The expedition Greenland-Tasersiaq was the brainchild of Premek Morgan, a climber and trekker from the Czech Republic. Here is his story: Quite simply we would attempt to go where people hadn’t trodden for around 100 years since the Inuit abandoned this area of the hinterland for summer hunting…. Check out also this video about winter swimming in Nuuk, Greenland:
The preparation was meticulous for we had to carry all supplies for 25 days on our backs in rucksacks. We turned to a nutritionist combined with the sports science of Newman, one of the other expedition members in order to get it right.
In the end, we relied heavily on fats such as ghee, olive oil, salami, and lard in the traditional polar way with the remainder coming from carbohydrates. We utilized thermos flasks and ate a hot meal 3 times per day which was an absolute masterstroke, especially at the start of the trip when we were carrying 35 – 45kg bags.
Do not confuse this with traditional winter trips where it is sometimes possible to carry up to 180kg, but using sleds and skis. A 35 or 40kg backpack represents a large load and in the first week, it took concentration and effort to travel 15km per day through the tundra. So there is more to swimming and swimmers than, for example, American and Australian giants like Lethal Leisel Jones.
We had a variety of swimming experiences ranging in temperature from 4c right up to 16c. The latter being near the mouth of the river where it flowed into the fjord and the former in Tasersiaq lake below the ice sheet.
I swam almost every day and used a lot of the techniques that I learned from the way Mel Goldstein trained in his days.. On day 5 I didn’t need to swim as it rained heavily enough that I’d already had a good shower by the time we put the tent up, early I hasten to add due to poor visibility, wind, and rain.
We made it to our goal, Tasersiaq lake on day 10.”Summit day” during the polar summer is quite a relaxed affair, meaning that we actually left at 12.30, needing to travel just 7km and carrying only 1 bag with emergency equipment in the form of a tent and satellite phone.
However, we had to descend a canyon which we had been told was probably unnavigable by 1 local Inuit. It was our only route to Tasersiaq so we had to try it. The trip started with boulder hopping, followed by traversing the steep canyon sides.
After 2.5 hours we forded the canyon and continued on the other side with slightly easier terrain. after 3.5 hours the icecap came into view which was a majestic sight and finally we could see the lake. I bet you, Grant Hackett would have been jealous of what we did.
We reached the shore exhausted, for we had been waiting for this moment for some time. Indeed in planning, it was an often wondered question – could we make it to Tasersiaq overland? The wind was blowing extremely hard making it cold even though the sun was out. I wasted no time and soon I was heading down to the water.
It proved excruciating as there was no easy way in and only large sharp rocks. But as usual no pain no gain won over and I was soon doing a few strokes of water polo freestyle. A few minutes was enough and it was quite an experience to look up at the glaciers coming off the ice sheet a few kilometers away.
There was more swimming, including in a beautiful pool under a waterfall in paradise valley with arctic char. The water was about 10c and the current wasn’t too strong. Then later there was some more dramatic swimming while using the swimming techniques I learned when I played water polo, as I had to go into the Robinson River to retrieve our fishing line.
It had been raining and the river was flowing quickly, with submerged rocks located where they couldn’t be seen from above the water. I went in with a rope, otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone in at all and I would have simply cut the fishing line. I got out after two attempts having got the line but not the lure, though I was thankful that I didn’t have to go in again.
Finally, we got back to Kangerlussuaq and civilization, 25 days in the wilderness, 3 possible new archaeological sites found and Tasersiaq lake reached overland, another successful UK/CR cooperation.
The winter swimming season is starting and the water will soon bite giving us new dreams of how we can deal with this powerful force of nature while using our best swimming techniques but regarding travel it is time as always to look north again, this time to Scandinavia and a certain mountain plateau that must be crossed before the serious business of crossing Greenland comes onto the horizon.