Across Greenland 2018

Six women’s adventure in an ice labyrinth, avoiding crevasses, several storms, fourteen hours of skiing, a helicopter evacuation, doubt about the success of the expedition; here are some examples of what our eventful Greenland crossing included.

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WHY GO?
During my exchange years in Norway I got my first experiences of winter touring. I totally fell for it! In recent years I have participated in expeditions in Sweden’s Sarek, on Iceland’s Vatnajökull glacier and on the glacier landscape of Svalbard. As the trend seems to do more challenging trips progressively, crossing Greenland by skis was naturally the next challenge for me. After all, it has for long been a big dream for me to cross Greenland by skis. Aren’t dreams made to come true?

 

THE ICE LABYRINTH
At last it was the day when we stood on the edge of the glacier near the village of Kangerlussuaq! Our eyes were facing east and it was a great feeling! One year of preparations were behind. At last we were beginning what we had been practicing for so long. The first days we navigated our way in the ice labyrinth, looking for the best route towards the icecap. With crampons on our feet we walked up and down along different ice humps with house-sized ice cliffs on our sides. Sometimes it was impossible to find a suitable direct route because of the deep crevasses. Our GPS track had formed a zigzag pattern. Because of the 80 kg behind us in our sleds, the speed was not breathtaking. At some points, we had to push one sled at a time – that can you call teamwork!

 

ON THE ICECAP
Eventually the ice labyrinth disappeared when the snow cover thickened. We had reached the icecap! Our next goal was to ski more than 20 km a day. Unfortunately, one of the expedition members had got severe abdominal pain, and we understood that our goal was impossible to achieve. Since her condition did not improve, we made a decision about medical evacuation by helicopter. We were prepared for a three-day delay due to storms, but these days were now used when we waited for the evacuation flight. We so hoped that a storm would not hit us at the end of the trip.

 

THE RADAR STATION
After the helicopter evacuation we extended our ski distances. We visited the abandoned and icy DYE2 radar station. An awesome dome building rose in the middle of the snow field. Like other expeditions, we left our name both in the guest book and on the dome wall. We wondered about the amount of goods left behind, like beer bottles and household machines! It was like the time had stopped in the 80’s. Even a Christmas ham was waiting on the table!

 

STORM DAYS
Then the storm hit us … 30 m/s winds forced us to spend a couple of days in tents. This meant that we needed to extend our day distances to the end of the trip, to get to the east coast in time. However, this was not the only storm we encountered, but a third full storm day was still to be spent in the tents. Our trip had now become a race against the clock! The conditions were so difficult, that we were uncertain if we would get in time to the east coast, to the plane waiting for us there. However, we had such a huge motivation to get over the glacier, so finally we skied quite absurd day distances. 14 hours and 40 km were at the end a normal day…

 

AT THE COAST
We looked forward to a decent downhill after the half way, but we had to wait to the last day for the real downhill … What a joy it was to ski the last meters with the land in sight!. After 30 days and 576 km we reached our goal! Thanks to the team’s great humor and will! One more night was in front on the polar bear area. We ended our ski tour on a rocky cliff where we found a small hut. We slept the last night safely inside the hut, where we waited for the morning’s helicopter lift.

 

Greenland preparations Ep. 3 – Physical Training

Parin viikon päästä lähdetään kohti Grönlantia! Jotta hiihtokunto olisi parhaimmillaan, on viimeiset kuukaudet sisältäneet hiihtotreeniä ahkiolla. Nyt kevät on saapunut Suomeen, lumet ja jäät sulaa, joten viimeiset viikot mennään renkaanvetotreenillä!

In a few weeks we’re off to Greenland! This is how I have trained to be fit for our expedition. My training program has included skiing and also tire pulling. 

Music: http://www.bensound.com

Greenland Preparations Ep. 1 – Skiing

Training for the expedition Across Greenland 2018
An enjoyable ski training session in powder snow transformed into something else.

Treeniä Across Greenland 2018 -retkikuntaa varten
Aina ei mene kuin Strömsössä… Hiihtäminen hienossa puuterilumessa muuttui nopeasti johonkin ihan muuksi.

Träning inför expeditionen Across Greenland 2018
Det går inte alltid som i Strömsö… En njutbar skidning i pudersnö förvandlades till något helt annat.

Greenland plans for 2018

Greenland map

Scroll down for English text

Grönlantisuunnitelmia

Jippii! Viimeinkin vuosi on vaihtunut ja tänä vuonna on sitten isompi seikkailu edessä: Olen lähdössä Grönlantiin huhtikuussa 2018! Tavoitteena on hiihtää Grönlannin yli lännestä itään. Reissu on Ankarat Avotunturit -organisaation järjestämä ja meidän retkikuntaan kuuluu kuusi suomalaista naista. Naisvoimalla siis mennään! Suunnitelmat ovat jo pitkällä ja helmikuussa lähdemme retkikunnan kanssa harjoitusretkelle johonkin (toivottavasti kylmään) paikkaan Suomeen.

