Monthly Archives: July 2017

Why I love long-distance trekking

Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This is my favourite image from my trip to Greenland this year.   

Taken on Day 3 of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides, it (almost) perfectly captures everything I loved about the trek and the reasons why the experience was so special to me.

Many people have asked me about why I love long-distance trekking, given that the thought of trekking for 8 or 10 or 12 days without a shower or many creature comforts is quite a stretch for most.  But for me it’s absolute heaven for the following reasons:

The beauty

Just look at the image.

Those who have been following my travels through the blog have probably figured out that I love mountains, despite the fact that I come from a country that doesn’t really have any “proper” ones.  I’m not a beach girl at all (very un-Australian of me) and am not fond of heat and humidity, though I do love deserts! 

But for me, it is the mountains that really give a sense of the grandeur of the World, whether it be looking up at them towering above you, or looking down from a bird’s eye view.  And although there are plenty of mountains that are easily accessible, if you trek for 10 or 12 days, you end up a long way from anyone or anything, and can really experience nature in all its glory.  It doesn’t get any better!

The silence

There is silence in nature – which in turn quietens my own thoughts.

Enjoying the silence of Huayhuash

Enjoying the silence of Huayhuash

Hiking and high intensity exercise are the only things I’ve found that switch my brain off from its constant chatter about what is happening in my life or what I would like to happen in my life.  The advantage that hiking has over high intensity exercise is that it is relatively easy to sustain for long periods of time, if you go in with a good level of fitness to begin with. 

For example, I love boxing!  It is my favourite type of exercise (apart from hiking).  But even at my fittest (just before I left Australia 18 months ago), an intense 30 minute training session with Charles would wipe me out for the rest of the day!     Another example, one of the things I try to do most mornings while traveling is High Intensity Interval Training.  I use the 12 Minute Athlete App and, if you really commit to the idea and put everything you’ve got into it, 12 minutes is more than enough time to destroy you.  If you don’t believe me – I encourage you to give it a go 🙂

And so back to long-distance trekking.  To me, it is a luxury and the best gift I can give myself to have 12 days of peace and serenity and freedom from thinking about life.  To be completely “in the moment” and disconnected from “real life” allows me to reset my thought patterns and eject things that I may have been obsessing over prior to setting off.  I always come back from a long-distance trek with a much clearer mind.

And for those of you who need a break from technology – we had no phone reception from the moment we left Kulusuk to the moment we returned.  Going cold-turkey for 11 days is a good way to break the cycle!

The simplicity

I’ve always lived a fairly minimalist lifestyle, preferring to spend my money on experiences rather than things.  However, since leaving Australia in February 2016, I’ve taken that a step further and have been traveling with just a 60L bag for the most part (OK, this has extended a little this year because I had to bring all my camping gear with me).  Trust me – you can’t fit much in a 60L bag!  For example, I have 2 pairs of trekking pants and 5 quick-dry shirts, so my daily decision about what to wear comes down to: “does it smell, or can I get away with wearing it for another day?“.   After all – you don’t want to be doing washing every 3rd day!

Trekking for 12 days takes this to an even more extreme – after all, you actually have to carry this stuff!  Decisions about what to eat are minimised – you eat what you have with you.  Decisions about where to sleep are minimised – you pitch your tent wherever you find yourself when you stop hiking.   And decisions about what to do are minimised – you are either hiking, or you entertain yourself with whatever you have with you.   Your options are severely limited when you are in the middle of nowhere, but that makes it all the more special, as you can really appreciate where you are and the people you are with.

Keeping ourselves entertained

Entertaining ourselves on a rainy day in the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut. Reading, sleeping, talking, drinking tea, and innumerable games of UNO.

The challenge

For some people, the thought of walking 6 blocks in the middle of a city is too much.   For others, a day hike is more than enough to last them for the next week or month.  But when you walk (and engage in other exercise) as much as I do, these shorter hikes are great, but often don’t provide much of a challenge.   

The exceptions I can think of off the top of my head since I started traveling in 2016 are Volcán Maderas in Nicaragua, Rucu Pichincha in Ecuador, and Laguna 69 in Peru.  These were tough day hikes – Maderas because of the heat, the others because of the altitude.

Laguna 69

Laguna 69 in the Cordillera Blanca in Peru is a tough day hike, mostly because of the altitude

The first long-distance trek I did was the Torres del Paine Circuit in Chile in 2015.  I remember when I signed up that I was a little nervous about walking for 8 days, especially with the osteoarthritis in my toes.  But it was an incredible experience (for all the reasons I’m talking about here), and while there were challenging parts to it, on the whole, it really wasn’t that difficult.

Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

The Torres del Paine Circuit was the first long-distance trek I did. We had pretty ordinary weather but it was an amazing experience

Then, last year, I hiked the 10-day Huayhuash Circuit in Peru, 95% of which is over 4,200m, with several passes over 5,000m.   Having spent quite a lot of time at altitude, I knew I wouldn’t have any problems with altitude sickness, but if you’ve ever been above about 3,000m, you know that doing anything at these altitudes gets very difficult very quickly. 

Highest point on the Huayhuash Trek

The highest point on the Huayhuash Trek at 5,200m.

However, with the slow walking pace set by Eliceo, the  altitude challenge was entirely surmountable (though there were some tough climbs), and the sense of achievement I felt at the end of the 10-days was a kind of euphoria.  It took me several days to come down off the high of that incredible experience.

The 12-day Unplugged Wilderness trek in East Greenland was this year’s challenge.  And although altitude wasn’t a concern, I hadn’t actually done much exercise for the previous 2 months while traveling the Silk Road (I’d also been a bit slack on the High Intensity Interval Training 🙁 ) so wasn’t as fit as I wanted to be.  My other concern was the cold (this is Greenland after all, even if in Summer), something that I feel very keenly, and one of my biggest challenges on the Huayhuash Circuit.  It turned out that this actually wasn’t an issue at all (except for Day 4) and I think this trek is the easiest of the 3 I’ve done so far.  No less spectacular for it though, and 3 months after the fact, my head and heart are still in Greenland!

Sunset Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Sunset at the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut in East Greenland

So what is my next challenge?

Well, all the treks I’ve done so far have been supported – in other words, I’ve only had to carry a day pack while hiking.  And although my day pack tends to be heavier than most because of my camera gear, it’s still a lot lighter than carrying a full pack.

However, in February 2018, I will be leveling up in my challenges and undertaking the 10-day Patagonian Icecap Expedition from El Chaltén in Argentina.  On this hike, I have to carry a full pack, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very, very nervous about the cold.   Check back in March to see if I survive!

The new friends

Perhaps I’ve just been lucky.  But I’ve found that the types of people who undertake long-distance treks and actually stick it out, tend to be easy-going, fun, and interesting companions. 

Because you spend so much time together – hiking, eating meals, hanging out – you have tons of time to chat and get to know one another.  And if you really click, it very quickly and easily turns into an ongoing friendship.  I’m still in touch with Max and Nico from the Huayhuash Circuit last year (and am working on convincing them to come to Greenland next year), and I’ll catch up with several of my companions from Unplugged Wilderness again in 2018.   I’m really looking forward to this!

Max and Nico from Huayhuash (top), and the crew from Unplugged Wilderness (bottom)

So there you have it.  If you’ve been curious (or have asked me previously) about why I keep doing these crazy-long treks, I hope that gives a bit more of an idea why I’m so attracted to them.  I really wish I’d discovered this passion earlier in my life, but am making the most of it now that I’ve seen the light 🙂

So who’s in for the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland in August in 2018?

 

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Greenland Summary

I had dreamed of going to Greenland for more than 20 years and finally I made it there!  

Can't believe I'm here - Narsaq - South Greenland

Was it worth the wait?   

ABSOLUTELY!  

I have already made plans to go back again next year!

It’s a fascinating place, but I didn’t really go into the day-to-day stuff in any of the blog posts that I’ve written, so thought I’d finish off with some random thoughts/logistics/costs.

Things that struck me about Greenland

  • It’s quite European … but in a frontier kind of way.  I don’t know why this surprised me, given it is an autonomous county of Denmark, but it did.
  • Almost everyone under the age of 30 (at least in the major centres) speaks English, most of them extremely well.  This makes it incredibly easy to get around and learn a little about the culture.
  • I loved exploring the Pilersuisoq stores – the chain of supermarkets in Greenland.  No two were the same – they all stocked different things – and this depended on what had come over in the last shipments, and what had already sold out.  You can buy everything from fresh baked pastries to frozen goods to tinned food to pet food to guns in a Pilersuisoq!  In fact, the hardest (and most expensive) thing to buy is fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember, everything gets shipped in from Denmark or Iceland!
Guns in Supermarket - Kulusuk - East Greenland

You can buy anything in Pilersuisoq. Photo: Dusan Číčel

  • The vibrantly coloured houses are very typical of Greenland – I imagine to brighten things up a bit during the long months of darkness.

