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The mountains are calling and I must go, and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.

- John Muir


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Adventurers & Explorers

Jun 29, 2018

Engagés: Upon Reflection. Calm, Patience, Humility.

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WRITTEN BY

Maxime Lainé

During May of 2018, The Outdoor Journal reported on five French explorers who were traversing Greenland’s toughest terrain.

Their goal was to complete 700km in 30 days. 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.

You can read about those final few days here, and a review of the Nixon Regulus, used during the Expedition here.

In this article, written one month after the expedition, Maxime Lainé reflects upon this period in his life, and what it meant to him.

As an entrepreneur I’ve learnt to fail, sometimes to succeed, but overall, I’ve learnt to get the most out of each experience I face, and eventually share those experiences with anyone who is interested.

I wanted to share what I’ve learnt from the most enlightening experience of my life, and how it triggered something deep inside of me.

I’m not a journalist nor a story teller, but simply someone with a story to tell. I might not be able to articulate my complex feelings perfectly, so I will just be myself, and be honest.

In May 2018, I crossed Greenland by foot from East to West along the Polar Circle, with 4 other entrepreneurs, in total autonomy. It took us 31 days to cover more than 550km. We faced extreme conditions, with absolutely no form of any life, under temperatures reaching -40C.

Our daily routine.

We woke up every morning at 5am or 6am. It took us 2 and a half hours to melt the snow, so that we had water for breakfast. We also needed additional 2 litres each for the day. We got left the tent at 8:15am, we packed them up, and we could start walking at around 8:45am or 9am. At first we had to walk at least 8 hours a day, up to 10 hours towards the end, occasionally up to 13 when the weather permitted us. When we stopped walking, it took us 1 hour to set up the camp, and then 3 additional hours to melt the snow so that we could cook, fix things and take care of our feet, before we could finally go to sleep. And then repeat, again, and again, no matter what, because we had to make it to the other side.

Calm, patient, humble.

I remember how I felt on the first day, excited, impatient and ready (at least that’s what I thought) to face Greenland. Like a kid that can’t wait to play outside. However, Greenland had other ideas, the terrain and weather taught us in its own way, that…

our success would depend on our capacity to remain calm, patient and humble. 

The first days of the expedition were “easy”. The snow was firm, it was quite sunny, and even if our pulkas were at their heaviest, weighting 90kg per person, we were expecting more of a mental challenge. At that point, it was just another physical challenge. 

For the first part of the expedition, we had to walk up to the highest point of the crossing. 2600m, almost half way, albeit a little bit closer to the east coast. After that, there was a flat plateau, continuing at the same altitude for about 100km. Finally, we had to walk down towards the coast, to reach our extraction point on the eastern side at 900m altitude.

We expected the first part to be the hardest. We were climbing up, and then, as we would walk down, it would get easier and we would be able to cover more kilometres per day.

We were fools, but we didn’t know it yet. 

When the first storm hit us on the night of the 11th day, we were almost relieved to spend 60 hours in the tents to get some rest. Even if it was physically intense, we all thought we would be able to get to the other side without any trouble. On the following day, we walked 28 km in 11 hours to reach our first objective, Dye military base located at 66.4934N – 46.3204W. However, at the end of that day 14th, we all started to realize that things were getting more critical. One of us felt pain in his back and knees, so we volunteered to carry some of his weights, in addition to the 90kg we already had to carry per person. As for me, I felt such a pain in my right ankle, that I could barely walk when I took my skis off at the camp. 

Fortunately, over the next 2 days, we were very limited as to how much we could walk, since there was another storm coming. That 16th day, we just walked 10km for 5 hours. The wind was coming in at more than 70km/h from the south, and caused our pulkas to flip over.

We were definitely going beyond our limits, this was the time to set up the camp, and be safe.

Setting up the camp under those conditions was crazy, but vital, and we managed to do it as a team. Once in the tents, we realised that we had pushed it to far, it had started to become very dangerous. If we could not set up the camp, then we would have just died from the cold. From that very moment, every day was going to be more critical than the day before. We were not even half way through the expedition yet, but we didn’t know it. We did know that our lives depend on our actions, our choices, and on our team. We realised that our bodies are amazing but fragile machines, that nature can break at anytime. 

However, the humility that we had already been taught, apparently wasn’t enough. The next few days were the coldest, with temperatures between -20C to -40C, and winds reaching 35km/h. We had lost too much time, stuck in the storms, we had to move forward. We were relieved to reach the highest point of the expedition. Finally, we had made it, but at a price. The cold froze my toe, and broke Antoine’s ski plugs. Fortunately we had a spare pair, but from now on, another equipment issue could risk the whole expedition.

