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All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.

- JRR Tolkien

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Adventurers & Explorers

Jun 02, 2018

Engagés Phone Home: Expedition Greenland

This article continues to be updated, as five French explorers have been traversing Greenland's toughest terrain and sharing their progress via satellite phone.

WRITTEN BY

Davey Braun

NOTE: This expedition has now been completed. Make sure that you check out Max Lainé’s recap of the final few days of Engagé, in his article which you can find here.

Their goal is to complete 700km in 30 days. Here is a day by day breakdown of the obstacles they face and how they overcome them as a team. The Outdoor Journal will continue to post updates as we receive them from the arctic.

Day 31: the ceiling rises, maybe an opportunity this afternoon

Since day 29, a long wait of the group for conditions of favorable visibility for the helicopter transfer towards Kulusuk.

Day 28: All records day. 30 km covered in 14 hours of walking with a beautiful sky at the end of the day! We turn on the stoves at 11pm to make water and eat. Tomorrow, wake up at 6am for the last straight line: stand the dead!

Day 27: We have just traveled 27 km in 13 hours of walking, the snow getting ever deeper and at the cost of a terrible effort. Small comfort at the 9th hour: we think to superpose our pulkas to reduce the friction.

Day 26: 3rd white day, without seeing further than the end of our skis. Smile and face. Thank you to all those without whom this expedition would not have been possible: Enzo.L, Clément.H, Fabienne.T, Jean-Marc.T, Chloé.G, Véronique.L, Christian.L, Philippe.L, Thibaud.D, Élodie.P, Juliette.N, Gérard.N, Agathe.D, Isabelle.D, Vincent.D, Fabien.D, Christophe.B, Niels.D, Amelie.D, Bernard.S, Catherine.L, Maxime de C, Caroline.P, Patrick.D and Eric. B.

Day 25: Again a white day, we move painfully in 30 cm of freshly fallen powder with always this headwind that taunts us and freezes our face. Between yesterday and today we have traveled 53 km instead of the necessary 64 km. Hope the weather will be more lenient ..

Day 23: 25 km traveled and we have just passed the highest point! Our food rations are numbered from 1 to 30, one for each day. We have 7 rations left (7 days) to cover the remaining 195 km.

We have two options:
a) have an average of 28 km per day for the next 7 days, which we managed only once 🙂
b) divide our daily rations to be able to walk 32 days … but the most voracious of the team already cries famine. For the moment we leave for the option a) so much as to tell you that our days of walk will lengthen

To be and to last: what does not kill us makes us stronger is the theory.

Day 22: After getting up early to catch up with the previous day, we are greeted by winds of more than 60 km / h instead of the 40 km / h announced. We make the decision not to move the camp to conserve our energy for the next 250 kilometers. We are taking advantage of this stormy day to readjust our equipment and take care of everyone’s injuries.

Day 21: Today 40 km / h with a headwind, Maxime testifies with a face full of ice.

Day 21: First technical incident, one of Antoine’s bindings broke under the cold … Fortunately we have two backup bindings before going to scotch. This worries us a bit, knowing that there is at least 23 0 km to go. Hope this is an isolated event.

Day 21: Values ​​of Sport and Entrepreneurship: Today we are walking for Accuracy and its consultants. Thoughts of the walkers for the despacitos team: you are the best!

Days 19 & 20: 50 km in 2 days, we are approaching the highest point of our expedition 2500 m, forecast for the night -30 degrees. Here is an example of ration for two that we eat every day, our favorite ingredient is butter! Have a nice week end!

Day 18: Today 25 km, we go out of our comfort zone to show you the bottom of the expedition. 30 days, only one slip that smells good!

The weather seems more lenient late afternoon, the sun has started to set! The whole team can not wait to get back on their feet. Starting tomorrow morning, we are increasing our daily pace to reach Isortoq in time. “Nights” shorten so much that at the end of our expedition there will simply be no more; it’s the eternal day!

Day 17: The wind blew terribly loud all night, 80 km / h measured this morning … which did not stop us from sleeping more than 12 hours in one go. The cold has the annoying habit of waking us several times each night. But it seems that during this storm temperatures are rising! Around -5ºC, thank you south winds!

In the morning, little respite, the tents and our pulkas are buried under a meter of snow. We are forced to go out to clear snow before being engulfed. The rest of the day is spent on repairs (gloves, sealskins, shoes), and writing for the poets of the team!

Day 16: We advance painfully for 5 hours with a headwind, at 13h the wind reaches 70 km / h and we decide to set up the camp before it is too late, in a stormy atmosphere.
When assembling tents the wind whistles so loudly in our ears that it blocks all communication between us. The tents slam and fail to fly but our actions and our roles are now fully honed. The word is superfluous: it is even the guarantee of our security.
In the tent it’s a whole different world. Confined certainly but we finally block out the screams of the wind … and spend the afternoon around endless hot chocolates to consume our rations. It’s warming up ! The tent is our cocoon – it only lacks a fire to perfect the atmosphere. We’ll suggest the idea to The North Face uopn returning 😉 Our stoves will do the job for now …!