Brightly painted Greenland Houses

  • South Greenland is very different to East Greenland, and not just in scenery.  Each has their own dialect and South Greenlanders (at least) don’t always understand what East Greenlanders are saying.  I imagine West Greenland will be different again – we’ll find out next year!

Costs in Greenland

Unlike just about everywhere else I travel, Greenland is not cheap!  However, it wasn’t quite as expensive as I thought it would be.  Major expenses:

Getting there

There are only 2 airlines that fly to Greenland:  

  1. Air Greenland – which flies from Reykjavik or Copenhagen
  2. Air Iceland Connect – which flies from Reykjavik

Both are very comfortable airlines, but they don’t fly all the time and the flights are expensive. For example, I paid ~AUD$650 for a one-way ticket from Reykjavik to Narsarsuaq (South Greenland) and AUD$630 for a one-way ticket from Kulusuk (East Greenland) to Reykjavik.

Getting around Greenland by air

Getting Around

Because of the icecap, there are no roads linking the “major” centres in Greenland so you have to fly or take a boat.  

Air Greenland is the only domestic airline, which means they can charge what they want for the flights – so getting from one area to the next is not cheap!   For example, I paid ~AUD$520 to fly from Narsarsuaq (South Greenland) to Nuuk, and ~AUD$670 to fly from Nuuk to Kulusuk (East Greenland).  It’s like Australia used to be before Virgin arrived.

Boat transfers – I did some boat transfers in South Greenland (via Blue Ice Explorer) and had originally booked boat transfers between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq in East Greenland.   Without getting too specific – it seems as if it averages around AUD$100 per hour in the boat.  More or less. 

Dock at Itilleq which provides access to Igaliku - South Greenland

These boat transfer companies tend to be quite localised (I will use Disko Line when I travel to West Greenland next year), but there is also the Arctic Umiaq Line which runs between the major population centres of the west coast and South Greenland. 

With both the flights and the boats – it’s always good to factor in some leeway with any connections you might have.   Flights can be delayed due to adverse weather (while I was in Kulusuk, the plane didn’t make it from Iceland at all for 2 days running), and boats can be put out of commission depending on the pack ice (I was advised to switch from boat transfers to helicopter transfers because of the pack ice in East Greenland).

Accommodation

Accommodation is also expensive in Greenland, though not hideously so compared to Australia and other Scandinavian countries.

I highly recommend staying in the hostels in Greenland.   All the hostels I stayed in were amazing and the average cost for a bed (shared room) was about AUD$60.   Yes.  Ouch.  It’s a lot for a dorm room.   But on par with Iceland, and all the hostels were warm and wonderful with fantastic caretakers.  I stayed at:

In Nuuk, I stayed in a great little self-contained Airbnb about 5 minutes from the centre for about AUD$100/night

Food

As alluded to above, fresh fruit and vegies are crazy expensive in Greenland.  What is there looks 1/2 expired already and it is more expensive even than fresh food in Australia.   For example, I threw caution (well Danish Krone) to the wind and bought an AUD$7 bunch of asparagus one day because I had a keen need for something green after so much cheese and salami and crackers!

Your best bet is to trawl the freezers (there are a lot of frozen meals available – I had a couple of amazing frozen lamb roasts in South Greenland) and the canned goods 🙂  

Tours in Greenland

For my 5 weeks in Greenland this year I only used 2 companies.  

South Greenland – Blue Ice Explorer

I worked with Blue Ice Explorer to come up with my 14 day excursion in South Greenland for only slightly more money that it would have cost me to arrange it all myself.  The nice thing was that they included luggage transfers with it – so I only ever had to hike with a day pack 🙂

If you aren’t confident traveling independently, then I would probably suggest going with a more formal package tour.   After all – this was all the information I received before being sent off to explore by myself.

Blue Ice Explorer vouchers and information - South Greenland

However, if you are used to traveling alone and figuring things out for yourself – I highly recommend this company!

Cost:  For 14 days, including all accommodation (in hostel dorm rooms), and boat and luggage transfer it cost AUD$1330

East Greenland – Icelandic Mountain Guides

The first few days in Kulusuk and Tasiilaq I actually traveled independently, not with a specific company.   

However, if you love long treks in remote places – I can’t recommend Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides (IMG) highly enough (or simply Icelandic Mountain Guides if you are interested in trekking in Iceland).

