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Trekking Argentina – South Patagonia Icefield Expedition – Marconi Glacier – Day 2

The trip description from Serac Expeditions for the South Patagonia Icefield Trek says this about Day 2:

…we trek up the glacier until nearing the Marconi pass – entrance to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  This will surely be the Expedition’s toughest day.

This is what had been fueling my fears for months!

We awoke to rain and wind, and had a brief breakfast of cornflakes and tea while still in our sleeping bags.  Although I put it off as long as possible, I did eventually have to emerge, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the rain was not as heavy as it sounded from inside the tent.  We got dressed in our waterproof pants, jackets and gaiters and packed up quickly ensuring, as per Juan’s advice, that our sunglasses, crampons and harness were easy to get to in our packs.

And so began our climb up to the glacier and the entrance to the Icefield.

Trekking companion on the climb to the face of the Gorra Blanca Sur glacier - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

A not-so-steep part at the beginning of our climb to the face of the Gorra Blanca Sur Glacier.

Was it as tough as it was made out to be?  

Absolutely!

And this was despite the fact that we had a pretty good day for this part of the trek!  On some expeditions the wind is so strong that they have to stay extra days at Lago 14 waiting for it to abate.

The first 1.5 hours of the climb was essentially straight up a vertical cliff – in many places more like rock-climbing than hiking.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. changes in climate over the past few years have made ascending directly via the Marconi Glacier too dangerous.  This new route accesses the Icefield via the Gorra Blanca Sur Glacier, whose face is at a higher altitude than the Marconi Glacier. 
  2. we were trekking at the end of Summer.  Earlier in the season this area is covered in snow and you can essentially just snow-shoe your way directly up to the glacier face.
Beautiful light on the mountains - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

At one point Rafa tapped me on my shoulder and said “Mira detrás de ti” (“Look behind you”). The light was truly spectacular, and provided a welcome distraction as we climbed

There were some very tricky parts – particularly for a person with short legs and carrying more than 1/3 of her bodyweight on her back!   One of my favourite images from the entire expedition is the following, which completely encapsulates the challenges of Day 2.

Juan helping Anita on top of a narrow ledge with a steep drop-off to the left - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

An encapsulating moment. Overcoming the third obstacle of the trek, but with the most incredible view

We had already climbed up from below the lake, being careful to brace ourselves against wind gusts and not fall on the slippery, wet rocks.  Juan instructed us to put on our harnesses as we faced our third obstacle of the trek – a “step” that was taller than I was, with a sheer drop-off on the left-hand side.  An attached rope provided the solution as we harnessed ourselves to our guides and used the rope to pull ourselves up onto the 1 metre-wide ledge.  Anita has just executed this maneuver in the image and Juan is unhooking her.

At this point, we found a slightly sheltered place behind a rock for one of our short snack stops.  The food provided by Serac Expeditions for this trek was great, and included Argentinean empanadas for lunch on the first 2 days!  I chose to eat one of these, rather than diving into the chocolate bars, muslei bars, and other snacks – partially to save the others for later when I would be craving something sweet, and partially because they were the heaviest food item I was carrying!  Anything to reduce weight 😀

Argentinean Empanadas for lunch - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Argentinean empanadas for lunch. There was no shortage of food on the expedition

Another obstacle we came across a little later was essentially a rock “chute”, where I had to brace myself against the walls in order to reach the top.  Usually I’m quite coordinated, but on this particular occasion I somehow managed to get myself turned around and wedged pretty tightly in the narrow crack.  I wasn’t at all sure how I was going to get myself out.  But I was determined not to have to ask for assistance, and through sheer force of will I managed to extract myself.

Up, up, up we climbed.  I couldn’t imagine doing this if it had been any windier!

Silhouette of trekking companion climbing toward the glacier - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Did I mention it was steep?

Eventually we reached the face of the Gorra Blanca Sur Glacier and it was time to affix our crampons.  

Affixing crampons - - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

I’ve worn crampons before, but each time they are slightly different. Juan affixed them the first time for me. Yes, it was still raining

Then up onto the ice.

