Expedition Crossing

When people think about great journeys, they often just see the results. Even if they see an account of the journey step-by-step, the focus is often very much on the end. But what does it mean to organise, mount, persevere through and complete an expedition? I spoke to some of our most experienced mountain guides and got an inside scoop.

By Joseph Hall, Content Creator at Greenland Adventures

What makes an expedition an expedition, exactly?

All expeditions require quite a lot of work before. In Icelandic, there is a term “angur” which means “bothersome”. “Farangur” means that it could be enjoyable for some, if not all of the time. Then, if we add the term “leið” and you get a “leiðangur” which is the Icelandic term for expedition, but literally translated comes out as “bothersome way”. 

An expedition is not just a pleasant trip: it has an uncertain date and there is a lot of pre-planning to do. Moreover, the final length of the trip is unknown, and it is this unknown that makes this trip an expedition, and not just a “trip”. You never know exactly when you are going to return.

We can distinguish between a “trip”, where the start, middle and end can be almost completely known, and a “pure” expedition, with all the uncertainties of timing, route finding, extreme length, whether or not it has been done before, and the way of travelling, how long it will take us. Indeed, the fact that you have a high chance of not being able to complete your journey, turns a trip into an expedition.

Planning, Planning, Planning 

Almost a million things have to happen before you can set of on an expedition. Permits, insurance, sponsors, equipment, and a consideration of all of the different modes of transport along the way and all the equipment it requires: climbing, hiking, skiing etc. 

Logistics have to be pre-arranged: food and freight has to be sent weeks and months before departure, often up to 250 KG and then another 150 KG: this is all in the pre-planing so there are any things that are required just to PLAN an expedition.

The amount of time that everything takes depends on the amount of uncertainty relating to the terrain. If the uncertainties are limited, as they are in the summiting of Mt: Gunnbjorn,  then less time is required, as well as acclimatisation (in case of more extreme altitudes) and the weather during the expedition on the day of the summiting, or a particularly difficult stretch of terrain. 

During the Expedition

Sometimes you get stuck along the way, and you have to wait for the right time before you can move on, push for the summit or continue. Sometimes, this can require days of waiting. In many cases, there is very little extra access to food, so if you run out of food, you are going to run into trouble. This is way why you take more than enough food, in case it becomes necessary.

Journeys such as these are started in the HOPE that you will reach your final destination, the other side, the summit, but it is also necessary to acknowledge that you may have to, for your own safety, take a decision to turn around or  that you might need to be rescued if you get into trouble. Supplies have to be rationed quite carefully: if you burn all of your calories too early on, there won’t be enough for the rest of the journey. You always have a plan B and “what you would do in case of”. Sometimes, a summit attempt has to be aborted and you have to wait up to a week before trying again.

The Expedition Method

Apart from planning, guiding an expedition requires technique as well as finesse. You cannot start too fast: The mantra is endurance. The aim instead is to build slowly on the progress on each day, going a little bit harder and harder every day: you never go fast enough. It is never just a gentle, short and easy journey. Always pushing, always increasing. What is great for today is not going to be great in a week. You have to keep people motivated as well so that everyone is on the same comfort scale, and keep everyone together. It is not easy.  

The first days are hard, but after 10 days you are feeling better, you are handling the sun better, you go longer distances. Then suddenly, it hits you: I’m going to be able to do this! This will give you more energy to push up and up. It’s a psychological game you play with yourself, and a dynamic within the entire group for the whole trip.

After All is Said and Done

In our opinion, the best way to end an expedition is to end it fast, that is to say, if you can go from the simple life of the expedition, you have had all of this time to decompress, all of this time alone, it’s actually a form of meditation. 

You haven't showered since you started, maybe up to two weeks or more, and if you can go from this to your home, you will have a profound awareness of a million subtle details that you will have never noticed before: you feel the warmth of the apartment, how warm it is in here. Do you feel how nice it is to be in cotton? How good it would feel to have your hair clean? 

Your body is not aching or dirty anymore. You feel all of this, when you lay, when you wash your hands with warm water, when you have a salad for the first time in weeks, green things, after days or even weeks of eating “just-add-water” expedition food. What a luxury this all is!  

Expeditions teach us an important lesson: that the absence of a thing for a prolonged period of time and its subsequent and sudden re-introduction into our lives reminds us of how much we value these things.

Expeditions in Greenland

Greenland Adventures runs two peak trips in Greenland: one that aims to claim the highest peak in Greenland, Mt: Gunnbjorn. This is a fantastic peak and a great journey to get there. Then, there is a longer 10 day version, then you are skiing and hiking across three of the tallest peaks in Greenland that are more seldomly climbed, and it becomes more of an expedition. 

The Greenland Crossing is a full-scale expedition, because it is your physical strength that is going to decide on the limit: you set off walking and you have an enormous task, and it can take anything between 16-35 days. 

Be a Pioneer, go for the ultimate journey, and push yourself to complete journeys you never even thought possible with Greenland Adventures!


Subscribe to the blog

You Might Also Like: