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Aventure
Traversée du Groenland en autonomie, partie 2 :  5000 calories jour et 8 kg perdus

Crossing Greenland independently, part 2: 5000 calories per day and 8 kg lost

During your expedition, what role did food play in your days?


Food played a crucial role during these 30 days of walking in a polar environment. It is even this parameter that punctuated our days. Imagine walking ten hours a day, carrying a 90kg load, at -30°C in a landscape of infinite white without any external stimulation. Meal or snack breaks then represent not only an interruption in the monotony of progress, but also one of the few pleasures of the day.


We ate two meals a day, one in the morning and one in the evening and stopped about every hour for a snack. It was therefore essential for us that our rations were not only fuel but that they gave us real taste pleasure. Everyone had their favorite recipe, Thomas fell for the chicken colombo, Lucas for the bolognese pasta and me, my guilty pleasure, was the fondue with its little croutons.


Meals were all the more appreciated as they were the reward for so much effort. Because unlike the ease we experience in our daily lives, in a polar environment, eating has a price. Before we could enjoy our meals, we had to melt ice by handling the frozen stove, feed it with gasoline and watch the fire on our knees or lying down, facing the cold pit.


For our two meals, quickly devoured, we spent 4 hours a day cooking. And during breaks, to enjoy our snacks, we had to take out the shopping supplies, take off one or two pairs of gloves, take handfuls, chew them, drink from the stove, then put everything back in the pulka at the end . All these gestures are repeated a thousand times and take considerable energy.


Still regarding your food, during your organization phase, how did you manage the possibility of unforeseen events that could extend the duration of your expedition? Then, how did you control it in a real situation when you learned that the helicopter that was supposed to extract you would not be able to land within the expected time frame?


We thought we could complete the expedition in 30 days maximum, including 3 days of downtime due to storms. We had taken 31 rations. This was without taking into account the unpredictability of Greenland. We suffered 5 days of storms and faced hundreds of kilometers of soft snow, headwinds, often in whiteout. We have not been able to make up for this delay. On the thirtieth day, we arrived, exhausted, at the extraction point and learned that the helicopter refused to land due to the weather conditions.


The thick layer of clouds prevents him from seeing the ground, he risks crashing. The only window of good weather determined at that time was only 4 days later, so we arranged for the 31st ration to last 4 days. Each tent distributes the food in its own way, with uncertainty. But in the end, luck smiled on us and we woke up 24 hours later to a beautiful clear blue sky. After the first rotation of the helicopter, in the euphoria of the moment, we could not resist the temptation to treat ourselves to a little feast with the remaining food, we had to celebrate!


How did you live afterwards? What assessment do you draw from your organization in terms of food (quantity, general state of health, weight loss, etc.) and how did the transition from rationing to resuming a "normal" diet go on your return? ?


Returning to a normal diet is difficult. At the end of the expedition, the possibility of having access to varied food in large quantities is a heavy challenge for the digestive system. For example, when we arrived in Tasilak, we had a feast around the hotel's all-you-can-eat buffet. Several of us experienced uncontrolled vomiting. This phenomenon continued for several days for one of us. We must imagine that the body has become accustomed to a diet regulated to the nearest gram and with imperturbable regularity. He feels mistreated. Well, that didn't stop me from enjoying a tartare on my return to France!


Weight loss is one of the highlights of the expedition. I lost around 8kg, that is to say I went from a weight of 80kg to 72kg. I wasn't heavy though. This is where we realize that the caloric intake of our rations was insufficient. I was in a calorie deficit during the entire expedition. That is to say, my body was spending more calories in heat loss and effort than it was receiving in compensation through food. To compensate, he burned fat and especially muscle. I came back very thin and very weak even though I had built up good physical condition after months of training.


When we returned, we weren't sure what a good nutritional rehabilitation program might be.


We all came back from Greenland with butter psychosis. Butter is the most caloric element with olive oil, a real sesame. Plus, life insurance. The fact of having rationed it strictly, slice by slice, and of having run out of it at the end of the expedition following an unfair sharing, has truly transformed our relationship with butter. We still abuse it today at breakfast and we accuse each other of having stolen the last stick of butter of the expedition, although one of us half-heartedly confessed his fault, months later. the return of the shipment.


During this first polar expedition, you acquired a whole new expertise and understanding of this environment. What will you do differently for your next polar expedition?


We have already started thinking about the next ration for the expedition which will have to evolve. The Engagé ration must meet the following qualities.



- An ultra-efficient organization of the elements in the bag to save time: the Engagé ration must be a protocol to be followed with your eyes closed. No questions to ask, everything takes place in a precise order, the right order.

- Maximum elimination of packaging: do not burden us with unnecessary weight for shipping, in the form of trash cans that weigh up to 5 kg per person! So favor bulk for certain items.

- Preparation of food in advance: Chinese noodles already crushed, for example.

- Improved calorie/weight ratio: more butter and olive oil – the latter needs to be better compartmentalized, we had it in ice cubes which is not practical, ½ pack of Chinese noodles per person in addition, fruit/almond pastes, etc.

- Progress in the nutritional value of rations over time, particularly for oil and butter, so as to accustom the body to digesting these fats and increasing calories over the course of shipment, when needs are greater important and the body begins to draw on its reserves.

- “Surprise” rations to occasionally introduce a delightful novelty for the palate. But before putting all this into practice during our next polar expedition, we will also discover the challenges of nutrition in high mountains for our first attempt to climb Aconcagua, 6962 m of physical challenge. Stay tuned to discover our feedback on the MX3 blog!

Crossing Greenland part2

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