PolarExplorers Greenland Icecap Crossing
Thousands of people visit Greenland every year to witness its remarkable beauty and experience the warm and resilient culture. Very few of these visitors ever make it beyond the coastal villages of the island, leaving the vast interior, home to Earth's second largest icecap, virtually untouched. And fewer still travel in traditional style, on ski with dogsleds for support. Our expedition provides seasoned adventurers the chance to cross Greenland's inland ice from coast to coast using a route very similar to Fridtjof Nansen's first crossing of Greenland in 1888.
This classic polar expedition has long been considered the third great achievement of the Polar Trilogy. Join our team and find out why explorers hold a Greenland icecap crossing in the same high regard as a North or South Pole expedition.
- Equipment List
- Dates & Rates
- Trip Insurance
Greenland Icecap Crossing: Daily Itinerary
- Day 1
- Arrive in Kangerlussuaq. Transfer to hotel. Evening welcome reception provides time to meet other team members and review itinerary.
- Day 2
- A day in Kangerlussuaq to review expedition procedures and equipment, and to take care of last minute details.
- Day 3
- Depart Kangerlussuaq for the Greenland ice cap by skidoo or charter air. We'll be meeting our dog teams and mushers on the ice at a pre-determined "dog camp" located on the icecap just beyond the crevasse zone approximately 30-40 kn from Kangerlussuaq.
- Day 4-25
- After meeting up with our dog teams, we'll embark on the crossing. For the next 16-19 days we'll dogsled and ski across the Greenland icecap. This incredible expanse is unlike any other place on Earth, except perhaps for the interior of Antarctica. Our days will be long and potentially very challenging. Our nights provide respite from the elements and a great time to replenish our bodies and spirits with great food, camraderie, and well-deserved rest. As we near the east coast of Greenland we'll make the descent to the coast on ski and by foot, arriving at the town of Isertoq, which is the official end of the expedition. From Isortoq we will transfer by boat or helicopter to Tasiilaq and/or Kulusuk. A very welcome night at a local hotel (with hot shower, ahhh!) and a celebratory dinner will provide a fitting finale to this wonderful adventure.
- Day 26
- Flights to Iceland or other destinations in Greenland are available from Kulusuk.
*This itinerary is highly dependent on a number of factors and is subject to change. Contact us for a more detailed itnerary!
Greenland Icecap Crossing: Equipment List
Upon registration, you will receive a comprehensive PolarExplorers gear guide that explains the importance of each item as well as gear recommendations from our past participants.
- 1 pair backcountry skis (bring your own or rent this item from PolarExplorers)
- 1 pair backcountry ski boots (if renting skis from PolarExplorers your boots must be compatible with NNN BC bindings - important!)
- Sleeping bag rated to at least -20° Celsius (bring your own or rent this item from PolarExplorers)
- Bivy sack (bring your own or rent this item from PolarExplorers)
- 2 sleeping pads (bring your own or rent this item from PolarExplorers)
- 1 windproof / waterproof breathable anorak with hood
- 1 pr. breathable wind pants
- 1 insulated parka with hood (synthetic or down with water repellent finish)
- 2 pair synthetic or wool working gloves - contact us for additional details
- 1 micropuff or warm fleece jacket and pants
- 2 sets synthetic or wool underwear, medium weight top and bottom- 2nd set optional
- 2 pair synthetic or wool working gloves - contact us for additional details
- 1 overmitt system (need to fit over working gloves)
- 2 hats: 1 lightweight balaclava, 1 ski type
- 2 neck gaiters
- 3 pair socks and sock liners
- 1 face mask
- Sun glasses and/ or mountain ski glasses
- 2 pr. anti-fog goggles
- 1 sturdy small backpack with waist belt and sternum strap
- 2 Thermos bottles or insulated water bottles
- 1 set eating utensils with bowl
- Pocket knife / multi-tool
- Personal toiletries
- 1 pee bottle (small plastic bottle)
- Face cream, lip protection
- Luggage locks
Greenland Icecap Crossing Qualifications
This adventure is for people who are in good shape and who are eager to push themselves physically and mentally. Prior cross country skiing experience is preferred. You will need to have very good cardiovascular endurance and the ability to ski several hours at a time, with only short pauses, day after day.
This expedition demands that you stay well-fed and hydrated. You need to be proactive about keeping yourself healthy and free of injury. An evacuation from this expedition is very costly and logistically difficult. You do not have to be a world class athlete to participate in and enjoy this expedition, but every ounce of training and preparation will help to make the journey more enjoyable and safer. Please contact us with further questions!
