Location N 74 31 W 050 48
Distance (day/total) 62/554 miles
Weather Overcast then whiteout, light wind
Another day, another 2 hour pack down of the tent, cooking stuff, technology, sleeping bags etc. Moving by kite necessitates this daily routine. How much more civilised it would be if there were some Premier Inns or Travelodges en-route but alas not. Although there are a group of mainly Spaniards who travel the ice cap in a tent on a sled pulled by a huge kite. I have heard there will be 9 of them in it this year, they are really bonkers, Google Greenland Windsled to see what I mean. So kites out at 8am and we were off – until after an hour and the weather closed in; no horizon, driving snow, and a wind that was reducing by the minute. I’ve become really relaxed about speeding into the white void not knowing what is there, because apart from the odd remote weather station pylon there is nothing. The highlight today was at 64km when the wind died so much it looked like the tent was coming out again when I suggested we take the lines from one of our spare kites and add them to the already extended lines. So an hour of knitting later and off we set with our kites flying 65 metres from us, they looked much smaller than normal. The advantage of the longer lines is that it enables the kites to reach the higher wind speeds just above the surface, although there is a lot of aerodynamic drag in the lines,
and you can here them screaming in the wind. 100km was the hard won distance today in about 9 hours. We deserve a prize for effort if nothing else.
So 2 hours of kites packed, tent up, food cooked etc, and that is it for day 12. Weather looks similar for next couple of days, so no cruising up to Qaanaaq for us in sunshine.
Before we came away I wrote a bit about equipment failure risks, and while not wanting to tempt fate, here is our strategy for mitigating those risks.
Equipment Failure Risks
There seem to be two schools of thought on this. Firstly, the go lightweight, take some spares and be resourceful approach. This is by far the most common approach and is favoured by seasoned polar explorers and ALL Norwegians. The second approach is to ensure that there is duplicity for all critical pieces of equipment. This ensures the risk of a
“show-stopping” failure is minimised, but the additional weight carried, makes progress slower and more tiring.
We were lucky to be able to get some guidance from the current holder of the longest continuous snowkiting expedition, Michael Charavin, who together with Cornelius Strohm clocked up an impressive 5067km in 58 days in their Wings Over Greenland 2014 expedition. Bribed into giving us his pearls of wisdom in exchange for a pack of 10 bottles of cheap French supermarket beer (of which Leo ended up drinking all) he stated that in his experience, duplicity of critical equipment was the way to go. This might have something to do with losing a selection of equipment, including a stove, from a pulk bag which was accidently left unzipped…
Now, the clincher for us was the fact that we had to lodge a guarantee with the Greenland Government for approximately £20000 that would be used to pay for our evacuation in a non-medical emergency; for example, critical equipment failure. So when we were making a decision about whether we would take a spare stove/tent/skis/bindings etc. we would always have the loss of £20000 in the back of our minds – consequently, we have enough equipment for 4 people now. Not only that, but we have spares of spares, tools, repair materials and hopefully some resourcefulness to improvise if the worst happens.
We are a bit overweight though, and in the weeks leading up to the start we had been looking at ways to shed some weight. We were going to be brutal in stripping out the unnecessary, and take some risks. But all that came to an abrupt halt, as I happened to go for a walk over the fells with a friend who is a technical manager in the nuclear industry. What better person to ask about equipment failure strategies I thought. “Multiple barriers”, “Defence in depth”, “Diversity in backup” I had heard enough to ensure we were going to shed nothing, and in fact I think we could have justifiably added more instead.
With fingers well crossed, we have only had one plastic buckle break and a small 5mm hole in the tent, AND I lost my glasses, but that wasn’t failure as such, more stupidity…