If you don’t already in these wintry conditions you’re almost guaranteed to feel cold after reading our intrepid Bader Grant Recipient of the Month, Jesse Dufton’s, latest report and seeing Molly Thompson’s beautiful accompanying photographs.
Here, in Jesse’s own words, his story continues with the first week of his expedition:
- Our First Week on Expedition:
Our first view from the air of Constable Point ‘Airport’, Greenland…(Photograph courtesy of Molly Thompson, 2017)
Stepping out of the little King Air aircraft onto the snow at Constable Pynt in Greenland (I guess there must have been a runway underneath, but there was no sign of one!) was where it all started to sink in, the enormity of the challenge that lay ahead. It was 2pm and about -20°C! We found our gear that had been shipped out a few months earlier in the hanger; all our food supplies and equipment…and set about putting up our tents next to the ‘airport’. My first impressions were, that this was a very funny place to have an airstrip and yes, it was very cold! I could see the mountains rising up on the other side of the fjord and everything was totally snow covered. Mostly I was thinking about whether we had all our logistics sorted and that we better learn how to fire this rifle!
I had camped many times before and was familiar with our tent. I can feel the difference between the inner and the outer parts and knew the configuration of the poles so was able to get to work straight away. Whilst I can’t see much in the tent, I know where everything is as I have a system and put things in the same place every time. We had large snow stakes (over a foot long!) instead of the usual pegs to fix the tent down, this made it easier and less fiddly. Once the tent was up, I was handed a big holdall containing the tent innards…foam insulation, sleeping mats, sleeping bags etc. so my next job was to make the beds. Each team member had something to do around camp – digging trenches for the mess tent, melting snow and making drinks, cooking, erecting the bear fence, digging a toilet etc. By the end of the trip, after 30 days of setting camps up, we were pretty efficient!
The first night proved relatively comfortable considering the situation, I was just about warm enough and slept well. But waking up to find snow in the tent was a shock! Due to the extreme cold, when you breathe out, the moisture in your breath condenses and freezes on the inside of the tent and falls as snow in the morning when you start to move around. Several mornings we were woken by snow falling on the little bit of skin exposed on our faces, usually when it was windy outside.
We were up early the next day, packed all our stuff up into the pulks and loaded them into sledges on the back of the snowmobiles. The 180 mile trip on snowmobiles to get to the mouth of the Roslin Glacier (the start of our expedition) was pretty epic. On the back of the snowmobiles was really cold, and I could see very little as my goggles kept fogging up. We did stop at a native Greenland way-marker in the shape of a man built from stone. We climbed the ridge so I could get a good look – very cool! I could see the general shape of hills but couldn’t fully appreciate the splendid views. I couldn’t make out the icebergs frozen in time in the sea ice, which the others described to me, it sounded amazing.
We waved off the snowmobiles and were left to fend for ourselves – our adventure had begun. Had we bitten off more than we could chew? Had we underestimated the harshness of the arctic environment? There is a reason why people don’t live here. That evening, feeling pretty vulnerable, we all agreed that achieving our objectives was a bonus and just being able to survive for a month out here would be an achievement! Looking after each other was top priority.
I left Molly, my trusty sight guide at camp and went with Al to shift some of our kit in shuttle runs across the moraines ready for the next day. This was very difficult, Alistair had to pick the best line through the moraines as I can’t see enough detail to pick out a path through the jumble of rocks and debris.
Once out of the moraines, the rocks and debris disappeared and the obstacles changed to crevasses and networks of frozen melt streams. It was easier going underfoot and we skied one behind each other making our way up the Roslin Glacier. My skis meant I didn’t sink in the snow, my poles kept me stable, the pulk slowed me down and I was able to follow the person in front and the furrow their pulk left in the snow. I could see a dark blob contrasted against the bright white snow, I could hear the pulk in front moving across the snow and I could feel the extra resistance when I veered off track out of the furrow. The terrain was undulating and I couldn’t see the lumps and bumps in the snow or any upcoming inclines/declines. Some prior verbal warnings and the fact that I’m competent on skis, used to reacting fast and have good balance meant I managed fine. Towing approx. 120kg (18.9 stone) uphill proved extremely tiring! The first 2½ weeks were all uphill!
Molly looking out of the moraines…which way to go? (Photograph courtesy Molly Thompson, 2017)
One of our many camps on the Roslin Glacier (Photograph courtesy Molly Thompson, 2017)
Pulling pulls one behind the other (Photograph courtesy Molly Thompson, 2017)
The native Greenland way-marker on the ridge (Photograph Molly Thompson, 2017)
The undulating terrain and melt streams at the base of the Roslin Glacier (Photograph courtesy Molly Thompson, 2017)
Trying to keep warm in our mess tent (Photograph courtesy Molly Thompson, 2017)
White out, very low visibility on the Roslin (Photograph courtesy Molly Thompson, 2017)
We are extremely grateful to Jesse Dufton for sharing this latest instalment of his expedition to Arctic Greenland. Sincere thanks also to Molly Thompson for allowing us to use her stunning photographs.
Most of us can probably only begin to imagine what courage it would take to tackle an expedition like this fully sighted, to do so when registered blind/severely sight impaired like Jesse, was a true feat of courage and endurance also requiring absolute trust in your fellow expedition members. We were proud to be able to support Jesse on this adventure and I’m already looking forward to the next instalment!
For those of you who may wonder just what is involved in setting up and taking down camp in these extreme conditions when often, as you can see from the image above, visibility is poor anyway, here is a treat! This time-lapse film demonstrates brilliantly how quickly a team working efficiently in coordination can pack up camp. Amazing stuff!
Please click on the image to see the action!
Please contact us if you’d like a high-res copy of any of Molly’s images.
Further reading. Links will open in new tabs:
Tags: Jesse Dufton
- Click HERE to read the 1st Instalment on the DBF Website
- Click on the link for the Expedition Summary
- Click on the link for the full Expedition Report (Please note that this is a large file and may take a while to open. It’s well worth the wait though, packed full of fascinating information about just what this expedition aimed to achieve and what was entailed.)