Mike Libecki, Angie Payne, Keith Ladzinski and I all rendezvoused in Reykjavik, Iceland. Mike and I came from Oslo (I’d just been sport climbing in France, Mike had just been epicing on a Russian sailboat in the Arctic Sea) and Keith and Angie came from Denver. We enjoyed some luxuries we wouldn’t have for a couple of weeks—slow to arrive Icelandic cuisine, French desserts, hotel beds—and the next morning shuffled our bags to get them and ourselves on the plane headed towards Kulusuk, Greenland.
[A fog hangs in the valleys surrounding the tiny town of Tasiilaq, Greenland. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]
The fog was so thick on our descent into Greenland that the pilot aborted his first attempt to land. As he abruptly canceled our descent only a few hundred feet above the quickly approaching ground, a voice crackled over the radio.
“We’ll have to fly back to Iceland if I can’t see the runway on our second pass,” said the pilot.
Angie and I started fearing for our lives. This was definitely the scariest plane landing we’d ever been a part of.
Luckily, the pilot found the runway and we touched down on our second pass. It was raining, and we had to hop-scotch our way over massive puddles to enter the tiny terminal of the Kulusuk airport. Our helicopter was stuck in Tasiilaq because the fog was too thick to fly, so we spent a lousy day at the airport in Kulusuk with nothing to do but read and listen to music. We ordered “Parisian Toast” and “Cowboy Toast” from this guy who reminded me of some famous villain in some old school action films.
The next day the rain abated and the fog cleared just long enough for the helicopter to fly us to Tasiilaq. We spent the day walking around the little village, enjoying the sunshine, experiencing the town of about 2000 residents and 500 sled dogs and buying supplies for our basecamp.
[En route to Tasiilaq, Greenland. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]
After a brief day spent in the tiny town of Tasiilaq, we finally boarded our boat, The Discovery, skippered by a very nice Danish fellow named John Christianson. The seas were rough when the boat wasn’t hiding in the relative safety of the fjords. Rocked by the harsh waves of the open ocean, Keith and I were immediately sea sick. After some nice naps under the deck and some cups of instant coffee we recovered.
We stopped at a microscopic town to refuel, and then hopped back aboard the boat for the final eight-hour push to our destination. Mike and Keith did a crazy photo shoot next to an iceberg that looked like a piece of the fortress of solitude before we finally motored into the fjord that held the cirque that we’d be camped in for the next two weeks. The fog was too thick to see much besides the tops of some ominous looking towers.
[Going by boat. Ethan Pringle, Angie Payne, and Mike Libecki keep the seasickness at bay. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]
[Unloading in the rain. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]
We motored up the fjord to have a look at the surrounding areas and try to find a suitable place to park the boat for the night. Motoring to the end of the fjord and getting to see the huge glacier sliding into the end of it was an amazing experience, and the night only got trippier (no hallucinogens needed). We dodged icebergs in the twilight, hoping to find a suitable place to drop anchor and sleep for the night.
After spending the night crammed together in the hull of our tiny boat, we dropped off all our bags on shore in the rain and found basecamp next to the only other group of climbers in Eastern Greenland! Coming to Greenland to climb in a place as isolated as this, I did not think we’d be camped next to other climbers. But we had the same contacts in Greenland, and the same dilemma of not being able to go south as was our original plan because of turbulent seas. All eight of us had come to the same zone upon the suggestion of our mutual contact in Tasiilaq. Fortunately, our basecamp neighbors were all really cool people.
Once our community tent was erected and all our soaked duffel bags were inside, we took a soggy seat and breathed a big condensed sigh of relief to finally be in basecamp. This would be our home for the next two weeks, so we prayed that the rain would lift promptly and the awesome rocks we assumed were out there all around us would dry quickly. That evening the fog lifted enough for us to glimpse the huge towers looming above us to the west and it was an awesome sight.
[Angie Payne surveys the scene. PHOTO: Keith Ladzinski]
There were boulders all around basecamp and we were eager to start exploring.—Ethan Pringle