Greenland Icecap Crossing Dates & Rates
2019 Tentative Dates
May 04 – May 29
∙ $25,500 USD
Includes all group equipment, guide(s), permits, communication & safety gear, dinners and breakfasts while on the ice.
Expedition Trip Insurance
Trip cancellation insurance is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for every PolarExplorers expedition.
Medical Evacuation insurance with a minimum coverage of $300,000 USD is REQUIRED on every PolarExplorers expedition.
Ensure that your policy covers your activity, destination and any pre-existing medical conditions (to cover pre-existing medical conditions you may need to purchase your policy within 14 days or less of your initial deposit).
If you are mountaineering check that the policy covers roped technical mountain travel and the elevation limit that you will have.
Ripcord Insurance (For non-US residents use the Offer Code "ripcordintl" which will enable you to receive quotes and/or purchase policies.) If your expedition is more than USD $30,000 you may need to send an email to: ClientServices@redpointresolutions.com or call them at +1 617-307-4636
If you live in the USA you have additional options.
Travelex Insurance - Choose the TRAVEL SELECT policy and add the ADVENTURE PLUS PAK to receive appropriate medical evacuation coverage.
Travel Guard has comprehensive policies that include trip cancellation or you can purchase a Single Trip Medical Evacuation Important! You must include the optional Adventure Sports coverage upgrade if you are climbing any mountains or traveling in rope teams. (Pre-existing medical coverage is not available with this policy.)
Greenland Icecap Crossing Testimonials
Collectively we had a great team and I personally appreciate the effective, but non-authoritarian manner in which the trip was run, which is in contrast to some of my past experiences in the cold parts of the world with other companies. Many thanks for your professionalism and those of your colleagues. Jointly you are a great credit to PolarExplorers as an organisation.Tony Hamson - Tindale
The expedition's difficulty was exactly at my level and I found my hidden reserves with the guide's help. The guides were like mother and father to me and are beyond any criticism. It was a great adventure and a lot of hard work. I will remember most the huge energy reserves and mental resources of our guides.Alex Drozdkov
What do I remember most from this expedition? The teamwork, the professional work of the guides, and the storm turning down our tent. What would I say to someone considering this expedition? Do it!Norbert Kern
Wohoo!! Jim and Garrett reached the summit of Mount Vinson today at 1:35 CST. They made the round trip from High Camp in 8 hours and forty five minutes. When they left High Camp this morning the skies were clear and the thermometer read -20 F. It was quite chilly on the way up but they were well prepared. Jim says they had an absolutely fantastic day and a good go of it. We are so happy for them and especially proud of Jim for whom this marks the completion of his Seven Summits adventure.
They plan to descend all the way to Vinson Base Camp tomorrow and the forecast looks good. If the weather remains good they may even catch an Otter ride back to Union Glacier (that's a plane, not an animal).
Garrett shares this description of today in an audio dispatch. Check back tomorrow for another update!
Below: The summit of Mt. Vinson (thanks to South Pole Last Degree/Vinson Combo Alum Ian Clarke for the image!)
Rest Day At High Camp
Jim and Garrett had a nice and relaxing rest day though the nylon on the tent was surely flapping. They awoke to cold temperatures of -25 F with a stiff 15-20 knot wind. There's nothing sweeter than awaking to foul weather and being able to sleep in knowing you don't have to go outside. The tent takes on an oasis feel to it and you count your blessings all the more.
What do you do on a rest day? Rest! Or write, play cards if you have them, chat with a friend, read if you have a book or watch a movie on a device. The main goal is to let your body recuperate and acclimatize to the higher altitude. Jim and Garrett did all those things today and they are ready for their summit attempt. The forecast is for improving conditions overnight. If they awake to good weather they will go for the summit. If the weather still has some improving to do they'll wait until the next day. We will keep you posted!
To conserve their sat phone battery they opted not to send an audio dispatch tonight. They want to relay to everyone that they are comfortable, warm, rested and excited for the summit.
Check back again tomorrow!
Below: Another view of yesterday's fixed line ascent, approaching the top (previous expedition). Thanks to PE guide Taylor Sweitzer for the pic.
Ascending to High Camp
Today Jim and Garrett ascended from Vinson's Low Camp to High Camp. This is a fairly significant climb of nearly 3,000 feet up a steep slope with fixed lines. While not a complex ascent it is certainly not easy, with burdensome packs and steep pitches. It's slow work with a lot of heavy breathing. One step, then another, then maybe a short pause before repeating, over and over again. By the time you reach the end of the fixed lines and ascend a little further into the camp it is common to be completely exhausted. Fortunately the view (when you find the energy to look around) is incredible with the vastness of Antarctica spilling from of the mountains below.
