<![CDATA[Day 30: Almost Home]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262242 <img src='http://www.x-journal.com/member/ericlars/images/b158_679426_scale.jpg'><br />And then, just like that we were on a helicopter flying out of Tasiilaq and over the ocean toward Kulusuk. Honestly, and judging from the weather report, I thought we would be stuck for several more days. But an early morning clearing provided our graceful exit. In Kulusuk, we boarded a plane in a growing blizzard.<br /> <br /> Landing in Iceland, everything was lush and green. Clearly someone had gotten these places mixed up. Greenland should be called Iceland and vice-versa, I commented to Diogo.<br /> <br /> Within a few minutes, we retrieved our bags and parted ways. Dean and Kat heading in other directions and Diogo and I toward the international airport. While we had an incredible adventure, it is time to move on.<br /> <br /> For my part, I can hardly contain my excitement. Tomorrow, I will be with Maria and the kids. Big hugs and smiles. There is no other feeling like that of coming home.<br /> <br /> Image: Flying to Kulusuk.&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262242'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Sat, 09 Jun 2018 20:40:02 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262242 64.0022 -21.0156 <![CDATA[Day 29: Not Yet]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262241 <img src='http://www.x-journal.com/member/ericlars/images/b158_18960_scale.jpg'><br />With both our flight to Iceland and our helicopter shuttle to Kulusuk cancelled, our hearts once again, sank. So close to home, and yet so far... but surprisingly not totally beaten. If we could just get to Kulusuk, we reasoned, we would at least be in position to catch the flight to Iceland if it arrived tomorrow. Only 10 minutes apart by helicopter but stuck in Tasiilaq, we would be dealing with two separate wrench-throwing weather systems (one in each village) blocking our way home.<br /> <br /> We had also heard that boat passage was now possible between the two towns and we were told that several boats had been back and forth that very day. Two days prior, boats had gotten stranded in the pack ice off shore, but now the currents and wind had changed and it was a relatively easy passage. We asked the manager at Red House, Axel, if he could help us arrange a boat to ferry us the Kulusuk.<br /> <br /> And so with 100 % confidence, we loaded up all our Granite Gear duffels, big Madshus ski bag and drove down to the marina. There, we shuffled everything down a dock to an small boat with an older Inuit driver. We smiled to each other satisfied that we were handing off our fate to such a competent navigator. In just a half an hour, we congratulated one another, we would be that much closer to home.<br /> <br /> As we pushed away from the dock, Axel yelled to us, 'there's a chance you may not be able to get through.'<br /> <br /> Wait, what? We looked at each other confusedly. Just an hour before he had told us the channel was totally free of ice. Now, he offered a prophetic afterthought that totally caught us off guard. We laughed nervously, replaying the perfectly-timed scene. Axel had been just far enough away for us to be completely incapable of changing our decision.<br /> <br /> For the next two hours, we wound slowly around huge ice bergs, bergy bits, pancake ice and broken up sea ice. Pushing and shoving ice aside, our driver deftly navigated the shifting ice floes. However, the ice became too dense and after an hour we watched the sun circle around toward the bow as we turned back toward Tasiilaq.<br /> <br /> Several times as conditions changed on our ice cap traverse, I talked to Dean, Diogo and Kat about the importance of adapting while finding new solutions to problems. Too often dangerous and life-threatening situations arise on expeditions when people simply ignore (or try to overpower) a changing environment. Equally hard is giving up on a temporary fix because it doesn't work. While I don't recommend sticking with a strategy with a no-matter-what philosophy, sometimes those initial trials are important stepping stones and proving grounds for a workable solution late comes later. Either way, it is important to try.<br /> <br /> Now we are back where we started, but really finished (our ice cap traverse). Just like on our expedition, we are not done trying. And just like our expedition, Greenland has, once again, decided to not give us any breaks!<br /> <br /> Image: Iceberg off the port bow&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262241'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Fri, 08 Jun 2018 21:50:02 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262241 65.0101 -37.0103 <![CDATA[Day 26-28: The End?]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262240 <img src='http://www.x-journal.com/member/ericlars/images/b158_329973_scale.jpg'><br />Running out of food, running out of time and running out of snow, I looked down at my Citizen Promaster and noted that over an hour had passed and I still hadn't fallen asleep. After not getting a great night sleep the night prior, I figured I would easily doze off. While tired but not exhausted, I could feel the weariness in my body that seeps in during a long expedition like this. I should be tired, but I felt wide awake. Then I realized the reason: I had started thinking about 'the end'.