By Sarah McNair-Landry, Arctic Adventurer
Pack food, finalize crevasse rescue gear, secure boat ride to ice cap, book accommodations in Iceland – with only days to go, the list goes on and on.
It was only five months ago that the expedition planning started. Along with Ben Stookesberry and Erik Boomer, we are heading to Greenland for two months this summer. The goal is simple – to kite ski 1,000 km across the ice cap while dragging our white water kayaks. Once we arrive at the west coast, we will descend the ice cap at the source of a glacier fed river that has never been paddled before. The class 5 river will carry us to the ocean where we complete our crossing of Greenland.
We have all done our fair share of expeditions. Ben has done over 120 first descents of rivers in over 32 countries. Erik has a foot in both worlds: he is an extreme white water kayaker and Arctic adventurer, completing several multi month expeditions in the Arctic, including the first circumnavigation of Ellesmere Island, Canada’s northernmost island. My specialty lies in Arctic expeditions, and I have over 15 under my belt including the North Pole, South Pole and a kite skiing expedition through the Northwest Passage.
The Greenland expedition has its unique challenges. Combining a winter and summer sport into one expedition will put us onto the ice cap during the peak melt. Crevasses, storms, slush swamps and melt rivers will be some of the challenges. Then there is the river with rapids so big they are clearly visible from satellite images.
Yet our biggest challenge is always the unknown. For this reason, training and preparation are keys to the success of any expedition. What could go wrong? What could break? What will the conditions be like being the first to attempt this route? These questions remain unanswered until we arrive, which is why we need to prepare for the worst. First aid kits, repair kit and trusted equipment including emergency communication devices are the first things on the pack list.
For redundancy, we will carry multiple communication devices, including an Iridium GO! satellite phone, plus we will each have an inReach two-way satellite communicator. The inReach device serves more than one purpose. If team members get separated from one another, we can communicate and send our GPS location from one inReach device to another. We will also use them at camp to communicate daily with our base camp and to stay in touch with friends and family. Finally, the inReach works as an emergency beacon if someone becomes injured, ill or gets lost.
With our trusted satellite devices, we gain more confidence in venturing out into the unknown because we know we will be covered anywhere in the world – not just in areas with cellular coverage. Thanks to inReach Canada for giving us added peace of mind!
Sarah McNair-Landry, Ben Stookesberry and Erik Boomer have all returned safely from their Greenland expedition. While they never needed to use inReach for an emergency, each expedition member did use his/her inReach device daily to communicate with base camp and to stay in touch with friends and family.