Thursday, March 3, 2016

Rocher Blanc en traversée

26/03/16 Au vu dun 'enneigement moyen en basse altitude, une météo pas particulièrement prometteuse, et une nivologie compliquée nous nous rabattons sur Belledonne avec comme seul objectif de sauver la journée...
Ambiance hivernale. Les crêtes des Pointes de
Mouchillon fument. 
A nôtre surprise, nous trouvons une ambiance hivernale avec de la neige dans les arbres et les rochers.

Poudre, soleil et ciel bleu. On voit bien le vent fort du sud sur les crêtes.
Poudre, soleil et ciel bleu.
Montée dans la Combe Madame.
Un groupe a damé une bonne trace jusqu'au refuge de Combe Madame avant de bifurquer vers le Col du Tepey.
Un autre groupe a continué  jusqu'au petit replat sous le Col de la Combe
Deux personnes ayant passé la nuit au refuge ont continué le travail jusqu'au replat.
Montée vers le Rocher de Buyant.
Nico sur fond de la Crête de la  Marmottane et l'Aiguille de Marcieu.
Ils nous laissent le plaisir de finir la trace jusqu'au sommet,...
Nico arrive au sommet dans la tempête de Foehn.
... que nous atteignons seul - juste apres deux skieurs venus  de l'autre coté par le Couloir Sud-Ouest que nous comptons descendre.
Nico au sommet du Rocher Blanc.
Nous avions prévus de descendre par le Couloir Sud-Ouest, mais la tempête de Foehn nourrit des petits doutes sur les conditions dans le couloir.
Entrée du couloir sud-ouest. Au loin Pic des Cabottes et Pic de la Belle Etoile.
L'état de leurs traces nous rassure et nous trouvons le couloir en bonnes conditions avec une neige légèrement densifiée mais excellente a skier.
Raid mais pas trop. Cornelius dans la déscente du
couloir Sud-Ouest en conditions excellentes.
Photo: Nico S.

Expert at work. Nico dans bas de la descente du couloir Sud-Ouest.

Nous continuons la descente vers le Lac Blanc.

Remontée vers le Col de Mouchillon, vue sur le plateau des Sept Laux.
La descente nous amene un peu dessus du Lac Blanc, d'ou il restent quelques mètres a remonter vers le Col de Mouchillon.
Nico sous le Col du Rocher Blanc entre le Rocher Badon a gauche et la Face
Nord-Ouest du Rocher Blanc a droite.

Vue sur la Chartreuse. Sur la gauche au dernier plan: Chamechaude. Sur la
droite, crête de Mouchillon.

Col de Mouchillon.

Début de la descente du Col de Mouchillon.

Poudre - et soleil... Photo: Nico S.
De là, encore une excellent descente en poudre  - qui amene le cumul a 1500 m de bonne descente faisant oublier le petit portage dans la forêt et le dénivelé total de 2000 m.
Qui dit Belledonne, dit forêt et portage.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hunting passes with the Passs Hunter

A few months back, I build a new bicycle around the Velo Orange "Pass Hunter" frame. Its intriguing name is inspired by the the sport of chasing passes, and its seat tube decal an hommage to the logo of its 'governing body': And while I am now grounded to the flatness of Hamburg, this is what I liked to do most on a bicycle, when still living in the mountains. Only recently, I realised how far the mountains actually are from where I live now - the 600 km Brevet had its turning point on top of the first significant hill (from Hamburg and for my VO Pass Hunter): the Brocken in the Harz. And I sure would put the new bicycle trough its paces a soon as I had an opportunity, which finally came in the form of holidays in Grenoble, France.

A day trip around and across the Chartreuse mountains had me re-visit a number of the places I enjoyed, and glance views of many summits I used to hike, climb and ski.

Col de Clémencières, 620 m.
The trip started with the Col de Clémenicières, which separates the emblematic "Neron" from the "Bastille" dominating the city and was part of one of my favorite evening excursion "Tour du Neron".

Col de Vence, 782 m.
By the very definition of a pass, the route is "locally the highest point" on "the lowest possible route".

Col de Palaquit, 1154 m.
Yet instead of following down the lowest possible route, I turned the pass into a saddle and headed further up, doing so two more times on Col de Vence and Col de Palaquit, before really peaking for the first time on Col de Porte under the Chamechaude mountain.

