Weekend Warm-Up: The Maewan Project

An accomplished mountaineer, ice-climber, skier, base jumper and sailor, Erwan Le Lann is more a multi-disciplinary master than a jack-of-all-trades. These broad interests led him to embark on a unique four-year expedition aboard his small sailboat, the Maewan.

The Maewan Project is a multi-stage circumnavigation of the globe during which Le Lann welcomes sailors, skiers and climbers aboard his mobile base camp as he searches for untouched lines, unscaled peaks and unexplored wilderness.

In this first part of the project, Le Lann sets sail from Isafjordur, Iceland to southern Greenland. Their crossing proves anything but smooth, and the footage is enough to make this landlubber slightly queasy, but the ice-strewn waters around Greenland throw up their biggest challenge. Sailboats like the Maewan are not equipped to be icebreakers, and navigating shifting sea ice requires delicate maneuvering and a lot of crossed fingers.

The Maewan only measures 37 feet and was not built for bullying through ice. Photo: Bertrand Delapierre

From their landfall, the crew (featuring freeride skiers, mountaineers and a cameraman) enter the fiords around Greenland’s southernmost point, Cape Farewell. Skiing in such a jaw-dropping environment looks sublime, if hairy. In the beautifully shot footage, skiers make seemingly light work of the narrow couloirs, scything through pristine powder right down to the sea.

The Maewan may not have been luxurious, one team member describes it as “like a base camp at 5,000m where your body is constantly worn down,” but it served its purpose admirably. The team skied some virgin lines, and the Maewan emerged from the fiords with a damaged rudder and minus its keel, but still proudly floating.