Engagés: La Finale
Throughout May 2018, The Outdoor Journal has been reporting on five French explorers who have been traversing Greenland’s toughest terrain.
In the face of much adversity, the expedition finally made it home to Paris, having being trapped at the finish line without food, and unable to extract themselves due to bad weather. We caught up with Maxime Laine upon his return, to hear about ‘Engages: La Finale’.
If you missed it, then you can read the day by day updates, sent home by the expedition via satellite phone, here.
The end of the expedition taught us a lot of humility.
Throughout the crossing, we had over estimated the distance that we expected to be able to cover towards the end of the expedition. We had reached the highest point, and had started to walk down to the east coast. However, the weather played it’s part, and played with our nerves, as the snow just could not stop falling.
There was so much snow, that every step went deeper and deeper, day after day. Each day, we could not imagine how it could get any harder the next. Our expectations, with regards to the kilometres we could cover, were just in vain. We had to keep telling ourselves, to get out of the tent, and to walk as far as we could, and then even further.
On the 28th day, we walked 30 kilometres in 12 hours. We were exhausted, but our daily goal was only 40 kilometres away from our position. We told ourselves, one more time, that we could walk 25km on the 29th and 15km on the 30th day. This would be ok.
However, on the 29th day, the snow kept on falling. We could only walk 5 little kilometres, with the little energy that we had. It was at this point, we had a critical decision to make.
Option 1: Keep on walking. Get closer to the coast, and a better extraction point, for the helicopter. Given the harsh weather conditions, this could take us several days, a lot of energy, and we were running out of food.
Option 2: Set up the camp and stay where we are. Economise our energy and the rest of our food. Hope that the helicopter can come to pick us up.
We went for the second option. However, once again, Greenland’s weather played with our nerves.
We were now out of food.
The helicopter was supposed to pick us up on the 30th at 1:00pm. The pilot just could not make it, and the next clear weather window was 4 days later on the 3rd of June. There was nothing that we could, but stay in our tents, spending as little energy as possible. We tried hard to think about anything worth thinking about. Anything to take our minds off our empty bellies.
At times like these, the only thing to do is remain calm and patient. We had to call the pilot every hour, and every hour he told us that the weather window was not good enough, and that we’ll talk again in an hour.
This repeated itself for more than 24 hours… until we woke to find a beautiful day, and a clear blue sky out of our tent. Still, we didn’t want to express any form of optimism, Greenland had played this game with us before.
We just waited for the pilot’s confirmation which was never clearly expressed, until finally we saw a red flying object on the horizon coming towards us. We could not believe it. For the first time, Greenland “a fait preuve de clémence” and was not playing with us anymore.
It felt like we had passed the test, like we had learnt enough about humility.
Over the course of the next week, Max will publish a detailed account of what he thought about for 10 hours a day, whilst he crossed Greenland. Here’s a sneak preview. Make sure that you follow us or subscribe so that you don’t miss it.
One of the most difficult part of crossing Greenland by foot, is not only to walk 10 hours a day, but to keep our minds busy. We were in an environment where nothing could possibly interrupt our minds.
There was just us, walking on the same white and flat ice caps for endless days.
Even the sun doesn’t set. Just us and ourselves. Thinking about our frozen fingers and toes. Our friends, our family, our jobs. Why we are here, focusing on this very moment, what we are looking for, what kind of life we want to live, what is the next adventure. All of a sudden you are aware of plenty of little things that we strangely never had the time to think about before.
We came back to Paris, and people did not see us any different, life remained the same here, but we were different. We triggered a new energy, like we had just woken after a very long sleep.
You can discover your own ice sheets in Greenland here.