Alone Across Greenland
Credit: Sebastian Copeland
Greenland is a country of impressions. Sparse. Profound. And pure. To the casual observer, the ice may look monotonous, a tediously repetitive blanket of white that stretches agonizingly in all directions. In reality, this frozen land reveals itself in its multitude of subtle details, forever changing with the light and the dynamics of the day. I can honestly say that over the course of a month and a half, I do not recall seeing the same vista twice. The shift in colors, in shadows, in terrain gives each hour its own visual identity, its own glorious splendor.

Like all deserts, it celebrates details and challenges the mind to fill its proverbial void. A desert is the landscape of the imaginary and the sacred. It is where you go to have conversations with God; the serene feeling of being deeply immersed in this magnificent frozen world, riding for hours, relying only on the wind's power, leaves much room for contemplation.

Excluding the glitch of six days and seven nights spent praying that our tent would not disappear in the storm, the conditions we experienced in Greenland were forgiving and mild. The sastrugi were virtually nonexistent for most of the trip, replaced by soft and often powdery snow. Though this boded well for my knees, it is a bad sign for the rest of the planet. At 10,000 feet of elevation and in these latitudes, it is supposed to be cold. And soft snow at the top means greater melt at the bottom.

With this year's record temperatures, the increased water displacement into the ocean will precipitate Greenland's influence on global climate and wreak further havoc on crop cycles and global economies. Though the focus of the trip was adventure, it is hard not to be sensitive to Greenland's plight when covering its length on foot – not to ponder its consequences. After all, anyone who walks the land will gravitate toward becoming an advocate in its defense.

We had covered just over 1,500 miles. When the helicopter lifted us from our pick-up location, I saw the rocky slopes we had just negotiated on our way down, the patches of snow we slid down, our campsite by the glacier, and in the distance, beyond the multitude of crevasses we had crossed, I saw the ice sheet we were leaving – alluring, gigantic, and forlorn. And what I heard beyond the chopper's rotors was an ice world's plea for help.