The “Heim expeditions” are underway again – with travellunch

For three years, we have been planning our crossing of the Greenland Ice Sheet. “We”, that’s Ruppert Heim, his wife Franziska, and his sister Johanna. With skis, pulk, and kites we will travel from Tasiilaq on the east coast to Ilulissat on the west coast. We have spent some time together in the tent before, e.g. on a winter tour in the Hardangervidda in Norway or while hiking in Sweden.

The Corona pandemic turned the planning upside down

Due to the Corona pandemic, we unfortunately could not start in the spring of 2020 which is why we were anxious this year in April 2021 whether we would get going at all. Greenland was closed for tourism. But after a lot of red tape and due to the fact that we were a scientific expedition, we got a special permit for entry.

After that, everything happened very fast: exactly 1 year and 3 weeks after the original planned date, we were on a plane to Nuuk. There, we spent five days in quarantine, which wasn’t all that hard in our cozy little hut by the sea. Last preparations had to be made and it was time to get a last proper rest. Our 350kg of equipment had already arrived in Tasiilaq in February. Bright sunlight and blue skies accompanied us when a helicopter brought us and our equipment to the ice edge of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

For the next 800km we would be on our own. The sleds were strapped on with 100kg of luggage each and off we went with skis under our feet, always heading west, steadily going uphill. The days began with the alarm clock going off at 6 o’clock. After breakfast, the tent and equipment were packed into the sleds, and we spent all day on our skis. During the breaks there was tea with nuts from the Bivouac sack or a delicious chocolate mousse from travellunch.

In the evenings, a snow wall was built to protect us against the wind and the tent was pitched behind it. Then we crawled into the protective tent and looked forward to our well-deserved and delicious travellunch dinner. After long, exhausting days we enjoyed the versatile food very much.

The temperatures sank from day to day. During the nights they dropped to -30°C. After 18 days and 350km, we reached our highest point at 2500m. From there, the wind changed from headwind to tailwind.

But first we had to dig in for five days because a storm with up to 130km/h made traveling impossible. When the wind died down, we let our kites go and sailed the next 450km towards the west coast and managed daily distances of up to 110km. On the last day on the ice, we even crossed a polar bear track and saw some birds and arctic fox tracks. The closer we got to the coast, the warmer it got, and the ice and snow slowly started to melt. It was challenging to cross the rippling meltwater streams and turquoise lakes. Finally at the ice edge, we were very moved and enjoyed the midnight sun over the icebergs in the distant sea. Due to the kiting, we were ten days ahead of schedule. Now we had to carry the remaining food and our equipment for 6km and 500 meters of altitude over rocks and stones to the sea. It cost us a lot of strength to carry all the weight and each of us walked the same distance five times.

The green vegetation was beautiful, and we marveled at the flowers and animals. Overjoyed, we reached the sea where we were picked up by a motorboat and taken to Ilulissat. In total we were on our own for 35 days in a breathtaking, wild arctic landscape.

Text and photos: Ruppert, Franziska & Johanna Heim