From this point, we we headed downhill and the expectation was that it would get easier. We started to make some calculations and tell ourselves; “if we could walk 10 hours a day at 2.5km/h, then we could reach our objective in x days. On top of that, we’re going downhill, we should actually be able to walk 30km to 35km a day, without any additional effort, since we would not feel the weight of our pulkas”… However, Greenland decided to teach us humility one more time. 

It started to snow, day after day, after day.

It was physically so intense to walk that deep in the snow, pulling our pulkas was a burden that we had to accept. Each step challenged our body, and our mind. We started to walk 9 to 10 hours a day, but despite our expectations, barely managed to walk the same distance than when we covered when walking uphill.

Being tired was not a reason to stop. We told ourselves, tired is just information.

We had to push our limits forward. We had to find energy we didn’t know that we had, deep down inside us, or we wouldn’t make it. 

At the end of every day, we kept on making the same time vs distance calculations. However, there was always more and more snow every day. Every day the visibility worsened, until we could not see our skis. On the 28th day, we wanted to make 30km, it was important for us to do so. We made it, in 13 hours. We were so tired that when we set up the camp, we were in some sort of zombie state, too tired to even think. On the 29th day, the snow continued to play with our nerves, and we barely walked 6 km in 5 hours. One of us was injured, and could just not push forward.

That was it, our limit was reached. 

We were at 20 km from the extraction point, but just 5 km from the coast. We had to make a critical decision. We just had 1 day left of food. At our current pace, we would reach the extraction point within 3 days. We could kept on walking, or set up the camp here, and wait for the helicopter to pick us up tomorrow. We decided to set up the camp, and wait for a clear weather window for the helicopter to come in and get us… The next day arrived, and no one could get to us because of the weather. It was the 30th day, and we were completely out of food. The next clear weather window was in 4 days. 

At that very moment, something triggered in our minds.

We were not making any sort of calculations anymore, we were not expecting anything from anyone. We just accepted it. Nature always win. Period.

We just had to smile and face it. Finally, Greenland taught us humility, and we knew it. In the tent, we were just talking, peacefully, calmly. We had to call the pilot every hour to give him some updates about the weather, and every hour he would tell us that we had to wait one more hour. Until the 31st day, in the afternoon, we finally saw the chopper. Accepting our fate felt like the obliged path we had to take, to unlock the door to make our way home.

Reflection

It was unexpected that one of the hardest parts of the adventure, was to keeping our minds busy for 10 to 13 hours a day. I realised that I had so much time to think about things I had never considered before.

I would think of my girlfriend, my friends, my family, my startup Weesurf. Then I started to think about myself. I asked, why am I doing this? What kind of life do I want? What makes me truly happy? Why do I do the job that I do? Why do I love this or that? What can I change about myself? And for every question, I kept asking myself, why? For example, why do you want to make money? To buy stuff? But why? To travel? But why? To get a flat? But why? And I finally figured out what kind of life I wanted to follow, and what makes me happy…

Discover, Learn and Share.

I also realised that I used to consider money as something to value things and to set barriers. Something we all have to live for, and to live by, but I ask myself how I lived so many experiences over the last 2 years, and at that time I didn’t get paid by Weesurf. I went to Greenland to pursue my dream with almost no money on my bank account. I put in all my strength and effort, to make it all possible, because that would make me happy. I would discover, learn and share an adventure. No matter what, I would do my best to realise it. Whilst I was walking on the ice, I imagined if everyone would have a passion for his or her project, if everyone would put all of his or her faith and efforts to realise his or her dream, people would probably be happier. 

I’m very thankful that Thomas changed my life when he offered me on the Station F’s Slack, to set up a team to cross Greenland. He has made me an happier person. I told myself that I’ll do my best to do the same for everyone else.

So ask I you this. What is your dream? What prevents you from making it real? What are you doing to make it happen? If you’re not struggling enough, maybe it’s not your dream. What is your dream?

Remember, calm, patience, humility.

You can discover your own ice sheets in Greenland here with the Outdoor Voyage.

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Expeditions

Jun 29, 2018

Live Updates: Colin O’Brady’s 50HP World Record Attempt.

This page will be regularly updated as and when we hear from Colin during his challenge.

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WRITTEN BY

The Outdoor Journal

Remember if you see Colin out on the trails, make sure you grab some photos or video, and upload them to social media with the hashtag #50HPandMe.

0/50 high points left to summit!

