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Aventure
Traversée du Groenland en autonomie, partie 1 :  Comment s'alimenter par – 30 ° C ?

Crossing Greenland independently, part 1: How to eat at -30°C?

Only ten crews per year attempt to cross Greenland from west to east. Along the Arctic Circle, conditions are extreme and resupply points are non-existent. In such an environment, to continue moving forward, diet plays a determining role. In May 2018, the 5 apprentice adventurers from the Engagés team set off to attack this route for their very first polar expedition. Organization, preparation of rations, feelings, management of the unexpected, we return with them to their crazy experience in the white desert.

Crossing Greenland with MX3

In May 2018, 5 entrepreneurs are going to cross Greenland from West to East in total autonomy. How was this crazy project born and organized?


The genesis


At the origin of the Engagés project, a simple bet between two friends , a challenge thrown into the air during a hike in the Morvan. The idea gained ground and the prospect of measure ourselves against the Great North and against ourselves was more than tempting. A year later, we are propelled to Kangerlussuak, ready to cross Greenland from West to East , in total autonomy. This is how a seemingly crazy idea can turn into a real project and an incredible adventure when taken seriously. So, dare!


The team


At that time we were only two apprentice adventurers and still had to recruit teammates to build the Engaged team ! We therefore launched a call for volunteers on social networks and via our Facebook page. We were surprised to receive around twenty applications. We selected the people to whom we felt closest and who shared our values: commitment and humility . The five of us then carried out several preparation expeditions which allowed us to discover ourselves more and get up to speed before the big departure.


Equipment


The first difficulty in preparation was gathering the polar equipment . We knew nothing about the industry and quickly discovered the importance of high-tech equipment. to be able to face the extreme conditions that awaited us. At the cost of many trips back and forth to Au Vieux Campeur, we finally brought together our very cold gear .


Hard training, easy war!


Of course, we could not ignore a intensive training . We knew that the challenge would firstly be physical , but also and especially mental . We therefore had to prepare ourselves to hold out, to endure, to face extreme and constant cold, the solitude of long hours of walking in silence , and the loss of our bearings facing the white infinity.


Fuel


And finally, it was necessary to attack the sinews of the war: the design and preparation of food rations daily.


For such an expedition, with extreme weather and physical conditions, many parameters (calorie intake, micro/macro nutrients, weight, etc.) must be taken into account to construct your diet optimally, how did you prepare your rations for 30 days of total autonomy?


The preparation of food rations for this type of extreme adventure is very technical, you must understand the context: 550 km to be covered on foot on the ice cap, a hostile and unpredictable environment and temperatures between -10°C and -30°C in real life, from which the effect of the wind must also be subtracted. We had no other choice but to leave in total autonomy because there is not a soul living in this icy desert, and therefore no resupply point . To meet these environmental constraints, our pack weighed 90 kg which we dragged on two pulkas .


Crossing Greenland means managing your energy stock intelligently so as not to end up in ice cubes


In a polar expedition, the Energy loss is twofold . The body uses the energy provided by food to maintain an optimal temperature , and thus guarantee the maintenance of vital functions , and for respond to physical effort : move forward and pull the pulkas. Designing the perfect ration therefore means finding the the most balanced possible ratio between nutritional value, weight and speed .


During our adventure, I was able to judge the pressure of the polar environment and the impact of the cold on the body. by deciding to increase my speed of progress at 3 km/h. This detail, which under normal conditions may seem trivial, had some serious consequences on my day: increased heart rate , sweating and a outgoing energy flow that can no longer be filled by food intake planned daily. Hence the importance of clearly defining the energy loss and food parameters during the preparation phase and sticking to them.


After numerous specialized readings and on the wise advice of our guide, we determined an optimal ratio of 5000 kcal per 1 kg for our daily rations. It was also important for us to have varied, tasty and practical rations.

Each ration included food for a pair for a day and was broken down as follows:


We made them into a compact, rectangular set . This allowed us to easily store them in our pulkas and weigh down the bottom to balance them . Rations, like gasoline, also served as a standard of weight . These are the elements that we could easily distribute between the pulkas if necessary. When one of the teammates was down, for example following the 3 km/h episode, a certain number of rations were distributed to the other pulkas in order to relieve him.


90 kg is the weight of a pulka at the start of the expedition. Each gram must be stretched over 550km. Under these conditions, each element is weighed and the ration is no exception to the rule. A single slogan : lots of energy and little weight


5 team members, 5 different physical profiles, and therefore different energy needs, how did you take this factor into account when organizing your rations?


We didn't take it into account and it was a mistake. The lightest among us weighed 70kg and the largest 90kg. Between the skinny cat and the viking, there was a world of difference. And yet, we had planned identical rations . The Viking found himself literally torn by hunger halfway through the expedition. He had great difficulty rationing himself and gobbled up everything he could get his hands on. After 3 hours of walking, his stock of shopping supplies was empty and his stomach remembered his good memories. This state of dietary stress even led him to abuse the collective stock of butter, discreetly of course! The expedition therefore faced a shortage of this precious butter a week before the arrival date, which penalized everyone. The lack of food is a real suffering in Greenland. The long hours of walking in absolute cold and in a monotonous landscape plunge the mind into a sort of wandering where it focuses on the slightest sensation of the body . Conversely, our skinny cat was storing food throughout the expedition, he was in a surplus situation. You will tell me that all this is not optimal. You are right !


Did you have the opportunity to test your rations before the big departure? If so, have you made any adjustments to your original plan?


It is difficult to test the entire ration because it is only suitable for the polar environment and it must prove itself over time. These are two conditions that we could not meet. However, we tested some elements . Chinese noodles, so as to determine whether to take two packets or three packets. We decided to get three packs. We also tested the MX3 freeze-dried products, we wanted to make sure we chose the recipes that would delight our palates after a day of polar effort, and test the cooking times .


We also tried to get used to Gerblés and their taste because they would form the basis of our diet in Greenland. Then, on a personal level, I also trained myself to drink olive oil and eat butter to get my body used to digesting these heavy materials. I took with me 3 liters of olive oil in addition to the rations. I distributed them in the form of ice cubes to the three tents after long days of walking. I used up the three liters in 15 days.

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