The next hour was a steady 30 degree climb up the glacier to the Icefield.  At this time of year all the snow had melted so we were walking on hard ice and had no trouble spotting and avoiding the crevasses.  The views back down the glacier were stunning, though the rise of the glacier itself seemed to be never-ending.

The view behind (top) and in front (bottom) as we climbed the glacier - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

The view behind and in front as we climbed the steady 30 degree slope of the Gorra Blanca Sur Glacier

It was a relief to finally reach the Icefield where our trek flattened out.

Looking back across the flat icefield towards where we'd come from - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Looking back across the flat icefield towards where we’d just come from. These two people were the only ones we saw for 6 days, and this was as close as we got to them

Here, the crevasses became wider and deeper, often with small trickles of water falling into the abyss. We also came upon a Moulin – a hole created when melt-water encounters a weak-spot in the ice and, due to the Coriolis effect, begins to boar a narrow vertical shaft into the glacier.  Ultimately, both processes deliver water to the base of the glacier to lubricate its movement, and it is for this reason that glaciers tend to move faster during Summer. 

Crevasses and a moulin - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Learning about Moulins (top) and some of the larger crevasses on our hike to the hut

An hour later, the hut (our home for the next couple of nights) was in sight, though there was one last uphill in order to reach it.

Approach to the Garcia Soto Refugio - - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

The Refugio Garcia Soto was at the top of this rise on the bare rocky ground. Climbing another hill was the very last thing I wanted to do after scaling what was essentially a cliff to get here

We had crossed the border into Chile at around the point where the glacier flattened out, and arrived for a late lunch at the CONAF hut. 

Exterior of Refugio Garcia Soto - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

The Refugio Garcia Soto – our home for the next two nights

There are usually 3 Chilean Carabineros (police/border guards) stationed here (seriously, you find these poor guys stationed at the most remote outposts of their country) but, given their absence, we had the place to ourselves and quickly settled in.  The hut was not warm (renewed respect for the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut in East Greenland), but we spent a great afternoon drinking tea and chatting around the dining table.

Inside the Refugio Garcia Soto - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Making ourselves at home at the Refugio Garcia Soto. It was not heated, so was quite cold inside.

We also made several excursions outside to explore our surroundings.  Although the mountains were obscured, we were treated to a bright rainbow arching over the glacier.

Rainbow over the glacier - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Rainbow view from the Refugio Garcia Soto

Amazing patterns in the ice.

Ice patterns - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

I loved these patterns in the ice, looking towards the Icefield itself

Spectacular vistas over the Icecap (move cursor over the image to scroll the panorama).

 

And to top it all off, a platter of peanuts, olives, cheese, salami and crackers on one of our “tea-breaks” back inside the hut!  Heaven!

Luxury snacks on Day 2 of the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Luxury snacks! The food provided by Serac Expeditions was fantastic, and this was a real treat to celebrate the end of the hardest day of the expedition. No wonder our guides were carrying 26kg!

We finished the day with a beautiful sunset that promised better weather tomorrow, and headed to bed early due to tiredness and the fact that we had to wake up at 5am for our ascent of Gorra Blanca.

Sunset from the Refugio Garcia Soto - - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Sunset over the Fitzroy range from the Refugio Garcia Soto

Hiking Details

  • Hiking time: 5.5 hours
  • Distance Covered: 8.3km
  • Altitude:  +818m, -22m

Read more about the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 8-day South Patagonia Icefield Trek with Serac Expeditions:

  • Prelude – leading up to departure
  • Day 1 – El Chaltén to Laguna de los 14 
  • Day 2 – Marconi Pass to Refugio Garcia Soto
  • Day 3 – Gorra Blanca summit
  • Day 4 – Refugio Garcia Soto to Circo de los Altares
  • Day 5 – Circo de los Altares to Laguna Ferrari
  • Day 6 – Laguna Ferrari to Refugio Paso de Viento
  • Day 7 – Refugio Paso de Viento to Paso Huemul to Bahía Témpanos
  • Day 8 – Bahía Tempanos to El Chaltén
  • Summary

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Argentina and around the world.

