Cornelius Strohm and Mika Chavarin to attempt Greenland Circumnavigation: ExWeb interview

Posted: Apr 06, 2014 04:21 pm EDT


(By Correne Coetzer) In 2008 German Cornelius Strohm and Frenchman Michael (Mika) Chavarin had done a 2250 km kite-ski expedition from south Greenland near Narsaq to Bowdoin Fjord near Qaanaaq in the northwest as part of a three-man team. The two men has again teamed up; this time to do a 5000+ km kite-ski circumnavigation of Greenland in 60 days.


They will again start from Narsaq and explain to ExWeb why they chose that start point. They also talk about the challenges of the route, the kites they will use and why they do expeditions.


ExplorersWeb: What are the challenges on your route?


Cornelius and Mika: It’s long, and the time window is tight. On one side permits for sports expeditions are normally not granted before April 15, and the weather can still be very rude at this time of the year. On the other side, there is usually a clear onset of extended surface melting beginning or mid June leaving us with about 65 days to cover more than 5000 km.


The katabatic winds we are relying on in the North are often rather weak. Contrary to common belief, long kiting trips in Greenland are often decided by the ability to kite efficiently in low winds rather than braving storms. 


While we know the first leg of our journey from our south north crossing in 2008, there is barely any information about the northeastern part, except from automatic weather stations and satellite imagery.


We may run into crevasse areas in Kong Christian Xs land and Kong Frederyks VIs Kyst. For the last part of our journey in the southeast, the winds will most likely not have the constancy in direction and the direct link to the topography that we expect in the north.


ExplorersWeb: How have you decided on your start point?


Cornelius and Mika: We seriously considered both Isortoq and Narsaq, our final choice. We absolutely wanted the expedition to begin and end at sea level and with minimal and affordable logistics. 


The weather in Isortoq can still be very hostile mid April. In addition, our start in Narsaq would allow us to bail out to Isortoq rather then to continue further south, in case we run out of time to complete the journey. A start in Isortoq would have meant to have the longest leg in the end. 


We have analyzed surface melt data, and concluded that the final stretch between the latitude of Isortoq and Narsaq should usually be possible until mid June.


ExplorersWeb: How did it happen that the two of you have teamed up? What are the strong points that you see in each other on expedition?


Cornelius: While we both have a background in ski mountaineering and man-hauling expeditions, we  learned most of what we know about polar kiting together since Mika build a team for our first big crossing (Wings over Greenland 2008). We have made personal decisions and renounced to some things to make this happen. And in the meantime we know our strong characters pretty well. But most importantly, we have dreamed the project up together!


ExplorersWeb: What kites will you be using?


Cornelius and Mika: For intermediate to low winds we rely on the latest in closed cell kite technology: we are going to bring  Flysurfer Speed 4 10 m2 and Flysurfer Speed 3 19 m2 kites. For stronger winds we carry Beringer skisails of 5 m2 and 8 m2. And some spares of course.


ExplorersWeb: Anything else?


Cornelius and Mika: As last time: We do not have any ecological or educational ambition, scientific excuse, mission to promote alternative energies, special means or motivation to save planet earth. Or as ExWeb nicely resumed in 2008: "Remember when exploration was simply about checking what the stars look like and what the sky looks like - in a place we never been before? " 


And: While we will be only two on the ice, Wings Over Greenland II is the project of a whole team of partners and friends supporting us in many different ways.


Michael Chavarin is 43 years old, a polar guide, snowkite instructor, mountain bike instructor, mountain leader, freelance reporter for mountain, ski, and outdoor magazines. 

- The kite-ski Narsaq-Qaanaaq crossing of Greenland in 2008 : 2250 km 

- The crossing of the Scandinavian Alps by ski (southern of Norway - north of Finland, 1700 km)

- A winter crossing of the Vatnajökull (Europes largest icecap) and of a part of Iceland in kite-ski

- 650 km ski raids in Spitzbergen

- Solitary, wintry and night-stay (aboard a sailboat) on the east coast of Spitsbergen 

- Stay of 14 months in subantarctic area (Kerguelen archipelagoe) 

- 8000 km mountain bike accross the Andes, from the bolivian altiplano to Tierra del Fuego.


Cornelius Strohm, 40, is a scientist in experimental physics.

- The kite-ski Narsaq-Qaanaaq crossing of Greenland in 2008 : 2250 km. 

- A winter crossing of the Vatnajökull (Europes largest icecap) and of a part of Iceland in kite-ski

- Ski crossing & mountaineering at Spitzbergen, from Longyearbyen to Ny-Alesund (ascents of the main peaks)

- Ski raid in Norwegian and Swedish Lapland 

- Ski raid in Iceland





North Pole: Ryan Waters fell in the water; Tractors airdropped; Greenland season to start


Dixie Dansercoer and Eric McNair-Landry to kite-ski 5000+ km around Greenland; ExWeb interview 


Michael Chavarin (FR) and Cornelius Strohm (DE)

Wings over Greenland English blog

Wings over Greenland French blog

Map and route plan




Eric McNair-Landry (CA) and Dixie Dansercoer (BE)

Blog Greenland Ice Expedition


Facebook (Polar Circles) 

Twitter (Polar Circles)

Facebook (Pittarak Expeditions)


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#polar #Greenland 2014 #greenlandcircumnavigation #MichaelChavarin #CorneliusStrohm #interview






"In 2008 we headed down to reach Qaanaaq over the frozen Bowdoin Fjord. This time we are going to push further, beyond 80 degrees north, before returning home on the eastern side."
courtesy Michael Chavarin, SOURCE
"Our start in Narsaq would allow us to bail out to Isortoq rather then to continue further south, in case we run out of time to complete the journey. A start in Isortoq would have meant to have the longest leg in the end."
"Training in Finse. For our circumnavigation project we rely on the latest technology in closed cell kite design to efficiently exploit the weak katabatic winds we expect in the northern part of this gigantic journey. Speed 3 19 m2." (click to enlarge)
courtesy Michael Chavarin, SOURCE
Training in Finse. Playing in the hills with the Speed 4 10 m2 (click to enlarge).
courtesy Michael Chavarin, SOURCE
Their skis for Greenland: Volkl Mantra, in 191 cm : 132 , 98, 118. Radius 28 m. Weight: 4570 gr (click to enlarge)
courtesy Michael Chavarin, SOURCE
"New Snowsled Polar Ice Blue expedition pulk with increased load capacity."
courtesy Cornelius Strohm, SOURCE
Cornelius Strohm.
Michael Charavin.