You pretty much have to trek with a company if you are exploring these more remote places, and I’ve already sent inquiries to IMG about a few other treks I’d like to do with them next year.  For a couple of the other people I was hiking with in East Greenland, this was their second trip with IMG, and one of the top-rated New Zealand companies partner with IMG to run their Arctic Expeditions.

An Icelandic Mountain Guide

An Icelandic Mountain Guide in East Greenland

Cost:  Guided hikes in remote places are not cheap – especially in this part of the world!  But totally worth it 🙂 For 12 days of hiking with just a day pack, and with all food and camping gear (minus sleeping bag) included, it cost AUD$4080 for an incredible experience.

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Unplugged Wilderness Trek – Video Slideshow

 

I am a photographer.  One who rarely remembers to take video (even though some of my blog posts include short clips).

And even though I spent almost 10 years working on the periphery of the film industry in Australia (in particular, I was one of the main time-lapse photographers for the IMAX Movie: Hidden Universe 3D), I haven’t personally played around much with video.

So imagine my surprise when, after my experiences in East Greenland on the Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides, I had a real (and unabating) desire to create a video slideshow with some of my favourite images from the trek.  

The idea first surfaced when I heard the song Vor í Vaglaskógi by the Icelandic band Kaleo – one of the many music recommendations I took on board while we were hiking.  I love all their music (give them a listen if you aren’t familiar with them), but this song reached out and grabbed me, as it perfectly captures the grandeur of East Greenland and also my melancholia for having to leave.

I’m really looking forward to returning in 2018!

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 12 – East Greenland

Day 12 of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek was very relaxed.  Well, at least it was for me given I’d already spent a few days in Kulusuk before the trek.  Long breakfast followed by just hanging out chatting, followed by a guided tour of the Kulusuk Museum.

This is a really cool museum that shows a variety of aspects relating to the Tunumiit Inuit way of life on the remote east coast of Greenland.  

Kulusuk Museum - East Greenland

Most of the items belong to previous generations of the family who established and currently run the museum – Justine and Frederick Boassen.  Frederick (who showed us around) was great at explaining not only what each of the items were and how they were used, but the family stories behind them as well.   

For example, this display of feet and other animal parts showcases several of the “kills” their son had made growing up.  His grandmother was so proud of him, she saved everything and put this together.

Kulusuk Museum - East Greenland

There is also a recreation of the interior of a winter house

Kulusuk Museum - East Greenland

and skulls of Polar Bears!

Kulusuk Museum - East Greenland

They also had Tupilaks and other locally handmade items for sale, but I still had my heart set on the Tupilak I’d seen in Kulusuk airport.

Maxime ferried our luggage out to the airport while we made the ~2km hike against a biting wind.  

Walking to Kulusuk Airport - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Approaching Kulusuk Airport. The Air Iceland Connect plane awaits us. Photo: Dusan Číčel

Checked in and then got chatting with Jóhannaso by the time I went through customs to the departure gate – they were already boarding the plane!   But my Tupilak??!!  My passport stamp from Greenland??!!

Clearly, I’m just going to have to return…

Seriously cool idea by Air Iceland Connect on the flight back to Reykjavik!  They’d only just started this program of a communal diary so I was the first to put an entry in the one that was in the seat pocket in front of me.  Yet another reason to return … to see what stories others have added.  Love, love, love this idea!

Awesome idea by Air Iceland Connect

Arrived in Reykjavik and it was time to say goodbye to this awesome group of people who I have really enjoyed spending the last 12 days with.  Always a sad moment, given how much you share with each other over the course of the trek.

 

Summary

In short, if you love long-distance treks in remote places, the Unplugged Wilderness Trek is absolutely brilliant.  It’s not a difficult hike if you are relatively fit and used to trekking (at least not with the conditions we had), and you pass through some truly spectacular scenery.  

The equipment and support provided by Greenland Adventures is fantastic, the camping arrangements are really comfortable, the food ranges from fantastic through to OK (sorry Maxime, I really don’t like porridge 🙁 even Nutella can’t save it), and the chance to see this seldom-visited part of Greenland is incredible.  Yes it is expensive.  But absolutely worth it!  

Special thanks to our guide, Maxime Poncet, who turned the trip into something much more than I could ever have expected.  Your ability to get everyone talking, interesting stories, and never-ending patience and good cheer (even in the face of freezing rivers) set us up to have a really wonderful time together as a group – something appreciated by us all.

 

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 11 – East Greenland

Day 11 started early and we were happily greeted with brilliant blue skies again.  

