Arctic Roundup: Spring Season Ends With a Flurry

Despite a slow start to the spring season, May and June saw an increasing number of teams arriving in the far north, particularly on the Greenland ice sheet. Here is the latest and final arctic update.

Baffin Island

In the mild temperatures of early June, an all-Canadian team of seasoned arctic travelers, including Dave Garrow, John McClelland, and Frank Wolf, completed a 325km sled journey in Baffin Island’s Clyde River region. Over 18 days, the team skied from Pilattuaq Island to Clyde River. The route bypassed some of the tallest cliffs in the world in Gibbs Fiord and Sam Ford Fiord. They also crossed the Stewart Valley, Revoir Valley, Ayr Pass, and the Naqsaq Glacier.

The trio encountered several interesting moments along their journey, including watching a polar bear eat a seal, dragging sleds over the steep terrain of Ayr Pass, and navigating the rarely traveled Naqsaq Glacier and Valley.

A polar bear alarm fence encircles camp before the impressive Stump Spire in Sam Ford Fiord. Photo: Frank Wolf

A busy Greenland

Danish adventurer Jan Rasmussen successfully led a five-man team on a 32-day crossing of the Greenland ice sheet from Kangerlussuaq to Isortoq. They finished at the beginning of June. The expedition reported no significant incidents, apart from one member falling into a glacial river during the first weeks and an impromptu piano concert at the abandoned DYE2 radar station by a Norwegian team.

Members of the Greenland Project team stop and chat on the ice sheet. Photo: The Greenland Project


The Norwegian team was presumably one of the two Ousland Explorers commercial expeditions that completed a west-to-east crossing this season. Ousland Explorers coordinator Lars Ebbesen told ExplorersWeb that the season was unusually cold, with temperatures 5° to 10°C lower than normal. This led to excellent snow cover and safely bridged crevasses.

Heavy sea ice

Ebbesen also reported that heavy sea ice on the east coast required the use of an older route to Isortoq on the East coast. On this eastern side, strong winds and heavy snowfall posed some challenges for the Ousland teams. Notably, the Isortoq Hut was destroyed by a storm, forcing emergency helicopter evacuations to Tasiliaq.

Earlier in the season, Australians James McAlloon and Henk Morgans completed a fast 20-day west-to-east crossing at the beginning of May. They claim to be the first Australians to traverse the ice sheet unguided.

American climber Eric Gilbertson, best known for his country high points project, has landed on the East coast with Branden Joy. The pair plan to kite ski 2,400km from Isortoq to Qaanaaq in Northwest Greenland, climbing peaks along the way.

In August, American Akshay Nanavati will cross the ice sheet from east to west to prepare for his upcoming solo coast-to-coast crossing of Antarctica.

Elsewhere, the proposed Tour de Ice, a mass-participation bike journey across the ice sheet from Kangerlussuaq to Isortoq, is now scheduled for 2025.

Sledding and packrafting in Iceland

Hauling packrafts on the Vatnajökull icecap Photo: Kyle Sprenger


Finally, in early May, Americans Kyle Sprenger and Chris Burkard completed a 201km crossing of the Vatnajökull icecap in six days. Starting just outside of Jökulheimar, a hut run by the Icelandic Glaciological Society, and finishing at the ocean near Vestrahorn, the journey featured mostly clear weather.

However, the first two days had flat light, and a storm on the fourth day brought heavy, wet snow, forcing a brief halt. Burkard’s friend joined the pair to paddle the Skyndidalsa and Jökulsá í Loní rivers to the ocean.

Ash Routen

Ash Routen is a writer for ExplorersWeb. He has been writing about Arctic travel, mountaineering, science, camping, hiking, and outdoor gear for 7 years. As well as ExplorersWeb, he has written for Gear JunkieRed Bull, Outside, The Guardian, and many other outlets. Based in Leicester, UK, Routen is an avid backpacker and arctic traveler who writes about the outdoors around a full-time job as an academic.