After 66 days and a 4,090km trek across some of the most hostile terrain in the world, the explorer Adrian Hayes is today due to complete his record quest to conquer the length of Greenland by wind power. Mr Hayes, a Dubai-based Briton, and his two Canadian teammates are expected to arrive in the small town of Qaanaaq, on Greenland's north-west coast, barring any last-minute hitches, as they race for the finish and the history books.
If they make it today, they will have completed their quest in just one day more than their projected upper target of 65 - the team's earlier, more optimistic figure of 40 days having fallen by the wayside because of bad weather and unkind changes in wind. Their journey from the Atlantic to the Arctic Ocean by kite-ski, at speeds up to 50kph while hauling 150kg sledges, has been along a route never previously attempted.
Writing on his blog yesterday on the website of The National, the expedition's official media partner, Mr Hayes said the team was 40km from the finish after pushing ahead in the dark the previous evening. "Walked six hours through the night in total calm, then had an hour of completely unexpected wind to travel a total of 48km," he wrote. "Now within 40km of the finish and the mountains and sea are visible. And yes, we are unfortunately camped amongst crevasses - probing them with my ski resulted in it disappearing into thin air.
"Huge thanks for all the messages, they are really appreciated." In the last few days, the men have been battling through the most treacherous part of their route: the moraine, a stretch of glacial rocks and rubble, which would test them to their limits and where a mistake could cost them their lives as they fight against physical and mental exhaustion. "We've got to haul our sledges over all these rocks and boulders. They are going to be pretty trashed by the time we get down this thing," said Mr Hayes, 46, who has previously been to the North and South poles and the summit of Mount Everest.
A former officer in the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas, Mr Hayes and his fellow adventurers, Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, set out on May 20 with no outside help, and carrying everything they would need for the journey with them, including the freeze-dried food that has kept them going. Along the way, they have collected information on the effects of global warming. Their feat is even more remarkable for the setbacks that they have faced. The start was delayed after luggage carrying vital equipment missed a connecting flight, and there was a brush with disaster when Mr Hayes almost lost a ski wading through melted glacial water during a gale.
The men have, no doubt, been spurred on to the finish by the thought of missing their flight and being stuck in Greenland. Mr Hayes had earlier revealed on his blog that he had booked a flight for Monday, the only one out of Qaanaaq for a week. With the next flight fully booked, the team face a two-week wait to leave if they do not make it in time. From Qaanaaq, they will be reunited with members of their support team in Copenhagen, before going their separate ways. Mr Hayes, who lives in Dubai with his wife and two children, will first travel to the UK.