Alone Across Greenland
Credit: Sebastian Copeland
"Come again?" screamed Eric, not five feet from me. "The spindrift is entombing the tent!" I shouted back. The winds had been hurling buckets of drift at the sidewalls of the tent, pinning us down for a sixth consecutive day. The tent had been violently shaking, day in and day out, with an onslaught of winds reaching 80 miles an hour; the resulting decibels offered a taste of what camping inside a roaring jet engine might feel like. With the accumulating walls of snowdrift hardening into ice, it would be extremely difficult to excavate the tent without damaging it, even once the storm passed. And a damaged tent is all you need to compromise an expedition – to save weight, we brought no backup. It was times like these when I admired the design ingenuity of the sum of nylon cloth, four poles, and a few guidelines to anchor them, which together amount to an oasis of relative tranquility amid such utter external chaos. Under siege from the wind and ice relentlessly coming at us from all directions, inside that little red dot of a Hilleberg tent, you can still enjoy a mean cup of tea.

In the midst of a powerful windstorm on the ice, it's easy to be awed by this grand natural theater. There is undeniable poetry in the violent and chaotic expression of nature's forces. The drift galloping over the ice resonates of Valkyries from a wild avant-garde ballet. Backlit by the sun's low rays, the sheet of liquid smoke glows like a cloudscape time-lapse photograph. And what could be seen as a frigid and threatening environment turns into an ethereal dance: delicate, evocative, and graceful.

But we'd been stuck for 144 consecutive hours, and short on reading material, we itched to move on. Our chance finally came on the morning of the seventh day. It had started in the manner to which we had grown accustomed – howling winds, tent flapping, and some measure of discouragement – but conditions had suddenly pulled back. When we stepped out of the tent, the spindrift was gone, the sun was shining, and the wind had softened enough to allow for standing straight and walking without pantomime. After four hours of excavating the tent from the icy clasp, we set off on foot, determined to regain control of the narrative.

Within an hour, we were even able to set our small kites. Only by the time we pulled them out, the wind had dropped so much that it was time to rig bigger. And in the time it took to set the larger kites, the wind shut off entirely. Not a breath. We saw no better option but to set up camp again, less than a mile from where we'd slept the previous night. No sooner had we made a new, comfortable home than the tent's fabric started gently flapping, and yet again we found ourselves packing up camp, laying out the lines of our 12-meter Yakuza kites, stepping into our bindings, and clipping the sledges' carabiners into our harnesses.

There is a feeling you get when the lines tighten and the nylon sail fills with air and lifts off. The ice begins to glide below your skis and the tug on the harness propels you forward. It is a feeling that has prevailed through the ages since Icarus. It is called flying. And flying feels a lot like freedom.

Greenland had beaten us into submission before playing nice.