View from Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

The early start was because we had asked Maxime the evening before if we could add in the climb to the summit behind the hut (which we were meant to do yesterday) before heading back to the campsite.   He’d agreed, but it meant getting up early so we could have breakfast, clean and arrange the hut and get everything sorted to leave, get up and down the mountain and then all the way back to the campsite, while still making it in time to catch the boats that were coming to collect us and take us back to Kulusuk.  Done!

Although the sky was perfectly clear, the Tasilap Kua Valley below us was blanketed in cloud – very reminiscent of what I saw so many times while observing at Cerro Tololo Interamerican Observatory in Chile.  

Tasilap Kua Valley blanketed in cloud - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This scenario – where I’m up on a mountain looking down into a sea of clouds always reminds me of my time at the Observatories in Chile, and I wrote a rare personal post about this last year.

The climb up to the summit starts off pretty steep but is not too difficult.  And, if you turn around, there are amazing views back down over the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut and its surroundings.  It really is in the most incredible location!

Tasiilaq Mountain Hut and surroundings from above - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

You can see the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut on the small rise at bottom left of the image

We climbed as a group up until a certain point, but then Maxime split us into 2 smaller parties to make the final climb to the top.  I waited in the second group soaking up the sunshine until he returned to collect us.

waiting for the final push to the summit Day 10/11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Filip, Dusan and Mathilde soaking up the sun waiting for our turn to head to the summit

As we began to climb, we understood his caution – both in splitting us into two groups now, and also in recommending we didn’t climb yesterday in the rain.  It became an almost vertical scramble, where it was very easy to dislodge rocks and stones onto others coming up from below.  Fewer people in the group, less likelihood this would happen, or that someone would get injured if it did.

To the summit Day 10/11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

The summit we climbed to is the middle peak

So glad we got up early to do this though, because the views from the top were absolutely spectacular!  And thanks to the cloud for clearing off! 😉

View from the summit Day 10/11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Very wide parorama trying to encapsulate the entire vista. It was incredible!

View from the summit Day 10/11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

View to the West of the summit and ridge

View from the summit Day 10/11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

View to the East of the summit and ridge

We spent quite a bit of time up the top with Maxime pointing out some of the different features of the area, as well as the route we’d taken over the past 11 days.

Maxime showing us peaks - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Oh, and we finally took the group photo!

Group Photo - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Group Photo (clockwise from me at bottom right): me, Rebecca, Olivier, Mathilde, Maxime, Anna, Filip, Dusan, Damien, Stephane, Andrew, Francesco, Laurent

Unfortunately, we had to leave eventually and pick our way back down the mountain.  Well, except for the last part where Filip started a snowball fight with Mathilde, Maxime and I, and we ended up running down the majority of the final snowfield.

From the summit Day 10/11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

The view of the glacier from above was amazing

Glacier from above - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and I love realising how small I am in front of such grandeur.

Day 10/11 Grandeur - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Those who have read through my other posts about this Unplugged Wilderness Trek, or have read about my trek in Huayhuash, Peru last year (or any of my hiking posts really, where I’m hiking with others), will have noticed that many of the photos include my fellow hikers.  I didn’t always do this.  In fact, I used to wait for people to get out of the way before I would take a photo.  One of the reasons I changed in the past few years is for precisely this reason – people give a sense of scale to where I am – and in the mountains, scale is fundamental to the awe-inspiring experience.

We had a quick lunch at the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut,  then headed back down the vertical cliff

Down from the hut Day 11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

back down the moraine

Down from the hut Day 11 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and back along the river to where we had left our gear at the campsite.  

Tasilap Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This last part seemed to take forever, and Filip and I (who were out in front of Maxime and the rest of the group) were really starting to wonder whether we had somehow missed spotting the tent!  But no – it was just a lot further than we expected.

As we were approaching camp, we saw 2 speedboats leave the campsite and head back up the fjord … we were running a little late … oops!  Fortunately they did come back for us and we made the journey back to Kulusuk and the Kulusuk Hostel.

Boat to Kulusuk - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Filip enjoying the sun on the way up the Tasiilaq Fjord back to Kulusuk. Photo: Mathilde Bousson

There, we each took turns at our first hot shower for 12 days.  I had just finished lathering up my hair with the most shampoo I think I’ve ever used in my life, when suddenly – the water cut out!  Completely!  Fortunately I had already washed the rest of myself, so I got dressed in clean clothes (heaven – you really appreciate the basic luxuries after 12 days), tied my towel around my incredibly soapy head, and went to find out what was going on.  Jóhanna ended up coming and rescuing me about half-hour later and I finally washed the soap out of my hair.