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Trekking Argentina – South Patagonia Icefield Expedition – Río Eléctrico – Day 1

I slept surprisingly well despite my nervousness about the trek, and was at the office of Serac Expeditions just before 8am.  There we added 1/2 of a tent (the tents were shared) and our specialised equipment for the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition (crampons and harness) to our packs, as well as food for the next 6 days.  

Inside Serac Expeditions with the guides packing the last of the gear

The last of the gear to be packed for the expedition. The entire floor was covered when we first started

Everything was divided evenly and, in the end, each of our packs weighed around 21kg (the guides were carrying 26kg).  I was the smallest person in the group, and this was more than 1/3 of my body-weight.  Lifting it from a standing start was challenging to say the least!

Packing and ready to go on the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Final packing for the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition. My backpack (hired from Serac Expeditions) is the one in the middle

Once we had all the equipment and food packed, we bundled into a minivan for the 40 minute drive along a bumpy gravel road to the Río Eléctrico – the starting point of our expedition.

Trekking companions walking past sign to Piedra del Fraile - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

Leaving the parking lot at the Río Eléctrico to head toward Piedra del Fraile

The first few hours were nice and flat and followed the river through the Lenga trees to the Refugio Los Troncos at Piedra del Fraile. However, to make it a little more challenging, Juan and Rafa set a cracking pace, which meant I was almost running to keep up as I tried to stop and take photographs along the way.

Valle Eléctrico and Piedra del Fraile - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Hiking through the Lenga forest (top) to reach the Refugio Los Troncos at Piedra del Fraile (bottom)

We stopped at the Refugio for about 1/2 hour for a snack and a rest and to admire the incredible surrounds, before loading up again and continuing past the “point of no return”…

Piedra del Fraile - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Views from Piedra del Fraile (top and middle) and the sign indicating the point of no return (bottom)

From there we entered a wide glacial valley surrounded by impressive peaks

Trekking companions in the wide glacial valley after Piedra del Fraile - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

Glacial valleys tend to be wider than river valleys, and U-shaped rather than V-shaped

and eventually reached the Lago Eléctrico, which we skirted around for the next hour or so.

Lago Eléctrico - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

The turquoise waters of Lago Eléctrico

About 1/2-way around the lake, we encountered our first major obstacle of the expedition – the Pollone River.  It was time to change from our hiking boots into our river-crossing shoes. 

Trekking companions changing shoes - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

Prepping for the river crossing

Just like the rivers in East Greenland, the Pollone River originates from a glacier and is absolutely freezing cold.  Unfortunately, I still don’t own neoprene socks, so by the time I slowly negotiated the deep and very swiftly flowing river (there were a few hairy moments, even with the aid of my trekking poles), my feet were once again in agony from the chill.  

Crossing the Pollone River with Cerro Fitzroy in the background

We continued following the shore of Lago Eléctrico to reach the scheduled campsite at La Playita but, as agreed with Juan at the briefing the night before, we did not actually make camp there. 

Looking back towards the lake and La Playita - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

The end of Lago Eléctrico and La Playita campsite

The idea was to hike an extra 1.5 hours on this “easy” first day, to make the “very hard” second day a little less difficult.  Seemed like a very good idea, so we started our ascent toward the alternate campsite at Lago 14.

Trekking companions ascending towards Lago 14 - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

A little further on, we encountered our second obstacle of the trek – the raging Río Eléctrico Superior.  This was a huge amount of water flowing down a very narrow channel in the rocks and, in order to cross, we had to use a zipline!  So this is why we were carrying harnesses 🙂

Rafa and Juan setting up the zipline - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

Juan and Rafa on either end of the zipline. Juan helped us hook up, and Rafa helped pull us across and disengage us at the other end

I went across first with my 21kg backpack dangling between my legs.  The line was angled slightly up so we actually had to pull ourselves across – thank goodness Rafa was helping out!

Obstacle number 2 out of the way, we continued our climb to Lago 14.  We were hiking against a pretty stiff wind at this point and I was very tired when we finally arrived, but you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful campsite!

Campsite at Lago 14 - - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

Campsite at Lago 14 – an absolutely stunning location

Juan and Rafa showed us how to pitch the tents and we settled in before it started drizzling.  The views to Cerro Fitzroy were absolutely stunning, and it was clear why it is often called “the smoking mountain”.