High Camp is typically a small tent city, with multiple teams in various stages of their summit attempts. We like to climb Vinson after our Last Degree expedition for a few reasons: one of them is that by the time we get there most other Vinson teams have completed their climbs and we tend to have the mountain to ourselves (or at least almost to ourselves). It's certainly not the hustle and bustle of earlier in the season. This makes it all the more special.
Jim and Garrett plan to take a rest day at High Camp before attempting to reach the summit the following day. Weather is always a factor and they will keep their eye on the forecast. After today's ascent a little R & R will be good for the body (and soul!)
Make sure to listen to Jim's audio update here & check back again tomorrow for another update from the team.
Below: The top of the fixed lines before heading towards High Camp. (From a previous expedition - that's Keith in the photo)
Vinson team makes it to Low Camp
After receiving a "no-go" on the flight to Vinson Base Camp last night (poor visibility at Vinson) they awoke at Union Glacier to good news - the weather had cleared and the flight was on. If you want a recap of what the flight is like to Vinson Base Camp read yesterday's blog. In short it is AMAZING. Absolutely stunning - and we are so glad they had perfect weather to enjoy it at its best. After arriving at Vinson Base Camp the boys (Jim and Garrett) headed up the valley to Low Camp. For Jim it was likely a refreshing change to have something to look at with every passing step. It's not that the Last Degree has no views, but it's a lot of white! White and blue...or white and grey... or just plain white. But today on Vinson it was a bluebird day. This surely made the trek to Low Camp phenomenal. Mountains flank the sides of the valley that they ascended and every time they looked up they were surely thinking to themselves "this is awesome!" Tomorrow they plan to ascend to High Camp. They will likely have a morning that's not rushed. Low Camp is in a shadow in the early morning making it a cold place. As soon as the sun appears over the peaks of the surrounding mountains everything feels easier and more welcoming - a good reason to sleep in an extra half hour or two!
Jim posted two wonderful audio dispatches. Make sure to have a listen!
Below: Vinson Base Camp, which they left this morning. Thanks to SP/Vinson Alum Michael Creasy for the photo
En route to Punta Arenas and Vinson Basecamp!
When we last heard from our team they were back at Union Glacier, briefly, before they continue on to their next destinations. For Jim Holliday, Steve, John and Keith the next destination is Punta Arenas. For Jim Lumberg the next destination is Mt. Vinson.
The team departed the South Pole for the Union Glacier basecamp around 10:30 this morning. The flight across the interior of Antarctica is amazing if you can grasp the enormity of what is passing below. Often the passing shades of white lull you into a deep state of meditation or sleep and the flight passes quickly. Other times the flight provides the perfect opportunity to reflect about life on the polar plateau - skiing in white-outs, pulling a sled, the camaraderie of tent life, and the simplicity of expedition travel. The same is true for the flight back to Punta Arenas, which is roughly four hours. It's a good time to reflect.
When the team lands in Punta Arenas they'll transfer to their hotels where they can soak in the luxury of indoor, civilized living!
This is not the case for Jim Lumberg who continues today to Mount Vinson, the tallest mountain in Antarctica. Jim is in the good hands of guide Garrett Madison and together they plan to depart Union Glacier today for the roughly 40 minute flight to Vinson Basecamp. This must be one of the most scenic flights in all of Antarctica. Mountains everywhere. Big glaciers. Craggy peaks. It's stunning, and a great start to this amazing climb.
This will be the last post for the Last Degree Ski Expedition. Great job guys! We are proud of you! And for Jim Holiday a very special congratulations on the completion of your Grand Slam. Your mom is surely smiling :)
Check back regularly for the latest on Jim's ascent of Mt. Vison. If we receive any additional information tonight we will post it.
Below: The view from Union Glacier
A day at the South Pole
Welcome back! The team spent the day at the South Pole, taking pictures, reflecting on their experiences and relishing in their accomplishment. While they are still "rouging it" they have the luxury of heated tents that they can stand it (!!) and a basecamp chef who makes excellent meals. No doubt it feels like five star luxury to them! Everyone is doing good. They LOVE the messages that many of you are sending through to them. Soon (tomorrow if all goes as planned) four of the five team members will be returning to Punta Arenas, Chile, where hot showers, a real mattress and all the creature comforts of civilization await. Jim Lumberg will continue on to Mount Vinson where he will attempt to summit this tallest mountain in Antarctica. You can follow his progress here. We'll also post a final dispatch from Jim H, John, Steve & Keith in Punta Arenas.
We have three audio dispatches today and they are all excellent! Have a listen to their very heartfelt messages with touching shout outs to friends and family.
Below: Last night's celebration
Below: At the Geographic South Pole
The South Pole!
We are very proud to share that our South Pole Last Degree team reached the Geographic South Pole today at 4:30 PM local time today. This is a huge moment for all of our team members and we can't be more happy for them. For Jim Holliday it marks the completion of his Explorers Grand Slam (climbing the seven summits and skiing to both poles), an endeavor he started in 2005. Congratulations to all of our team - Jim, John, Steve, Jim and Keith for this remarkable achievement. Well done!
You might wonder what exactly is "local" time when you are standing a spot where all the time zones on the planet converge. The short answer is that it can be anytime you want! The longer answer is that people and organizations (such as the National Science Foundation or our Last Degree Ski team) choose the time zone that makes the most sense for them. The South Pole station runs on New Zealand time because all people flying to the Pole with the National Science Foundation are coming through New Zealand. Our team is on Chilean time, because they originally came from Chile. The 24 hour sun means that anytime can be morning, or night, or happy hour!
Here's a review of our team's day. They woke up to relatively clear skies and milder temperatures (around -15F), but still had a persistent wind. This wind kicked up the ground snow into a bit of a "ground blizzard" meaning that while there was blue sky overhead the visibility of the horizon was limited. It wasn't until they were 5 nautical miles from the Pole that they got their first glimpse of the station. The the wind died a little allowing for better view during their final approach. All in they skied 11 nautical miles today - which is their longest day yet - and a full day of skiing by any standards! As if to make the last day extra special they were rewarded with a double sun dog to their left for much of the day (see below if you don't know what this is).
The plan is to be at the Pole for two nights before flying back to Union Glacier basecamp on the 14th, and making a quick transfer of planes to get back to Punta Arenas same day. Jim Lumberg will be staying in Antarctica to climb Mt. Vinson, Antarctica's highest mountain, and we will continue to post updates from the expedition here. In the meantime there will be more stories to share, including their time at the South Pole.
A couple audio dispatches came through but they we cut off. As soon as we receive another dispatch we will post it. Additional photos to follow in tomorrow's post.
Below: A sun dog is a type of halo around the sun, caused by refraction of ice crystals. If often makes it look like there are three or four suns. This pic was taken at the South Pole, but not by our team. Hopefully they got some good shots of the double sun dog they saw today. (Image thanks to NOAA, Lieutenant (j.g.) Cindy McFee, NOAA Corps)
It warmed up today for our South Pole Last Degree ski team - but only by a few degrees! Even though it was warmer the wind was a constant companion, as it often is. Antarctic is the coldest, windiest, highest and driest continent on Earth.
The team is narrowing in on the pole. They expect to get there tomorrow if all goes as planned. Today they learned that the kite they saw yesterday was one of two French kiters who skied from Hercules Inlet to the South Pole. The skiers stayed for a couple days before turning around to kite-ski back. The winds, which typically flow from the Pole towards the coasts, will allow them to travel greater distances with the use of a kite, but it's a lot of work!
If the visibility improves tomorrow they can expect to see the station as far away as 7 or 8 miles (sometimes ever further). At first it feels like a trick on the eyes: a mirage-like blip that is vague, and seems to disappear if you look directly at it. Then, as you get closer, it begins to take shape. Large antennas and radar stations... then buildings... then smaller structures like trucks, then windows on the buildings. Maybe a person or two. It seems very surreal, sort of like the rebel station on the frozen planet of Hoth in the Star Wars series. Their approach to the station will be very deliberate, following a series of waypoints to avoid sensitive areas that are a part of scientific studies.
When we talked to the team they were having crackers and salami and preparing for bed. They are looking forward to an exciting day tomorrow. Our fingers are crossed that they reach the Pole!
We are hoping for an audio update but it has not yet arrived. We'll post it if/when it arrives.
Check back again tomorrow for another update from the team!
Below: If you could view our team from a distance as they ski to the Pole this is what they would look like:
Below: A typical tent kitchen scene cooking up an all-time favorite: Surf and turf!
Coldest Day Yet
It was a cold, cold day for our Last Degree skiers. The coldest yet, with a 10 kt wind straight out of the south. That means it was a headwind for Jim, John, Steve, Jim and Keith. But they did a good job of closing the gap to the South Pole, and they were rewarded with two signs that they are getting close. The first was a column of exhaust that, for a few moments, floated up from the horizon due south of them. Was it a plane taking off from the station? A different kind of exhaust? They couldn't tell but it was definitely something artificial to the environment and they are guessing it's from the station. The second thing they saw was a moving kite, likely from a kite skier. It was very far away, but distinctly a kite. Who was it? They don't know.