Reitti ja olosuhteet

Lähdemme hiihtämään Grönlannin länsirannikolta Kangerlussuaq-kylän lähettyviltä sijaitsevalta Point 660 -paikasta ja päämäärämme on Isortoq- tai Tasilaaq-kylä itärannikolla. Matkaa kertyy n. 570 km ja siihen kuluu n. 30 päivää. Ensimmäiset 300 kilometrit ovat loivaa nousua ja korkeimman kohdan (2500 mpy) jälkeen edessä on taas loivaa laskua.  Olemme varautuneet 0°C – -35°C lämpötiloihin ja olemme myös ottaneet huomioon myrskyt, railot ja jääkarhuvaaran. Retkikunta on tukematon, joten kaikki tarvittavat tavarat (ruoat, keitinpolttoaineet, vaatteet ja varusteet) vedämme perässämme ahkioissa.

Yhteistyökumppanit

Tärkeät yhteistyökumppanit ovat mahdollistaneet osallistumiseni näin mahtavaan projektiin. Niiden kanssa on hienoa jakaa elämykset! Kiitos Eskimo ja Santa Maria, tästä tulee aivan huikea seikkailu!


Greenland plans

Yippee! This year there is a bigger adventure ahead: I’m going to Greenland in April 2018! The plan is to ski across Greenland from west to east. The trip is organized by the Ankarat Avotunturit organization and our expedition includes six women from Finland. In February we going on a short a training trip to, hopefully, a cold place in Finland. 

Route and conditions

We are going to ski from the west coast of Greenland, Point 660, located near the village of Kangerlussuaq, and our aim is the Isortoq or Tasilaaq village on the east coast. The distance is approximately 570 km and it will take us about 30 days. The first 300 kilometers we are going gentle uphill and after the highest point (2500 mpy) there is again bearly noticable downhill. We have prepared for temperatures from 0°C to -35°C and we have also taken into account risks as storms, crevasses and polar bears. The expedition is unsupported, so all the necessary goods (food, cooking fuel, clothing and equipment) we will pull behind us in pulks.

Partners

Important partners have made it possible for me to participate in this great project. With them, it’s great to share experiences! Thanks to Eskimo and Santa Maria, this will be a great adventure!

Winter Gear That Matter

The summer is around the corner,  but it’s time to look back at the Svalbard winter expedition for one final time. The focus is now on the gear I used during the trip.

On my final equipment list for the Svalbard expedition, I had 126 items. Some of the list’s items, which belonged to the category unnecessary, I removed during the planning phase. The removed items were most spare clothes and spare equipment. The rest of the equipment on the list was more or less important or necessary. Some equipment belonged to the category comfort, but those equipment contributes greatly to how you enjoy the journey.

You can download my equipment list for the Svalbard 2016 expedition:
Svalbard2016 GEAR (PDF)

Below I have listed the top 5 equipment that I experienced that contributed to how comfortable and successful the journey was. I would absolutely take with me these equipment again on a similar winter expedition.

Top 5 Winter Expedition Equipment:

1. Inflatable Mattress – Thermarest NeoAir All Season

A month before the Svalbard expedition, I did a short winter tour in Koli National Park. It was the first real winter test for my Thermarest NeoAir All Season mattress. I had used it several times in the summer, autumn and spring, but never in the winter. It was under that trip I concluded that it’s a thousand times more comfortable than a foam mattress and I was really rested in the morning. On Vatnajökull, for example, I slept directly on my Thermarest Ridgerest Solar foam mattress, and I remember that my arm got numb every night and my back hurt in the morning. It was easy to take the decision to bring the mattress to Svalbard. I like the mattress because it’s light, warm, comfortable and when deflated it doesn’t take much space. In the winter it is not good to inflate the mattress by blowing, because the moisture is collected inside the mattress and then freezes. Therefore I have a small battery powered electrical pump to the mattress, but to Svalbard I borrowed a pump sack from a friend, because the electrical pump is not so efficient. The pump sack worked great after you got used to it after couple of days. Under the NeoAir I had the Ridgerest foam mattress, just for safety’s sake, if the NeoAir would have gone flat.

2. Vapour Barrier Socks – Rab VB Socks

First some information about VB socks. The idea is to dress a pair of liners on your feet as base layer, on top of those these waterproof VB socks, and outside of those a pair of thick and warm ski socks, and of course the ski boots on top of that. In this way the moisture will not get through from the feet to the warm socks and boots, and that prevents freezing condensation and they hold heat better. These Rab VB Socks was the equipment that I was most skeptical about, but because the socks weighed almost nothing, I decided to take them with me. I had heard very good reviews about them, but I hadn’t had time to test them properly before departure. Once we set of skiing on Svalbard I decided to give them a try, and I was really, really surprised how well they worked. I was worried that the socks would cause chafing or blisters, but in the end I think they prevented that. Under the whole trip I got only a few small blisters under my big toes and a small blister on one of my heel. With some sports tape I easily fixed those problems. The ski boots and the thick ski socks were dry throughout the whole expedition.

