Climbing Icebergs in Greenland

Roam Moment – Mike Libecki climbs icebergs in the sapphire paradise of Greenland.

Accessing the mountains of southeast Greenland in the early summer is always an unpredictable mission. The ice floe from the North varies each year and dictates the speed, safety, and even possibility of whether or not you’ll even be able to make it.

In July of 2017, Andy Mann, Ethan Pringle, Connor Seybert, Mike, and I disembarked from the town of Tasiilaq with fingers crossed. Over the next 11 days, we would spend six locked in an ice floe, slowly moving south towards our destination. The other five days were spent cautiously weaving in and out of open water and ice on an adventure I’ll never forget.

Any chance to get out of the boat was a welcome invitation for a little adventure to stand-up paddle and climb icebergs. For me, it was a great opportunity for aerial imagery during our unique predicament in this extraordinary part of the planet. Having a good drone opens up an entirely new visual world, especially in a place like Greenland where you have such an unusual environment.

Footage and caption by Roam founding contributor Keith Ladzinski while on assignment for Dell

See the gear in Keith’s camera kit.

ROAM: Climbing Icebergs in Greenland
Keith Ladzinski's camera kit essentials; Photograph by Greg Mionske

Interview: Climbing Icebergs

There is a reason why seasoned explorer Mike Libecki looks so composed climbing those icebergs—he’s done it before. Here the National Geographic grantee tells us about the unique and dangerous pursuit of climbing floating ice islands.

What are the risks when climbing icebergs like you are in this video?

Mike Libecki: The only real risk for this type of iceberg climbing is if the iceberg rolls or turns over. It’s happened to me twice on smaller bergs and honestly I got lucky, ha. I chose these icebergs for the magnitude of climbing and that they would most likely not turn over, though you never know…the mystery is part of the beauty, for sure.

What is the payoff?

Mike Libecki: For me, the payoff is embracing the magic, power, and beauty of our planet. I love sharing these moments in photos and video to inspire others to think about healthy choices for our beautiful Mother Earth. Hopefully they encourage people to get out on their own adventures and realize that the time is now for sweetness of life!

You’ve been going to Greenland for years. Have you noticed any changes?

Mike Libecki: Yes. I have witnessed three giant glaciers melt a quarter mile since 1998. In 20 years, Greenland may be melting faster than any other Arctic or Antarctic area on the planet. I have seen more sea ice flow from the North in the last few years, which may be a result of more melt in the North, hence breaking up and flowing South.

Exploring by SUP looks like fun. Did you fall into the water at all?

Mike Libecki: No, not on this trip. Honestly the water is not death-cold at all. Shrinkage-cold, yes, but it would be fine. I wear a drysuit to keep it mellow.

Exploring new areas is one of my favorite things, or rather embracing my "OED," or "Obsessive Expedition Disorder." — Mike Libecki

You all were stuck on the boat for 11 days as you tried to make it to your destination. What did you eat and drink?

Mike Libecki: We had boat that slept six comfortably. It had a small kitchen with three months of food, as you can get stuck in the ice for a month or more. We had plenty of freeze-dried type food, but all kinds of fresh food, veggies, fruit…of course Clif bars, jerky, nuts, eggs, burritos ingredients—no suffering at all on my trips.

What wildlife did you see during those 11 days? Did they interact with you?

Mike Libecki: Yes, one of the best parts! We saw polar bears, whales, seals, and fox—such an honor and privilege to be in their presence!

What was your objective once you got through the ice to Greenland?

Mike Libecki: We were mainly there to climb big granite towers, but really to embrace the moment of now on our beautiful planet. Exploring new areas that are previously unexplored is one of my favorite things to do in life, or rather embracing my “OED,” or “Obsessive Expedition Disorder.” 

How much does having the right team matter?

Mike Libecki: Whether it’s solo or with a team, as long as the preparation is done correctly it will most likely work out fine.  But the right team can be the difference of the level of joy. On this trip, we had a dream team of friends, and the joy was at a top-notch level. Team dynamics are important of course. Sharing these experiences with your friends is one of the most amazing things in life.

 

ROAM

Photographer

Keith Ladzinski

Roam founding contributor Keith Ladzinski’s photography blows us away on a regular basis. Whether he is shooting a feature story on climate change for National Geographic or dangling on a rope to shoot world-class rock climbers, his work is dialed. The 3 Strings Productions founder lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Athlete

Mike Libecki

Who is that mere human climbing icebergs? Mike Libecki is a National Geographic Explorer and longtime pioneer of going into the unknown. He has completed more than 50 major expeditions around the world and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with his daughter, Lilliana. He is known for phrases such as, “Why ration passion?” and “There’s only joy and pre-joy.”