Cerro Fitzroy - South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

Views of Cerro Fitzroy – the “smoking mountain” – from Lago 14

Unlike in Greenland, we had no communal dining tent on this trek.  Juan and Rafa would boil water for tea and cook our dinner, and shuttle-run between the tents to deliver thermoses of hot water and our meals.  I have to admit I felt sorry for them being out in the cold, but very thankful at the same time that I didn’t have to go out there in it!  Although I love the idea of being a trekking guide, I’m not sure I’d really enjoy the reality of it.

Dinner on the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition - Argentina

While camping, Juan and Rafa would deliver our meals to our tents. Yes – our plate was a tupperware bowl

After Jan and I finished our in-tent/in-sleeping-bag dinner, Juan appeared with the map and explained the plan for Day 2.  An early start for the very steep climb up onto the Marconi Glacier and the Icefield itself.  This is the day I’ve been worried about…

Juan explaining the plan for Day 2 in our tent - - South Patagonia Icefield - Argentina

Juan explaining the plan for Day 2, armed with a map and the weather forecast

Hiking Details

  • Hiking time: 7 hours
  • Distance Covered: 8.3km
  • Altitude:  +500m, -185m

Read more about the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 8-day South Patagonia Icefield Trek with Serac Expeditions and Swoop Patagonia:

  • Prelude – leading up to departure
  • Day 1 – El Chaltén to Laguna de los 14 
  • Day 2 – Marconi Pass to Refugio Garcia Soto
  • Day 3 – Gorra Blanca summit
  • Day 4 – Refugio Garcia Soto to Circo de los Altares
  • Day 5 – Circo de los Altares to Laguna Ferrari
  • Day 6 – Laguna Ferrari to Refugio Paso de Viento
  • Day 7 – Refugio Paso de Viento to Paso Huemul to Bahía Témpanos
  • Day 8 – Bahía Tempanos to El Chaltén
  • Summary

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Argentina and around the world.

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Trekking Argentina – South Patagonia Icefield Expedition – Prelude

In 2015, I did the 7-day Torres del Paine Circuit trek with Swoop Patagonia.  Although I had hiked most of the trails of the Torres del Paine National Park in my 3 previous visits (it really is one of the most spectacular places on the planet), I specifically wanted to do the Circuit for the moment when you reach the top of the John Garner Pass and have the South Patagonia Icefield stretched out before you.

Looking down on the Grey Glacier and the South Patagonia Icecap from John Garner Pass on the Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

Looking down on the Grey Glacier and the South Patagonia Icecap from John Garner Pass on the Torres del Paine Circuit Trek

I fell in love with long-distance trekking on that trip.

A rainy dawn at the Torres del Paine National Park

A gorgeous sunrise over Los Cuernos in the Torres del Paine National Park meant walking in rain for the rest of the day on the Circuit Trek

From there, I crossed the border into Argentina, re-visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier

The face of the Perito Moreno Glacier – one of the most impressive glaciers I’ve ever seen.

and exploring for the first time around El Chaltén – Argentina’s (then largely unknown) mecca for hiking.   

Approaching El Chaltén and the Fitzroy massif

Approaching El Chaltén and the Fitzroy massif

It was there that I first learned about the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition, in which you spend several days trekking on the Icecap itself.  Guess what replaced the Torres del Paine Circuit on my bucket-list?

Fast-forward to 2017.

One of the friends I made while on the Unplugged Wilderness Trek in East Greenland told me she was traveling to Patagonia in early 2018.  While helping her plan her trip, I suddenly remembered the Icecap Expedition and went searching for it on the internet.  After the 12-day trek in Greenland, the 10-day Huayhuash Circuit Trek in Peru, and the 7-day Torres del Paine Circuit in Chile, I was looking for a new challenge and, having re-read the description, it sounded like the perfect trek to tackle next.  I contacted Swoop Patagonia (they were amazing last time) and signed up for the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition with their Argentinean partner company Serac Expeditions.

