Greenland Record: Effort and mental approach

Day 5, skiing 150 km in 34 hours… Ivar Tollefsen, Trond Hilde and Robert Caspersen’s Western Icefall tracking, daily notes and facts explaining this enormous effort and impressive mental approach, “it should dawn on most that this is not for everyone – if any,” stated Lars Ebbesen.

In June, Norwegians Ivar Tollefsen (55), Trond Hilde (55) and Robert Caspersen (45) took back Ivar, Trond and Odd Harald Hauge’s 13-year-old speed ski World Record on the Classic Horizintal Route across the Ice Cap, which three young Norwegians broke last year.

With an unusual amount of meltwater this season, the team had to make a 50-60 km detour in the endless maze, finding the sources of the rivers, which they couldn’t cross, said Robert in an Exweb/Pythom interview with the team.

Veteran Polar Explorer, Lars Ebbesen, who oversees, mentors, advises, assists, supports Norwegian teams who attempt record-breaking expeditions, from his home in Oslo, sent over details of this year’s record team.

“I think this grab from the GPS tracking in the Western Icefall explains the enormous effort and impressive mental approach of the team,” Lars told Explorersweb/Pythom. “Combined with the day-to-day notes and facts it should dawn on most that this is not for everyone – if any.”u2028

Day1: 15th June / 64,6km / 14 hours walk

Start 01:25 from Isortoq Hut on the East Coast. First 7km in sneakers. Snow more and more soggy through the day in warm conditions. Camped at 1.400 metres. Exhausting day.

Day2: 16th June / 70km / in 14 hours / accumulated 134,6 km

Polar bear tracks at 78km (interesting as we did not bring a gun). Very slow snow through the night. Western-north-western wind building from gentle to fresh breeze straight in the face. Very taxing. Skins totally worn by icy snow, changed to yellow skins. Trond lost sight on right eye.

Day 3: 17th June / 80 km / in 14:45 hours / accumulated 214,6km

Heavy and slow snow the first 40km during the night. Annoying headwind persisted, whiteout through last part of the day.

Day 4: 18th June / 145 km / in 17 hours / accumulated 359,6km

Increasing wind from south-south-east and total whiteout through the day. Big sastrugi in periods giving the sledges a real beating. Several stops for repair. Wind building to 22m/s (gale force). Worried about pitching our lightweight tent. Invested in strong snow wall.

Day 5: 19th June / 150 km / in 34 hours / accumulated 509,6 km

Much better weather. Long periods using just the skipoles. First lakes and rivers. Could not reach waypoint 54, had to push north only to be stopped by new deep, fast river and had to go even further north to look for its source to cross. Detour roughly 10km.

Later, at waypoint 43, first mountains appear. Tried a middle route but got tangled deep in a huge labyrinth of rivers and lakes. The area becomes a floating ice-swamp. Finally stopped by 10x10x10 metre river. Named it Big Mama. Frustrated, exhausted, – desperate. Camped.

Day 6: 20th June / 55 km / in 27 hours / accumulated distance 564,6 km

After 2 hours sleep, it was clear heli-evacuation was the worst possible destiny. Invested in a 2hour 15 min reconnaissance. Decided to go back up again along Big Mama. Side rivers made for even more sidesteps. 20km and some 350 vertical meters later we reach a plateau and crossed.

Heads down, a new ridge towards a waypoint later christened ‘Tricky Place’ and runs into a new mayhem of waterways. Chaos again. Will this never end? Too dangerous. Can’t cross. Heads back up again for this new source. The source is a lake. Rounds it and heads back down.

After 13 hours and 30 minutes we passed within 300 metres of last camp (!) on the other side of Big Mama.

Snow is gone by now. Thin competition cross-country skis without steel edges in an icy but fun terrain give a wild ride over hundreds of streams plus 2 big ones where we had to rope up and wade. Sledges are badly beaten. Many stops for repair.

After waypoint ‘River 4’ we are back on foot. Extremely hilly, torn and never-ending terrain. Waypoints stopped 3,5km from the end. A last desperate dive into a new labyrinth of uncertainty and frustration before solid ground is reached 23:45.

Greenland Ice Cap Ski World Records (Classic Horizontal Route):

1991: the crossing originally took over a month

1995: time improved to 13 days

2002: Late August, early September, 8d 9h 30m (East-West by Ivar Tollefsen, Trond Hilde and Odd Harald Hauge)

All improvements stopped. The Greenland dream-mile seemed untouchable – until last year, and again, this year.

2015, May 13th: the 27-year-old ‘boys of Snåsa’, Ronny Andre Kjenstad, Vegard Jørstad and Ole Christian Kjenstad crossed the Greenland Ice Cap West-East, covering around 350 miles (560 km) in 7 days, 10 hours and 20 minutes

2016, June 20th: Ivar Tollefsen (55), Trond Hilde (55) and Robert Caspersen (45), 6 days 22 hours 20 minutes (plus a 50-60 km detour to get around the meltwater on Western Icefall.)

* The expeditions were done unassisted and unsupported (no resupplies and no kites)


Taking back their World Record: Interview with Greenland speed ski team

Greenland Ski World Record – Breaking News

Norwegians set new Greenland speed ski record (2015)

Greenland “Dream-Mile” broken: Lars Ebbesen talks

Exweb interview with Norwegian World Record skiers on Greenland: Strategy, experience and weight-cutting

* Definitions and Rules of Adventure at

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