McDiarmid reflects on Greenland quest

After traveling a total of 4,262 kilometres in distance, over 2,100 metres in altitude and back down to just five metres, Devon McDiarmid still hasn't made it home. The Whitehorse adventurer is in Denmark, visiting family and getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

After traveling a total of 4,262 kilometres in distance, over 2,100 metres in altitude and back down to just five metres, Devon McDiarmid still hasn’t made it home.

The Whitehorse adventurer is in Denmark, visiting family and getting some much needed rest and relaxation.

McDiarmid and fellow Yukoner Derek Crowe, as well as British adventurer Adrian Hayes, are all nursing their tired bodies after kite-skiing the length of Greenland, traveling from the very bottom to the very top and partway back down again.

After 67 days on snow and ice, McDiarmid is looking forward to returning to Whitehorse, where he can catch up with family and friends and perhaps have a pint or two.

“I missed the summer; I missed all the events, friends, trails, and my dog,” wrote McDiarmid in an e-mail to the News. “Once I get back to Whitehorse, I think I’ll have a Yukon Red, go for a ride with my dog, then maybe have another Red!”

The trio of adventurers, who finished their lengthy trek on Sunday, encountered a plethora of obstacles during their trip, such as getting the right winds to power their kites. However, their last day of travel was their slowest.

The weary kite-skiers had to climb down from the ice-cap over jagged rock faces. It took 13 hours to make the descent.

“We didn’t know how long it would take, but we did know we had only that day to get to the end,” wrote McDiarmid. “We were ready to move for 24 hours if needed. Thirteen hours was long and very tough, but with every hour we could see a little more of our final goal. That kept us going.

“It was the first and only time we could actually see ahead to where we had to go. Every other day was just GPS points on a big white canvas.”

It was a quest for adventure, but also a quest for science. Working with an environmental group called One Planet Living and some Danish and Canadian polar researchers, the trio collected samples, did density testing on snow and observed wildlife on the journey.

Earlier this week, climatologists have reaffirmed findings that Greenland’s glaciers are the fastest melting ice masses in the northern hemisphere, with the island’s largest glacier, Sermersuaq, retreating 10 kilometres over the last decade. But the effects of global warming are not immediately evident, according to McDiarmid.

“To go, and see the effects of global warming is hard, but the people who live there and depend on the ice, they can tell you,” he wrote. “The first people we saw were on our last day! They were a local Inuit people out to hunt and fish. They told us how it was the warmest summer they ever remember, how it was the first time they hadn’t been able to hunt any seals, because the seals were not in this particular fiord, because it was too warm for the seals. Also, they described the how big the glaciers were, even only five years ago.”

Although warmer temperatures are effecting Greenland’s landscape, the Inuit whom the kite-skiers encountered at the end of their journey were unchanged by modern technology, which surprised McDiarmid.

“I was surprised by the local people and how they lived,” said McDiarmid. “The local Inuit decided to hunt using traditional ways. As in, they only use kayaks to hunt seals and whales and they only use dog sled teams to hunt (on land)—not Ski Doos! This is a decision that they made themselves. It is very important that they only take what they need.

“We could all learn a lesson from that, including our local First Nations. The people are proud, and healthy.”

The Greenland quest was first dreamed up by McDiarmid and Hayes over a year ago when the two were completing an expedition to the South Pole. However, the Greenland trip must have been more demanding, because they were too exhausted to plan more adventures.

“Adrian and I did come up with this trip while finishing our expedition to the South Pole,” said McDiarmid. “This year, however, we did not talk much about a joint trip. I think the dreaming was overshadowed by how tired we were at the end of this. None of us had energy to dream.

“However, I can’t sit still, and neither can the guys.”

Contact Tom Patrick at

tomp@yukon-news.com