ to the workload of pulk-hauling by gradually increasing the number of hours skiing; in the opening stages, this tends to be 6 hours and towards the end, up to 9 or even 10. The skiing day is broken down into 1 hour blocks seperated by 10 minute breaks, during which time it’s important to eat and keep hydrated. Each team member will have the opportunity to take the lead and navigate for the group (and this role generally changes every hour).
After years assisting in the training and preparation of expedition teams, we feel the following points are hugely important:
The endurance required to successfully complete the expedition can only be built up over a long period of time – years rather than months. A solid background in endurance sports like mountaineering, long-distance trekking etc. forms a sound foundation but additional structured training is essential, applied in a regular and progressive programme. Keeping it specific is essential: placing any training in the context of hauling a pulk that weighs 80 kg at the outset for up to 30 days without a rest day. Experience of self-reliance in extreme conditions is also a factor often under-played but just as important. We’ve watched otherwise fit team members suffer greatly due to the stress of feeling over-awed by the environment and task ahead. If you’re not used to working in such a wild climate, look into ways in which you can gain experience. Whilst the training Pirhuk provides (detailed below) will focus on the specific techniques used on the expedition, this experience is only a part of getting prepared.
Technical Training & Preparation
An essential part of preparation for the expedition is our Norway training trip. A week in mid winter on the Hardangervidda Plateau provides a short, sharp shakedown of the highly specific expedition systems we use on the Ice Cap. Organised to run a few months before the main expedition, this is an opportunity to bring it all together; equipment, fitness and technique. At this stage, you should be aiming to get confirmation that you’re well on track; there shouldn’t be any nasty surprises or big holes found in your prior preparation.
East Greenland Training Expedition
For those who haven’t got previous experience of a long and arduous ski journey, we’ve recently restructured our polar training course in the form of a two week ski expedition through the frozen fjords and glaciers of East Greenland, the details of which can be viewed here. This expedition is a perfect opportunity to gain in experience and confidence whilst also gaining rare access to a wild and remote region of Greenland. We’ll use the same techniques and structure used on the Ice Cap. By completing this expedition and the Norway course, we now offer a progressive build-up to a full Ice Cap expedition.
- Return flights: Reykjavik, Iceland - Kulusuk, East Greenland
- Helicopter flights: Kulusuk, East Greenland - Tasiilaq, East Greenland
- Up to 2 nights' sleeping bag accommodation in Tasiilaq (incl. evening meal & breakfast)
- Helicopter access to the Ice Cap (based on a 25 minute flight)
- Flight from Kangerlussuaq, West coast Greenland to Copenhagen (non flexible)
- Use of pulks, pulk bags and rope traces
- Asnes nordic skis, skins and poles
- Mountain tents, stoves and pans
- Expedition food & fuel
- Services of a Pirhuk Guide
- Use of dual frequency satellite beacon, Iridium satellite phone (calls can be made for £2.50/min), polar bear deterrents
- Weather updates and remote support services
What's Not Included
- International return flights from your home country to Copenhagen, Denmark
- Meals in Iceland (excl. breakfasts provided in guesthouse)
- Expedition/travel insurance
- Personal expedition & ski equipment
- Any extra expenses due to unforeseen circumstances (eg. delayed flights)