<br /> <br /> There is a singularity of purpose that makes the extended wear and tear of polar expeditions bearable. Everything that we do is hyper-focused on sustaining our ability to ski and pull our sleds in an unforgiving environment. Both our practice and principle is that of complete utilitarianism. However, in the waning days of the trip and with our goal in sight, my mind stretches past the immediate ice and snow. It's not stress - like worrying about all that I have to do. Rather, it's excitement about actually starting the projects that I had been dreaming about for the past four weeks.<br /> <br /> In the end, I wasn't able to sleep, listening to podcasts and music, scrolling through photos of my kids and simply just staring at the tent ceiling. I started counting the number of nights that I've actually slept in a tent in my life - but realizing the actual figure was in the thousands, I stopped at the sheer absurdity of such a high number. In the end, I lay awake the entire night (which was actually the afternoon) and started the stove at approximately 10:55 pm when I promptly fell asleep until midnight. Unzipping the vestibule, it was another white out. The inReach weather hadn't looked good, either. My heart sank.<br /> <br /> I meter hope carefully on expeditions. At home, I am an optimistic optimist often seeing the glass as not just full but overflowing. Here however, hope unrealized can have terrible consequences. Therefore, I choose a more realistic approach (combined with a bit of fatalism). While I have enjoyed this expedition and the extreme (at times) challenges that Greenland has presented, I miss Maria and the kids a lot and have already been away a significant portion of the late winter and spring (and now summer). As I looked at the weather report, I worried that we would be stranded on the ice for another four days.<br /> <br /> Of course, the best way to be successful is to put yourself in a situation where you don't have another choice and to realistically get picked up by helicopter we had to keep skiing. Luckily, it wasn't a total whiteout as I feared. In fact, there were even a few patches of blue and as we started out, we were treated to a spectacular sunrise (at 1:30 am) - the first we had seen the entire journey. A little bit more optimism started to trickle in.<br /> <br /> Even though we were skiing at night now, the temperature was above freezing. In less than a week we had gone from single digit temperatures with below zero windchills to rainstorms. The snow was now sun cupped and rolling and we skied up and down while the sleds alternately raced down an incline (running into us) then as we skied back up the other side of the small curve, snapping our tug lines tight pulling us backwards and off balance. Par for the course, Greenland would not let us off easy.<br /> <br /> Later in the afternoon (but morning) the sky became overcast and the light turned flat. I had been using the Garmin inReach to text the helicopter company regularly as I was skiing with updates about the weather and our progress. Near the end of our day, the Greenland Air Charter manager texted back that, judging from our position, we were traveling in a heavily crevassed area. I looked around. It was a whiteout. I couldn't see much of anything. Ahead, I saw two black spots in the snow. At first I thought it was a bird, a pile of dirt or a rock sticking out. But as I strained my eyes, I realized it that we were in a potentially life threatening situation. It was too hard to know what was ahead. Obviously, we were at the edge of the ice cap, where glaciers pour off and flow toward the sea. We stopped and set up camp after probing the area throughly.<br /> <br /> Then came another series of texts, setting up and marking a landing zone and regular weather updates. We waiting in our tents certain that we would be camped here for several days when I heard the familiar chop of air from an approaching helicopter. After 26 days of nearly every imaginable winter condition, we had crossed the Greenland ice cap.<br /> <br /> The short flight to Tasiliaq, Greenland was breathtaking. Flying over calving glaciers, huge icebergs and pans of sea ice, I was amazed at the scene that unfolded beneath us. Truly spectacular and a sight that I will never forget.<br /> <br /> And then we landed, and all the struggle and effort and worry instantly vanished. The temperature was fairly warm and for the first time in one month, we saw land, dirt and rock. We could see green grass sprouting in spots. All around was the lush smell of earth. Remove everything in your life and very quickly you learn to appreciate these little things.<br /> <br /> That night we sat in chairs and had our dinner served to us on plates. The water in my glass (yes, glass) that wasn't melted from snow. Everything was so easy now.