Surprise! Expeditions Head to Greenland

Arctic Poles
FTord Are Meisterplass (far right) and three of his teammates were evacuated after 10 days. Photo: Nrk.no

Despite travel challenges, a few determined groups of trekkers are heading to Greenland for some polar action.

Veteran guide Dixie Dansercoer plans to fly this week from his home in Belgium to Greenland to guide a snowkiting journey from Point 660 to Qaanaaq in the north. Point 660 marks the edge of the ice sheet, a charter bus ride along the gravel road from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland’s only civilian jet airport.

“It was chaos till recently,” says Dansercoer. “Closed borders on both ends, lockdowns, permits pending, insurance matters, not being able to send freight, airlines not flying or issuing tickets…Now all is in order, and we’re crossing fingers.”

Meanwhile, one team crossing Greenland from west to east has already had its plans stymied. Tord Are Meisterplass, a former extreme skier from Norway who is paralyzed from the chest down, was evacuated to Sisimiut hospital after 10 days on the ice because of an infection caused by a blockage in his catheter. Meisterplass was using a specially designed sled on which he sat and propelled himself forward with ski poles.

Two other members of the team (Even Meisterplass and Daniel Volle) were also evacuated. They were around the halfway mark of their journey from Point 660 in the west to Isortoq in the southeast. The three remaining members, Erlend Vastveit, Carl Christian and  Snorre Sulheim, have continued and are expected to reach the east coast early next week.

Meisterplass, with visible catheter issues. Photo: nrk.no

Meisterplass had planned the Greenland crossing prior to his paralysis in 2015. He then spent a number of years sourcing the right equipment and medical support to make the trip possible.

Despite the setback, Meisterplass remains philosophical. “It has been so many years of planning and work, it has been such a fantastic dream and goal to reach for, and the days on the ice with the guys were all I could wish for and I enjoyed them soooo much,” he said.

Two other teams are also bound for the ice sheet. Are Johansen is guiding Preet Chandi (exact route unknown) in preparation for a solo and unsupported trek across Antarctica in 2021. Chandi is a Clinical Training Officer in the British Army.

Chandi training in Norway. Photo: Preet Chandi

The other team in action is a Norwegian duo, sisters Aase and Hanne Seeberg, who intend to ski across the Inland Ice from east to west, starting in Tasiilaq. ExWeb interviewed the Seebergs as they quarantined in Nuuk, Greenland’s capital.

Can you tell us a little about yourselves?

We are 27 and 30 years old, and live and work in Oslo. For as long as we can remember, we have loved being outdoors, especially in winter. Hardangervidda and Finse have been our “special” place since we were kids.

On trips near Finse, we learned how to survive in a tent in winter and to navigate the difficult landscape. Hans Jørgen Torsrud has been our main source of knowledge and inspiration. He has crossed Greenland twice, and later he took us with him across Jostedalsbreen, the largest glacier in Norway. After that, we were hooked.

The Seeberg Sisters. Photo: Aase and Hanne Seeberg

How did you decide on Greenland?

Crossing Greenland was a dream from an early age, but the idea stayed in the back of our minds for a long time. As we learned more, we discovered that being out alone in winter made us feel free and gave us a huge feeling of achievement.

We went on more adventures, smaller ones on our own and more advanced ones with guides. After a guided tour across Svalbard, we felt that further guided experiences weren’t necessary. But could we do Greenland on our own? We had no idea of how to organize it ourselves or if we actually were capable of doing it.

We contacted Børge Ousland and his team. His manager, Lars Ebbesen, convinced us to go for it. We then made a detailed plan of skills needed, such as knowledge about glacier travel. We even went to Expedition Finse this year, where 150 polar enthusiasts gather to share information and stories.

Finally, two years later, we are in Nuuk, just waiting for our adventure to begin!

A break during training. Photo: Aase and Hanne Seeberg

How has COVID-19 affected your preparations?

Oh gosh — a lot! First, we had planned to cross this spring, but that became impossible due to the pandemic. We then set our sights on a fall crossing. This time of year is a  different ballgame, so we had to reset totally.

We also wanted the trip not to be a burden for Greenland, a huge country with limited infrastructure, and not put anyone at risk for COVID-19. So we worked closely with the COVID office there on a plan that works for both parties.

We sent all equipment up by ship, we had a fresh COVID test before leaving home, traveled via Iceland directly to Nuuk and are sitting out five full days here. Then we will have a new test, and if that comes back negative, we will fly to Tasiilaq on the eastern coast and start the trip a few days later.

Nuuk, Greenland. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko

Why is a fall crossing so different?

By the fall, the snow has melted, and the crevasses on both coasts are totally exposed. No handy snow bridges for crossing. So while you can ski on snow almost all the way in the spring, in August-September you have to tackle two very challenging icefalls. The east has huge open crevasses and the west has meltwater rivers and super rough ice.

Also, you never know what surface conditions will be like, and [in the unstable autumn weather] big storms are possible. So a fall crossing takes some days longer. But the light is magical because of the low sun. And since it gets dark at this time of year, we may see northern lights toward the end!

About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK specialising in adventurous travel and expeditions, such as mountaineering, polar travel, and ocean crossings. Ash juggles a day job as a public health scientist with this second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, national and international outdoor and adventure magazines, and various websites. Bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

Alongside writing, Ash also spends some time undertaking his own adventures, and completed a 640 km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in 2018. His next arctic journey is a 700 km trek along the coast of Baffin Island in Canada.

Read more at www.ashrouten.com

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