Col de Porte, 1326 m.
The first downhill speeds down fast inclines on routes with barely any cars before the next climb, which unassumingly starts in St Hugues with some false flats before gradually steepening and finally turning  into a serious but rewarding grind. The views back into the chartreuse Mountains, up la Dent des Crolles towering the col, and towards the Belledone range on the other side are worth every revolution of the pedals on the slopes attaining 16%.

Col du Coq, 1435 m.
Zipping trough the twisting switchbacks facing the Belledonne range in an exhilarating descent, quickly  brings me down to the village of St Hilaire du Touvet, which is famous for its paragliding opportunities.
Col de Marcieu, 1060 m.
The road follows the foot of the abrupt east face of the Dent de Crolles, Dome de Bellefont, Aup du Seuil and the Rochers de Bellefont. Passing Col de Marcieu brings back fond memories of endless hours spent climbing these cliffs hiding some of Europes most spectacular natural arches and improbable passages across the steep faces.

Col du Granier, 1134 m.
The Col du Granier has to be earned by another winding climb under the North face of the homonymous mountain in the heat of the afternoon and is rewarded by some excellent blueberry cake at the cafe on top.

Col du Cucheron, 1140 m.

A fast descent with many straights brings me back into the heart of the Chartreuse mountains, and after crossing the Col du Cucheron the road passes close to the monastery (Monastère des Pères Chartreux), which is famous for its liquor and lends the entire mountain range its name.

Col de la Placette, 588 m.
The impressive creeks of the Gorges du Guiers Mort lead down to St Laurent du Pont and finally to the gentle climb up Col de la Placette before one last descent and a comfortable bicycle path along the Isère river brought me back to my starting point.

(Alternatively, and a little less expensive in elevation gain, the passes Col de Porte, Col du Cucheron and Col du Granier invite to a crossing of Chartreuse from Grenoble to Chambery.)


Map, click to enlarge.

A rewarding day in the saddle, 9 mountain passes, and about 148 km with 3400 m of elevation gain...

Elevation profile. 9 mountain passes, 148 km, 3400 m elevation gain.

Its not about the bike. But the Velo Orange Pass Hunter certainly did not hold 
me back grinding up winding ascents and steep cols, speeding down fast 
inclines, and zipping through twisting switchbacks.

And the Velo Orange Pass hunter in all that? It certainly did not hold me back grinding up winding ascents and steep cols, speeding down fast inclines, and zipping through twisting switchbacks. It now has honestly earned its name.

Velo Orange Pass Hunter build

A bike to go the extra mile

After moving from Grenoble to Hamburg, I was looking for a new activity. I had spent a lot of my free time skiing and kiting. Deprived of the beloved mountains and snow, I was looking for a new activity conveying a feeling of independence and self reliance, where I could measure my endurance on geographic scales. Since some time already, I had secretly admired long distance cyclists and followed the scene. In my new situation, far from the mountains, I decided to give it a try. Yet during exactly this move from Grenoble to Hamburg, my road cycle got stolen while in the hands of the moving company. After my first two brevets on my city- and trekking-bicycle something had to change. After some hesitation, I set my eyes on the Velo Orange Pass Hunter frame to build the new endurance bike to go the extra mile.

The Velo Orange Pass Hunter

Velo Orange Pass Hunter

The bike should be comfortable, accept at least 28 mm wide tires with fenders and 35 mm without, it should be capable to carry a moderate front load in a handle bar bag, and be attractive enough so I would enjoy riding it for a few hundred kilometres, and then some more. Among several reasonable choices, it was mostly the last argument that carried me away to choose the Velo Orange Pass Hunter over others. Its a steel frame with the necessary clearance, bridges, and eyelets for fenders, a nice rake to the mid trail fork, road rear spacing, reasonable weight, and - a number of quirky details ranging from the clean inline rack mounts, over the horizontal top tube to the wrap around seat-stays, the biplane fork, lug like steering tube flanges and lugged fork ends and rear dropouts. And it were those nifty details remotely reminiscent of the iconic bicycles of Alex  Singer, Rene Herse and Jo Routens that finally tipped the balance.

