It REALLY is what it is
Hi everyone - here's the full debrief from Wilki's and my thwarted Greenland icecap speed crossing. Massive thanks to those who continue to send messages of consolation and positive thoughts for the re-run of the expedition.
It's a message I wrote mostly whilst stranded in Tasiilaq, Greenland and I had hoped it would remain a threat and not a reality. However, here it is. Having waited on the coast of the Greenlandic icecap for a week, Wilki and I made our way back home to England via Iceland on Monday 18th April, the day before my 25th birthday.
I am extremely keen to ensure this does not tell the tale of a team retreating empty handed, bitterly blaming circumstance. The facts of the matter are that, like all other locations of the Arctic this season, weather has not been kind. The entirety of the icecap has experienced a long and stubborn low pressure system for weeks and it showed no signs of lifting during our weeks waiting in the Inuit settlement. As a consequence, the single helicopter we relied on for inserting us to the Nagtivit glacier was grounded for most of the time. The fjords and mountains had been shrouded in a thick, low cloud and fog caused regular whiteout. Given this, the pilot ruled out flying as too dangerous. Local hunters reported soft, uncompacted snow of over a metre even on flat ground.
Wilki and I were fit, conditioned and prepared to take on our extremely ambitious target of breaking a 16 year old world record. It won't happen this spring and this is a crushing blow; largely since we haven't even had the chance to try.
This is the reality of operating in such unreliable frontiers of the world but it makes the torrent of emotions no easier to take. We did not have the time window to sit and wait for weeks for the situation to improve. Personally, I returned to London shouldering enormous disappointment, carrying useless extra bodyweight, a lighter wallet and a burden of responsibility. No less is the sadness of letting down my team and supporters. This cannot be blamed on the weather, just as it is futile to blame failure on equipment breakage or similar. I know the weather is fickle and frustrating here. I should have built added contingency into the plan - a plan I had so much pride in. As an added twist of the knife, the financial burden also rests on our shoulders as a self-funded venture.
Rather than a signal of the end, future cautiousness or refusing to accept responsibility, we will learn and return in the summer even better prepared. Yet more commitment, an evermore focussed sense of purpose and accountability are the order of the day. We return safe and healthy but prizeless. This will be corrected in good time.
My sincere thanks and apologies to my team and supporters. Your messages mean such a great deal. Special thanks to my manager, Carmen, for working through the night to coordinate our homecoming arrangements.
The game I play is a long one. Occasional disappointment in the short-term is inevitable but knock-backs provide opportunities to amend and improve systems yet further in the ultimate journey towards world-class polar achievement.
ps - Massive best wishes and good luck to Finn and Alex who have hopefully managed to reach their start point for their expedition. Also, thanks to Murray and Toddy for the excellent company during our incarceration!