Vatnajokull Icelandic Icecap Winter Crossing (2012)
Team: 2 (team-mate Finn McCann)
Result: Lavafields and valleys crossed in three days to reach icecap western edge. Icecap crossed until one day from finish point on east side when 85+mph winds and equipment damage forced an early pickup.
Greenland Icecap Speed Crossing (2011)
Where: Arctic Greenland
Team: 2 (team-mate Andrew Wilkinson)
Result: High-speed crossing of the route from the Nagtivit Glacier to the Russell Glacier. Air pickup from a contingency location. Delayed on both coasts by highly turbulent and crevassed ice - record target of 8 days 9 hours therefore missed.
Where: Arctic Greenland
Team: 2 (team-mate George Bullard)
Result: Return crossing of icecap and longest fully
unsupported polar journey in history
Their objective was to traverse the Greenland icecap and then return to their insertion point, fully unsupported (no resupplies and man powered). The new route reached north-west from near Kulusuk to the West Coast and back, covering 1374 miles (2210km). Alex and George consumed 5581 calories per day, hauling a total of 88kg of flapjack and 44kg of ghee butter with them.
From their mounting base in the Inuit settlement at Kulusuk, the team used a helicopter to fly to their coastal start point. This early in the Spring, the temperatures were so cold and sea-ice so thick that boat travel was impossible. Once at their start point, they immediately headed up the heavily crevassed Nagtivit Glacier with sledges fully laden. Unlike the early traverses of Greenland by pioneers such as Nansen, the pair skied far to the north as they man-hauled towards the West Coast, reaching high Arctic latitudes and increasingly brutal conditions. As the team proceeded west, they laid depots along the route containing supplies to support them on their return journey; this was fundamental to a journey of such length and difficulty. Once they had laid sufficient supplies and had made strong progress, they hauled north towards Baffin Bay through awe-inspiring surroundings and harsh Spring conditions.
As the team approached the West Coast, they left their sledges on the icecap and descended to the coast ‘alpine-style’ – using crampons and ropes to achieve a traverse of the icecap. This achievement was only the half way point however – the journey back was a race against time.
Their return journey involved a different technique. The team skied at pace between their depots to reach the East Coast, their final destination and in doing so completed the longest fully unsupported polar journey of all time. For the final ten days, the pair had to work on without rations – enduring hunger and physical and mental exhaustion. Unlike the majority of polar expeditions which are limited by when air support can afford to perform a pickup, the Tiso TransGreenland was limited less artificially. The team had finite supplies of food and fuel – their challenge was to reach the east coast before either ran out.