The build

A few mails later, Scott Gater from Velo Orange had referred me to Jamie Younger of their european distributor Freshtripe who is placing orders with VO every week. Both were really helpful and a pleasure to deal with. The day, the frame crossed my doorstep, I brought it to my local bike store Tool Bikes which were kind enough to install the bottom bracket and a Tange Seiki headset on very short notice on a frame I had not bought there. Only two nights later, the build was ready to ride ...

Velo Orange Pass Hunter rigged for a long ride. Front: Rixen and Kaul
KlickFix Daypack, rear: Apidura Saddle Pack Compact.


The wheels were build by Maro Moskopp from Radplan Delta. I was looking for a classic wheel set in a 3 cross lacing pattern, 28 spokes in the front, 32 in the rear. He took time and patience to discuss my request and  insisted that I should consider the 23 mm wide Kinlin XC 279 rims, if I was serious about running those ridiculously wide tires from 28-32mm. He recommended a radially laced front wheel with 20 aero spokes and an asymmetric 8/16 lacing with aero spokes in the rear.

Hubs. Front Schmidt Sondelux, rear Miche racing Hub.
We settled for a compromise. The front wheel is build with 24 Sapim laser in a 2 cross pattern around a Sondelux dynamo hub. The rear wheel features sapim laser on the non-drive side and sapim strong on the drive side in order to balance spoke tension, laced in a three cross pattern on a Miche Racing hub. Tyres are Continental GP 4000 SII 28 mm mounted with Schwalbe SV15 air chambers. The wheels arrived  more than one week earlier than promised, look beautiful, and their performance is superb, as far as I can judge until now.

Drivetrain and shifting

The drivetrain is a mix-match of various components, in an effort to combine reliability in the context of long distance cycling and travelling, a wide gearing range and the irrational desire to keep a classic appearance at an acceptable price point. Pedals are the brilliant Exustar E-PR43, mounted on Sugino XD2 compact cranks in 170 mm which are revolving on a Token JIS 103 mm square taper BSA bottom bracket. Sugino has quite a reputation for their cranks, but some aspects of the XD2 left me a little surprised. The finish on my sample looks, as if the forged raw piece was trimmed with a belt sander without attention for the subtle form where the spider transitions to the chainrings. The polishing stops already at the visible thin sides of the spider. The fiddly choice to hide one of the chainring bolts behind the crank-arm does not really appeal to me after only one change of chainring, and comes along with a milled recess at a place where the strain in the crank-arm must be very high. In addition, this choice of spider orientation does not allow to mount the bolt keeping the chain from falling in the gap with TA chainrings. Deburring on the inside of the spider was incomplete and needed touch-up. That said, the thread is as narrow as on older racing cranks, already from one meter distance it looks like the real thing, and in up to now it simply works great.

Drivetrain. Exustar E-PR43 pedals, Sugino XD 2 cranks (170 mm), Specialites
TA Zephyr chainrings 48, 36 (for the mountains optionally Gebhard 33), Token
bottom bracket, KMC chain, Shimano SLX  11-32 cassette. The crank features
a few odd details.

Specialites TA chainrings of 48 and 36 teeth in the front transmit the power through a budget KMC chain to the Shimlano Deore/SLX 11-32 cassette in the rear. For really steep mountains, I keep a Gebhard 33 chainring in the parts bin, but here in northern Germany it simply wouldn't be of great use. This choice was based on my experience in the mountains and shows my complete lack thereof in the windy and rainy flatlands here. For fast group- and paceline riding at rather constant speeds, the gearing steps of the cassette feel uncomfortably big to me and I will likely give a 12-25 or 12-27 cassette a try very soon.

Exustar E-PR43 pedals. They are silver, they look classic, they are light, and
they are designed for Shimano SPD clips. Brilliant.

The decision for a 9-speed drivetrain and downtube shifters appears certainly anachronistic. But after giving it a second thought, and with my hands on experience it has some appeal: There is more cable pull per gear in a 9-speed system. With the exception of the last 20 cm for the rear derailleur, there is no cable housing, making the entire adjustment more stable and reliable. If indexing for the rear goes out of adjustment, it can be switched to frition shifting. The current gear is immediately felt by touching the shift levers even when riding at night.

