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Crossing Greenland with Snowkites
Posted on: December 14th, 2017 by Roy van Baarsen

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3 men, 9 kites and 330 kg food and equipment…that was needed for a 27 day crossing over the Greenland ice cap: powered by only wind. Adventurers Eric Leegwater (NL), Bjorn Wils (DK) and Carl Alvey (NO) used snowkites to cover a 2620 km distance in complete absence of any civilization.

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After arriving in Greenland and further local transport by plane, helicopter and finally a spectacular boat ride through fjords filled with icebergs , the team had been dropped off at the base of the icecap of Southern Greenland, not far from the village of Narsaq.

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From here each team member had to carry their 110 kg sleds containing everything for a fully unsupported journey all the way up the glacier to find suitable snow and wind (polar camping gear, food, kites, safety equipment, etc.). After two days of hardcore man hauling the team finally found good snow and wind so the kites were put to use.

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The first days kiting in Southern Greenland proved quite a challenge : the wind direction was not in our favor and the snow was windswept, meaning a lot of sastrugi (frozen and concrete hard snow bumps) slowing down the average speed and was hard on the knees and legs as well. A two day storm forced our team to take shelter in tents: too dangerous to leave the tent !

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After the initial hardship, the weather improved, snow conditions became better and after 10 days kiting the team reached abandoned USA radar station DYE-II, an absolute surrealistic scenery. Everything else on the icecap is just a flat snow-covered surface for 100’s of km in all directions. With favorable conditions, the team was kiting for 9-10 hours a day, covering a +200 km distance. With good winds, top speeds were reached of 60 km/hr. About 85% of the time they were kiting at low wind speeds of 2-4 m/s with their largest kites (15-18 m2) on 50 meter lines.

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After 26 days of seeing only snow, the team reached the North western part of Greenland and saw “land” again: snow free mountains indicating they were about to leave the ice cap again.

 

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Once down on sea level, our team had been picked up by local hunters. After a two day dog sled trip over sea ice, we reached Qaanaq, one of the northernmost towns in the world, ready to head home

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