Massive meal of fish for our last dinner together – really not wanting the whole thing to end 🙁

 

Trekking Time:  approximately 10 hours

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 10 – East Greenland

Day 10 of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek was to see us scaling the almost vertical, boulder-strewn mountain behind the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut.  However, we woke up to rain and Maxime decided it would be too dangerous to attempt with the weather as it was.  Plus we wouldn’t actually see anything.

Crap weather - Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

He didn’t have to work too hard to convince us, and we all spent the day relaxing in the comfort of the hut.  Mostly this involved a lot of talking, and drinking copious amounts of tea and coffee.

Relaxing Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Hanging out in Tasiilaq Mountain Hut. Photo: Mathilde Bousson

Eating more Travellunch dried food.

Dinner Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Reading, and playing innumerable games of UNO.  I have to admit, I learned some new, country-specific rules to what I thought was a universal game in this hut!  I still think some of them were made up on the spot…

UNO Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

I also ducked in to have the best nanna-nap ever during the afternoon, having not slept much the night before!

Sleeping area at Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Tasiilaq Mountain Hut sleeps 8 people in the main dormitory (we had a few in the kitchen as well). Throw your sleeping bag down and get cosy! Photo: Dusan Číčel

The rain did stop eventually so it was nice to get outside for a bit of fresh air

Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and to watch the sun fade over the Tasilap Kua Valley below.

Sunset over the valley - Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

There was also a pretty spectacular golden light show on the tips of the peaks above the hut.

Sunset Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Hopefully a sign of better weather for tomorrow!

Trekking Time:  0 hours

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 9 – East Greenland

Today I had to confront the logistical challenge that I’d been putting off addressing ever since I signed up for the Unplugged Wilderness Trek.  We were going to spend the next 2 nights at the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut and would need to take whatever personal items we needed for 2 nights, plus our sleeping bags and our share of communal food for 2 days.  

Now as much as I LOVE my Lowepro Fastpack 250 camera bag (I’m currently on my 3rd one in 10 years – they get a lot of use!), it is designed for day hikes, not overnights.  And while I can fit my Fujifilm XT-1 (seriously awesome camera for travel photography) + 4 lenses + flash + food for a day + warm clothing + rainjacket (which tends to hang off the side), it most certainly cannot fit my -12 degree rated sleeping bag!

So Day 9 started with me figuring out how to attach everything to the outside of the bag.  In the end, and thanks to a loan of the rope that usually tied our cooking pots and pans up, I managed to cobble something together that worked – my sleeping bag and warm clothes jammed into a dry-bag which was strapped to the top of the bag.

The conversation at breakfast started off with a discussion of what each person would choose as their superpower.  The only rule was it had to be a self-contained superpower – ie it could not involve influencing another person’s decisions.  This was a no-brainer for me and I (and Mathilde) immediately came up with teleportation.   Soaking wet and freezing cold after Day 4‘s hike?  No worries at all!  Teleport home to mum and dad, say a quick g’day, have a hot shower, change clothes, and teleport back to camp nice and warm and dry and ready for hot chocolate (actually, we’d run out of hot chocolate by this point, I would have bought some more back with me) and more great conversation.  Done!

Given this discussion, I have absolutely no idea at all how we ended up forgetting to brew the Iceland Moss (Cetraria Islandica) that Maxime collected yesterday into the tea that would actually grant us these superpowers … but somehow we did!  Perhaps it was due to the evolution of the discussion into the joys of Australian music and the the dulcet tones of 1990s Kylie Minogue (I hate “The Locomotion“!) emanating from Stephane’s extremely eclectic mix of music on his phone!

After breakfast, we packed everything into the cook/dining tent, took on board our share of the food for the next 2 days (laptop compartments in camera bags have multiple uses.  Thank goodness dry trekking food is flat!), and set out up Tasilap Kua Valley towards the “The Triplets“.

Tasilap Kua Valley and "The Triplets" - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

We stopped for lunch in an area that was gorgeous and green and had spectacular views to the other side of the valley

Lunch spot Day 9 - Tasilap Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

as well as boulders for Maxime and Filip to play with (both are boulderers).  Actually, come to think of it, maybe that’s precisely why we stopped here … 😉

Lunch spot bouldering - Tasilap Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

It also had a great view of where we were heading.  The Tasiilaq Mountain Hut is located up the ridge that borders the glacier on the left hand side (viewed in the image below) and around the back of the “small” hills.