Dura Ace 9-speed down tube shifters. The left lever is spring loaded to
balance the pull of the front derailleur. The indexing of the right lever can
be disabled in case of adjustment problems with the rear derailleur. Neat.
While I was lucky to get hold of a 'like new' Shimano Dura Ace FD-7410 front derailleur with a 28.6 mm clamp, the market for matching long cage rear mechs seems to be completely soaked up by  enthusiast tourers and randonneurs willing to pay a fortune for these beautiful pieces of kit.  When I had already settled for a Shimano XT rear derailleur, ready to modify it with a barrel adjuster, I stumbled across the new SunXCD SXRD34M on Freshtripes component offerings. Possibly with the exception of small details, the SXRD34M appears basically to be an all silver, SunXCD branded Microshift RD-R51M. It perfectly filled a gap in my component list for this bike, but its a mixed bag considering its price tag: The barrel adjuster is plastic, the back plate of the parallelgram is a folded black steel plate with riveted articulations, and while the upper floating jockey wheel spins on a ball bearing, the lower one came with a simple bushing and had to make place for an aftyermarket part from Tacx on a ball bearing. But then, the shifting of the SunXCD feels crisp and precise, with the changed pulley it does not add any resistance, and it does look really great from some distance.

Rear derailleur: SunXCD SXRD34M. Front derailleur: Dura Ace FD-7410.
Given unlimited funds, I would seriously consider a silver Campagnolo Athena 9 or 10-Speed setup with ergo power levers and a Compass Bicycle 'Rene Hersé' crank. One day maybe.


The Cane Creek SCR5 brake levers are equipped with a campagnolo style brake quick release which turns out very useful with the cantilever brakes. The Tektro CR720 are among the lightest, and at the same time also cheapest cantilever brakes on the market.

Cane Creek SCR5 brake levers. The
Campagnolo-style quick-release comes
in handy with the cantilever brakes.
Tektro CR720 cantilever brakes.

Saddle and handlebar

There is little more personal and maybe random hit or miss then finding the right saddle for really long rides. When the saddle of my city and touring bike broke down some two years ago, I just went into the next bike shop which happened to be a Specialized concept store and bought about their cheapest offering in the correct width. Eventually, this saddle went over many high alpine passes, through countless commutes and finally my first brevets without ever causing any real discomfort. When time came to choose a saddle, I simply went for the higher quality, harder, and less sticky 'Toupé' saddle from Specialized.

Saddle: Specialized Toupé, seatpost: Ritchey Classic, handlebars: Ritchey
Classic, stem: Velo orange Tall Stack Stem. Ritchey bar tape, VO silver alu
bar end plugs.

The seatpost is Ritchey Classic, as is the handlebar, which is mounted on a VO Tall Stack Stem with 80 mm reach. The bar is rounded of with Ritchey bar tape and VO alu handlebar plugs.


A Schmidt Edelux II powered by a SONdelux hub generator serves a s headlight, both marvels in finish and apparent manufacturing quality. Its touchy in angular adjustment, but once the position is correctly dialed in, a busy patchy beam pattern transitions to a very even flood, that  is a pleasure to ride with. Avoiding a desaster in the looks and style department was worth patientl fiddling of the cable from the hub generator to the headlight through the forks vent holes. Waiting for intuition and time to implement a clean cable routing solution to the taillight (meanwhile done), a battery powered Cateye TL-AU100 ensures StVZO compliant visibility from the back and won a fight for seat tube real estate over the 'Pass Hunter' decal. It was chosen for its impressive claimed battery life, and solid mounting bracket.

Lights. Front: Schmidt Edeleux II, rear: The AA battery powered Cateye
TL-AU100 Gwill have to make room for a dynamo powered taillight, once
I have figured out a clean cable routing to the rear.


For me its illusorical to even go on a daytrip without bike mounted luggage.  I do not like to carry any things in my pockets the bike could carry. The Rixen und Kaul "Daypack" frontbag mounts with a clickfix adapter and keeps things accessible without dismounting the bike. An Apidura "Saddle Pack Compact" ideally complements the luggage capacity on longer rides without the need to install any hardware. (Revelate design has similar offerings).

Maiden voyage

After riding my first two brevets on my city and trekking bike something had to change. I seriously doubted I could ride the longer distances without the help of an efficient bike. And when the frame arrived just barely in time for the next Brevet, there was no holding back ... With not even hundred kilometers of errands across Hamburg to complete last details of the build, it would have its true maiden voyage during the 400 km brevet in Kiel.

