RUNAWAY KITERunaway kite.
Sometimes things just line up. Just when we thought the day was done, we heard that familiar flutter of the tent indicating the cool evening air was on the build.
We made haste to break camp as the late evening sun began its journey down over the horizon. The sky was a bold azure colour, preparing to transition into softer sunset tones. The sun glistened on the snow’s surface as the day’s melt began to solidify – a welcome relief to towing heavy sleds through the slurry of midday.
Our weapon of choice, our light wind-kite. This kite is a favourite of mine and Geoff's, largely thanks to its incredible capacity in light wind, consequently gifting us with mileage in unlikely conditions. The construction is 18 square meters of high-aspect kite canvas, long and sleek in appearance, like a bright orange slipper ready to cut through the air. With a final glance to the GPS for our northbound heading and a readied nod to one another, we heaved on the central lines of the kite, releasing them from their bonds on the ground and into full flight.
The wind was around 10kts at our back, set to build into the evening and our heading was directly adjacent to the wind direction. Any wind enthusiast would know the feeling and relish in it. With a long swoop of the kite, we were off, and fast! The snow was still soft underneath our skis, though a firm crust had formed on the surface, acting like a racing slick and allowing our sleds to float, as if weightless on the surface (nice for a change.)
As we flew at speed across the ice, gaining more and more momentum on the frictionless surface, my body pressed low into the harness and leaned out over the snow. The kites were “parked” in attack position and drove endlessly forward. We were travelling as such velocity that the bitter, wind-chill began to lash at my frame, begging to scorch any exposed skin with frostbite. I wouldn’t give it the satisfaction for I’d been meticulous covering up, after grave warnings from Geoff about the risk of cold-injuries, particularly when flying across and upwind. Even still, the heat of my breath, through the Merino wool face mask I was wearing, formed condensation on the surface which froze immediately once it made contact with the cold air. I could feel icicles, pinching the stubble on my face, threatening to bite and tear off skin if I’d give it the satisfaction.
Nothing could distract me from what was quickly becoming the most incredible kite-session of my life. As the sun lowered, it refracted on the facets of snow beneath us, creating a mesmerising light show. Dazzling colours of purple, red, green, blue and white danced all around us, as if we were sailing across an endless sea of diamonds. I could hardly comprehend the beauty of what was unfolding under my feet. I glanced ahead and saw Geoff staring at the surrounds in astonishment as well, for we had so recently experienced Greenland in her hideous wrath - and now, her divine beauty.
We soared into the twilight, gaining speed still as the wind gradually increased in strength. We were so chuffed with the “easy mileage” we were making that we neglected to consider the associated risks of landing these freight-trains in strong wind.
Geoff tapped his hand on his head, signalling is was time to land the kites for the night. Our usual method was for Geoff to land his first, by activating the safety de-power mechanism, then assisting me with my kite – to minimise the margin for error.
All was going to plan, until things didn’t go to plan. Geoff had almost suppressed his kite and started motioning over to help with mine, when a strong gust, decided to take control away from me. I fiercely grabbed both brake lines and began trying to wrangle the kite into submission. I clutched at my safety line and wrapped it thrice around my mitt in a further attempt to neutralise this now raging beast. The kite writhed, bucked and kicked, quickly turning from friend to foe. Then it happened. The kite re-launched vertically, with me dangling on the end! I engaged my emergency sever-line to release me from the clutches or certain injury and yelled at the top of my lungs to Geoff, who was downwind from me to catch the runaway kite, before we lost it to the wilderness.
There was a hopelessness that washed over me as I saw my kite drag across the ice, untethered – knowing how stifling travel would be without this crucial piece of equipment. Geoff ran to intercept the kite, lunged and managed to get his hands onto the safety line. I then proceeded to sprint as fast as my legs would take me to the canvas and dive on it, to secure the runaway kite. Phew. It was safe. We both breathed a deep sigh of relief.
We finished the day securing another 94km distance over 2.5hours - a rich, experience and solid dose of adrenalin to top off the night.
*NOTE: images coming out of Greenland are low res due to the use of satellite phone data*