Day 15: A “normal” day is 8 hours of walking. How much do you like the effort? In photo, our daily debate on the possibility of making a ninth hour or not?

An hour that earns miles but also nibbles our sleep, our energy and our mind.
Today 21 km of gained, 200 m of elevation gain, we install the camp at 2200 m altitude. In 5 days we will reach the highest point of our expedition at 2600 m.

Day 14: After two days of storm, we were able to advance 28 km in 11 hours of walking with a headwind of more than 30 km / h. It’s certainly the hardest day since we left!

Small gift on arrival: we finally reached the US military base of DYE. It was seen for more than a day of walking! This military base was built during the second world war to allow the American aviation to refuel on the way to England. It is a cubic building of more than 40m side that can accommodate fifty soldiers, doubled by a huge airstrip. It was informally used as a surveillance facility throughout the Arctic Circle (and beyond). The building was totally abandoned in 1988 at the end of the Cold War, but the airstrip still works (for military purposes).

Day 13: A second day blocked by the storm, we take advantage of a lull this morning to make an igloo, we can not wait to leave.

Today, Sunday (Day 13), strong winds continue to blow on the expedition with an improvement in the night. Restart the progress tomorrow morning.

We hope to be able to leave tomorrow morning, but the weather is uncertain, in the meantime we discuss, eat and write in our travel diaries, the adventure continues!

Day 12: Sleeping late, we got up at 8am, we stayed in the tent all day. Winds greater than 95 km / h were measured with Maxime’s anemometer. Our tents are covered with snow and slam with the sound of the wind.

Day 11: We advance 16 km despite a wind of 30-40 km / h from the Southeast, our bright cheeks begin to peel a little … (especially that of Max and Thomas). We end the day by mounting a wall of snow and taking 2 food rations per tent, the weather looks bad with winds of more than 80 km / h from midnight and Saturday all day.

Day 10: First stage with more than 20 km traveled, we take an extra ration of butter, Yum!

Day 9: 19 km, 1730 m high blue sky, we exceeded the cumulative 115 km. Our bodies and our minds are getting used to the effort and our pulkas are lightening day by day.

Tip of the day: At night, the temperature is around -25 ° C, it is important to brush the down to wake up to remove the ice that has formed, the risk is to meet one evening in an ice cube.

8th day, big blue sky, 18 km. The thermometer showed -22 ° C this morning at the exit of the tent, we start to have a little trouble out of the duvets 🙂
We prepare a little surprise for you in 5 days, stay tuned!

Day 7: 17 km, 150 m of elevation gain, big blue sky! We advance on a false flat amount. The landscape is white as far as the eye can see and sometimes some clouds come to play the disturbances. Maxime and Valentin, are illuminated by light bulbs, the morale is good.

Tip of the day: our daily rations are for two and numbered from 1 to 30 corresponding to the number of days.

Today: 19 km, 150 m elevation gain with typical Greenland weather, cloudy, white at the top and bottom.

4th day: 15 km in 7 hours of walking with 200 m of elevation gain. After one night at -20C, this is our first day entirely in skiing and it feels good to advance a little. We definitely leave the glacier on the west coast and the landscape becomes entirely white.

3rd day, we leave the glacier, tomorrow we leave the skis and we attack the cap !!
For more details, check our voicemail, number on our Facebook page;)

Second day, Storming the glacier! Having an ideal time, we walk on a sea of ​​ice. We move quickly, few crevasses, slight headwind. Second camp in the sun, trick 1: always put the tents back to the wind so that the first tent protects the second and third …

Bernard, Valentin, Maxime, Antoine, Lucas and Thomas started their expedition. Deposited Tuesday afternoon at the foot of the ice cap, they started their progression this Wednesday morning. To be continued…

Follow live the adventures of Valentin, Maxime, Antoine, Lucas and Thomas, who will try to cross Greenland from west to east, an adventure of a month, guided by Bernard Muller.

DCIM100GOPRO

After a beautiful expedition in April and May 2017, we always leave accompanied by Bernard Muller, one of the greatest French guides. At 5 participants, we will experience a unique polar adventure along the Arctic Circle. We leave Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland to get to Isortoq, a small fishing village on the east coast. In total, some 600 kilometers skiing in a raw and fascinating nature. We will need a flawless team spirit for this extraordinary expedition that Expeditions Unlimited is the only Francophone organization to offer.

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Adventurers & Explorers

Jun 29, 2018

Engagés: Upon Reflection. Calm, Patience, Humility.

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WRITTEN BY

Sean Verity

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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