A stamp collection worth 400 km. Only four days after the big box containing
the frame crossed my doorstep, I was putting the new Pass Hunter through
its paces during a Brevet starting from Kiel. It performed admirably well.

What a change! I no longer get compassionate compliments for strong legs, but rather for a beautiful bike. It performed admirably well.

I have been asked about the bicycles weight. Its about 11.3 kg, with solid SKS fenders (added after the photo session). This is by no means heavy. And it anyway does not ride itself without a rider. If the fully rigged bicycle and rider were to tip the scale together, there is certainly room for improvement on my side and through thoughtful packing of food water and clothes.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Wings Over Greenland II - debrief


Many teams have crossed Greenland with skis and kites. But until 2014 nobody
had ever completed a circumnavigation of the icecap on skis. Yet the idea was
floating around in the small community of polar kiters since some time already.

Wings over Greenland II. The second team to complete a circumnavigation
of the Greenland ice sheet. At the time of writing the most complete circum-
navigation and simply the longest journey on skis in full autonomy - ever.

Mid June, we were ferrying our equipment down the bare ice and the steep rocky moraines towards Qaleraligd Fjord, where we had started a little less than two months ago. When we reached the shore again after 58 days out on the ice, a dream had come true: we had just closed the loop and completed a circumnavigation of the Greenland Icecap by kite and ski relying mainly on katabatic wind systems for our progression.

Expedition map: 5067 km in 58 days averaging 87 km/day. From sea level to
an elevation of 2900 m at the East-Col, nearly 20 degrees of latitude - and back.
Our journey enclosed more than 50% of the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

The idea

The idea to circumnavigate the entire Greenland icesheet by kite and ski was hovering around in the small community of polar kiters since some time. Already the Norvegian team pioneering the route from Narsaq in the south to Qaanaaq in the north on skis in 2005 gave it a thought to return all the way back home. Once a few more teams (including us) had successfully repeated this trip, the possibility to efficiently use katabatic wind systems for long distance kiting in Greenland was taken for granted. By extrapolation, it appeared only logic, that a circumnavigation of the entire icecap should be possible.

We were often making our way through a thick layer of driving snow with
limited visibility, starkly contrasting the perfect blue sky above.

Not alone

And as is often the case with good ideas, several teams were considering to give it a try. For the circumnavigation of the Greenland icecap, this is no different. Yet it took some time of thinking, tinkering and preparation, until somebody made a move. But finally this year not one, but three teams announced that they would attempt the first circumnavigation of the Greenland Icecap!
Make sure to visit the websites of the other teams!

In the long run, the difficulty lies rather in being efficient in low winds than
braving the storms. We used 19 m2 Flysurfer Speed 3 kites with a closed cell
construction on long lines to get going in the lightest breeze.

Wings over Greenland II in numbers

During our journey we covered a total of 5067 km at an average pace of 87 km per day. This is actually longer than a trip from Paris to Moscow and back! And also more than the 5013 km covered by Dixie Dansercoer and Sam Deltour in their attempt to circumnavigate East-Antarctica in 2011-12, which by then had beaten the previous record of 4804 km established by Rune Gjeldnes during his Antarctic crossing in 2005-06. At the time of writing, Wings over Greenland II is the longest trip on skis in full autonomy ever! And enclosing more than 50 % of the surface of the ice sheet, our round trip is the most complete circumnavigation of the icecap as of today.

We absolutely wanted our trip to start and end at sea level and to use only
minimal logistics. Laasinnguaq dropped us off on the sea ice that beset the
end of Qaleraligd Fjord with the 'Tattak'. Carl picked us up with a small open
fishing boat.

Elevation profile of our journey around the Greenland icecap. Starting at
sea level, we reached an elevation of more than 2900 m  at the 'east col',
the lowest possible passage between the 'Summit' of the Icecap and Mount
Forel on our way back south. 


