Expedition Five take on Greenland
Louis and Ant of Expedition 5 are in the last stages of preparation for their self-supported crossing of Greenland, the fourth island they will traverse and the largest island on Earth. Before they set off, we caught up with them to discuss the challenges ahead.
What does a ‘self-supported’ crossing mean?
Louis: We will be taking everything we need to survive from start to finish, with no support from wind power, motors or dogs. Completely self-sufficient from start to finish.
Ant: What Louis said; Human powered, no external help, just me, the ginger Bedouin, and whatever we can pull in our pulks.
As Ex-Marines, you have been trained to face many things. Have you undergone any special or extra training for the expedition?
Louis: Having both spent time in the Royal Marines is definitely an asset. However, all the training we did as commandos was focused on finding and killing the enemy and not necessarily relevant to the kind of expeditions we do now. We tend to keep our physical fitness at a reasonable level at all times. The main focus has been on polar skills; Ant spent a lot of time during the winter months in Norway and more recently we spent some time out there together to consolidate what he learnt!
Ant: This winter I spent 6 weeks in Norway and Sweden. Montage training at its best! When the Beast from the East storm shut down everything in Britain, I was on my own dragging a pulk up a mountain range between Norway and Sweden. A mountain range made famous for the 5000 Swedish soldiers that froze to death there whilst they were retreating from a lost battle in Trondheim. When the winds hit me up, I certainly felt for the poor guys up there 300 years ago with no shelter, no protective clothing and barely any food. Also, whilst I was there I got to spend a week with the Norwegian Reserve Officer Federation, a bunch of gnarly Scandinavian veterans who conduct winter training every year just in case they ever have to go John Rambo on an invading Russian Army. It was an extremely valuable few weeks and I learnt a hell of a lot from the masters of all things cold.
Pulling your pulks weighing up to 120kg sounds tiring! Which of you is the strongest?
Louis: Ant is slightly heavier than me and probably stronger, not as good looking though…
Ant: Not that I’d advocate using a Greenland traverse as a weight loss exercise, but I am really looking forward to seeing my abs when we finish! From our journeys to date there has been some days where both or one of us have been really struggling. If one of us is really in the locker, the other usually picks up the slack. We have a good relationship in that sense, we don’t make a big deal about it we just get on with it.
What hazards could you face along the way? Are you prepared for these?
Louis: There are many hazards; polar bears, crevasses and the extreme cold. There are obviously always going to be risks associated with these kinds of expeditions but for the most part, it will be down to keeping strict with our drill and personal admin. Even when we are extremely fatigued we need to be on the ball, looking after our kit and our bodies, taking it day by day.
Ant: The wind is going to cause us some extreme problems along the way as well. Huge storms known as Piteraqs can come out of nowhere; hurricane force sub-zero winds that can last for days. Should be a lot of fun!
What scares you the most about the expedition?
Louis: Lack of sleep due to Ant's snoring.
Ant: Lack of morale due to Louis’ dripping (complaining).
How does this island differ to the previous ones you have covered so far?
Louis: This expedition will be very different to anything we have faced so far. To date, we have crossed Borneo, Papua New Guinea and Madagascar. They are all very close to the equator and have tropical climates, extremely hot days and miles of humid jungle. In addition, we met lots of Tribal people, some were pleased to see us, some not so much. In Greenland it will be almost the opposite, we will be dealing with extreme cold instead of scorching heat and will have no contact with any other humans from start to finish.
Ant: Less leeches, more frostbite.
How important is timing during your expedition?
Louis: Timing on a daily basis will be important. We will be aiming to get into a rhythm and routine, being fairly strict with what time we set off each day, break times and when we call it a day.
Ant: On this expedition we are going to be working on an extremely strict 50 minutes travelling to 10 minutes rest for 12 hours every day. Letting 5 minutes slip here and there can result in us not covering the distance we have to and ultimately running out of food before our journey's end. Timing is everything on this expedition.
What will you each be relying on the other for?
Louis: An expedition can be a tough place for any relationship and will certainly find any cracks. We have found ourselves in many potentially life threatening situations. When exploring these environments you need a solid, steadfast, reliable wing-man at your side – Ant is a serious dude!
Ant: We have been through some serious shit over the past two years. From bargaining our way out of having our heads blown off in Papua New Guinea to walking through communities ravaged by a plague outbreak in Madagascar. After going through all that together Louis feels more like my brother now and we operate extremely well once each journey gets underway. Having a calm, level headed oppo next to you when things aren’t going according to plan is priceless.
EXPEDITION FIVE WEAR
Keep up-to-date with their journey: expedition5.co.uk/exp5blog