On 28 May 2023, her 28th birthday, Sarah Winkelmann made it. She had conquered the minus 30-degree temperatures, the icy storms, the bagged food, the sled with up to 75 kilograms of luggage. Sarah, a graduate of Constructor University in Bremen, is Germany's youngest woman to have crossed Greenland on skis – a total of 600 kilometers.
It took her 28 days to complete the expedition, which she embarked on together with nine other extreme athletes from Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Tent, sleeping bag, stove, sleeping mat, clothing, spare skis, all her food – she pulled it all on two sleds. "I want to show that women are as capable of doing this as men," she said before setting out on the expedition. Being as environmentally friendly as possible was also important to her, leaving no trace or waste, as well as following a vegetarian diet. For her trainings, she travelled by bike or public transport whenever possible, even to remote areas.
The fact that the Bremen native was able to realize her plan is also thanks to Constructor University, where Sarah graduated in 2016 with a degree in International Relations: Politics and History. "The university was the first to believe in my ideas and my abilities. I got the chance to present my plans on campus, and we started a crowdfunding campaign together." Several sponsors were found to help pay for the expedition, which cost around €30,000.
The political scientist, who now lives and works in Norway, spent almost a year preparing for this unique adventure. She undertook several mobility and strength training camps, including dragging 75kg truck tires, attached to her body by a belt, to simulate pulling the sleds. Sarah also tested the clothing that would best protect her hands, face and body from the cold. Of course, she also had to make the logistical arrangements and find sponsors.
The sound of the skis on the snow, the vastness of the landscapes, the absence of civilization, the different types of snow formations. It was a journey full of experiences of the natural world and challenges that pushed her to her limits. "On the last day, we were on skis for 24 hours straight – with no breaks or sleep. I didn't think my body would be able to do that," she reported on Instagram.
This had become necessary due to days of extreme weather conditions. "We had to take advantage of every good weather forecast to make up for the four extremely stormy days when we couldn't leave our tents. It was one of the strongest storms I have ever seen, with wind gusts of more than twelve Beaufort. Two of our five tents collapsed. Visibility was less than five meters."
Exhausted, but also happy and relieved, with aching knees and a little frostbite on her leg, she finally reached the finish line. Of course, she is proud of her achievement. But for Sarah Winkelmann, the crossing of Greenland was just the start of a much bigger adventure: an expedition to the South Pole. The planning is underway.
The sound of the skis on the snow, the vastness of the landscapes, the absence of civilization, the different types of snow formations: it was a journey full of experiences of the natural world. (Source: Sarah Winkelmann)
This text is part of the "Faces" series, in which Constructor University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff.
About Constructor University:
Founded in 2001, Constructor University is a top-ranked, English-language, private university, with a campus in Bremen, Germany. With its interdisciplinary approach, advanced digital learning tools and accredited programs, it equips students with fundamental knowledge, critical thinking and practical skills to build their professional career and address the world’s most pressing challenges.
The University emphasizes a synergetic and entrepreneurial spirit, offering program mentoring from top-tier professors and industry experts. Partner collaborations include the Constructor Institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, Carnegie Mellon, the National University of Singapore, the University of Geneva, and industry references such as Anisoprint, JetBrains and ChemDiv.
Internationality and diversity lie at the heart of Constructor University, with more than 110 nations at its vibrant and close-knit campus community in Bremen. There, students enjoy active campus life, with access to clubs, professional networks and academic counselling, essential to their personal and academic growth.
Research-centric faculty projects at the University are funded by the German Research Foundation, the European Union's Framework Program for Research and Innovation, and globally leading companies.
The greater Constructor Knowledge ecosystem includes Constructor University in Bremen, Germany, and Constructor Institute in Schaffhausen, Switzerland. It is a provider of education services with education tools, worldwide traditional and online educational services, as well as advisory and strategic services to education customers in the fields of student recruitment, communications, and marketing support.