19th July – THE 50HP WORLD RECORD HAS BEEN BROKEN.
19th July
18th July

16th July
14th July 

13th July 

11th July – When one door closes another door opens…
The Good News: Arizona’s Humphrey’s Peak is now open for climbing! 
The Not So Good News: Mt. Whitney in California is closed due to an uncontained forest fire that has shut down access to the mountain.

Within minutes of landing at the Bishop airport in California, I received word that the Arizona high point, which has been closed for two months, would be reopening Wednesday, July 11th at 8:00am. The monsoon rains have arrived and the fire danger and restrictions on Humphrey’s Peak have been lifted. Celebration ensued!

We had arrived to the Eastern Sierras —  the jumping off point for Nevada’s Boundary Peak and Mt. Whitney, California’s high point and the highest mountain in the lower 48. With a sigh of relief, I knew AZ would now be accomplished.

Moments later another phone call came in alerting us to a lightning strike that had just occurred in the Alabama Hills, igniting a forest forest adjacent to Mt. Whitney. With only 10 percent containment, the Forest Service has closed the Whitney Portal and the access to California’s high point.  Now it’s a waiting game for news of reopening. Luckily my July 11th permit will be honored and valid for 7 days once the trail is accessible again.

10th July

9th July – East Coast Completed

8th July – 31 States Summited

7th July

5th July

4th July – A look back at the Denali Summit, and the start of the 50HP clock.

3rd July – 14 High Points Summited.

It’s been a whirlwind through the Southeast the past two days, hitting ten high points (14 total) already! A special thank you to @skallamarc for arranging everything for us ahead of time to hit the ground running! The best part has been all of the incredible people who have come out to participate. We met a 70 year old man who recently hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, Dr. Drizzle @daciapjones an incredibly passionate leader in education who inspires teachers and kids alike, and the @theboundless8 a crew of friends training for the Leadville 100 mile run. For me that’s what this whole journey is about; meeting amazing people and inspiring people to get outside in our beautiful country! The Forrest Gump Effect is building momentum. Who is coming to join the fun during our next stops? Fun giveaways from our sponsor @standardprocess for anyone who comes out!

A post shared by Colin O’Brady (@colinobrady) on

2nd July – 10 / 50 high points summited. 

1st July – Looking back on Denali

29th June – In Hawaii

Summit of Denali!! The #50HP world clock officially started ticking when @drjonkedski and I reached the summit at 20,320ft just after 4pm AST on June 27th. It was an incredible day that didn’t end on the summit. With the clock ticking we had to race all the way down the mountain pack our gear up at 14,00ft and ski another 14 miles to reach the Basecamp airstrip at 7000ft at 4am and cross our fingers that a bush piolet could get us out in time to make our flight connection to Hawaii. What an adventure!! 1 down 49 to go. And of course as I did last time on this summit I had to rep with pride my hometown team @timbersfc, and thanks to @alaskaair for helping us thread the needle with these crazy logistics…we made it to Hawaii!

A post shared by Colin O’Brady (@colinobrady) on

28th June – On Top Of North America

After a week of acclimatising, preparing, and monitoring climbing conditions Colin set off for the summit of Denali, Alaska’s high point and the tallest mountain in North America.

They were underway first thing this morning underneath partly sunny skies. Ascending from 14,000ft, and after 12 hours of hard climbing, we reached the summit of Denali.

The world record clock is officially ticking!

Now for a safe descent and a quick transition off the glacier via bush plane so I can continue pushing forward. We have up to 41 days to complete the other 49 U.S. high points. Next stop, Mauna Kea on the big island of Hawaii.

27th June

26th June

 25th June

 24th June

23rd June

21st June

We woke up to good news today. I have been cleared to fly to basecamp on Denali, after a week long delay in Talkeetna due to a bad weather system. While waiting on weather is always a little frustrating, impatience was dissolved somewhere between the pancakes and the camaraderie with the other climbers at the bunkhouse. We had a beautiful flight up here and we’re already off climbing. I’m thrilled to finally be out on the mountain, taking my first steps on Denali, and making progress on the 50HP world record!

18th June

A tough start in Alaska.

15th June

Colin was meant to fly out onto the glacier to begin his climb of Denali on June 15th. However, due to a low pressure system that is causing typhoon like winter conditions on the mountain, Colin’s departure out onto the glacier has been delayed. Once the weather clears and the bush planes are green-lighted to fly again, Colin will be dropped at basecamp to begin his ascent of the first high point! Stay tuned.

REMINDER: The world record clock doesn’t start ticking until Colin reaches the summit of Denali. As such the current delay has no effect on the success of the record attempt.

14th June

Colin is leaving home in Portland

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