3. Ski boots – Crispi Stetind GTX

Last year, during the expedition on Vatnajökull, I had a pair of ski boots (Alpina BC 1550) that weren’t so good. Actually they were horrible. I got some nasty blisters on my feet, which affected negatively my skiing. They weren’t waterproof at all, so I had soaking wet boots throughout the whole trip, except for couple of days I dried them directly over the cooking stove. In the early winter I bought a new pair of ski boots, Crispi Stetind GTX. I was first worried that I wouldn’t have time to break them in, but I had time to make a few ski trips with the boots before the expedition. In most of my shoes and boots I use custom made insoles, because it’s really difficult for me to find shoes that fits my feet. For some reason the insoles in the Stetind boots fit perfectly my feet, and they were really comfort. The boots are very steady and sturdy, but enough soft for skiing. The thing I like most is that they are waterproof! If you like to go uphill with crampons, the Black Diamond Contact Strap fits perfectly on these boots.

4. Devold Merino

Under a winter expedition you don’t change your clothes so often. Therefore you have to wear really comfortable clothes, especially for the base layer. I haven’t tried many brands of merino wool garments, but I have been really satisfied with the Devold Expedition brand. On Svalbard we changed our base layers once, except for our underwear that we changed more often.

5. Durable spoon – Sea To Summit Alpha Long Spoon

The Sea To Summit Alpha Long Spoon is the best spoon when you are eating directly from freeze dried food bags. Because of the length of the spoon, it is easy to get all the way to the bottom of the bag. One more thing is that it’s really durable. I hadn’t thought much about this feature, but in harsh expedition conditions it’s proved to be an important feature. To Svalbard I had with me one Alpha Long Spoon and two Light My Fire Sporks. I use Sporks when eating in the tent. Both of my Sporks broke into two pieces. The total amount of broken Sporks in our three person tent, during our expedition, was four! Well, the cold temperature and the frozen food may have had something to do with the breakage of the Sporks, but now I understand why some spoons are made from strong aircraft aluminum alloy. Maybe I will til the next expedition get a Spork Titanium? The cons of the aluminum or titanium spoon is that it’s not Teflon friendly.

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The Alpha Long Spoon compared to the two broken Sporks.

 

If you are interested in the winter clothing, I have written a separate blog post about Layers For the Cold.

Soon it’s off to Svalbard!

The final preparations for the Svalbard expedition are in full swing! We are flying early in the morning, but everything is finally packed ready. It looks as if my final weight of the sled will be below 70 kg, which is nice! The last thing I have done is to update the playlist on my iPod, but I realized that I had not so much music on my computer, so it will be for me to listen again and again the same songs

I’m glad I’ve packed my warmest sleeping bag combination, because the forecast is on the cold mode in the beginning of the week… Luckily the weather gets warmer by the end of the week.

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Screen shot from yr.no

Expedition Food for 3 Weeks

When I’m planning the food for longer trips, I try to make the food as easy and lightweight as possible. It can be fun to sometimes luxury something up, but I like simple meals that are easy and quick to cook. I’m not really choosy when it comes to food, but some may think that my menus looks a bit too monotonous. The most important thing is that you really like what you eat, so that you easily  can take in energy.

Winter expedition food are little easier to plan, and here’s the reasons:

  1. Weight: You’re pulling your stuff in a sled, which is for volume much larger than a backpack and you can pull a lot more weight than you can carry, so you can take some weighty gourmet food with you.
  1. Durability: You can take fresh food with you without fear of rancidity, eg cheese, ham and butter, as the temperature remains low.
  1. Water Sources: You get water anywhere, just as you can melt the snow. So the only water you need to pull in the sled is what you need during the day for drinking and lunch.

Menu for the Svalbard expedition (19 days):

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Food for 3 weeks: potato mash, porridge, blueberry soup, chocolate drinks, sports drinks, minced meat of moose (dried), freeze dried lunches (add water), coffee and coffee creamer, beef jerky, multivitamins, cookies and chocolate with nuts. Still missing from the picture: Bread, butter, cheese, ham, 10 x freeze dried lunches and some more chocolate and nuts.

BREAKFAST

  • Porridge (Elovena Plus Whole Grain Oat & Wildberry Milk, portion instant porridge)
  • Bread (with butter, ham and cheese)
  • Coffee (Moccona and creamer)
  • Multivitamins (effervescent tablet)

SNACKS AND DRINKS

  • Sports Drink (HartSport and Fast, powder)
  • Chocolate with nuts (200 g per day)
  • Beef Jerky

LUNCH

  • Freeze Dried Meal (LYO foods or REAL Turmat)
  • Coffee (3in1) or Chocolate Drink (Oboy)

DINNER

  • Mashed potatoes (Rainbow and various tastes of Mummon Muusi)
  • Minced meat of moose (fried and dried)
  • Chocolate Drink (Van Houten)

MISCELLANEOUS

  • Blueberry soup (Ekströms, powder)
  • Cookies (Ballerina milk chocolate)
  • Potato chips (Pringles)