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
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.
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.
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