Explorer Mikael Strandberg

My Greenland Expedition 2018

My third Greenland Expedition is not too far off now, time wise. I hope it happens. You never know with Greenland. The conditions change dramatically. Weather is unpredictable and tough. So is life. Nothing can be taken for granted. But it holds this feeling of longing, a call of the wild that is almost irresistible to stay away from. It is such a vast wild nature and so incredibly beautiful. And it can be tough on you in every way. Even ruin your life. Or, give it perspective. Today everyone is accepting the fact that some hardships actually make life better.
My first Greenland Expedition is proof of this!
My idea when I set off late may 2018 was to spend a month in the area around the icecap and the famous Icefiord of Ilulissat. I had around 100 kgs of weight in my sled including a rifle and ammunition. A few days before leaving my home in Qasigiannguit local news said a polar bear had been seen swimming from the Qeqertarsuaq on the Disco island. It seemed to be heading my way.
The day I left Qasigiannguit it was sunny and -20 degrees Celsius. Skiing was perfect. As was the winter landscape surrounding me. But I left with pain, grief and self-pity. The marriage was broken, my eldest daughter had a serious eye disease and we had just returned back from 3 months of surgery in Copenhagen and I just felt…..dead inside. But I hoped this trip would help me heal.
The night was cold, lovely and just as an Arctic Expedition should be with a great red sunset. I woke up in the night feeling sweaty and knew warm weather was on its way. I arrived in the village of Ilimanaq crossing small streams of water all around and snow melting fast. I stayed two days in the village to see how the weather would develop. But the warm weather continued so I realized I had to get up in altitude, cross the mountains between the village and the Icefiord.
The climb over the mountain was a nightmare. It just went steeply straight up and about halfway, I couldn’t move my heavy sled and was stuck in a situation so the only way to proceed was to take the harness off and let the sled go backwards. There was no other way to move. That steep!
It hit a big rock and broke at the back. Not good when I knew I had to cross lakes and rivers. I looked at the map and rerouted looking for an easier way over the mountains into the Icefiord area. I followed a level track leading north and ended up overlooking a magnificent valley. Way below, so how to get down?
The snow was so deep it came up to my chest and it took me three hours to get down. Some parts were incredibly steep, almost in danger of avalanches and the snow conditions changed between icy hard and wet, deep snow.
It got warmer during the night and I realized if I cross those mountains to the north, I might not be able to return the same route. Or actually not be able to haul the sled. At the same time I missed seeing my daughters, the pain from the break up and worries for the future, just got stronger. Not less.
So I turned south, thinking I might try to get up on the icecap, which wasn ‘t to far away. When I got to the first lake to cross and stepped on to it, I dropped down with my skis under the snow and felt water rushing into my ski boots. If the melt continued like this I wouldn´t be able to get back to Qasigiannguit by myself. So I plodded next to the lakeside, steep mountains on both sides, beautiful, but scary. What if I would cross a patch of the like where there were currents, meaning thinner ice? I would be dead.
I spent the whole day making my way to an area which was beginning to show patches of grass. Streams all over the place. But it was sunny and had turned into a wonderful spring day. I realized I was running out of time, if I wanted to return to Qasigiannguit by myself.
Once again I had to haul the heavy sledge over a steep mountain. It took my 4 hours, a short stretch of a kilometer. I had to haul piece by piece. I walked, not skied. Once upon the top I saw the Icecap to the east and to the south, an almost snow free tundra. Once down on the tundra, on to the plain, to move the sled was almost impossible. I put up camp. And had a feeling the polar bear could turn up. (He did get shot that day not far off)
I knew where I was, not too far off where I had to cross the lake to be able to return. It was only 2 kms away, but it took me ten hours to haul gear back and forth. I put up camp, ready to cross early in the morning.
It was a scary crossing with 30 cm meters of water up my legs, walking on the ice below. But I made it and knew it was 5 km to the house. That stretch was a real nightmare and took 7 hours. Mud, slush, streams, hardly any snow, hauling a heavy sled.
But what a beautiful day and surroundings!
That was my first Greenland Expedition. It did not go as I hoped.
Here´s my Greenland Movie for those of you who haven´t seen it https://vimeo.com/375760615

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