Day 6 – Nansen’s Cross

ALTITUDE: 8300ft
POSITION: 64º06’16”N, 46º05’45”W

The Pittarak.

Fridtjof Nansen – “Difficult takes some time, impossible a little while longer…”

The namesake of our expedition puts it so well, and as we lie here hiding out this nasty Pittarak (Greenlandic Storm) in our robust little red tent. (26 hours now) I imagine the kind of man that in an environment like this was able to generate wisdom despite the continual rigours - wisdom borne from a life in the wilds, an inquisitive mind and a desire to discover more. At the age of 27 (the same age as Simon now) he led a team of Norwegians on the first crossing of Greenland way back in 1888. No GPS, no satellite phone, no modern fabrics, no links to back home – just an incredible positive attitude and a toughness in ice and snow that as Australians we can only pretend to emulate.

One of my favourite topics from previous expeditions has been to inspire people to “draw strength from your heroes”. Understanding that incredible superpower that is generated by knowing a prior explorer’s pain and trials intimately. Knowing their keys, their gifts, and the insights that got them through. For the Antarctic crossing it was Borge Ousland, Matty McNair, Lydia Bradey, Sir Robert Falcon Scott, Shackleton, Mawson… the list goes on. I had so much hero worship in that environment I could have crossed two times over!

The scream of the Pittarak outside flogging our tent canvas to death, despite two sleds and a 1.2m high ice wall upwind is savage right now. It sears into your very soul, hour after interminable hour. Like a pair of rats stuck in a tin with a spoilt child smacking the tin with a stick. The lack of wind, lack of snow, upwind kiting for 100’s of kilometres, screaming joints, inability to sleep due to the tent noise, frost nipped nose, all combined for a short time to allow me to take my eye of my hero for this journey. Besides our heroes back home, (the breast care nurses) Fridtjof Nansen arguably the best navigator ever, was my hero for this ice trek.
After a swift kick from my wife (via satphone) back home, I was jolted back and remembered Nansen and drew strength from him overnight. Sarah redirected my thoughts to the privilege it is to follow in his sacred footsteps, how blessed I am to be here in this wild land where so few men or women have been, how fortunate I am to have amassed the skills I/we need to survive and make distance northwards.

I put on my primaloft jacket and stepped outside into what can only be described as a maelstrom. Wind bullets exceeding 40 knots, bringing snow and sleet sideways, slamming into your face, body, tents, sleds. Burying our insignificant isolation by the hour. Looking upwind, I could see the storms front galloping across the ice field, like a 1000 black horses with white manes, slamming into us unimpeded. I yelled like a madman, my shouts being carried downwind towards the artic ocean. I yelled for joy, happy to be alive, happy to be back in my usual positive mindset once more. For the first time since being here, I felt blessed, I felt thankful, honoured to experience all Greenland can throw at us. With the faith I have, the strength I have, the support from back home, and a big dose of strength from my heroes we’ll press on, and not only press on - but prevail.


We will cross Fridtjof’s 1888 journey’s tracks in a matter of days, hence making the “Cross” where our two paths intersect. For both Simon and I this will be a truly momentous occasion – to be celebrated by a hot chocolate and some biltong! Look out for it!

In the next few hours the wind will drop below 30 knots and we will make an attempt to go outside and head northwards once more – watch the tracker!

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