This is a different challenge. This is the same time of year Nansen and his men fought to be the first to cross the big and unknown White. He chose the East coast as the starting point, not for its climate- and condition advantages at this time of the year, but for the simple fact that with very few inhabitants, turning back and overwintering was no option. Proclaiming “The west coast or Death” they set out – and succeeded.
Everyone crossing at this time of the year will fully comprehend the task, the effort and the heroics of the 1888 pioneers.
So! If you are this tiny bit more adventurous, this is the time for you to go.
We will meet up in Tasiilaq on mid August and set off by boat 2 days later towards Isortoq, where we will camp right under the icecap. The next morning we start off and through the next days we “play chess” with the Icefall. Rivers and streams at first, then rolling landscape with ice like a rough sea suddenly frozen into a wild theme-park before the big crevasses try to bar us from the snowfields higher up. This part of the trip is hard, tremendous and a satisfying challenge.
Once we are up on good snow, distances increase as we slowly gather altitude. The wind is trying to push us back, but as we get closer to the ‘Summit’ at approximately 2500-2600 metres, the wind comes from all kinds of directions. This is often due to interaction between the autumn low pressures that hit Greenland from Canada on one side and other storms playing between Iceland and Greenland on the other. It sharpens our senses and we learn to go with the flow and maximise the conditions when they are extra good.
After some two weeks we pass by DYE II, now totally silent. This in stark contrast to the spring trip when a manned camp is operating and maintaining a ‘snow- and ice-runway’ for Hercules planes. They train here on snow landings with skis before serving in Antarctica later in the year. The area is now deserted and the goofy ‘building’ stands out in silence.
Normally the first periods of cold set in late in August. This immediately retards the melting process and the huge rivers dwindle into small streams and the lakes up on the plateau will soon be frozen over.
Not far out of DYE we see the first signs of these. Slowly the terrain starts dropping off and the surface gets more sculptured. By the time we drop down to the Icefall, the huge gullies left open by the melt rivers makes us work hard for progress. Lower down we still come across water left in 10 – 15 meter deep riverbeds with vertical sides giving us testing detours and big jumps. At this point the spirit better be high as this labour is not for sissies…
Sometimes progress is reduced to a scant kilometre in several hours. But land is in sight and this spurs us on. As we step off the ice we are in awe of Nansen and his team. The day is mid September and the end of season as the Inland ice goes into ‘no-go’ modus for the winter.
We’re picked up at Height 660 and after a scenic drive we find ourselves in Kangerlussuaq for the first beer, first shower and a big celebration meal.