When we had left Narsaq barely two months before, the village was still wrapped in snow, and we had started our trip on the sea ice that beset the last kilometres of Qaleraligd Fjord. Back then, the same steep moraines terminating the glacier over which we hauled ourselves and 360 kg of equipment from the shore towards the Icecap were deeply covered in snow, and its crevasses safely plugged. What a change on our way back south! Soon after crossing the east col, the lowest passage between the 'Summit' and Mount Forel, and at 2900 m elevation the culminating point of our voyage, hesitant signs of surface melt appeared as a light shimmer in our tracks. They quickly developed into vast expanses of fast firn that made for a pleasant change in skiing. Descending further in latitude and altitude saw us kite through deep slush, doubt the resilience of countless snow bridges covering abysmal crevasses, and navigate through mazes of blue melt puddles and grey ice pimples. We finished grinding our way down the dirty, hummocky ice, meandering between open cracks, melt water channels and cryoconite holes. And in the very end, we had to laboriously ferry the remaining equipment over the steep moraines devoid of snow down to the blank rocky shore, where we had started two months before in an immaculate winter landscape. To our pleasant surprise, Narsaq now welcomed us dressed in vibrant green.

Where we had started in an immaculate winter landscape, we were now ferrying
our equipment over steep moraines devoid of snow down to the blank, rocky shore.

When we left at the end of winter, Narsaq was wrapped in snow. What a
surprise to find the village dressed in vibrant green upon our return.

We went through deep slush, doubted the resilience of countless snowbridges
covering abysmal crevasses and navigated through a maze of blue melt puddles.

Midnight sun and back

At the same time, our journey took us over nearly 20 degrees of latitude. Starting over five degrees south of the arctic circle we travelled from our usual diurnal rhythm of day and night into the realm of the midnight sun - and back. Trying to catch any breeze of wind we often kited at night. In the beginning we remember sailing through pitch black darkness with the cone of our glaring headlights fasciated by the horizontally falling snow. Heading north we later first saw the sun setting just a little to the left of our heading, to re-appear only shortly after a little to the right, before we finally could enjoy skiing right into the orange glow of the midnight sun. On our way back south, we gradually travelled back into a rhythm of night and day. With the midnight sun in our back we were now chasing our long shadows before they left place to twilight with its pastel colours. When finally hesitant night set again with shades of purple and gorgeous moon-rises, we knew that we were approaching our departure point far in the south.

Midnight sun and back. Sunrise, solar noon, and sunset for our actual dates
and positions. We travelled over nearly 20 degrees of latitude - and back,
crossing the arctic circle twice! At the same time the season advanced from the
end of winter to summer with its longer days. The time of solar noon, when
the sun is at its zenith,  is slightly shifting with our position in longitude.

Midnight sun and back. On our way south, we gradually
travelled back into a rhythm of night and day. First only
the shadows grow, before the snow, sastrugies and pulks
successively fade in a twilight with hues of pink and blue.
Ultimately only the kites catch the last rays of the sun that
now will set again.

Sailing into the full moon through an endless succession of rolling
undulations in shades of pastel colors.

We enjoyed kiting in the surreal light of the midnight sun. On our way north,
we were kiting right into its orange glow. In the second half, during our way
back south we were chasing our long shadows casted far ahead on the carpet
of driving snow.

Long haul

The gigantic trip around worlds largest island and second largest ice sheet is before all an endurance challenge. Physically, technically, and mentally. Being continually on the move for this long, making and breaking camp nearly every day is physically exhausting. Permanent exposure to the cold and kiting through thousands of kilometres of sastrugis and rough surfaces requires to constantly hold balance between the urge to progress and the strain on the body, knowing that there is little hope to cure injuries and to recover from deep exhaustion. Weight limitations only allow for limited redundancy in the technical equipment. We thus had to maintain and repair our gear, in order to withstand the wear and tear of hundreds of hours of kiting, camping and cooking.

Being continually on the move, making and breaking camp nearly every day is
physically exhausting.

The Helsport Svalbard 5 was our cosy home for nearly two months. During
the stormy days we were only two layers of fabric away from the roaring
elements. On calm sunny days the interior would sometimes heat up to
20 Celsius above zero!

Mika having a break during a long, tiring day. The gigantic trip around worlds
largest island and second largest icecap is most of all an endurance challenge.

Permanent exposure to the cold. Cornelius,
dressed up for a cold night on the icecap.

