Greenland Expedition – Part 4

Day 8: Flat light

After the storm and such a lovely evening, this morning I was hoping to be welcomed out of the tent by a cobalt blue sky. Sadly, everything is still grey so it looks like we’ll have to wait a bit longer for a blue bird day. We decide to go back to Morning Glory peak and ride one of the lines with the exit on the glacier. After about 1 hour and half we are standing at the top of our line

We are ready to drop in. Simon, Dev, Mark and Neil

There is quite a big crevasse down there. We are going to stay above it and cut to the right to go back onto the flat glacier. Snow is not very good. There is a sun crust/melt freeze of about 5 cm which makes the riding not very pleasant. Once at the bottom we head back for another afternoon at the camp and more excavation. We have been working at this snow cave for a few days and it’s now taking a decent shape. I am only a little helper, Mike and Mark are leading the works

 

Day 9: Going south again

We had some more snow overnight and it’s now cloudy. It looks like it will clear later on though. So we hang out in the camp and get ready for an afternoon/evening mission with the objective of riding the first of the couloir on the Midnight Sun walls. It’s now about 5pm, we decide we have been waiting enough so we get ready and set off in a flat light and with some clouds still hanging over us

 

We are ready to drop in. Mike is right in front of me. As you can see the light is not great but the snow is! It should be good fun

Once again, today’s line was a lot bigger than what it looked like. I believe this has been the case for each line we have been riding on this trip. The snow was amazing and it was probably the longest line of the trip so far. It was very wide with hardly any rocks so I really enjoyed making big, long turns looking for the best snow. The good news is that the snow was great everywhere!

Day 10:  Midnight Sun Couloirs

Such a nice feeling waking up with a blue sky and the sun shining! We are all super charged so after breakfast we set off towards the midnight sun walls to ride a couple of couloirs we have been looking at for days. We did ride the big open one on the left, now in the shade, so today we’ll ride the other ones. As always, we seem to have a good number of options, there is no shortage of cool lines around here      

 

Skinning up

From the top: Neil, “big wall” Mike (nickname earned after the recent outstanding performances), Dev, Simon and Mark, elegantly lifting his ski while kick turning

Alistair, Alan and David bring up the rear

Skinning up on the small ice cap on the Midnight Light Ridge – I just decided to call it like that

We could not have asked for better weather and snow conditions to hike and ride this face today

Mark, Mike, Simon and Alistair discussing which line to take, there are a couple of options here. The chute on the right hand side is only accessible going into a straight line opening being careful because there are some rocks to ollie at full speed at some point. Then it opens up. The left hand chute is wider with no rocks, at least not in the middle! They are both great lines

 

This is going to be my line. 3, 2 ,1.. dropping

Another amazing line. This is David, our geologist, easy to recognize him as he is the only one in the group sliding on two planks

We skin back up but this time we decide to travel a bit more on the small ice cap to get further down the ridge

There is a lifetime of opportunities and amazing lines around here. Every time I look around I see more of them

This is the entrance of the couloir, right next to the rock. It’s reasonably exposed, steep and narrow but wide enough for us to sideslip for about 10 meters. We drop in one by one. While I wait for the entrance to be clear I am standing on my board, strapped in, with many different thoughts going around my mind. I can’t really see the drop and the slope in front of the guys waiting below me so I look at the glorious peaks all around me. Although I love earning my turns and feel lucky just being able to be out here, I have to confess that everything I do, the long time spent to travel to remote places like this one, camping on snow, hiking for hours, etc. I do all this to find myself exactly where I am now, strapped in, at the top of a line. I know that it’s only going to take me about 1 minute, probably even less, to make 15-20 turns and get down and I am happy with that. I know that the sensations of those turns will be so intense that the highs are going to stay for hours and the memories for ever! Enough thinking, the entrance is now clear, I am dropping in

Looking back at our tracks in the snow is one of those things that never get old

View of the couloir from camp. Did I mention that everything around here is bigger than what it looks like? I think I did

Evening light on little Alaska. After 10 days I am still not tired of looking at it several times during the day, especially with this evening light

It’s now about 11pm, I am about to get into my sleeping bag. I don’t know what the temperature is but it definitely feels very cold again and although I have been ready for my bag for at least an hour, I really wanted to stay up a bit longer to soak up as much as possible the magical evening atmosphere of this amazing place for one last time. We are leaving tomorrow. Saying that it’s been an amazing experience is an understatement. It’s been more than that. We know we don’t belong here and that we were only guests and though at times I felt we were not very welcome, for the majority of the time I actually felt at some level connected with the white wilderness around me

I am going to miss everything about this place, its majestic peaks, its stunning views, its vivid colors, even if only three, its peaceful and solemn atmosphere, the position of the sun always on the horizon, never higher, never lower, its clean and crispy air and of course I am even going to miss its special silence. It’s the type of silence impossible to find in modern society, a silence you can experience only in a big wild place like this one. Something else that I will miss and I know it will be difficult to find it in the world we are going back to is this incredible sense of space and freedom that you can almost breathe on these glaciers and on their surrounding peaks

