Exped Report 7 - Homeward Bound

From our last camp site back to point 660 was only 25km.  So why did it take us 29 hours to cover it!?  

In summer the edges of the ice cap melt and after a certain point it becomes impossible to get down from the ice cap via the Russell Glacier.  We still had a few weeks to play with before it would become impossible, but being possible by no means meant being easy.  There is supposedly an old ice road to follow for some of the way down which would make crossing the treacherous crevasse fields a little less dangerous. However, we hadn't managed to find it when we set out a month previously  and, despite our best efforts on the return, we still couldn't find it!



Luckily, the weather held for us and as we walked through the night we saw the most amazing twilight skies whose beauty increased every time we looked. As we skimmed quickly over treacherous looking ice, a strange mix of adrenalin and serenity kept us going.  However, the further we continued down, the more the terrain became increasingly wet and broken.

 It is safe to say this was the most treacherous descent any of us had ever encountered!  It is hard to describe the terrain and the photos just don't capture the truly horrific nature of the broken ice and the melt water rivers that were everywhere.  So many times we were forced to retrace our steps and look for another route when the one we were taking was suddenly cut off by an ice wall the height of a house or a melt water lake bigger than an Olympic swimming pool.  Now, add to the difficult terrain an out-of-control pulk with a mind of its own, trying incessantly to drag you down icy slopes, or slamming into your back, intent on pushing you off balance at the most inopportune moment, or simply rolling over, forcing you to unclip, wrestle it upright again, reclip and carry on.   

I want to mention Jo's feet again at this point.  We all had problems with blisters throughout the expedition but Jo suffered far more than any of us and by the final day she was missing most of the skin from most of her toes!  Even the strongest pain killers we had didn't manage to dull her pain and with every step she took you could see the agony in her face. As I've said, the last day was the hardest of them all and Jo did it carrying the extra burden of excruciating pain with every step she took.  Her amazing strength of character   meant she just got on with it, uttering only the odd curse as her pulk forced her to take some hurried steps to prevent her being pulled dangerously in the wrong direction!

 After 25 hours of these conditions we hit our all time low.  The situation just seemed desperate.  It felt as though we were lost in a giant maze, exhausted,  yet so frustratingly close to our end point!  We all sat down together and rested while we worked out what to do. 

Jens from Kangerlussuaq tourism, who was coming to pick us up when we got to point 660, had told us to call him when we were 5km away so that he would know when to come for us.  We decided to give him a call. After all, we were only 5 km away. It's just that we'd been 5km away for the last 3 hours and, if anything, we seemed to be losing ground rather than gaining it! It proved to be a good decision and following a few well placed words from Jens, along with verification that we were approaching from the right direction, our spirits lifted. 

Rachel sprung to life first. Leaving her pulk with us, she went off for a recce to find a good route out of the immediate chaos.  She returned 5 minutes later with good news so we all harnessed up and followed her lead.  As though our guardian angel was guiding us, before long we knew we were making good progress. The dark clouds lifted and despite our exhaustion we started to enjoy ourselves again.  Our annoying pulks made us laugh instead of cry and getting wet feet in one of the many streams became a source of hilarity rather than panic.

Slowly but surely distant mountains appeared, increasing in size until finally, there it was – Point 660!  We were still a couple of kilometres away but that didn't matter, we could see the end and we all whooped with joy!

 Jenny







11/08/2006



Exped Report 8 - Many Thanks
Exped Report 7 - Homeward Bound
Exped Report 6 - The Final Countdown
Exped Report 5 - Daily Routines
Exped Report 4 - Waiting for Wind
Exped Report 3 - Reaching the East Coast
Exped Report 2 - Across the Ice Sheet
Exped Report 1 - The First Few Days
Expedition Reports - In the beginning...
Foxes back home
Day 36 - 4th June
Day 35 (3rd June)
Day 33 & 34 (1st / 2nd June)
Day 32 (31st May)
Day 31 (30th May)
Day 30 (29th May)
Day 28 & 29 - 27th / 28th May
Day 27 - 26th May
Day 26 - 25th May
Day 25 - 24th May
Day 23 & 24 - 22nd / 23rd May
Day 21 & 22 - 20th / 21st May
Day 19 & 20 - 18th / 19th May
Day 18 - 17th May
Day 16 & 17 - 15th / 16th May
Day 14 & 15 - 13th / 14th May
Day 12 & 13 - 11th / 12th May 2006
Day 10 & 11 - 9th / 10th May
Day 8 & 9 - 7th / 8th May
Day 7 - 6th May 2006
Day 6 - 5th May 2006
Day 5 - 4th May 2006
Day 4 - 3rd May 2006
Days 2& 3
Day 1
The final preparations...
Winners of the London Marathon!
Have harness… will travel…
Rachel Fox– a local celeb!
The official Postman to the Arctic Foxes
Progress Tracker
The London Marathon - apple bobbing
A wise old Fox…
MET office trials
Adventure First Aid Course
Final V02 fitness test results
A day in the life of a Fox….
The Foxy Farewell - Sat 8th April
Brecon Beacons Nav Training
Rachel's been to Iceland!
Let the packing begin...
Waitrose photoshoot & KMFM interview
We love Finse!
Quantocks Training
Back to Finse & Meeting the Polar Quest Team
New Year in Norway