Greenland icecap

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The World's leading operator of mountaineering and ski expeditions to Arctic Greenland!
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Greenland Icecap
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A full West-East Crossing of the Greenland Icecap

In May 1999 Tangent organized the first British guided expedition to cross the Greenland icecap. It was also the first to use kites. Since then we have organized many more Tangent guided teams and numerous private and independent group crossings. As the leading logistics specialist for icecap crossings we offer full logistics support and consultancy for all independent groups and icecap crossing expeditions. We have forged numerous new routes over sections of the icecap in east and northeast Greenland. Please take a look at our "Expedition Firsts" section in the left hand menu. In this our 15th season of Greenland icecap journeys we will offer our 10th east-west crossing via the so called "standard route". But don't be misled! This is a serious undertaking requiring commitment and dedication. With a direct line distance of 335 miles or 535km it is a major arctic journey. In reality this equates to 350 miles or 560km of actual travelling. The more southerly Nansen route is 280 miles or 450km. It is a true unsupported man hauling expedition in which the team will pull provisions for up to 30 days in pulk sledges. Tangent owns a number of traction kites with the option to take and use these for wind assistance if the team wish to. For faster crossing times of 18-21 days there is the option to join our east-west dog sled assisted expedition. EARLY APPLICATION is essential for all Greenland crossings.


This year we will depart from our usual programme of starting on the east coast from the icecap and make a west-east traverse slightly later in the season. We begin the crossing at point 660m after being transported there by 4 wheel drive vehicle from our accommodation in Kangerlussuaq. There is an option to cross via the rarely traversed Nansen route but this is more expensive due to much greater use of privately chartered helicopter flights to reach the start point at Umivik. This would normally only be available to private groups.

During our 2014 crossing we aim to complete the journey in a realistic 28 days. If conditions are good, it is possible to do it in around 25-26 days, but this is not the norm, whatever other operators might have you believe. We will carry food and fuel for 30 days and the start weight for the pulks will be 80kg. So far, all our successful non kiting expeditions have completed in times of 26 to 29 days. It is possible to achieve faster times of 24-25 days but these are normally only achieved by pairs who are able to travel faster than groups, or for those with significant previous ski and man hauling experience.


Accommodation in Iceland, Greenland and Denmark is provided on a Bed & Breakfast basis, and other meals are not included. Expedition food will be provided on a full board basis for the time spent on the icecap expedition itself in Greenland. This will not include other meals during transit time in Iceland, Greenland and Denmark. All such meals should be paid for locally.

Experience & Fitness Required

Previous ski or sled hauling experience is not essential, however some prior training in cross country ski technique is preferable and recommended. This can be done during our training weekend in Scotland. Excellent organisation and camping skills are required, as well as the ability to work well as part of a team under often stressful circumstances. Ice cap journeys are as much a mental as well as physical challenge and team members must be prepared for long hard days of up to 9 hrs sled hauling per day, day after day. At the beginning of the expedition, with deep new snow and pulks at their heaviest, travel can be reduced to as little as 6km in 10 hours. As  the expedition draws to a close and with optimum fitness and light pulks, distances of 35km+ can be achieved in final pushes of 12+ hour days. Previous camping experience is essential along with a reasonable level of previous snow/glacier camping and cold climate experience. All team members must be happy camping in full snow conditions and expect to be confident travelling and camping in blizzards and extreme cold temperatures. A high level of fitness, endurance and self motivation are required. Once underway there is no option to back out without significant financial consequences for a private helicopter pick up!


It is very important that we form the core group for this crossing and have our final team in place as soon as possible. These are not the type of expeditions that can receive late bookings! Please let us know IMMEDIATELY if you are interested in one of these expeditions and would be keen to find out more about them and to discuss the finer details. I am happy to travel anywhere within the UK to meet prospective clients and talk you though the expeditions in greater detail. We can also tailor make a bespoke expedition for pairs and private groups, either self led or led by one of our own experienced guides.

Kites or No Kites!

Several of our previous expeditions have used specially designed traction kites belonging to Tangent; large adjustable canopies designed to cover significant distances using wind assistance, which can pull the team along at considerable speeds. Often, due to poor visibility and unusual head winds, little or no use of these kites can be made. Occasionally they can be very useful and also great fun. It is debatable whether they are of good enough benefit to warrant carrying on a Greenland crossing. Significant amounts of time can be lost due to preparation and training whilst on the glacier. Sometimes several hours per day can be used up unpacking, rigging and packing up again, with only a little 'on task' time sometimes being achieved, often due to changing wind speeds and wind direction. In more recent years we have also learned the necessity to gain considerable practice with these kites before trying to use them in Greenland. We may find that we have a mix of clients who do and do not wish to use kites, in which case we will look at the possibility of having one expedition with kites and one without, depending on client numbers. We will however, only use kites with group sizes of maximum 3 clients plus guide, and only after significant training prior to arriving in Greenland. Therefore the use of kites in a small team will have additional time and cost implications for training weekends and a possible 4 day training trip to Norway (subject to client agreement).

