2 Norwegians cross Greenland on skis in Baan Jing Jai fundraiser

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Two Norwegians joined an expedition to recreate the 1888 cross-country skiing expedition across Greenland to help raise funds for Pattaya’s Baan Jing Jai orphanage.

In April & May of 2013, Nils Lie and Totto Befring, employees at Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics in Oslo, traced the 560 km. route pioneered by Fridtjof Nansen, in temperatures of down to -36 C, with nary a companion, except for the occasional polar bear.

Totto Befring shows off two of the signed tiles at Baan Jing Jai. (Photo: Dujdao Udomsin)Totto Befring shows off two of the signed tiles at Baan Jing Jai. (Photo: Dujdao Udomsin)

One team of six people, each of whom had their own 50 kg. sled, and three tents set out on the endeavor. The limitation on weight was extremely strict, but they still carried a bottle of water from sponsor Aqua Vitae, which was auctioned off upon their return to Norway for 30,000 baht that was then donated to Baan Jing Jai.

Totto Befring waves the Thai and Norwegian flags during the crossing. (Photo: Jon Birger Skjaerseth, Oslo, Norway)Totto Befring waves the Thai and Norwegian flags during the crossing. (Photo: Jon Birger Skjaerseth, Oslo, Norway)

Lie said he did the trip because he loves the outdoors and, especially, cross-country skiing. So when Befring, who had this dream since the 80s, approached him with the idea and a plan, the choice was easy.

But the process to be eligible was strict, requiring a weapons license, a radio course, and medical and rescue insurance.

Totto Befring, Bangkok, and Nils Lie, Oslo, Norway, hold up the bottle of Liner Aqua Vitae during their cross-country ski across Greenland. (Photo: Jon Birger Skjaerseth, Oslo, Norway)Totto Befring, Bangkok, and Nils Lie, Oslo, Norway, hold up the bottle of Liner Aqua Vitae during their cross-country ski across Greenland. (Photo: Jon Birger Skjaerseth, Oslo, Norway)

“It was vital to have a professional setup and our experienced leader, Sjur Mordre, has not only crossed Greenland successfully 12 times before, but he was also the first person together with his brother to reach both the North and South Pole,” Befring said.

The first thing they had to do upon their arrival in Greenland was to pack the daily food rations.  Large boxes had to be repacked into specified daily lunch rations.

“The lunch rations were varied with, for example, biscuits, chocolate, multigrain crackers and salami. With standing breaks lasting ten minutes every hour, it can actually be quite a challenge to eat,” Lie said.

The daily routine

“It’s fascinating how quickly you fall into a daily routine,” Lie said. The day started at 6 a.m. with two hours devoted to preparation, including melting snow for water. After 7-9 hours of effective skiing, the group set up camp for the evening. Dinner was eaten in the expedition leader’s tent, which they jokingly called the Hilton, as it was larger than other tents.

Sjur Mordre from Oslo leads the 6 man troop across Greenland. (Photo: Jon Birger Skjaerseth, Oslo, Norway)Sjur Mordre from Oslo leads the 6 man troop across Greenland. (Photo: Jon Birger Skjaerseth, Oslo, Norway)

“Dinner was the only chance we all had to talk together and discuss the day’s progress. The food wasn’t the biggest subject of discussion, but dry chili con carne mixed with boiling water does its job,” Lie said.

Navigation was dependent upon vigilant use of compasses. “After a while, you become quite good at navigating by the angle of snow blowing across your skis as well as the sun,” Lie said. “that is, when we were lucky enough to see it.”

The journey proved to be harder than the two had expected. When it was snowing heavily, they were only able to move at approximately 2 km. per hour. The weather was particularly bad for this time of year.

“We had to spend the last three days in camp. One night it snowed 1.5 meters and we had to get up in the middle of the night to remove snow to prevent our tent from being buried,” he said.

But after 8-10 hours of skiing per day in those conditions, they still were exhausted enough to sleep.

The bad weather meant the expedition had to be called off after they had covered 500 km., only 60 km. downhill from the final destination. Being delayed five days already, and without enough food to cover the remaining distance, there were no hard feelings when the helicopter came to pick them up.

“When Nils and I had to share a cracker for lunch we finally understood that we couldn’t go on,” Befring said.

The bottle of Liner Aqua Vitae the two carried had been made especially for their company and had crossed the equator eight times. It was a much-desired prize in the auction in Oslo and raised the equivalent of 30,000 baht for Baan Jing Jai, which earned the team three golden tiles in support of the new Baan Jing Jai building.