Storefront of Serac Expeditions in El Chaltén - Argentina

Storefront of Serac Expeditions in El Chaltén

The website makes it very clear that this is a strenuous trek with an intermediate technical difficulty.  While the distance didn’t phase me at all, I have to admit I was a little nervous about the cold, and that fact that I’d have to carry a full backpack for the first time in 20 years.  On my other long-distance treks I only had to carry a day-pack, as the rest was schlepped by porters or donkeys or boats. 

Due to the nature of the trek, both Swoop Patagonia and Serac Expeditions screen potential clients for suitable previous experience and, fortunately, I passed the grade.  But I still had several months to stew on the question of the cold and carrying the weight of the backpack…

It was almost a relief when, the day before the expedition started, the group met at the wonderful Patagonia Travelers Hostel in El Chaltén (I highly recommend it as a place to stay) for a briefing with Juan, our guide, and Rafa, our assistant guide.   There were 4 of us in total – Anita and Reto from Switzerland, Jan from Czech Republic, and me, and this get-together was to make sure that we each had everything we needed to be safe and relatively comfortable on the trek.   

Rafa went through all my gear with me, item by item, and gave me the tick of approval.  Then we all gathered around the map as Juan explained the plan for the next 8-9 days.  

Our trekking route for the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition

The thick lines highlight our actual trekking route for the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition as recorded by Reto and his fancy watch. This was exactly the plan that Juan suggested at this briefing

Despite my fears, it sounded incredibly awesome, and I was really looking forward to getting started.

The last part of the briefing was to take us to the police station to register our trek and get stamped out of Argentina (we would spend several days trekking in Chile), and I decided to have an early night in anticipation.

Sign to the police station in El Chalten

Read more about the South Patagonia Icefield Expedition

If this post has piqued your curiosity, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 8-day South Patagonia Icefield Trek with Serac Expeditions and Swoop Patagonia:

  • Prelude – leading up to departure
  • Day 1 – El Chaltén to Laguna de los 14 
  • Day 2 – Marconi Pass to Refugio Garcia Soto
  • Day 3 – Gorra Blanca summit
  • Day 4 – Refugio Garcia Soto to Circo de los Altares
  • Day 5 – Circo de los Altares to Laguna Ferrari
  • Day 6 – Laguna Ferrari to Refugio Paso de Viento
  • Day 7 – Refugio Paso de Viento to Paso Huemul to Bahía Témpanos
  • Day 8 – Bahía Tempanos to El Chaltén
  • Summary

Alternatively, check out my other posts about hiking and trekking in Argentina and around the world.

Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:

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 bathing the tips of the peaks behind the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut with a golden light. The hut is in the foreground

Another favourite image

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 Information

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

Red shed in Narsaq with a sign for Greenland Minerals and Energy and an outline of Greenland

Was it worth the wait?   

ABSOLUTELY!  

Though I really should not have waited and made my first trip years ago 🙁  Oh well, making up for lost time – 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 big 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) things to buy are fresh fruit and vegetables. Remember, everything gets shipped in from Denmark!
A rack of guns in the Pilersuisoq supermarket in 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.

Two brightly painted houses in front of distant mountain

  • 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.

Images of planes and helicopters of Air Iceland Connect and Air Greenland

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. 

The dock at Itilleq which provides access to Igaliku. Two of the red and white Blue Ice transfer boats are visible as is a private yacht

The red and white boats are those owned by Blue Ice. This was how I got around in South Greenland when not hiking.

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.

If you are on a budget, 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

If you aren’t up for a hostel, check out the other accommodation options available at Guide to Greenland or Visit Greenland.

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.

My voucher book and brief information brochures from Blue Ice Explorer

You have to be comfortable traveling independently with only this much information!

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 my other trekking companions in East Greenland, this was their second trip with IMG, and one of the top-rated New Zealand outdoor adventure companies partner with IMG to run their Arctic Expeditions.

Our trekking guide at a distance standing on a small hill looking up at the mountains towering above him

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.

Tours in General

Although I traveled Greenland fairly independently, there are some very good tour operators at work there.  Guide to Greenland in particular is an extensive site listing everything from complete package tours to day tours, and is one of the best places to start when looking for what tours are available.

