The ice is feared in Greenland and not without reason. It is mighty and brutal; destroys rocks and wears down fells on its journey, before the ice breaks off as icebergs after having spent thousands of years in the heart of Greenland. You fear the ice because it is desolate; nothing lives there naturally or can survive for a longer period of time.
The ice is an unfamiliar no-man’s land with nowhere to seek refuge or shelter, without any special characteristic landscapes by which you can orientate yourself as you would, when you wander in the fells or sail in an inlet. If you have any sense, you’d ask yourself what on earth you were doing there.
AN IRRESISTIBLE OFFER
“Would you like to join me on my wind sled across the inland ice for a couple of weeks in June?” the well-known Spanish polar adventurer, Ramón Larramendi, asked me one day via an email. I could hardly believe my luck. Since I was a child I have looked down on the inland ice with excitement and awe during innumerable flights to and from Greenland and thought that one day, I would like to not only stand on the ice, but to walk on it. Now the opportunity was here. I no longer needed to dream about the ice, because now the dream would come true!
My curiosity and foolhardiness were just too great for me to say no and a few months later, there I was on the ice some distance north of the polar circle and with Tasiilaq in East Greenland as the closest town. Together with four men from Spain and myself from Greenland, we were to cross the ice in a totally unique vehicle, which Ramón had developed and worked on for more than 15 years: A wind sled propelled only by the wind thanks to a kite, which is stretched out on two 300 meter lines and which is able to pull a 1700 kg sled including luggage and the five of us.
CRAZY BECAUSE OF THE ICE OR CRAZY ABOUT THE ICE?
“I hope you enjoy it” the helicopter pilot, Tim, from GreenlandCopter said to me before he took off again after dropping us off on the ice at a safe distance from the crevasses that were a few kilometers away behind us towards the coast.
“Last week I had to pick up a man out here on the ice because he had the chills”, he added and smiled knowingly.
We didn’t intend to need help from anyone other than to be picked up again on the other side of the ice by one of Air Greenland’s S-61 helicopters. However, 11 days and many ordeals passed before that happened.
But before the adventure began, we had to spend a couple of days repairing the sled, which had been traveling on the ice for several weeks before it was our turn to be a part of Ramón’s incredible journey on Greenland’s perpetual winter fields of ice.
AIR UNDER THE KITE AND SURFING ON THE INLAND ICE
Once we were finally ready and the wind came from the right direction, we prepared for departure, which consisted of walking 300 meters with the kite across the direction of the wind and carefully unfolding it on the ice. We had to make sure that none of the lines were tangled and that the kite did not have any cracks or holes since it was used last.
When the driver, or pilot, is ready a hand signal is given and the person who throws the kite up into the air until the wind does its work and lifts it all the way up, has to make very sure not to get in front of the kite and get tangled up in it or its lines.
The first try was a success and with a tug the sled suddenly started moving to the soft sound of the wind and the kite’s gentle flapping across the upper part of the horizon. It was a strange sensation moving basically silently across the ice with a 360 degree view of nothing but ice, blue sky and just a few, small, low-lying clouds.
The comparison to an expedition in a yacht in the Caribbean Sea with soft trade winds blowing about your ears is perhaps not that obvious, but with bright sun burning on the skin, clean air and simple nature around you, it actually felt as if we were on our very own ocean voyage out into the middle of nothingness.