Glacier leading to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

After lunch, we started climbing, picking our way over the boulders in the moraine.

Glacial Morraine to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

It is a spectacular hike beside the glacier 

Glacial Morraine to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Maxime and I leading the charge up the glacial moraine to the Tasiilaq Mountain hut. Photo: Mathilde Bousson

With amazing views back down into the valley.

Rest Stop on Glacial Morraine to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Rest stop half-way up the moraine.

At the top of this, we were met by an even bigger challenge.  Maxime had described it along the lines of the following:  “We walk up the moraine until we hit what looks like a vertical wall, then we climb that, and the hut is at the top”.   Riiiiiiiiiight!

And while it wasn’t quite a vertical wall to begin with, it wasn’t far off!

Approach to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And in the end, his description turned out to be pretty accurate, but at least there were ropes attached to help in the endeavour!

Approach to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

It was all totally worth it in the end!  The Tasiilaq Mountain Hut is in an absolutely spectacular location 

Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Maxime waiting patiently while Filip and I bring up the rear in reaching the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut. Photo: Mathilde Bousson

with incredible views further into the mountains

Views from Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

An Icelandic Mountain Guide in East Greenland

and also back down onto the glacier and the valley below.

Views from Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

The guys went to collect water for the next couple of days (always one of the first chores when arriving at a camp)

Collecting water Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and we settled in around the dining table drinking tea (oh the variety that was at the hut – even English Breakfast tea!), chatting, and finishing off the day with our surprisingly good Travellunch re-hydrated dried trekking food for dinner.  We ate a lot of this stuff in the final days 🙂 

Dinner at Tasiilaq Mountain Hut - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

 

Trekking Time:  approximately 8 hours

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 8 – East Greenland

More beauty during my regular 2am wake-up call of nature!

Sunrise Day 8 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And although the clouds made for a gorgeous sunrise, it did mean that Day 8 was yet another overcast one for the most part.   This was a fairly short day in comparison to all the rest, where we essentially hiked along the Tasiilaq Fjord to its end.  

Tasiilaq Fjord and The Triplets - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

However, to make it a little more interesting, Maxime took us on a more scenic route that ascended into the mountains again.  

Day 8 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Unfortunately I seem to have been too busy talking to take many photos (it always depends on who I’m hiking with and whether they are on for a chat too) … but after lunch near a special waterfall

Lunch spot Day 8 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

we ended up at a small lake surrounded by peaks.

Lake on Day 8 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

We hung out up there for a while before heading back down towards the Fjord.

Day 8 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

At a rest stop where, for a change of pace from sweet biscuits, we cracked open packets of dried fish and remoulade (given my loathing of mayonnaise, I was highly skeptical of the remoulade… but was very quickly converted!), Maxime set about collecting some Iceland Moss (Cetraria Islandica)  a lichen he’s told us about earlier that was supposed to give us superpowers if brewed into a tea.  Guess what is for breakfast tomorrow morning?!  

The sun came out again as we descended towards the fjord

Day 8 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and our route took us past a small Inuit ruin

Inuit ruin - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

before arriving at our final campsite.

Trekking Time:  approximately 6 hours

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:

Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 7 – East Greenland

We finally had the most glorious weather on Day 7 of the Unplugged Wilderness trek!  The jackets and jumpers were off and the shirtsleeves (and eventually arms) were out.  Oh how I love blue skies and sunny days!

Maxime gave detailed instructions to the boat drivers on where to drop our gear, and off we set up the Tunup Kua Valley.   

Instructions to boat drivers - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This was a really lovely part of the hike, and not just because the sun was out.  We followed a river the whole way

Hiking in Tunup Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

which meant gorgeous little waterfalls

Small waterfalls in Tunup Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And spectacular granite cliffs that towered above us

Granite cliffs Tunup Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Look for the people to get a sense of scale

We had lunch in front of a small lake with a beautiful view of the jagged peaks 

lunch stop Tunup Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and it was just such a great feeling to be warm and enjoying the sun under bright blue skies!   Although clouds can be spectacular and moody, and make the lighting much easier to deal with for taking photos – there’s something about the joy that sunshine brings.  Maybe it’s all the Vitamin D?!

We finished hiking to the top of the pass and dropped over into the Tasiilap Nua valley, which would take us down to the Tasiilaq Fjord.

over the pass Tunup Kua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

There we were confronted by another glacier tongue crossing.

Glacier crossing Tasiilap Nua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

which Maxime assured us we could do without the crampons (even though we were still carrying them).