Days with a cold wind, like today's headwind, are especially difficult. The wind seems to constantly batter you and the cold always finds its way past your inner layers during breaks. Everything is harder including eating and drinking. Your muscles get tense early and stay that way. You have to consciously try to relax. Despite the challenging conditions they made good progress. They were even able to appreciate the beauty of the day as you'll hear in Jim Holliday's audio dispatch (below). Now that they are in their tents, enjoying hot drinks, quesadillas and dinner, they are slowly recovering and relishing the comfort provided by the thin nylon walls. On sunny days the tents can be remarkably warm, thanks to the large amounts of solar radiation in Antarctica. Like a greenhouse, the tent traps the heat and it can be quite comfortable. We wish them a great night's sleep under the 24 hour austral sun!
Jim Holliday hosts the audio dispatch today, in two parts. Have a listen!
If you'd like to send messages of support or ask questions to the team feel free to email Annie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure to check back again tomorrow for another update from the Antarctic plateau!
Brrrr... this morning's thermometer reading!
The Team Is On A Roll
Our guys on the Last Degree are really finding their stride. Today they achieved another 8 nautical miles at a faster pace than yesterday AND with more challenging weather conditions! The team now has only 24nm standing between them and the Geographic South Pole. The weather this morning was clear and calm, but a weather system caught up with them in the afternoon bringing blowing snow and zero contrast conditions. The good news is that the weather system looks to have passed and there is more clear sky behind it. They rewarded their efforts with a dinner of hamburgers and laid down for an early sleep. Jim Lumberg describes the day very eloquently in the latest AUDIO UPDATE below. Have a listen!
For those of you unfamiliar with "zero contrast" conditions, here is an example from a previous expedition. As you can see, you can't see anything but the person in front of you. These conditions are particularly difficult due to the eye strain and occasionally vertigo that come with zero contrast visibility.
Almost Half Way To The Pole
The team had another momentous day travelling across the Antarctic Plateau. They covered 8 nautical miles in 9 hours of travel, taking short breaks every hour or so. The weather has remained beautiful and crisp with a light wind and temperatures cooling off in the afternoon to around -20. One of the ways they pass the time during the long hours of skiing is by trading riddles. John Gluckman shares the riddle of the day in today's AUDIO UPDATE. Have a listen below! The guys are all in good spirits and excited to be crossing the halfway mark tomorrow. Stay tuned for more!
January 8th South Pole Audio Update: Featuring Keith Heger and John Gluckman READ MORE...
Skiing Through a Wall of Weather
Today was the third day on trail for our Last Degree Ski team and they already have their camp systems dialled-in. They were on skis at 8:45AM; two hours after waking up. It was a beautiful bluebird day for the first several hours, but afternoon brought with it a wall of clouds approaching quickly from the horizon. Before long they were skiing in zero visibility (Jim Lumberg describes the experience in the AUDIO UPDATE). Luckily the clouds didn't last any they skied out the other side, back into sunshine... READ MORE
Getting Acclimatized on the Last Degree
The team had an excellent first full day on the ice today. As planned, they took the pace slow and skied for just under 5 hours covering 5 nautical miles, allowing several hours for rest and acclimatization in the afternoon. The weather has been stunning. -8°F in the sun this morning with a light wind from the South and mostly clear skies. After their afternoon naps, the guys gathered together for a dinner of whitefish, veggies, and pasta then settled down for the evening...READ MORE
First Steps on The Last Degree
The team was indeed able to fly to the Last Degree this morning! Everyone is excited and relieved to finally have their work in front of them. Jim Lumberg describes the day perfectly in the daily audio update so please listen for details. The temperature is -10°F with a light wind; Perfect skiing weather for the Antarctic Plateau!
Another Day at Union Glacier
It has been another day of waiting for our Last Degree team, but not a day spent idly. The conditions were not favorable for a flight to the Last Degree so the team took advantage of the opportunity to explore the area surrounding Union Glacier Camp. They packed their sleds and skied out for a mock camp set-up where they set up tents, tested stoves, and melted some water. Back in camp, they had a nice bike ride around camp (yes the camp has a supply of bikes!) and overall enjoyed the experiences that Union Glacier has to offer. The tentative schedule for tomorrow is to fly to the Last Degree after breakfast! At that point 60 nautical miles of adventure will be standing between them and the bottom of the globe. Stay tuned for more updates and as always, listen to the AUDIO UPDATE below.