<br /> <br /> It's easy to go from nothing to comfort. The transition is abrupt but I have done it so many times that it has become matter-of-fact. While I have spent YEARS of my life on expeditions, I have spent much more time living in a house and leading a 'normal' life.<br /> <br /> I also know from experience that it will take some time to fully appreciate (and more importantly understand) this experience. This is definitely not the hardest expedition I have ever done by any stretch, but it was new and challenging all the same. Leading trips like this with clients (our strong team of Kat, Diogo and Dean - all very experienced adventurers) poses its own unique set of challenges as well. Often times, my job is simply protecting people from their best intentions. Other times, it's a choosing between carrot and stick. Most often, I am a cheer leader, reminding everyone that we all have the ability to complete really difficult things. And then there is the constant watch-like precision and efficiency of everything we do. I like working with diverse teams to achieve difficult objectives. In the end, this was a journey that the four of us completed together - each person adding their own unique character to our collective experience. From here on, the story of this adventure will be 'ours'.<br /> <br /> Of course, Greenland would have the final say (again). A rain and fog crept in when we weren't looking and our flights back to Kulusk and then Iceland were cancelled.<br /> <br /> Image: Tasiliaq homes.&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262240'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Thu, 07 Jun 2018 19:50:03 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262240 65.0101 -37.0103 <![CDATA[Day 23-25: Creatures of the Night]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262239 While I knew we would encounter soft snow during our Greenland traverse, I don't think I fully understood the extent... or perhaps a depth is a better word - although both apply to our situation.<br /> <br /> To make matters worse, the summer weather (and by summer I mean temperatures just below freezing versus the single digits of our entire journey) has made the snow a soft sticky mashed potato consistency. Our relatively light sleds became pallets of bricks. Our progress went from nearly 20 miles a day (30 kilometers) to less than 10. Sunny days were brutally uncomfortable.<br /> <br /> My personal opinion about all these hardships is fairly matter-of-fact. We take each as it comes and adjust accordingly. I have a 'rule of three' that I try to follow. It takes three examples or instances of a situation or condition before I make a change. I usually don't make big swings in my strategies. <br /> <br /> Before we left, Diogo and I looked at a sunrise/sunset chart noting that by late May the sun would set for only a coupe of hours every night. While it's not enough time below the horizon to make it dark, temperatures do cool significantly as a result. And even more importantly, the snow becomes firmer.<br /> <br /> With this in mind, two days (or is it nights) ago, we switched to night travel opting to sleep away the 'heat' of the day. On our first night ski, we immediately noticed the difference. No longer were we slogging through wet mush. Our pace, and as a result, our daily mileage, increased immediately. Unfortunately, we caught the tail end of a very warm morning, but overall, the new plan worked.<br /> <br /> Yesterday morning... or was it last night... we woke up at 11 pm and were on the trail by 1 am. We would have started earlier but we wanted to wait for it to stop raining... yes, that's right, rain.<br /> <br /> 'We have now officially had all the kinds of weather,' Diogo cheerfully announced as we started skiing. <br /> <br /> It was another all day (but really night) whiteout. Weather varied from snow to sleet to rain to wet fog. By the end of the day when we set up tents, the rain came down heavily enough that we had to race to get inside just after tipping our sleds upside down so as our gear wouldn't get soaked inside.<br /> <br /> Tomorrow, is another monumental day. We have reached the end of our allotted time in Greenland. If the weather holds, a helicopter will meet us at a prearranged point and we will be effortlessly whisked away. <br /> <br /> However, we still have a lot of miles to cover but it's late in the day and we have to... go to sleep.&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262239'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Mon, 04 Jun 2018 12:13:02 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262239 65.0131 -40.0076 <![CDATA[Day 22: Why Difficult Things?]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262238 We woke up to sunny skies that lasted just long enough for us to eat breakfast and pack up our gear and tents. By the time we were skiing, we once again were ensconced in a total whiteout. <br /> <br /> At one break Diogo observed, 'no two days of weather have been the same.' <br /> <br /> To which I countered, 'we did have two storm days in a row.'