Greenland expedition sets Guinness record

Whitehorse's Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, along with British teammate Adrian Hayes, were recently awarded world records for the longest Arctic unsupported snow kiting expedition.

Two Yukoners are world record holders, says the Guinness Book of World Records.

Whitehorse’s Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe, along with British teammate Adrian Hayes, were recently awarded world records for the longest Arctic unsupported snow kiting expedition.

“Adrian had said that he thought there might be a chance of setting a record, but we were not sure of the details,” wrote McDiarmid in an e-mail to the News. “We were not intentionally trying to set one. It was more of a byproduct of the expedition.”

In a trip that would take 67 days ending July 25, 2009, the three adventurers kite-skied from the base of Greenland, all the way to the top, and part way back down to MacCormick Fjord near Qaanaq, traveling the record setting distance of 3,120 kilometres – well, sort of.

“The actual distance we travelled was a lot farther than 3,120 kilometres because we were being measured in a straight line – as the crow flies,” said Crowe. “As a matter of fact, we travelled over 4,000 kilometres.

“When you’re traveling with the wind, you can only very rarely travel to where you want to go. You have to tack and drive, depending on how the conditions are.”

Crowe’s comment is best exemplified by the threesome’s final stretch to Qaanaq from the northern tip, one day traveling more than 150 kilometres to achieve just 30 kilometres of progress.

“We were tacking upwind,” said Crowe. “At that point we were starting to ration our food because we didn’t know if we’d get out in less than 70 days. So we were in better condition to kite 150 kilometres than walk 30 kilometres in a straight line up wind.”

Heading down to Qaanaq, the three had more to deal with than unco-operative wind and a 2,100-metre decent, so much so, the two Yukoners agree it’ll be a long time before they attempt that route again.

“I still remember it all like it was yesterday,” wrote McDiarmid. “The hardest part of that expedition was the last leg of the journey. We had winds in the wrong direction, bad ground, including crevasses, short on time, and no sign of any of it getting better. This was a 1,000-kilometres worth!

“I really do not think I would do that same trip again. Another trip on Greenland for sure, but not that same route.”

Kite-skiing from southern tip to the most northern reaches of the country, which had been done before by other adventurers, was the “easy part,” said Crowe. “I wouldn’t do that second part of the trip again.”

The record is a first for the two Yukoners, but not for Hayes. The British adventurer who resides in Dubia, UAE, holds a world record for visiting the Earth’s “three poles” in the shortest period of time. In 19 months and three days, he hiked to both the North and South poles and reached the summit of Mount Everest. In fact, Hayes’ journey to the South Pole was led by McDiarmid, who just left Chile for his sixth expedition to the pole.

“There is a rich history of explores in the Yukon, and in the North, I like to think that I’m helping keep that part of our culture going,” wrote McDiarmid.

If you would like to go on a similar expedition, consider this: as a Yukoner, you already have a bunch of training to call on, said Crowe.

“In the Yukon we just call it keeping warm over the winter,” said Crowe. “The conditions we go through, just over the past few days, getting to work every day, really do prepare you quite well. You just don’t have a wood stove or a house at the end of the day.

“We know how to deal with the snow and the cold.

“I know a bunch of people who could have done this Greenland expedition.”

While McDiarmid heads south, Crowe has his own plans for the winter. Once again going unsupported, Crowe will be doing some “extreme descents” of the bunny hill at Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna over the Christmas break with his two-year-old daughter.

“And we’ll do Mt. Sima when we get back,” said Crowe.

“Yukon has some outstanding kiting conditions for training for these kind of expeditions,” he added. “You’d be hard pressed to find a better location in the world that is this close to amenities and an airport.”

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com