Flight Logistics

The group will meet at the airport hotel in Copenhagen, the evening before the flight to Greenland. Regular flights are available from most European countries direct to Copenhagen. We shall spend two nights in Kangerlussuaq, allowing a full day to collect and organise our cargo. The expedition finishes at sea level at Isortoq, from where we will fly by helicopter to the nearby principle town of Tasiilaq. We shall again have two nights here to pack up the returning cargo before getting the helicopter for the short transfer to Kulusuk airport and the direct flight back to Reykjavik. One night will normally spent here before returning to your home country (same day through flights available to some European cities)


In recent years many groups, and even some organisers, have recommended departing in early April to avoid the melt water streams and pools on the west coast. We do NOT support this idea and recommend departing in late April to help avoid the worst of the end of winter storms which can still produce extreme winds and put down large amounts of fresh snow, making traveling extremely difficult. At the beginning of April you can be pinned down for many days in such storms, deep snow, and poor visibility. A later departure significantly reduces this risk. For earlier departures there will be a small difference in conditions on the east coast, however the increased risk of significant bad weather delays and storms at the beginning outweighs this. Please click here to view our preferred Itinerary.

Daylight Hours

Apart from just a few hours of dusk in the first week or two, the expedition will have 24 hour light conditions throughout. Another benefit of departing slightly later.

Cold Weather Clothing

Team members will require all the usual winter expedition clothing but specifically including windproof salopettes and jacket, insulated down jacket, face mask and expedition gloves/mitts. A detailed equipment list will be sent to all clients.

Equipment Provision

Tangent will provide Snowsled pulk sledges, North Face tents, snow pegs, floor insulation, MSR stoves, specially commissioned stove insulation boards, fuel bottles, fuel cans, fuel funnels, stove spares kits, lighters, pans, white gas fuel, food, toilet paper, maps & aerial reconnaissance photos, GPS, group survival shelter, snow shovels, emergency flares, PLB (emergency locator beacon), VHF air band radio, satellite telephone & solar re-charging system, emergency flares, expedition medical kit including injectable pain killers and anti-biotics, general spares and repair kit, client prussik loops, a rope, and all crevasse rescue equipment for glacier travel.

Clients will need to provide their own large rucksack/travel bag, 40+ litre daysack for daily access, good quality sleeping bag comfort rated to -20'c, inflatable sleeping mattress (& repair kit), foam sleeping mattress, water/windproof jacket and trousers, suitable alpine ski touring or nordic skis and boots, ski poles, new full length skins, new short 'Kicker' skins, spare skin glue, tip and tail glide wax, lightweight aluminium crampons, full winter clothing including windproof salopettes and jackets, insulated down jacket, face mask and expedition gloves/mitts/hat/balaclava, 100% UV cat 4/5 sun glasses, 100% UV snow goggles, 1 litre metal flask, 1 litre water bottle (including insulating cover), eating/drinking cup/bowl/utensils, pee (toilet) bottle, multi-tool knife, lightweight harness, 5 x screwgate karabiners, light weight ice axe, GPS (optional), compass.


No UK insurance company currently offers insurance to cover individuals taking part in Greenland icecap crossing expeditions. The BMC, Ault insurance and PJ Hayman have all withdrawn from this market. Tangent Expeditions however, have teamed up with a specialist company to offer such cover, but only to groups booking all inclusive packages with Tangent. The price of this insurance is £950 per person. The only other option currently available to groups is to use the Danish company IF, but their policy costs £2000 per person!!
An additional bank guarantee of £22,000 is required by the Greenland permit authorities for any expedition venturing on to the Greenland icecap. This is to cover any search & rescue and evacuation costs not covered by insurance. Counter indemnities and bank guarantees will therefore be put in place between all clients and Tangent Expeditions Ltd, which clients will be required to sign. Further details will be supplied to participants prior to booking.

What Next ?

If you would like to consider joining this expedition then please contact Paul Walker as soon as possible. The first step will be for me to meet each of you personally (if UK resident) before arranging a group meeting as early as possible at our base in the Lake District. The purpose of this meeting will be to discuss the following:

   1. Further details of the expedition,
   2. Finalise dates for training and for the expedition,
   3. Look at equipment and clothing.
   4. Discuss the experience of the group,
   5. Look at the route and logistics,
   6. Decide on use of kites or not,
If you know of anyone else who might be interested in the expedition can you please pass on our contact details to them.

The start date is currently provisional and can be changed to best suit the group.

Bespoke expeditions and private logistics can easily be arranged for Independent groups. Please enquire for a quote.

We offer a 10% DISCOUNT for a suitably qualified expedition doctor, nurse or paramedic.

Personal Service - all prospective clients are welcome to visit us at our home in Cumbria or Paul Walker will travel to any part of the mainland UK free of charge to meet with you and discuss the expedition in more detail and show you maps and photographs. We believe this benchmark service is offered by no other expedition travel company and supports our commitment to providing an ultimate level of high quality personal service.


Greenland Crossings gallery
Greenland Crossings map
New Icecap Routes map

Icecap Reports and Map Data


01 May- 31 May 2017 (ex.Copenhagen)


GBP 9,950 - 12,950 (West-East)
(price dependent on group size)
GBP 15,950 (Nansen's Route)
(3 clients + guide)
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What's Included

What the price includes

Activities / Skills

Pulk sled hauling, winter camping, navigation, Nordic ski touring.

Leadership Style / Group Size

Min:  4 (including leader)
Max: 6 (including leader)
Professionally guided expedition


Detailed Itinerary 2017

Equipment Hire

Equipment hire prices


Book Here!

Other Icecap Crossing Expeditions

New East Greenland Route
Dog Sled Assisted
Polar Training and Arctic Survival
Liverpool Land North-South Traverse