Glacier crossing Tasiilap Nua Valley - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

After this, it was a fairly straightforward descent to the absolutely gorgeous Tasiilaq Fjord and our next campsite. 

Tasiilaq Fjord - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This was the first time on the trek where I felt a real similarity with being in Patagonia.  The view above could have been lifted directly out of Torres del Paine National Park in Chile or Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina and I felt right at home 🙂   The three main peaks in the centre rise to about 1500m and form Trillingerne – better known as “The Triplets” – the characteristic marker of the end of the Tasiilaq Fjord.

 

Trekking Time:  approximately 7 hours

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 6 – East Greenland

Day 6 saw us wake up to better weather than we had on Day 4 and Day 5 thank goodness!  It looked like the sun might even come out at some point!

Views from campsite at Bluie East Two - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

After packing up camp, we convened on the abandoned airstrip of Bluie East Two for a little more info about the area – the US left the cleanup operation in the hands of Greenland and Denmark claiming that the cost of defending the free world had to be shared.  Adding that if they foot the bill for Greenland, that would set a precedent for the many other countries in which they’d established and then abandoned bases during WWII.

Yes, the Greenland flies also finally managed to find us (note the head-nets)!

Bluie Two East air strip - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

We farewelled the rusted remains of this environmental disaster (which the Danish Government has now committed to cleaning up) 

Bluie Two East air base - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and set out along the Ikateq Strait towards the Tunu Fjord.   This was a very easy walk compared to the past few days and I spent the majority of it chatting with Filip.  

hiking along the Ikateq Strait towards the Tunu Fjord - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

The “highlight” of the day, and the thing we’d all been looking forward to with great anticipation (some might say that “dread” was a more accurate word), was the crossing of the major glacial river just before we reached our next camp in the Tunup Kua valley.  Given the recent rain, it wasn’t clear exactly what we’d find when we got there, or for exactly how long we would have to wade (hopefully not swim!) through the water to get to the other side.

more freezing rivers to cross - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Maxime did an amazing job of keeping us out of the water for as long as possible and scouting out the best places to cross, managing to find locations where the water only came to knee depth on me.  

avoiding the freezing water for as long as possible - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

So after a bit of a pep talk, and leaving one of his hiking poles for me to use (it did actually help with the rivers and I was one of only 2 people hiking without them. I tend to find them more of a hindrance than a help in most instances)

more freezing rivers to cross - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

there was nothing for it but to grit the teeth and plunge in.

more freezing rivers to cross - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

The above image highlights why I could never be a guide in the places I love to trek.  While we all waded through as quickly as conceivably possible, Maxime just stood there in the middle of the freezing river in case anyone needed assistance.  No way!   And although he assures me that you can train yourself to better cope with the cold, I think he might have started with a much greater tolerance for it than I currently have.  After all, this is a bloke who’s led the Greenland Icecap Crossing twice!

In the end, there turned out to be 6 river channels we had to wade through.  And I was seriously hurting and wishing for numbness by the time we’d crossed the last one!   OK – this was infinitely worse than crossing the river at the start to the Brewster’s Hut track in New Zealand!

more freezing rivers to cross - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Fortunately the campsite was not too far from where we finished crossing the river, though just far enough that I’d warmed up a little by the time we got there.   It also helped that the sun finally came out and we got to enjoy amazing views 

campsite Day 6 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and some warmth, until the sun sank below the mountains behind us and plunged us into the cold shadows again.   

campsite Day 6 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

But not before spectacularly lighting up the tops of the mountains 🙂

Views from campsite Day 6 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

 

Trekking Time:  approximately 6 hours

Read more:  links to my other blog posts about the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides:

  • Day 1 – Tasiilaq to Kulusuk and along the Sermiligaaq Fjord 
  • Day 2 – Hike to the Karale Glacier
  • Day 3 – Hike to the lookout over Sermiligaaq Fjord and Karale Fjord
  • Day 4 – Karale Fjord camp to Beach camp
  • Day 5 – Beach camp to Bluie East Two
  • Day 6 – Bluie East Two along the Ikateq strait to the Tunu Fjord
  • Day 7 – Tunup Kua Valley to Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 8 – Along the Tasiilaq Fjord
  • Day 9 – Tasiilaq Fjord to Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 10 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut
  • Day 11 – Tasiilaq Mountain Hut to Tasiilaq Fjord to Kulusuk
  • Day 12 – Kulusuk to Reykjavik
  • Video Slideshow – of some of my favourite images
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me: