x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Final Arctic push no walk in park

Worsening conditions stand between Hayes's men and their final goal

The last leg of Adrian Hayes's trans-Greenland expedition is proving one of the most dangerous so far, as the ice beneath his team's feet grows more treacherous, and hunger and fatigue worsen. The trio of adventurers - Hayes, Derek Crowe and Devon McDiarmid - have been running the gauntlet of crevasses, cracks in the ice often impossible to see and potentially fatal to the unwary explorer.

At one point McDiarmid slipped into a seemingly bottomless crevasse, but managed to avoid falling by clinging to packed snow. Then, on Monday night, the whole team had a lucky escape. With visibility almost down to zero during a blizzard, the men narrowly avoided plunging into a much larger crevasse. McDiarmid saw the gaping hole just metres ahead of the team; the gap was visible only because of the way the snow was blowing over it.

"Literally, if we had gone a few feet more we would have gone straight into this hole," Hayes said on Wednesday evening. "I walked over to it a little later and I couldn't see the bottom. It was four or five metres across and just a massive cavern right in our path. It was incredible." A mishap more than 50 days ago, before the men even embarked on their record expedition, perhaps offered a clue that things were never going to be easy. The start of their journey towards the world's second-largest ice sheet was delayed when luggage containing vital equipment, including skis, missed a connecting flight between Canada and Iceland.

Further teething problems followed in the first few days of the expedition, as the team grappled with the difficulty of controlling their kite skis in winds hitting gale force. On Sunday, the Dubai-based polar explorer and his teammates became only the second group in history to traverse that stretch of frozen terrain south to north unsupported. They now have less than 900km to go to their final destination. If they manage the last leg of the trip, it will be the longest unsupported Arctic journey.

arichardson@thenational.ae Follow Adrian Hayes' expedition at www.thenational.ae/greenland