GrIT: On the Road Again

All photos: Robin Davies

Willow Fitzgerald and the Swing Boss depart in the Case Quadtrac.

The Greenland Inland Traverse, or GrIT, departed Thule Air Base Monday, 26 May, a few hours behind the GoNorth! adventure learning group.  The traverse team rolled past the transition, and then spent the first of many nights camped on the ice.

Leaving the transition, Jim Lever walks alongside the durabase sled to check mobility and load.

The first camp.

All week GrIT has been climbing on to the ice sheet. This is a slow and careful process in part because the way is fraught with crevasses, and also because the first 6o miles involves rolling terrain with an elevation gain of about 4,000 feet, requiring the GrIT to shuttle partial loads so as not to overtax the heavy equipment. In addition to shuttling the infrastructure up the hill, the Tucker rolls ahead of the big Case Quadtrac, repeating the ground penetrating radar survey completed a few weeks ago. 

Weather departing Thule was fine, with a light breeze and blue skies, and it held for another day or so. “The team made good mileage Wednesday for a total of 23 miles and waypoint B9,” wrote GrIT project manager Allen Cornelison. “The Swing Boss feels that the mainly downhill aspect of the route today helped them move faster.” 

Just after the first waypoint, GrIT encounters a sharp decent. The Tucker is attached to the sleds with a long cable to restrain them during the decent.

Still, on Wednesday, fog rolled in.

Thursday morning, the team woke to blowing snow as a forecasted storm settled over the area. Among other efforts, the Tucker  shuttled ahead of GrIT  to “lay down some tracks,” Allen said, for the GoNorth! Polar Huskies. The GrIT’s effort was an important service to GoNorth!, as this area of the trail is very “complicated,” Allen wrote.  “The traverse is “threading the needle” through the various parallel crevasses along the route.”

Jim Lever heads off to check the fuel bladders and download data from temperature sensors on the sleds (part of the sled mobility investigation).

If GoNorth! was ahead, the two teams may now play a bit of hopscotch. The weather on Thursday was too stormy for the Polar Huskies to proceed, and so GoNorth! humans hunkered down in tents while the dogs curled up with their backs to the wind along the stake chain.
Meanwhile, the GrIT chugged along.  After a little help from the Tucker at the steepest grade along the route, most of the GrIT equipment was moved past GoNorth!’s camp site. The Case and the Tucker then shuttled back to get the long durabase sled, pulling it together up the steep grade, and stopping just shy of the GoNorth! camp.

The GoNorth! camp. To the far left, the tent is drifting in.

Erecting a tent is an adventure when the wind gets to howling!

What's it gonna take? Teamwork.

The GrIT team then made camp—check out Robin’s photos!—to rest up for today’s haul, which promised to be a doozy. Stay tuned.

Personnel on the GrIT include a Swing Boss; Jim Lever, CRREL engineer and mobility expert; Robin Davies and Willow Fitzgerald, GrIT mechanics/operators; . Allan Delaney, a ground-penetrating radar expert recently retired from CRREL, will accompany the team through the transition and then fly in a helicopter back to Thule before heading home.

The Greenland Inland Traverse is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). CH2M HILL Polar Services and Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratories are working together with the NSF to develop the traverse infrastructure and route. The 2010 spring traverse has several foci: find a safe overland route to Summit Station to help reduce logistical costs and environmental impacts of conducting research there; provide a research platform for scientists conducting field work in Greenland; optimize mobility by focusing on the sled/snow interface.  For more field notes coverage of GrIT, click here

GrIT contact:

Jay Burnside, Polar Field Services, CH2M HILL Polar Services

Construction/Operations manager

Jay at


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