Ex NANUK PIONEER saw 5 members of 23 Pioneer Regt RLC and an instructor from the Army Cadet Force deploy to Greenland. Following extensive pre-deployment preparation, the group finally arrived at Constable Point (CNP), Liverpool Land in Greenland. This would be base camp and home for the next 2 weeks.
On arrival members of Tangent Expeditions, the logistic support company for the expedition, and a blistering -10 C summers day, met the group. Once orientated and a few more layers donned, the group quickly jumped into action to erect the campsite. Once completed, preparation for the expedition could begin.
The first day on the snow saw 5 utterly inexperienced members learn the basics of Nordic skiing, something that can only be described as marching on snow. Luckily, familiar with marching, the group quickly grasped the technique and were quickly moving on to trek across some daunting terrain. With little rest, the group climbed their first peak the following day, scaling Nathorste Peak (610m). As the group started their descent, they quickly realised that it’s much harder going down than going up on Nordic skis. With little stability under foot, it soon became a competition to see who could ski down rather than have to walk down the mountain.
After the initial 3 days of Nordic introduction, the group deployed via skidoo to Ittoqqortoormiit; an Inuit village on the eastern coast of Liverpool Land, which would be the starting point for a 4-day trek back to CNP. The route consisted of deploying and overnight in Ittoqqortoormiit; trek to Kap Hope, an abandoned Inuit village; trek to a hunters cabin near Dom Brava Valley; and finally trek back to CNP. The weather was magnificent and the views breathtaking as the group set off. Although ability levels were low, the group made progress along the vast openness of the coastal area. Sea ice, still covering the majority of the coast, started to give way to stunning icebergs in the distance. As the group made progress along the route, arctic hares and ptarmigan were seen along the way; however, the only signs of polar bears were the presence of a mother and cubs tracks which were a few days old.
Shortly after returning to CNP, preparation started for the next trek into the Sodel Valley across the fjord. The weather worsened as the second trek began. The aim of the trek, to climb one of the 800m plus summits that edge the valley; however, due to bad visibility and an inexperienced group, the decision was made to return to CNP the following day without risking a summit. On returning to CNP and setting up camp, the weather was -10 with a howling wind up to 40 kph with wind chill easily dropping temperatures to -20. As the weather worsened and snowdrift increased, unlucky individuals had to brave the conditions to dig the tents out of the rapidly rising snow every few hours to ensure the tents did not collapse under the weight of the snow.
Snow shelters were the topic for the following day. With the relevant briefs delivered by the instructor, the group set out to build various forms of snow shelters in the newly laid thick snow and ice. Following the events of the previous day, it became only too obvious why snow shelters are so important within winter mountaineering. From building emergency snow holes to snow graves, the group maintained high spirits throughout as it culminated in burying 2 members in the cozy snow grave. This would ultimately mark the end of the expedition as final preparation had to be done in order to depart in good order.
Following a slight delay in departing Greenland, the group finally arrived in Akureyri in northern Iceland. This marked the start of the coastal drive back to Reykjavik where a mini RnR day was awaiting the group. The group broke down in to smaller parties to conduct various activities from enjoying a relaxing day at the Blue Lagoon to whale watching, and everyone enjoyed the time to rest and kick back in the most northern capital in the world.
Once back on home soil, it was straight back to business to ensure all final administration was complete prior to the group dispersing. That night would be the first darkness the group had seen since departing the UK 18 days earlier. Overall, an utterly enjoyable and remarkable expedition!