Summary

I absolutely fell in love with Greenland and I can’t encourage you enough to go if you are at all curious about it.  The best places to learn more about visiting this amazing country are the two sites I have mentioned throughout this post: Guide to Greenland and Visit Greenland.  

You won’t regret it!

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Hiking and Trekking Greenland – A Summary from 2017

My long-awaited 5 weeks in Greenland this year were pretty much spent hiking and trekking 🙂  I divided my time between South and East Greenland, which, it turns out, have vastly different scenery!

Trekking group descending towards Karale Fjord with Knud Rasmussen Glacier and mountains in the background

One of my favourite images from East Greenland.  An amazing view over the Knud Rasmussen Glacier taken on Day 3 of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

I know there are plenty of others out there who are as keen as me for outdoor adventure, so the following is a very brief summary of hiking in these areas, and links off to my detailed blog posts for each of the individual hikes.

South Greenland

I spent 14 days in South Greenland this year between 20 June and 3 July. The weather was good for the most part and, with a couple of exceptions, I often found myself hiking in shirt-sleeves.  The flies and mosquitoes that you read so much about were not too bad on most days, though you definitely need to take a head net.  They will drive you crazy if they do find you!

Me with my head net on, protecting me from the flies on Waterfall Hike near Igaliku in South Greenland

Doesn’t matter how daggy it looks – you need a head net if the flies find you in Greenland!  I’m a terrible selfie-taker 🙁

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 travelling 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 and hike by myself.

My voucher book and brief information brochures from Blue Ice Explorer

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

The hikes I did in South Greenland were:

East Greenland

I spent 16 days in East Greenland: 8 – 25 July. It was much colder than South Greenland, and the weather more unpredictable, ranging from bright blue skies with loads of sun (you will need your head net here too!), to fog and rain.  You need to be prepared for all temperatures and weather conditions while hiking here!

I spent the first few days travelling independently, but was limited in the hiking I could do because of recent polar bear sightings.

Paper sign pasted on the door as you exit the Red House, warning about leaving town without first discussing with staff

I admit that this gave me some pause

My main reason for visiting East Greenland, however, was the Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides.   It turned out to be my favourite thing I did in a year of full-time travel – and I highly recommend Greenland Adventures as a trekking company.

I absolutely love long-distance trekking, but unless you are a super-experienced, backcountry trekker who knows how to use a gun (and have one with you), you pretty much have to trek with a company if you want to explore these more remote areas.

The hikes I did in East Greenland were:

  • Kulusuk to Isikajia – an easy hike across Kulusuk Island
  • The Flower Valley – a very easy and popular day-hike from Tasiilaq
  • Qaqqartivakajik mountain – a more difficult 1/2-day hike from Tasiilaq
  • The 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek 
    • 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

A Note on Accommodation

I highly recommend staying at 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.  The other advantage is that you can cook for yourself – food is not cheap in Greenland!  I stayed at:

Discover more about Greenland

If this post has piqued your curiosity about Greenland, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of hiking and trekking tours at Guide to Greenland.

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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 about the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in East Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Tour 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

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

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Trekking Greenland – Unplugged Wilderness Day 12

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.  A long breakfast followed by 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.  

Traditional clothing displayed on mannequins and various types of boots, in the Kulusuk museum

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.

Large red leather hide hanging on the wall with feet, bones, teeth and other animal parts attached to it, in the Kulusuk museum

There is also a re-creation of the interior of a winter house

Platform with skins on it and other everyday items from the Tunumiit Inuit way of life, in the Kulusuk Museum

and skulls of Polar Bears!

Skulls of 3 polar bears and one of their vertebrae, in the Kulusuk museum

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.  

Trekking companions hiking along the road with the Kulusuk airport terminal and Iceland Air Connect plane in the background

Approaching Kulusuk Airport. Photo: Dusan Číčel

I checked in for the flight and then got chatting with Jóhanna, so 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!

The front cover and explanatory page of the Shared Stories initiative by Air Iceland Connect

We arrived in Reykjavik and it was time to say goodbye to my awesome trekking companions, who I 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 about the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in East Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Tour 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

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me:
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Trekking Greenland – Unplugged Wilderness Day 11

Day 11 of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek started early and we were happily greeted with brilliant blue skies again.  

