GREENLAND 2002 - DISPATCH 8 Falling Spindrift

We set off at 7PM for our most distance objective, a solitary ice peak out toward the icecap. It was a 7 mile ski each way with a climb set in the middle. But after a rest day we were feeling ambitious.

The ski and climb went smoothly, and we decided to go even further afield out to a group of nunataks piercing the fringe of icecap. It was at the summit of one of these nunataks that I first became aware of a sound, like a distance roar. I looked first to the other half of our group which were on a neighboring nunatak. They were dots at the top. Then I looked west toward the icecap. It was a sight I will never forget.

At 73 degrees north the icecap is approx 500 miles across and as it reaches the mountainous regions of northeast Greenland including the NHN, it descends, sometimes abruptly. The mountains are merely speed bumps as the iceflows lurch toward the sea.

So out to the west, toward the ice cap I looked. There, I saw an amazing sight.

A terrific wind was throwing sheets of spindrift off the ice and sending it cascading down the cliffs that form the edge of the icecap. It was as if a tremendous waterfall was thundering, only there was snow and it was flowing softly and intricately unlike any falling water. The sight was mesmerizing.

Unfortunately mesmerizing because it was on the way down from the nunatak that the strength of the first wind came upon us. At once it knocked me to one side, and when I turned one shoulder, it threatened to carry me away. I staggered drunk-like with James and Geoff off the nunatak and down to our skis. The others did the same from the adjacent summit. We hastily attached our skis and headed for camp. As we all considered what would come next, the adrenaline started to flowing in a big way. This is how a lot of bad stories begin. Not knowing how the conditions would progress, I began considering a place to bivouac through the storm.

Soon after, frozen snow began whipping past us in blinding sheets and obscured everything below our knees. It was a struggle to stay upright, but we navigated in a way that eventually placed the wind at our backs and the effort was made bearable.

It was another exhausting hour of buffeting wind and snow, and then as quickly as it began, it ended. The wind was gone and it become dead calm, utterly silent. It was another reminder of how wild and desolate this place is. No place for mistakes.

We're down to the final stretch of time here at NHN. But we plan to fill our remaining days with several more objectives. Thank you for following along!

More to follow soon. David Keaton


GREENLAND 2002 - Niels Holgersen Nunatakker Introduction