Photograph by Erik Boomer
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Sarah McNair-Landry flies her storm kite during a stormy day.

Photograph by Erik Boomer
MagazineFrom the Field

Exploring Greenland with Kite-skis and Kayaks

Three adventurers withstand dangerous terrain and physical injury to traverse the Greenland ice sheet and kayak a wild Arctic river.

This story appears in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine.

On the southeastern edge of the Greenland ice sheet, a blast of Arctic wind hit the three kite-skiers. Sarah McNair-Landry’s kite billowed, but with her safety latch jammed, the gust yanked her 20 feet into the air. She dropped headfirst onto the ice, cracking her helmet and briefly blacking out.

The accident almost derailed her expedition with kayakers Ben Stookesberry and Erik Boomer—an expedition to kite-ski from east to northwest across Greenland. But the three continued on, wearing skis while harnessed to giant kites designed to catch the wind and propel them across 600 miles of ice.

“You’ve got these amazing winds and conditions in Greenland,” says McNair-Landry. “You can travel so much faster and farther, especially while pulling sleds, than you would if you were just skiing.” On some days the three would ski across the terrain from 3 a.m. to 10 p.m. They encountered dangerous crevasses, uneven ice, and a seven-mile ice canyon carved by meltwater.

After the canyon they paddled a wild Arctic river replete with waterfalls and bone-chilling class-five rapids to complete the journey. McNair-Landry later learned her fall had cracked a vertebra in her back, but that didn’t detract from an adventure well traveled. “I love having one goal that you work toward as a team,” she says, “even though there will be a lot of challenges to get there.”