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Swiss team prepares to cross Greenland by ski and kite

Mike Horn's next challenge is to cross Greenland. Mike Horn

A three-man Swiss team of inveterate high-risk travellers is set for what one calls "a bit of fun" by crossing the Greenland icecap on skis pulled by kites.

The team of Mike Horn, Jean Troillet and Erhard Loretan left Switzerland this week with high hopes on making a world record.

“We’ll each have a kite and a bit of food and hope to cross in 10 days maximum,” Mike Horn told swissinfo. “But if everything goes well we can do it in three days.”

The team plan to travel the 700km from east to west, reaching speeds of up to 80 kph.

“We’d like to go non-stop without sleeping too much, which means travelling day and night,” says Horn. “That’s the plan, but when you’re counting on the wind you never know. When we get there we may find we’re obliged to change our route from west to east.”

For team member, Jean Troillet, this is the third time he’s tried to cross the icecap using skis and a kite. His two previous attempts were cut short because of problems with the wind.

Horn says team is well aware of what could happen. “The risk is calculated, so it’s not really a big risk. We could be four days into the trip and suddenly there’d be no wind and we’d find ourselves caught in the middle of the icecap with only enough food for two or three days.”

He says the team planned their expedition for May because that’s when the winds are best. Although it’s not as cold in May, Horn says temperature will still be a factor in the team’s rate of progress, as will how the members feel and what they stop to film.

The kites look like paragliding chutes. The skiers are attached by four lines and can collapse the chutes if the wind gets too strong.

Horn, a 34-year-old native of Johannesburg, South Africa, lives with his wife and two daughters in the resort of Chateau d’Oex in Canton Vaud. He works as a hydrospeed, rafting and canyoning guide in the summer and a ski instructor in the winter.

In 1994, he became a member of a team of athletes devoted to testing and surpassing their limits. He’s been on various high-risk expeditions since then, most recently an 18-month 40,200-km trip around the world along the equator by bicycle. That adventure ended successfully in October last year.

“For me, it’s the unknown. The unknown motivates me to do the things that I do.”

by Paul Sufrin

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR