Børge Ousland and Vincent Colliard started their expedition on the 20th of April 2016. They first embarked onboard a Cessna 185 with all their gear and flew over the icecap all the way to the start point, Novatak area at approx. 59′ 24”53N 138′ 22” 23W. From there, they started skiing and pulling their sleds for about 430 kilometers all the way to Miles area 60’40”32N 144′ 36”00W.
A the end of the crossing, Børge and Vincent have reached Miles Lake and the Million Dollar Bridge. From there they went down the Copper river, paddling on their rafts for 30 to 40 kilometers before the pick up point. As a self-supported expedition, they carried food and fuel for an estimated journey of approximatively 40 days. But the expedition was completed in 20 days!
Distance crossed on ice: 430 km
Journey duration: 19 days on ice + 1 day rafting
SAINT-ELIAS WRANGELL ICE FIELD
Shared between Alaska and Canada, St Elias Wrangell Mountains Range ice field is the largest non-polar glacier in the world with a total of 31.700 square kilometers and up to 1 kilometer thickness. Registered as UNESCO World Heritage and International Biosphere Reserve, it nourishes many valley glaciers that drain down both sides of the range. Plate tectonics are responsible for the uplift of the mountain ranges that cross the ice field. Its extreme high point is Mount St. Elias at 5,489 m, the second tallest mountain in both the United States and Canada.
Rich and diverse
he animal life is quite rich in the area including black bears, wolves, brown bears, and caribou. Mountain goats and Dall sheep are found in mountainous areas. Many different species of fish and bird are also present in the region.
Sailing and rafting
To take advantage of the numerous wide ski corridors the glacier provides, the adventurers will use a sail that will allow them to progress faster. They are also carrying 2 light rafts in order to paddle down the Copper river and reach pick-up point.
Mid April 2016, Børge Ousland and Vincent Colliard met Dr. Jeffrey M. Welker, Professor of Biological Sciences from the university of Anchorage, in order to work together. The idea is about sampling snow for the spatial variation in “black carbon”, snow water isotopes, and using radar to examine glacier ice properties during the expedition.
Consequently, the explorers will proceed to daily sampling all along their expedition and bring the samples and data back to professor Welker for future studies.
Out of the tent this morning, wind blowing but less than the day before when we stayed in the tent the whole day. With 3 reefs in the sail we covered 14km, lots of wet powder on the way which made the skiing pretty hard… Stopped sailing because wind too strong. It became very tricky to stop sailing when the wind kept on rising. We were both lying on the ground. Later in the day, we tried to sail again. Same story. We got ready with the set up but gusts became too strong so we had to pack down and continue skiing. The instability of the wind was nerve racking.
We have successfully crossed St Elias-Wrangell ice field ending today after 19 days of intense adventures. But the expedition continues for at least two more days. Tomorrow we hope to ski on the frozen lake of Miles and reach the “Million Dollar Bridge”. From there we will inflate our rafts and paddle approx 20 km on the Copper River… Time of the year when grizzlies come out of their den ;-)! See you tomorrow, cheers! Steps 33469. Today 23 km with beautiful weather. Hard snow in the morning. Scenery incredible, felt very fortunate. Big wild nature Alaska.
Today was very special. Rain most of the day but what an incredible day. We managed to ski all the way to the Million Dollar Bridge, first on the frozen lake of Miles and then on some sand banks covered with a thin layer of snow. On the way saw Black bear walking along the shore, mellow guy. Before that we saw some big grizzly tracks but not the bear himself responsible for this big footsteps in the snow. We got to visit the bridge, huge work accomplished 100 years ago by the workers. It served for a train to transport copper from mines in the north. Pitched the tent nearby the river, then it started to clear up. Last night in the tent, party was on !! Chocolate, cognac, cigars and Borge’s birthday! Had to celebrate it in advance since Vince carried presents all the way across the glacier and since they might have been on the ice 31st of May in the beginning. Tomorrow looks very exciting too!! Have to get our rafts the water and paddle down 20km of the Copper River before being picked up in the evening. Weather looks great! Hurrahh ;-)
During the whole expedition, we carried an extra 2,5kg raft. We made a catamaran with them in order to increase the stability on the river. After couple of small white water, we reached the calm part of the Copper River. We didn’t do anything for the next 15km, letting the raft rotate 360 degrees on itself and riding down smoothly on the main channel of the river. Bold eagles, geese and seals were probably wondering what the two smelly adventurers were doing… We then crossed a bridge where we were picked up. Time to get back to civilization and enjoy a good fresh beer well deserved. Cheers!!