“Guys… It’s a bear!”

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It wasn’t.  A whole damn month on the ice and not a single footprint of a Polar Bear, never mind an actual sighting.  Not that the rest of the team reacted much to their colleague’s (I won’t embarrass him by naming names…) frantic whisper in the middle of our second night on the icecap, someone grumbled something about the wind and the snow blowing, and we slept on.  In the morning (after checking for footprints) we took the p**s as much as we could, and there were no more midnight awakenings.  We did see Arctic Fox prints, but that was much later on in the trip.

Our lack of kites proved disastrous for a crossing attempt.  We had 4 x 8m Mantas (the only kite we had one of each), 3 x 6.8m Yakuzas, and 2 x 14m Yakuzas.   We then lost one of the 14m Yaks immediately, as we discovered that the plywood cooking board we bought in Tasilaq had had something corrosive on it, which had literally dissolved the material of Mike’s jeans, and a couple of feet of the leading edge of the kite.  In truth, we could probably have repaired it, but with only 2 kites, it was debatable whether we could ever have made use of them as a team of four.  So anything below a 10-15kt wind was pretty un-kiteable with 70kg pulks.  We were also missing our Parasails, an 8m and 14m one each, which had somehow got lost in the post, and at the time of departure were somewhere in Belgium…  So we couldn’t cope with winds higher than 20-25kts.  That left us with a pretty narrow wind window.  So, early on, having got just 80kms inland onto the icecap, we decided to revert to our original, pre-Norway plan of parking ourselves on the top of the Hann Glacier at the edge of the icecap and becoming bloody good kite-skiers.

Tim and Mike practicing with the Mantas and pulks

Synchronised kiting... on ice

All of us are disappointed not to have made a crossing, and although we haven’t really spoken about it, I think we’re all individually determined that at some point we’re going to go back for a holiday and blitz it.  However, we gained a hell of a lot from the trip.  Our kite handling ability, especially combined with skis, has improved tenfold.  All of us are feeling pretty natural with the Mantas (even Paddy, who managed to let one of them knock him out when the wind was edging up to the 25kt mark…) and are well and truly getting there with the Yaks, although they do require a bit more attention!  The ‘brucey’ bonus of going back to the Hann Glacier was the stunning views.  The mountains around there are huge and jagged – vast outcrops of rock, with couloirs and snowfields sweeping down past a mixture of smooth and fractured rock to a multitude of glaciers flowing off the icecap.  We spent a couple of days towards the end, when there was no wind to put up a kite, sticking our skis on, putting water, warm kit and skins in a daysack, and touring around some of the nearer ones; seeking, and finding, some great off-piste downhills.  That’s when we saw the fox prints, straight down a glacier, heading for the coast.  Touching rock for the first time in 20-odd days was surprisingly poignant for me, so much so I even brought a little bit back for my girlfriend.  Perhaps a pebble isn’t the most glamorous of presents to return with, but I think she gets it.

The mountains at sunset South East of the Hann Glacier

Sun setting on the view from our tent door

We came off the ice a couple of days early in the end.  Air Greenland were worried that the visibility was going to be poor on our scheduled extraction date, so brought it forward by a couple of days (all of this, following our change of plans, was painstakingly organised by Ruth by the way, to whom we are all eternally grateful and cannot say thank you enough).  Turned out to be just as well.  Even Tasilaq, down at sea level, was enclosed in fog and cloud on that day, and besides, we wouldn’t have had our two dinners at the Angmagssalik Hotel if we hadn’t come off early, and believe me, they were worth having!  I won’t go into detail – all I’ll say is meat, a lot of it, and the best chips I’ve ever had.

So, no crossing, but definitely a trip to remember.  If anyone is thinking about going to Greenland, stop thinking about it.  Do it.

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One Response to ““Guys… It’s a bear!””

  1. Amanda Says:

    Sorry to hear about the lack of bears – but very glad you’re all back safely. The experience you’ve gained with the kites is invaluable – and you will make that crossing next time. Look forward to seeing you soon.

    Amanda et al,
    Choccy Fish

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