The team arrived back in Reykjavik this afternoon, looking forward to their final celebration dinner. More showers ("hand sanitizer only goes so far" was overheard from one of the group), drying out clothing and gear, sleeping on a mattress, eating real food... all most appreciated and very well deserved. Huge congratulations to all team members!! We'll let them speak for themselves on their accomplishments and wish everyone safe travels home, till their next adventure! Thanks to all for following along and we look forward to seeing you on another expedition!
The team awoke to hard driving rain which started around 4 AM and did not let up all day. They broke camp around 8 AM and had an extremely challenging day descending the glacier in the driving rain. They were only able to ski for the first 200 metres, then had to switch to walking. The first 2 hours they had snow, then it changed to bare ice for the remainder of the descent. The conditions were such that their sleds were either sliding ahead of them or hitting them in the ankles. If they put the brake on the sled, it would get stuck in the ice or cause so much friction that it was nearly impossible to maneuver. They were able to enjoy some incredible landscape, having a lateral moraine on their right for much of the descent and seeing a number of moulins (a moulin or glacier mill is a roughly circular, vertical to nearly vertical well-like shaft within a glacier or ice sheet which water enters from the surface. The term is derived from the French word for mill, per Wikipedia) Everything and everyone was soaking wet- whenever the sleds tipped over, water poured out. Imagine trying to control a water filled sled on solid ice on a steep descent while trying to maintain one's own balance... Needless to say, when they reached the bottom, everyone was absolutely elated- as well they should be!!
They were picked up near the bottom of the glacier and had a spectacular 4 wheel drive from the edge of the glacier onto Highway 1. When they reached their lodging, everyone thoroughly enjoyed a hot shower and a celebratory dinner. Their rooms are draped with soaking wet clothing on every available surface and hanging area. The theme for the day was "wet, slippery and exciting"! They were too tired to call in an audio update for the blog but promise that they will leave a group update tomorrow so be sure to check back.
The forecast for tomorrow is for more rain... But they'll be getting a protected ride to Reykjavik for their final night of well deserved celebration before heading home.
The photo does not capture the driving sheets of rain but does give a sense of the challenging conditions
Eric Rutherford's smile definitely captures the sense of accomplishment!
The team called in from N 64° 08.243, W 016° 27.158. They are hanging out in their tents, having just finished dinner and a poetry reading session (Robert Service always a favorite on all PolarExplorers expeditions!). They are around 10 km from the edge of the glacier. They had a fairly leisurely morning, starting on trail around 10 AM. Overnight the winds were quite strong as had been forecast but they were comfortable in the protected campsite they had chosen with their wind walls.
In the morning, the weather was beautiful with bright sun but they could see the weather moving in over the mountains. They passed some beautiful ice falls and saw some lenticular cloud patterns that were stunning (see photo below) Around mid-day the clouds moved in to fully envelope them, they had 20' visibility at times and the snow became soft and wet as they were going down some steep inclines. They alternated between skis and boots. They stayed roped together all day as they were in crevasse territory. They could see some crevasses in the distance but fortunately did not have any close encounters. The temperature was around 20° F in the morning, increasing throughout the day to above freezing. They did find that they had to shed some layers in order avoid over-heating.
They plan to get an early start in the morning and will get picked up around mid-day at the edge of the glacier. All are looking forward to eating real food tomorrow! They did express concern that the blog may be making this expedition sound too easy so be sure to listen to (or read the transcription) of Eric's audio update below...
Hello friends, family and followers. This is Eric calling in from another day on the Vatnajokull Glacier here in Iceland. It’s our second to last day actually. We had a beautiful start to the day- bright and sunny as we started to descend down from the top of the glacier. About halfway down, the clouds moved in and visibility went to almost nothing. We traveled for about 7 hours, roped up the entire way, covering something like 15 kilometers, and now we are in our tents, and we're close enough to the road where we got a few bars of cell reception and were able to read the blog updates and heard how easy our expedition has been, but I just want to set the record straight. This has been incredibly challenging and we have each saved each other's lives at least 5 times. And it's been perhaps the hardest thing that all of us have ever done. The weather has been trying, and this has just been an epic expedition all around. So I know it sounds like we've been having fun, but it's really just been brutal and epic and challenging. And Annie says fun, but for me just epic and brutal and challenging. So we'll be back in civilization tomorrow if all goes according to plan. So we will touch base then and thanks for following along.
The team just called in from N 64° 07.548, W 016° 40.767. They woke up to a nice cool morning and had a fairly relaxed start, waking at 7 AM, then snoozing till 7:30. They had a nice ski and traveled about 19 km. At the last stop, they put on their harnesses and roped up as they were heading into crevasse territory. They will remain roped up for the remainder of the expedition.
They found a beautiful spot to camp, looking out across a glacial valley with mountains all around. They had an outdoor kitchen and dinner again tonight. There was rather a smorgasbord for dinner tonight with fried bread with butter and cheese and soups for appetizers, entrees ranged from spaghetti to pepper steak to chicken teriyaki.
The forecast is for strong winds tonight but they should be in a protected area and built some good wind walls. Rob built an absolutely spectacular loo for the night- truly a work of modern art per Annie. Hoping they may send some pictures...
All are in very good spirits, despite a few sunburned lips. But that is the extent of the discomfort so all good! They are looking forward to another good day tomorrow as they continue their descent.
On the way down...
Transcription of audio update for those following on mobile devices:
Hello, this is Annie calling from Vatnajokull where we have a beautiful campsite tonight overlooking a glacial valley with spectacular views. Everybody's doing really good. We are tired after a really nice day. Everybody else is in bed actually, enjoying the comfort of their sleeping bags. We had a nice outdoor kitchen again tonight where we had dinner looking out over the glacier and over the mountains. We covered some good mileage and the exciting thing is that we put on all of our glacial travel kit, our harnesses and used the ropes and we'll be using those, we’ll be roped up for the rest of the trip. We're looking forward to a good day tomorrow, and we will be reporting in tomorrow night, so I hope you're enjoying following our expedition, and we look forward to talking to you soon. Bye-bye.
The team's current location is N 64° 14.737, W 016° 53.195. They had great weather today with minimal wind in the morning, then calm the remainder of the day. The temperature was around 20° F (by the way, yesterday's "below zero" temp was Celcius- it was around -10°C (14° F) whereas today was -6.7° C, 20° F). A lot of the day was downhill with areas large enough to sled down on their sleds (a bit of team competition arose per Eric Rutherford's audio update below...). They traveled 28 km in total. They enjoyed their dinner outside and had a fabulous evening. They reported clear skies with sunny views. They are well rested and ready for tomorrow.
Cozy in the hut
Eric sitting in the outdoor kitchen