<br /> <br /> Yesterday, we had clear blue skies and blazing sun the entire day. For a few shifts, we were all skiing in our base layer t-shirts. Slathered in sunscreen, I mumbled more than once under my breath that it was too hot. <br /> <br /> It wasn't cold today, either - around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. But, our systems are based on colder temperatures and as the thermometer nears freezing, it becomes difficult to stay dry. Snow that lands on our jackets, pants or anything else melts. Getting wet out here is dangerous as it is exponentially more difficult to stay warm. I've often said that I much rather prefer 30 below than 30 degrees above zero (Fahrenheit).<br /> <br /> To make matters worse, it was a total blizzard for the entire day as well. In fact, the conditions (along with the soft snow) were so terrible that I had to laugh. Times like this are so over the top, they are comical.<br /> <br /> For those of you who are unversed in the subtle nuances of your average Greenland whiteout allow me to offer this simple description: everything is white. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G! The sky is white. The snow is white. The horizon (which you can't see because it's white) is white. It's like being in a room when the lights go off and waiting for your eyes to adjust. But instead of blackness, you see white and your eyes never adjust.<br /> <br /> Days like this are hard especially when taken in the context of our bigger adventure. I spent a significant amount of time today (while staring ahead at whiteness) thinking about the reasons why I choose to do difficult things. I could easily find easier less physically demanding pursuits. But I personally think there is value in endeavors that exist significantly outside of your comfort zone. The insights gained aren't glaringly obvious, but they are there. And I carry them with me in other situations. I've always said that there a lot of beautiful lessons to be learned from this type of travel.<br /> <br /> I did have a laugh at Dean's expense today. I was skiing behind him as he was breaking trail and, for the first time, I realized that he had written 'Dean' on the back of each of his Baffin boots. Seeing this now, I couldn't help but shout, 'Dean', 'Dean', 'Dean' with every step. <br /> <br /> It turns out I was wrong on the Pringles count yesterday. Kat and Diogo both have 3/4 tube. Dean is now in the lead saving his tube for one more day. I opened my last tube last night but only had about 10 chips (I swear).<br /> <br /> In the end the whiteout and soft snow got the best of us and we make a little under 10 miles. A troubling number when I had hoped to be making double that mileage...&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262238'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Sat, 02 Jun 2018 03:45:02 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262238 65.0153 -41.0085 <![CDATA[Day 21: Ten Things]]> http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262237 Here are 10 things for you to contemplate.<br /> <br /> 1. Crossing the Greenland ice cap is an epic adventure. We've had three insane storms, the first was on our second day of travel!?!<br /> <br /> 2. With four and a half days left of our crossing Pringles counts are as follows: Eric - one can (unopened). Diogo - 3/4 can. Dean - one can. Kat - one can.<br /> <br /> 3. I've been wearing the same pair of underwear for almost three weeks, which surprisingly (or sadly) is a far cry from my record of 55 days. (I'm sorry for sharing that).<br /> <br /> 4. Yesterday, in the middle of the whiteout, a snow bunting flew along side us, landed and watched us ski for a bit, then flew off.<br /> <br /> 5. We are now at an elevation of 6,700' down from a high point of 8,190'. It's incredible to realize that the volume of ice that we are skiing over.<br /> <br /> 6. Since we are now skiing down hill, we assumed that we would be able to make great mileage with light sleds. Instead, we have encountered soft snow and are making some of our slowest progress, yesterday making a little over 12 miles.<br /> <br /> 7. I will be celebrating a birthday on this expedition, which makes the this one of many expeditions in which I've done so - two of which were in 2005 and 2006 during summer North Pole Traverses where my present was not getting eaten by a polar bear.<br /> <br /> 8. Every day, we hear planes flying over. Flying at 30,000' or so their route takes them roughly on the same path as our crossing. What takes those planes 30 minutes has taken us 21 days (so far).<br /> <br /> 9. We have become an efficient polar team. With each person sharing the responsibilities of breaking trail, navigating and more. While a difficult journey, it is comforting to travel with such competent team members.<br /> <br /> 10. Think Snow!&nbsp;(<a href='http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262237'>View Post...</a>) Eric Larsen Fri, 01 Jun 2018 03:40:03 -0500 http://www.ericlarsenexplore.com/updates/journal/[xjMsgID]?xjMsgID=262237 65.0156 -41.0143