(Correne Coetzer) Veteran Norwegian ski guide on the Greenland horizontal route, Bengt Rotmo, checked in at ExplorersWeb after his crossing from Isortoq to Point 660 this Fall. He led "a happy international team with people from New Zealand, Denmark and Norway” from August 28 to September 18 across the 550 km, which more or less follows the Arctic Circle.
Bengt does Spring and Fall crossings from West to East and East to West. He tells ExWeb which direction he prefers on Greenland, and reveals which Ice Field is his favorite.
ExplorersWeb: Average hours skiing per day?
Bengt: I haven´t really done much thinking about that, but I´d say around 9 hours of effective skiing.
We had lots of snow at the start and the days after the big snowfall we did only 15 km during 9 hours of hard work. After 4 days of walking in the snow we managed 20 km at the most. I'd say these days were harder than a normal 35 km day on Greenland. Then we got a storm and the surface got a lot better.
ExplorersWeb: How does your daily ski routine look like?
Bengt: I normally start with 8 legs of 50 minutes. In between there is a 10 minute break. In the middle part, 9 times one hour, and in the end (last days) 11 hours walking. This year we had two 12-hour days, but that is normally not necessarily.
In the middle of the day I almost always put up the biggest tent for a one hour brake, that resets the mind and gives a lot of time to eat/drink properly.
ExplorersWeb: How was the weather and snow conditions this Fall?
Bengt: It was unusually warm. We had cold days down to minus 25 (without wind-chill) but a lot of the time from minus 10 to minus 20.
As mentioned we had a big snowfall, a lot bigger than I have ever seen before in the Fall. Normally this late in the Fall there is 2-3 real storms, but this year we only had one big one, and it lasted only for a day.
ExplorersWeb: You have done both West-East and East-West and Spring and Fall several times. Which do you prefer and why?
Bengt: I prefer the Fall, it has more to it. It is harder than a Spring crossing, but the contrasts are a lot bigger. It is a really nice boat ride out to the start. With icebergs in the sea. The icefall shows all the crevasses up to about 1300 m, so at the start you have to walk around cracks, melting rivers and so on.
On the main plateau it's about the same as in the Spring, but it gets dark at night. And when you wake up in the morning it is still dark. The sun comes up and sometimes we get beautiful sunrises. Also nice sunsets. On cold nights at the west side we even can see Northern Lights.
Coming down the icefall on the West side, is also more demanding in the Fall. There is big melting systems there, which is the reason we start very late in the season. They are normally frozen by the time we get there, but still beautiful. And the last day is particularly demanding with lots of ups and down.
I always say, if you want to get most out of Greenland and want to learn how to handle cold, bad weather and so on, or you have a bigger trip in mind, go for the Fall.
If your only goal is to cross the Icecap - go for the Spring. Preferably just before melting starts on the West side. During the last years, the beginning of May has been a good start time for crossing West-East. Some people chose to start early April - then you get more winter, and a colder trip - more like the late Fall without the frozen rivers and crevasses.
ExplorersWeb: Greenland can be warm during the day and cold at night when the sun sets. Then there can be rain and sleet. What clothes do you recommend? Do you also use the down skirt?
Bengt: There is normally not much rain if you start late Fall, I'd say you should bring pretty much the same as for a South Pole trip. But you need waterproof bags for food and essential equipment, since you might get wet at the start and end. Especially food needs to be packed well.
And yes, you need something to cover the upper part of your legs with. Either long jackets or perhaps a skirt.
ExplorersWeb: In a roundtable conference, ExWeb asked fellow Norwegian Sjur Modre talked about Arctic Bedding. Do you use Arctic Bedding?
Bengt: I don’t use the bedding. I prefer to pack stuff down in one light bag. But the system is the same. You only have one piece that goes in and out of the tent. The bedding seems to be really needed when people use big mattresses to sleep on - you save time putting air into it. Since I use a regular mattress combined with an ultralight short inflatable, I´ve found the bag system to be more universal.
ExplorersWeb: Five Top Tips for Greenland crossing this horizontal route.
- Don’t walk too fast
- Be prepared for a storm or two
- Bring food for at least 27 days if you go in the Fall
- Bring crampons for everybody
- Enjoy the whole trip, soon you'll be back to normal life :-)
ExplorersWeb: Are you off to Northern Patagonia Ice Cap?
Bengt: Of course I go to Patagonia, it's my favorite trip. We are an international team of 5 pax including me.
Bengt Rotmo is a partner and guide at Borge Ousland Polar Exploration.
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