Traces of civilization, wildlife and views

We were rather free in our choice of route as long as we would stay high enough to avoid melt water lakes and channels, crevasses from glaciers draining the icecap towards the coast, low enough to benefit from katabatic winds, and make our way at least around the summit of the icecap and back.
We found it a futile diversion to pass at the abandoned radar station 'Dye2', home-in on the automated weather stations 'Nasa-U' and 'Humboldt-Glacier', and to chase down the 'confluence' of the latitude 81 N and meridien 40 W as our northermost turning point. Yet one of our biggest surprises were not traces of human civilisation. Far in the north-east we had the unlikely chance to cross polar bear tracks - more than 200 km from the coast. And further south again, we thoroughly enjoyed the incredible view on the impressive mountain ranges separating the icecap from the eastern shores.

Traces of civilisation: we found it a futile diversion to pass the abandoned
radar station Dye-2, A relic of the cold war.

Traces of civilisation: homing in on the automated weather station 'Nasa-U'.

Sport meets science: automated weather station 'Humboldt Glacier'. During
the preparation of the expedition, we analysed the data of the automatic
weather stations to understand the wind systems.
Chasing down the 'confluence' of latitude 81 N and the meridian 40 W, our
northernmost turning  point.

Traces of wildlife: Polar bear tracks on the icecap! We found this absolutely
remarkable, as we crossed these at about 200 km from the coast.The tips of
our rather fat Voelkl Mantra skis suddenly appear narrow in comparison.

If we naively extrapolate the bear's heading, the animal had another 400 km
to go to reach the sea again. The massive Scarpa Maestrale RS boots look
delicate side to side with these paws.

On the eastern side, the icecap slopes in increasingly pronounced depressions
and terrasses down towards the coast. After hours of hide and seek in the hilly
terrain, with isolated peaks emerging and disappearing at the horizon, the full
panorama suddenly unfolded to our left.

Almost close enough to touch. For hours we kited along the unbelievable
scenery of countless  glaciated peaks, separated by gigantic glaciers. We
were wondering how many of these peaks have already been climbed and

Uniform yet never boring: surface, light, and wind

The long journey is not only characterised by the uniformity of the effort, but also by the apparent monotony of scenery. But, although imperceptible on the time-scale of direct observation, the ambiances were constantly evolving! Each day, the surface was different. We had days of hard, icy snow, surfaces plane as a mirror with a velvet cover, gently undulated dunes of packed snow, dry powder, molten firn, and of course: lots of sastrugis. And even though dreaded for skiing, they come in a multitude of fantastic shapes with a particular artistic unity due to their common principle of formation. Being our motor for all but a few kilometres at the start and in the end, we were ruled by the wind. And although, the expedition was designed around the strong link between Greenland’s topography and the katabatic wind systems, each day was very different. We therefore often were enjoying the wind three quarters in the back, or from the side, but occasionally we would have to tack downwind not to outrun our kites and to keep them inflated, and on rare occasions we earned a few hard kilometres tacking right upwind. On some days we had difficulties to harness the almost imperceptible breeze with our biggest kites on long lines, whereas on others we had a good wrestle riding the wake of a storm with our Beringer Skisails with their short bridles. Adding to this the incredible lighting with the sun often sweeping low over the horizon makes for an infinite variety of different atmospheres. And when the degrees of latitude passed slowly and the kilometres accumulated laboriously, these wonderful ambiances were our biggest reward.

Sastrugis. Beautiful, even though dreaded for skiing. They come in a multitude
of phantastic shapes yet with with a particular artistic unity due to their common
principle of formation.

Mika impersonating Darth Vader at the center of a parhelic between two
sun dogs. Surface texture, lighting, and wind make for an infinite variety
of different atmospheres.

Nunataks in the south east. The isolated mountains protruding the icecap
alter its imperceptible flow, leading to crevasse areas and in turn to some
little detours for us.

When the degrees of latitude passed slowly, and the kilometres accumulated
laboriously, these wonderful ambiances were our biggest reward.


We would like to acknowledge our equipment sponsors Flysurfer Kiteboarding, Snowsled Polar and our media partner, the french magazine 'Carnets d'Aventures'. Many thanks to our routers, the home team, and for the support and donations from our friends, families and followers. Without you, this journey would not have been possible - our achievement is also yours!

website of the expedition:

Wings over Greenland II on Mikas website: WOG II on 'Latitudes Nord'