Chilli start to an icy day in Greenland

Adrian Hayes and his kite-skiing companions have found themselves drifting too far east in their attempt to travel the length of the island

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi - May 6th, 2009:  Polar explorer Adrian Hayes wearing his jacket and holding skis he will be using during his trip to Greenland.  (Galen Clarke/The National) for oasis 
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MANDITORY CREDIT: Galen Clarke / The National *** Local Caption ***  GC01_06052009_Greenland.jpg al12ma-oasisGREENLAND1.jpg
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Chilli con carne may not be everyone's ideal breakfast choice, but as Adrian Hayes and his teammates prepared for their 26th day on the ice in temperatures as low as minus 22°C no one seemed very bothered about table etiquette.

As the three men defy the elements on their way up the Greenland ice sheet, a rota for cooking duties as well as for where they sleep - they take turns with a cordoned-off section of their long tent that allows one man his own sleeping space while the other two have to share the other end - is one attempt to eliminate possible tension-builders. On Sunday morning it was Hayes's turn to cook. "I love them so much, I'm going to cook a feast," Hayes laughed in a call to The National via satellite telephone.

It's a good sign that Hayes is laughing after yet another challenging week for the team, who are trying to kite-ski the length of the world's second largest ice-sheet with limited food and fuel in freezing temperatures. With seven days of either no wind or light breezes from the wrong direction, they have found themselves drifting farther east than north. "In the last six or seven days we've had pretty much light winds or south-easterly winds. We have had a couple of days where we have not been able to move at all," Hayes said.

"When the winds are light you haven't got a lot of choice about which direction you go. "When they're much stronger you can use different kites, you have much more flexibility, but when they're very light you can go 90 degrees off the direction they're blowing from." As a result, the team has drifted off course, and for the past few days they have been desperately trying to claw their way back west again.

"There is a fair bit of strategy in crossing Greenland in comparison to crossing the other ice caps where you pretty much get up every day and pull the sled north, no matter what the weather. "With this you have to take into account what wind speed there is, what direction, which kites you use, how far east or west you go and what elevation you go up to." The best and fastest route north, he said, was westerly because it allowed them to take advantage of the katabatic winds, which "blow down off the high plateaus, down to the coast".

The stop-start nature of the past few days had been frustrating. "When there is no wind you say, 'Right, it's a rest day', you can't do anything about it," he said. "But when it's a strong wind and there's no visibility, that's a bit frustrating, or when the strong winds are blowing in a different direction." The longest stop so far has been two days. "The first day is OK - you sleep, relax and listen to the iPod, but on the second day you start to chomp at the bit. None of us brought a book because we were saving on weight. Derek brought a book on his iPhone.

"So you just think, you sort out your equipment, you look at your map for the 50th time, you write a blog for the 50th time, and you listen to your iPod and the same music for the 50th time." Since they reached the Arctic Circle a little over a week ago temperatures have plummeted to - 22°C in the mornings - with the windchill factor making it feel twice as cold. But despite the hardships, Hayes and his teammates Devon McDiarmid and Derek Crowe remain awestruck by the beauty of the island.

"Greenland is a fascinating land of ice," he said. "There is nothing to see apart from white or blue or the odd aeroplane flying above. "It is very different to Antarctica. It looks like it has been groomed. Like a ski slope. It is very flat, fantastic snow conditions. "We just see it as the largest ski run in the world, except it's flat." loatway@thenational.ae