The Dream of the Greenland Crossing part 2

On the 29th of July 2020, Tord Are Meisterplass and his team left the safe village of Kangerlussuaq with the goal of becoming the world's first tetraplegic (spinal cord injury in the neck) to cross the Greenland ice sheet on skis. Read the final chapter of their impressive story.

Take off


After being stuck in Kangerlussuaq due to bad weather conditions for nearly a week, the helicopter finally got a green light. Things immediately started to move fast. I delivered my wheelchair to the post office for the longest period away from it ever. The mood among the guys was magical. It was a
fantastic feeling to see everything come into place and the team together for one goal.

Everyone was stoked!

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Tord Are Meisterplass and his team had finally made it to the second largest ice body in the world, the Greenland Ice Sheet. He was about to start a world record attempt, 5 years in the planning. He wanted to become the first tetraplegic in the world to cross the ice sheet. The helicopter took them 40 km onto the ice cap to avoid the worst rivers and water systems. There was a lot more water than they expected, but were eventually able to find a good spot for the drop off.

After all the noise, shaking and cheering, it was strange when the helicopter disappeared on the
horizon and it suddenly became quiet and calm. There was a moment when the seriousness of the
situation subsided and one could see it in each other’s eyes. Now we’re here!

Rivercrossing

Shortly after starting they encountered the first of many rivers they had to cross. The beauty and intensity of the water’s blue color flowing past them took their breath away. But they had to keep moving, and the job of finding a safe crossing was time consuming. Teams of two went opposite
ways along the river a kilometer to scout and then meet again to agree on which path to choose.

“Chaos erupted behind me and movement in the ice below me. Erlend immediately understood the seriousness and started towards land. Erlend’s sledge went through the ice, and there was no
chance that I could stop before I went down the hole. “All or nothing” I thought, shouting “Erlend, GO!” and took one stroke before I leaned back and hoped the buoyancy would carry the sledge and
me over what was now open water. Luck and speed carried me up over the water and up on the ice.”

After the first days of intense river crossing the team gradually got used to the routines, the equipment and each other. They were beginning to feel confident, and at the last river crossing they even took the time to strip down and jump into the water.

Temperature

They experienced all different climates. One day the sun was blazing hot and the team walked in their underwear to cool down. For a couple of hours it felt like summer vacation, but suddenly Tord collapsed. The heat had hit him hard. The others managed to get him into cover and his body managed to cool down on the tent floor. Because of Tords injury his body does not sweat and exchange heat as well as before the accident. When he gets cold or warm it’s harder for him to control and to compensate for without external heat or cooling sources. So on the warm day he was in dire need of snow to cool down, and on the really cold days it was very important to keep his body temperature high.

This fact, and several unfortunate circumstances lead to the accident that forced Tord to leave the ice halfway.

Infection

The day started early with a stunning sun rise and super crisp conditions. The temperature was below – 20 degrees with sharp freezing wind. The Norønna goretex jacket and bib really showed
its strengths in these cold conditions. Tord had issues with keeping his hands warm and they would later swell up because of the cold. Tord had to call for a stop after the 7th leg. He had serious spasms in his stomach – something was wrong.
Even begun right away to inspect Tord, and discovered there was no urine in his bag since the last check, 3 hours earlier. Too high pressure in the bladder can result in damages in the kidney and bladder wall itself. This was critical. The catheter tube was blocked by a sudden bend so no urine could pass. When opened the catheter filled up 1,4 liters in matters of seconds, damaging the bladder wall and creating
internal rifts.

“I’m so exited! Today we’re going to reach the summit! The conditions was really good, but Tord
was really heavy today. Its really cold, but we’ll manage. Even came over to us and asked for
help to get Tord to eat more. He did not think he managed to keep up with what he needed. Suddenly in the middle of the third leg Snorre calls for a stop. Tord speaks slowly and sloppy and he is starting to get hypothermia. Everything happens really fast from here. We put up the
camp to stabilize Tord. He is in a lot of pain and does not look good. There is a lot of blood in his urine and we decided to call his doctor.” (Erlend)

Things escalated really fast. Tords symptoms clearly showed an urinary tract infection, but there
was also a small risk for development into sepsis. Heavy weather was expected the next days, so this was the time to make the tough decision. Evacuation now or trust Tords body, with good
help from antibiotics, to take care of it.

“..It hurts not to finish.”, final thoughts from Tord

In the crucial moments, the mood in the tent was somber, no one wanted to give up. We
had planned for this situation, had the right equipment and the right medicine. The decision to continue was almost made. But in the end, the decision was made for us. For better or worse. Our home base consulted each other, did as they were supposed to and put their foot down. For me and the boys, it was the worst, but safest result – and a long, sad flight west to the hospital in Sisimiut.
Reflecting back, it is all in the preparations. How important it was to build a strong home
base that can make the right decisions when the team is uncertain. Because the team on the ice had such an enormous will and drive to continue and finish, it is not certain we saw the whole picture clearly. You get tunnel vision when you have worked for so long and so much with a project like this.
Ultimately, I feel we did everything right with the information we had there and then. But the outcome still disappoints me enormously. At the same time, I am very proud of the security
system we built up around the trip, which came in at such a difficult time and worked
excellent. I think this is the most important aspect of such a trip. Safety always comes first. My time on the ice went beyond all expectations and better than expected. It was an
amazing experience and I can’t wait for the next adventure! I just hope it’s a tad bit more
successful.

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