Traditional polar travel has never really appealed to me. Old school long distance man-hauling trips always look like all the worst parts of a climbing expedition and none of the good bits. Lots of suffering,little excitement, not much view.
However throw a quiver of modern snow kites into the mix and suddenly the balance of fun rapidly tips, turning the dial away from the endurance/endorphin end of the spectrum towards my preferred action/adrenaline realm.
Man-hauling you’re looking at travelling 20 miles a day and earning it. With a kite, favourable winds and decent skills you can easily do 200 miles with a smile on your face. Snow-Kiting has been around for years but thanks to better, safer equipment and a small wealth of knowledge hard sought and kindly shared by the pioneers of the sport it is really beginning to come of age.
Leo and Bruce testing kit and systems in Norway
I’ve been playing around with kites for the last few winters and finally feel I can say I am a competent snow kiter. It’s not as easy as it looks; lots of power in those big wings (kites) and lots going on travelling over terrain at speeds up to 50 mph with all kind of obstacles and hazards to manage.
Once you begin to understand the way a power kite works and get your head around the nuances of the wind you can take control of a whole heap of free power opening up terrain previously only accessible by leg grunt at speeds usually associated with engines.
It can be practiced on skis or snowboard and there are various disciplines from the big tricks of freestyle to high speed races but what really appeals to me is long distance expedition kiting. With skis, a few kites for different wind conditions and a big sledge (pulk) enabling you to pull up to 200kgs of supplies and kit with minimum effort, a whole new world of possibilities open up enabling access to entire regions previously beyond reach.
Of course the key to the fun house lies with the wind. Thankfully nature kindly accommodates by blessing the largest ice caps of Earth with extremely stable and predictable katabatic winds.
In May 2016, Bruce Corrie and myself will undertake our first long distance snow-kite expedition. A unsupported journey of over 1000 miles across the Greenland ice cap starting from Kangerlussuaq in the south west and finishing in Qaanaaq, one of the most northerly towns on Earth.
Bruce and Leo studying a map of the wrong country wearing fetching prototype baser “Leotards” what could possibly go wrong?
On these pages during the course of our expedition we intend to share, with anybody that cares to know, our day to day experiences out on the ice as well as the great deal we have learned from a number of fascinating sources during the lengthy planning process of this trip.
Whether you are a desk jockey avoiding work, a climber interested in other forms of adventure or a budding polar kiter researching your own mission I do hope you find our musings at best interesting and insightful or at least amusing and entertaining.