Day 11: Leaving Greenland

So this is it. We have just finished taking the tents down and packing all our gear. The local Innuit hunters who took us here will pick us up later on this morning

The taxis are here. The first thing I notice is the noise coming from their engines and my ears don’t appreciate it. I presume any noise would feel strange after the absolute silence we have been immersed in over the past 10 days

Sitting on the sled as we leave the glacier, of all the many different thoughts and sensations I have inside right now, the most apparent one is certainly a mix of satisfaction and accomplishment. I could not be happier about the conditions we found on this trip and about everything we have achieved. I believe we functioned extremely well as a group and the atmosphere has always been really cool for the entire length of the trip, in and out of the camp. Amazing place, excellent conditions and great crew – I don’t think we could have asked for anything else. Yes, we know that we only just scratched the surface and there is a hell of a lot more to do around here but we also know that those peaks will not go anywhere. We’ll be back

It’s been a real eye-opening experience in many ways, especially in terms of redefining what’s possible with a combination of winter camping and foot access. Since I started using a splitboard a few years ago, every season becomes more apparent that once you take helicopters and mechanized lifts out of the equation there are virtually no restrictions to access remote terrain like this one. An entire new world of wild mountains with a couple of lifetimes of exploring possibilities and riding options opens up and the splitboard is the  tool that makes it possible. I will be coming back here, for sure and I would also like to explore even higher latitudes. Jeremy Jones and Andrew McLean are currently exploring (not sure whether they are in the same group) the archipelago of Svalbard, located about 600km off the East Coast of Greenland, midway between Norway and the North Pole. 60% of the land is glacier and the islands have many mountains and fjords. Check out stories and photos on their blogs:

http://straightchuter.com/

http://blog.jonessnowboards.com/

Although I must have about 200 photos in my camera to help me sharing and remember the time spent exploring this fantasy white mountain world, and to the non-expert viewer they will probably all seem very similar, somehow even on our last day I manage to find the next cool feature to photograph

On the right hand side of the flat, you can see a couple of blue points where the snow and ice are melting more rapidly than other areas. The short Arctic summer will soon be here and, exactly like the past thousands of years, it will transform once again what now looks and endless sea of snow and ice into a beautiful fjord surrounded by green valleys and snowy peaks. I personally find it absolutely mind boggling thinking about Nature methods of landscape creation. Almost reading the records she has curved on rocks and other features, reconstruct incessantly, however imperfectly, the same landscapes of the past

Baggage handling at Constable Point

For some unknown reason our destiny is clearly not to spend even one night ere at the airport. Today is Tuesday and since connecting flights to Iceland only operate on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the plan was to stay here for the night and fly out tomorrow. We have just been told by the Airport manager’s wife that there in an extra flight today which will get here in a couple of hours. So we decide to keep going with the flow and fly back to Iceland today. This trip has been in “going with flow” mode since day 1 so we might as well finish off that way! Mother Nature could not have sent us better weather conditions to end our trip – another perfect day with great visibility for flying above this impressive land. You can tell this is the beginning of the Arctic summer and the sea ice seems to be melting rapidly

 

This is the west coast of Iceland. We are about 20 minutes away from re-entering the so called “civilized” world we came from. Did we miss it? Not sure about the rest of the guys in the group, I certainly didn’t. I didn’t miss a single aspect of it, not even for one minute. I guess I was too busy enjoying being in Greenland’s alpine wonderland soaking up the peaceful atmosphere. I am now carrying some it with me and it’s a great feeling. I definitely feel we are taking back with us in our bags a lot more than just a successful splitboard expedition and some amazing riding days and cool lines. We knew since the beginning this trip wasn’t going to be about ticking boxes

The most fascinating aspect of travelling is the transformation within yourself which it seems to trigger. Regardless how long I am away for and how far I go, I always seem to come back a little different from a trip. I believe that if you are willing to put in the time and the energy to learn how to put yourself out there without having any expectations and instead accept that in order to feel connected with the world around you the transformation has to happen within yourself, the results of that inner journey can be really interesting, even life changing sometimes! The places you visit, the situations you find yourself in and the people you meet are obviously going to influence your trip but it’s your personal approach and how you deal with all the different elements which I believe is even more relevant and will eventually have the strongest impact on your experience and eventually on your personal growth. So here’s my advice – throw a rucksack on your shoulders and go off exploring our beautiful planet. Try to travel with an open mind, leave your comfort zone behind you, embrace the impermanence we live in and accept all the changes that come with it, you might learn few important lessons about life and about yourself

Happy travels!

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One Response to Greenland Expedition – Part 4

  1. Arno says:

    It seems you had an amazing experience Matteo! awesome pics dude!

    I’m loooking forward even more to next winter, just in the French Alps.

    Ciao, Arno

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