Debrief: Ski crossing of the Barnes Icecap

Posted: Jun 13, 2012 05:25 pm EDT

(Newsdesk) Last month José Naranjo and Ingrid Ortlieb completed a ski crossing of Baffin Island’s Barnes Icecap; according to them, it is the first time this crossing has been done. During the 25-day expedition José and Ingrid were unassisted (had no resupplies) and used no kite/dog support.

The team endured temperatures down to -35°C at night. This was especially cold when they were tent bounded in windstorms and didn’t want to use their limited fuel to heat the tent.

Here goes their report:

First ski crossing of the Barnes Icecap
By José Naranjo and Ingrid Ortlieb


On May 8, 2012 at 15:00 UTC, Spaniard Jose Naranjo, director of Arctic World and the German living in Spain, Ingrid Ortlieb, ended the world first crossing on skis of the Barnes icecap in total autonomy. The Barnes is a polar cap of 6,000 square kilometers located on Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

To the starting point with Inuit friends

On 15 April the two mates began the expedition from Nivalis Lake; a frozen lake located at the north end of Barnes Icecap, over 300 km from the nearest town. They reached this starting point by travelling for 3 days with Inuit hunters, Sam and Ecko Palituq, on their snowmobiles. Both men are born in the bosom of one of the last nomadic families of the Canadian Arctic that lives a traditional life even in the time when the human being immerse in the space race...

This route was a snowmobile expedition itself; having to cross a vast unexplored territory with many frozen lakes, frozen tundra, rivers, glaciers, glacial moraines, canyons and other terrain typical of the high Arctic.

Climbing the upper plateau

Once their Inuit friends were gone, the two explorers began the arduous task of pulling their sleds, weighing over 100 kg, to the upper area of the polar cap. After dozens of portages with all equipment, food and fuel necessary to complete the journey, on April 24 they reached the higher plateau located 1,125 meter above sea level.

From there you could see the highest sea cliffs in the world located on the east coast of this great Arctic island. Also from up there began the descent to the southern end of the polar icecap.

The descent and the storms

With temperatures during the day around 25 degrees below zero and going down to 35 degrees below zero at night, the biggest challenge of descending was not the cold, or the giant snowdrifts they had to cross perpendicularly, against which their sleds constantly got stuck, or the deep snow that they found in this part of the journey that made them advancing at a rate of 400 meters an hour.

The hardest thing was the 8 days they had to spend in a tiny tent battered by persistent storms that prevented any progress.

Arrival at Generator Lake

Being stuck for days in a row in sleeping bags to maintain body heat without using the stove for warmth in order to save fuel they might need in the rest of the voyage, was certainly the most difficult part that tested the mental strength of the two mates.

Fortunately the weather improved as the month of May arrived and after traveling 150 km of really remote territory, Ingrid and José reached Generator Lake; a frozen lake at the far south of the Barnes Icecap.

Disappearing the oldest ice in Canada

As a sad note, when the two skiers reached the lake, with reference to the maps they were carrying, found that the ice of the 10 km glacier face of the southern tip of the Barnes Icecap had retreated more than 1 km in less than 25 years.

Back to Kanngiqtugaapik

With the sad feeling that climate change is literally "eating" the oldest ice in Canada, Ingrid and José were picked up by Levi Palituq and another Inuit friend and driven by snowmobile to the small town of Kanngiqtugaapik or Clyde River as it is known in English. END

José Naranjo has done several expeditions on Baffin Island, did 2 expeditions to the 1996 position of the Magnetic North Pole, skied from the North Pole to Canada last year, did expeditions on Greenland and more. He has been a polar guide for the past 13 years.

Ingrid Ortlieb is passionate about the Arctic in general and Baffin Island in Nunavut (Canada) in particular, as well as the Inuit culture. Among other expeditions she has done a Greenland crossing and several other expeditions on Baffin Island.


#Polar




The biggest mental challenge was the 8 days Jose and Ingrid had to spend in their cold tent during snowstorms.
courtesy Ingrid Ortlieb
Inuit hunters Sam and Ecko Palituq who took the team to their start point with skidoos.
courtesy Ingrid Ortlieb