View from above of the glacier, from the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut.

Blue skies, mountains and glaciers – what more could you want

The early start was because we had asked Maxime the evening before if we could add in the climb to the summit behind the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut (which we were meant to hike 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.  

The Tasilap Kua Valley (as seen from above) is filled with thick cloud. Only the mountain peaks above the cloudbank are visible

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!

Looking down on the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut and its surroundings from half way to the summit

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

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

Three of my trekking companions sitting on rocks enjoying the sun and the views

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.

Looking up the steep rocky climb towards the summit of the mountain

The summit we climbed to is smaller peak just to the left of center

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! 😉

Very wide parorama showing Tasiilap Kua Valley, the ridge of peaks we are standing on, and a higher, snow-filled valley on the other side of the ridge

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

Panorama looking east from the ridge - the high snow-filled valley around to the glacier

View to the East of the summit and ridge

Vista encompassing the entire length of the Tasiilap Kua valley, taken from the summit

View of the Tasilap Kua valley to the West of the summit and ridge

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

Our guide showing a group of my trekking companions on the map the route we'd hiked

We didn’t actually pull the map out too often while we trekked. But when you can see for miles around you – it is the perfect time to do so

Oh, and we finally took the group photo!

My 12 trekking companions posing for the group photo at the summit

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

Unfortunately, we had to eventually leave and start picking 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.

My trekking companions descending from the summit in front of me, with mountains and glacier in the background

The view of the glacier from above was amazing

Close-up of ridge-lines within the ice of the glacier as we look down upon it from above

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

8 of my trekking companions at the edge of a ridge, dwarfed by the mountain that lies across the valley

My trekking companions helpfully giving a sense of scale to the mountain across the valley

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 or trekking posts really, where I am part of a group), 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

My trekking companions using the ropes to get themselves down the almost vertical rocky slope below the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut

The ropes definitely helped with the descent

back down the moraine

My trekking companions descending along the glacial moraine - top image looking back up at the mountains, bottom image looking down to the valley below

It was easier going down than it was coming up, but you still had to watch your footing

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

Several of my trekking companions following the trail along the river in the Tasiilap Kua valley with a view towards the triplets.

One of the very few trails we saw in our 12 days of trekking

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.

One of my trekking companions sitting on the boat back to Kulusuk in the weak sunshine

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 11 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 11 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 about the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in East Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Tour 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

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
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unplugged-wilderness-trek-sunset-greenland.jpg

Trekking Greenland – Unplugged Wilderness Day 10

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 awoke to rain on the roof and Maxime decided it would be too dangerous to attempt with the weather as it was.  Plus we wouldn’t actually see anything.

Raindrops on the window of the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut, looking out onto fog and terrible weather

It was much better inside the Tasiilaq Mountain hut than out!

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.

The group hanging out around the dining table at the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut

Hanging out around the dining table in the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut. Photo: Mathilde Bousson

Eating more Travellunch dried food.

The group sitting around the dining table at Tasiilaq Mountain Hut eating lunch

Fortunately we had a different type of Travellunch cuisine for each meal

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…

Several of the group playing UNO around the dining table at the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut

There were some seriously dodgy rules being thrown around in these games

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

Two platforms with 5 mattresses on each, form the shared bedroom of the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut

The Tasiilaq Mountain Hut sleeps 10 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

The Tasiilaq Mountain Hut and its surroundings

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

Clouds highlighted in pink as the Sun sets over the Tasiilap Kua valley - as seen from the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut

View of the Tasiilap Kua Valley from the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut

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

Sunset bathing the tips of the peaks behind the Tasiilaq Mountain Hut with a golden light. The hut is in the foreground

Another favourite image

Hopefully a sign of better weather for tomorrow!

Trekking Time:  0 hours

Read more about the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in East Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure on the the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Tour 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

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

This post contains some affiliate links.  If you make a purchase through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Your support is appreciated!
Like what you have read? Please follow and like me: