I feel like walking sideways a hill always falling to the right side. I try to avoid it by putting all my weight on the right ski poll. Nevertheless I’m struggling and fall several times, my sense of orientation and balance has gone. The only thing I can do is following the tracks in front of me through the very small window of my fur around the hood. What is happening?
After heading out on the ice again this morning at 8am in perfect conditions the weather has changed and we really experience how fast strong winds can appear in the Arctic. From one moment to the other the blue sky has turned grey, big clouds at the horizon and very chilly winds are blowing. Luckily not into our faces and causing frostbites but into our backs helping us to go ahead. So we continue our way to the flow edge were we hope to see the symbol of the Arctic: the polar bear. Where the ice is breaking up and open water is around polar bears go hunting seals. That’s why the chance to see those majestic animals there is very high.
The further we go away from Resolute and the closer we come to the open water the more often we now see their tracks. Everybody gets excited about our three day excursion in the area of Resolute. For those who had to stay at the hotel for the last couple of days it is a pleasure to move their bodies again. For those who just came back from the ice it’s like continuing what they’ve now already done for two weeks.
But never before the wind has blown that strong. Just after having the first break the weather changes. In the beginning we continue walking but after a while Mike is worried about the ice underneath our feet starting to move due to those strong winds. If we continue going into the direction of the flow edge and going away from the safe land we might get into trouble because the ice will break for sure. So there’s no other option than turning back to Cornwallis Island – but this means going sideways to the wind in an angle of about eighty degrees pushing me and my sled to the right. That’s why I fall several times and really have to lean against the wind hitting me from the left side. I try to reduce my body’s surface but it’s still difficult to cope with these conditions which cool down the temperature of my face and fingers. But what I’ve learnt during this expedition is that you mustn’t give up. Never. There’s always a way to go through difficult situations. When you fall – get up again and keep on going. That’s what makes you stronger.
The weather conditions force us to pitch up our big tent and having a break at a wind protected spot between two huge blocks of ice. As the wind drops a little bit we’re ready to continue. We keep on walking next to the beach because the further away you’re from the land the stronger the wind gets. So Mike decides to change our destination: We’re not heading to the flow edge anymore but to an iceberg the locals have told us about. As quick as the wind has appeared it drops. After an afternoon of walking we finally reach the most stunning structure I’ve ever seen in my life, built by mother nature: the iceberg with it’s beautiful colors which vary from bright blue to turquoise and dark blue which is almost black. After pitching up the tents we climb this mountain in the middle of the arctic ocean without falling in one of the deep crevasses where the sun is playing with the different colors.
During the night the weather changes again and our tent breaks several times so that Felix has to go outside and fix it again. When I put my head out of the tent the next morning blue sky and the bright arctic sun welcomes me and wishes me a good morning. This day is going to be the longest of our entire expedition because we decided to try to reach Griffith Island which is about 25km away from our local position. Another day of constant walking on the Arctic ocean starts and won’t end until we will have gone to Griffith Island and back to Resolute which is another 28km. This means we’re going to cover 53km on one day. That’s good in the Arctic, you can make your day as long as you want because it’s 24 hours of daylight. The last 6km to Griffith we walk through enormous pack ice leaving out sleds on flat terrain to pick them up when changing the direction back to Resolute 3 hours later. Without the sled you feel like flying. Everything is so easy, you can run with your skis and climb the next ice block in some seconds without having to look after your sled. But the pack ice becomes bigger and narrower. I can’t imagine how one can go through those small bridges with a heavy sled full of equipment behind pulling you back when you go up and crashing into your legs when you go down.
Slowly but surely my stomach sends me a message. For the next two hours it’s difficult to think about anything else than this tasty Trek ‘n Eat food we always have for dinner. But on the Arctic ocean you have concentrate the whole time. One second of distraction can make you fall on a hard block of ice and your body will be covered with bruises. After about 12 hours of walking it gets more and more difficult to keep this concentration. But finally we set up camp for eating, get some new energy and three hours of sleep which has to be enough to bring us back to Resolute.
When I wake up because the others are laughing about one of Mike’s stories I don’t feel tired but excited and “ready to roll” again. Without any other break we ski the eleven kilometers which are still left back to Resolute. We find our way through the pack ice and slide elegantly on flat terrain.
Again I feel hungry and push myself by thinking of a warm breakfast waiting for me in Resolute. I already can see the town and it seems to be very close like you could reach it in half an hour. But actually it takes us two more hours until we finally put our feet on the frozen and extremely slippery pond we have to cross to get back to the hotel. To my own surprise I didn’t fall a single time since we left Griffith Island. And this really is a miracle when I think back how it felt like when I tried to walk with my skis for the very first time. But I’ve not only learnt how to cross country ski during the last three weeks. This expedition taught me so many lessons I can’t attend in school. You have to experience on your own to broaden your horizon and gain new opinions. And you always have to continue especially when giving up and turning back would be easier. Going through difficult situations can only make you stronger. That’s what I was thinking about the whole time walking through the storm hitting and pushing me down.