Tag Archives: hiking

Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 5 – East Greenland

We awoke on Day 5 to lots of cloud, but at least no rain or drizzle … already an improvement over Day 4!   After breakfast and while we packed up camp, Maxime crossed back over the river to assist the boat drivers in re-loading the gear that we’d left over there the day before. 

Wrong drop-off location - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Meanwhile, we carried everything else over to a different pickup point that did not require a river crossing, and helped them load the rest of the gear once they came around.

Actual drop-off location - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Then we headed off up the fjord.  Lots of very moody half-vistas across the water.

Moody fjord - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

But the most challenging part of today’s hike was the fact that for the first few hours we were walking along a 45 degree angled slope, which eventually started playing havoc on the ankles (if you didn’t have full hiking boots at least).

45 degree slopes are not great - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

We also enjoyed more freezing river crossings

River crossings - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

For significant river crossings we would change from hiking boots into sandals. Then change back again once we’d reached the other side. You know it’s cold if Maxime has his beanie on!!

and were all very happy when it finally flattened out.

Day 5 hiking - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

We hiked along a river which we just knew we’d have to cross

Rivers - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and were all very relieved when Maxime’s “90%-certain” promise of a bridge turned out to be accurate.

Day 5 hiking - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This deposited us at Bluie East Two, an old American WWII air base that was destroyed and abandoned in 1947 at the conclusion of the war.  It still stands as it was left 70 years ago, with little (nothing?) having been done to clean it up.

Bluie Two East air base - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

There are dozens of rusted vehicles

Bluie Two East air base - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

the skeleton of a large hanger

Bluie Two East air base - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and an unfathomable number of rusted fuel barrels that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Bluie Two East air base - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

It is, perhaps, the very last thing you would expect to see in such an otherwise pristine environment – which makes it quite a surreal experience.  Especially since we were the only ones there!

Our camping equipment was dropped at the correct spot today (it would have been hard to miss!) and we set up camp on what was the dock for the site.

Campsite at Bluie East Two - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

 

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
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 4 – East Greenland

Day 4 of the Unplugged Wilderness trek saw us pull down camp and leave everything packed up on the shore of the Karale Fjord for the speedboat people to come and collect and take around to our new campsite for us.  Then we headed out, retracing our steps up the steep climb of the Day 3 hike.  

The weather was much worse than yesterday so I didn’t bother to take many photos on the way up, but to give you an idea of what we were hiking in

Not great weather - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And it only got worse.  Here’s Maxime seeking out the best way down the other side of the pass over Nunartivaq mountain.

Not great weather - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And us in full rain gear following his lead

Not great weather - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

We eventually made it over to the valley we would follow back to the edge of the Sermiligaaq Fjord.  

Not great weather - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And made our way down to the river.

Not great weather - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

I was about to make a comment to Maxime about how I bet that our campsite was on the other side of the river, except that before I got to make the quip, it became obvious that he was seeking out a place to cross.  It was no joke!!

Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of what came next because it was raining constantly and I was wet and cold.  But even the cruelest story-teller wouldn’t have foisted what actually happened onto us.

So we crossed the freezing river (remember, all these rivers are flowing off glaciers), re-shoed, and hiked down to the shore where we set about trying to locate where the boat drivers had left our stuff.  It wasn’t where Maxime had asked them to put it, and he eventually located it … back on the other side of the river!

You have to be kidding!!!!

Maxime, a few of the guys and I re-crossed the river (I’d given up and was just wading across in my already soaking shoes) to transfer only what we desperately needed for the night and the morning across to the side of the river where the camp was meant to be (it was actually impossible to camp where they’d left our stuff).  The others then carried it all to the actual campsite and had the cook/dining tent set up by the time we’d finished.  

Hastily erected tent - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Not our best pitching effort, but it was cold and wet!

To try to keep them as dry as possible, we set up each of the tents inside the cook/dining tent and then only had to find a place to plonk them down outside and put in a couple of pegs.

Once Rebecca and I had set up our tent, I changed out of my wet clothes and went straight to the cook/dining tent to get the water boiling for hot drinks.  This was another routine – every evening when we arrived at camp I was always hankering for a hot drink so I’d put the water on and get everything set up for “afternoon tea”.  Tea, more filtered coffee, and even hot chocolate (for the first few days at least)!  

Cooking setup - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

How everything was cooked and water was boiled – two gas burners. One of the first jobs at each camp was to fill to the two white containers with water. Photo: Damien Elsaesser

Eventually everyone would converge in the tent and that would blend into preparing the evening meal, which I also usually helped out with (I’m a master instant soup-cooker!).   Again – any excuse to sit as close to the heat of the gas burners as possible!  Plus I love to cook 🙂  And don’t like to wash-up (another of the tasks we helped with).

Inside the cook/dining tent - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Inside the cook/dining tent. Maxime was always head chef and on this occasion (Day 2), Mathilde (standing) and Anna (sitting) were helping out. Mathilde and I did the majority of the helping for the rest of the trek, and I always nabbed the spot closest to the burners (where Anna is in this photo). Photo: Francesco Brunelli

It took me hours to even vaguely warm up, and in the end I succeeded only with the help of my trusty Coke-hot-water-bottle.  Yes, I’d brought one with me based on my Huayhuash experiences last year and Pamir Highway experiences a few months ago!

Everyone went to bed praying for better weather tomorrow!

 

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
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 3 – East Greenland

Day 3 of the Unplugged Wilderness trek saw us set out in the opposite direction, away from the Karale Glacier and up towards the Knud Rasmussen Glacier.  Unlike Day 2 where it was relatively flat, this hike climbed ~850m up some pretty steep slopes

Steep climbs - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

for some spectacular views over the Karale Fjord.

Karale Fjord - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

(L-R): Karale, unnamed and Knud Rasmussen Glaciers along the Karale Fjord.

It was the climb that just kept on giving!  There were stunning lakes

Lake and Rasmussen Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Knud Rasmussen Glacier in the background on the right

Fascinating rock formations (I sooooo should have been a geologist!)

Rock formations - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Amazing views of the Knud Rasmussen Glacier

Knud Rasmussen Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And snow.  

Hiking in snow - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Sooooooooo much snow, which I think Maxime was specifically seeking out for us to walk through.  

Hiking in snow - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Now I admit that my Salomon XAPro 3D hiking trail shoes were not the best fit for this particular trek, but when you are traveling for a year and only hiking occasionally there has to be compromises.  And although the Gore-TeX theoretically makes them waterproof, I can tell you right now that’s bullcrap.  My feet had turned into blocks of ice by this point!

Our lunch spot was on a patch of bare rocky ground in the shadow of one of the tallest peaks in the area

Day 3 lunch spot - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and I thought it might have marked the highest point on our trek for the day.  But no!  There was a lot more snow in our immediate future, though I do acknowledge that Maxime had the worst of it – having to forge a route through it for us to follow in his footsteps.

Hiking in snow - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Top image shows Maxime out in front checking snow depth and creating the bootprints for us to follow

It didn’t matter where you looked, there were incredible views

Karale Fjord - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Including from the very top. 

Panorama from top Day 3 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Panorama of the Knud Rasmussen Glacier and the Sermiligaaq Fjord

Views of the Karale Fjord - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Fortunately it wasn’t too cold or windy so we spent quite a bit of time enjoying the different views from up here before heading back on the return journey.  This more or less followed the same route (though there are no paths at all to follow on this trek so it is always just goes where the guide leads), but it was a lot quicker getting down the snowy bit than it was going up!

Running down snow - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Filip and I essentially gave up all pretext of trying to keep our feet dry and snow out of our shoes and foot-skied/ran down the slope.  Soooooo much fun!  Even though I’d lost all feeling in my feet by the time we’d gotten to the bottom and both shoes were chockers with snow.

The weather had improved slightly for our journey back for even better views of the Knud Rasmussen Glacier and its surrounding mountains

Knud Rasmussen Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and the Karale Glacier.

Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

We even had a special visitor – an Arctic Fox – waiting for us when we returned to camp 🙂

Arctic Fox - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This was a truly spectacular hike despite the less-than-stellar weather.

 

Hiking 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
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 2 – East Greenland

Karale Fjord camp at 2am - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

These were the views that greeted me when I got up at 2am to go to the loo.  Yes, occasionally it is a good thing to have to get up once/night!  Unfortunately on this trip to Greenland, I never actually made it above the Arctic Circle (we were less than 100km away here), so the Sun did set briefly each night between around 11:30pm and 2am.  

Several hours later, we were all up and in the cook/dining tent for breakfast where a daily routine was quickly established.  Given I was almost always the first one at the tent, I would put the water on to boil and have a lot of the stuff out on the table before most people put in an appearance.  Didn’t mind doing it at all (it also meant I got to sit closest to the gas burners … the warmest place in the tent 😉 ) and I actually enjoyed the morning routine.

We had a wide variety of food from which we could make breakfast for ourselves – Danish cheese (a semi-soft cheese (might have been Havarti) that I became completely addicted to, blue, brie), cream cheese of every flavour imaginable, pate, processed meat of every description, Fitness bread, Wasa crispbread (also a staple for me in the South, my favourite was the sesame Wasa), jam, Nutella (I think I ate my bodyweight in Nutella on this trip), cereals, and regular bread (at least for these first few days) – plus Maxime cooked porridge on several mornings as well.  For drinks there was tea (fruit and Earl Grey, which is not the same as black tea, sorry Karl 😉 ), and freshly brewed proper coffee.  It was great!

Making Lunch - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

This was lunch on the second-last day so our stocks were quite depleted … still, you get the idea. Photo: Damien Elsaesser

Once we’d finished with breakfast, we’d then each make our own lunch from the same ingredients to take with us while out hiking for the day.  We’d fill 3 thermoses with boiling water and distribute tea, instant coffee and other snacks (usually dried fruit or sweet biscuits – Prince biscuits are awesome!) amongst ourselves to carry as well. 

Day 2 saw us hiking to the ~3km-wide Karale Glacier at the end of the fjord – the largest in the area.  This glacier has retreated more than 6km in the past 80 years – yes global warming is having a huge impact in Greenland!  If you ever get the chance to see the documentary Chasing Ice, I highly recommend it (I saw it on the ship on the way to Antarctica last year – stunningly scary!)

Hiking to Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

It was not a difficult hike if you don’t mind walking over boulders and scree the whole time.  

Hiking to Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And, because there happened to be another unnamed glacier between us and the closest point to Karale, we also did some glacier hiking. Given I’d been ice-climbing on the Viedma Glacier in Argentina in 2015 (truly awesome experience!), I was already familiar with using crampons and hiking on ice, but for most in the group it was completely new.

Maxime explained the intricacies of putting on crampons and the best techniques for hiking on the glacier 

Unnamed Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and off we set.

Hiking on unnamed Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

The views on the glacier were absolutely stunning.

Hiking on unnamed Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

and I found a very cool rock (Greenland is full of cool rocks) – where was my geologist friend that I was also wishing for in South Greenland??!!

Geology - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

On the other side of the unnamed glacier, we were confronted by a bit of an obstacle, but Maxime (easing us into the whole experience) set about constructing a bridge/dam so we could walk across without getting wet or changing into our river shoes.

Hiking to Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

On the other side, and up a short, steep climb, we arrived at our lookout over the Karale Glacier

Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

But the glacier was not the only awesome view.  The mountains are spectacular!

Hiking to Karale Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

From this furthest point on our hike, we had to retrace our steps back to camp.  Back across the unnamed glacier

Unnamed Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

More adjustments to crampons 

Adjusting crampons - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

A guide’s work is never done.  Yes, Maxime carried a gun for our entire trip, in case of Polar Bears.

Down off the glacier remembering (well almost) what we’d been told about glacier “quicksand”

Hiking on unnamed Glacier - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

And back to camp.  The image below also shows one of the “challenges” faced on this trip… There are no trees in Greenland.  This meant it was usually quite a trek to find some privacy!

Karale Fjord camp - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Thanks to Dusan for the unexpected opportunity to practice my Spanish before dinner and also the 52-proof Slovakian Slivovitz taster – wow that stuff really sets your lips to tingling!

 

Trekking time:  approximately 8 hours, but we did this very slowly!

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
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Unplugged Wilderness Trek Day 1 – East Greenland

Although it was the last thing that I did during my 5 weeks in Greenland, hiking the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek with Greenland Adventures by Icelandic Mountain Guides was the first thing I had decided upon for my visit.   

This was inspired by the two previous long-distance treks I’d done – the 8-day Torres del Paine Circuit in Chilean Patagonia in 2015 and the 10-day Huayhuash Trek last year in Peru (see my 2 blog posts: Part 1 and Part 2).  This last ended up being my absolute favourite experience of 2016 and showed me once and for all how important being active outdoors, preferably in remote and silent places with great company, is for me.  I was definitely keen to do another – this time in a place that I’d wanted to visit for over 20 years!

So where was this hike exactly?  In my self-tracking with Maps.Me below you can get your bearings on where I went in Greenland with respect to the probably slightly more familiar location of Iceland (left image).   The cluster of points in the south corresponds to my 2 weeks of day-hiking in the south of Greenland (obviously), the orange marker in the west pinpoints Nuuk, where I spent 5 days, and the cluster of markers in the east is blown up in the image on the right.  The loop of markers at the top of the map shows where we hiked for 12 days in the Unplugged Wilderness trek (starting top right, circling down and then up again to top left), and the markers on the island at the bottom show where I went whilst in Kulusuk, which was also the start and end point of the hike. 

where I went in Greenland

Given that I was already in Greenland, I was to meet the rest of the group (who were coming together from Reykjavik) at Kulusuk airport.  Yet another gorgeous morning and beautifully clear views over the fjords during my helicopter transfer from Tasiilaq 🙂 

Tasiilaq to Kulusuk via helicopter transfer - East Greenland

There I met the other 12 hikers and Maxime Poncet, our guide for the adventure we were about to embark upon.  While my new friend, Jóhanna (who I’d met a few days before when I stayed in Kulusuk), transported our bags from the airport to the harbour in a trailer attached to a quad-bike, the rest of us walked the ~2km to the wonderful Kulusuk Hostel for a light lunch, stopping off along the way for a great view of Kulusuk and the fjord.

Kulusuk - East Greenland

View of Kulusuk, walking into town from the airport

After lunch, we headed down to the harbour where we loaded the speedboats, which would take us up the Sermiligaaq Fjord to our first campsite, with our luggage and all of the equipment we’d need for the next 12 days.

Loading up - Kulusuk - East Greenland

We also discovered where and how the locals keep their seals on ice!

Seals - Kulusuk Harbour - East Greenland

It took about 2 hours to travel up the Sermiligaaq Fjord – not the warmest of journeys (Maxime had warned us) but some beautiful scenery, especially with the blue skies.

Karale Fjord - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Heading up the Sermiligaaq Fjord. This is the Knud Rasmussen Glacier in the bottom image.

We arrived at our first campsite and got to work unloading all of our gear so the speedboats could return to where they came from.  We would be camping here for 3 days so would not see them again for a bit.

Unloading at first campsite - Unplugged Wilderness by IMG - East Greenland

Yes, we formed a chain gang. Most efficient way!

After a demonstration on how to pitch our tents (2 people per tent), and how to pitch the main cook/dining tent, we had plenty of time to chill out and enjoy the amazing location in which we found ourselves – one with a view of 3 glaciers: Karale, Knud Rasmussen and unnamed (though it was suggested it should be called Karl’s Glacier 😉 ).

Views from our first campsite. Glimpse of the Knud Rasmussen Glacier (top), Karale (left) and unnamed/Karl’s (right) glacier in the middle image, Karale Glacier (bottom)

We went for a short walk along the shore before dinner, but really it was just about enjoying being in the middle of nowhere and starting to get to know one another.

Short hike from first campsite - Unplugged Wilderness by IMG - East Greenland

Dinner was Arctic Char cooked over coals, salad and potatoes, plus cake for dessert – though it did take some effort to get the fire going 🙂

Cooking dinner - first campsite - Unplugged Wilderness by IMG - East Greenland

It was amazing!

Dinner Day 1 - Unplugged Wilderness - East Greenland

Photo: Francesco Brunelli

Great first day – very excited about the 11 to come!

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
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Tasiilaq and Qaqqartivakajik – East Greenland

Day 3 in Tasiilaq also started out completely foggy, so I headed out with two other girls – Lucia, a photographer staying in Tasiilaq for a month to photograph the area, and Nicole – to see the hide of a polar bear that had been shot about 2 weeks ago near town.  It wasn’t as big as I expected, but perhaps it wasn’t fully grown?

Polar Bear skin - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

Then, given it was finally perfectly clear, we decided to tackle the mountain behind Tasiilaq Qaqqartivakajik.  Robert said to head for the large satellite dish and then just keep going up the ridge to the top.  OK!   The first part wasn’t too difficult, and gave some great views of the colourful buildings of Tasiilaq (the largest settlement in East Greenland) against the backdrop of the fjord.

We discovered some unexpected lakes

Hidden Lakes on the way up Qaqqartivakajik - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

And had some great views of the fog that was lingering just outside the fjord.

Views of fog on the way up Qaqqartivakajik - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

This is where Lucia and Nicole left me.  They headed back down and I kept going up.

In the end, I didn’t make it to the top.  I couldn’t find a path and it was bloody steep.  I stopped probably about 100m short and, given I couldn’t see how the view would change anyway, decided that was far enough.   The last thing I wanted was to fall and injure myself the day before I started the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek!   From my stopping place, I had a spectacular view of the lakes that I’d explored yesterday on my hike in the Flower Valley.

Flower Valley Hike - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

And the lake I was going to hike to yesterday until I realized that the fog would have been obscuring it anyway.

Lake from Qaqqartivakajik - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

This was the lake I wanted to hike to yesterday

It was a gorgeous panorama!

Panorama from most of the way up Qaqqartivakajik - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

Panorama from most of the way up Qaqqartivakajik

Made my way carefully back down and ended up sitting out on the balcony of The Red House again, enjoying the evening light and watching the fog inch its way up the fjord.  

View from The Red House - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

View from deck of The Red House

View from The Red House - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

I wasn’t the only one watching the evening fade

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Tasiilaq and the Flower Valley – East Greenland

My original plan was to do boat transfers between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq – and that’s what I’d booked in advance.  However, a few days before my arrival in East Greenland, the company I was trekking with suggested it might be safer to book the helicopter transfer, given the large amount of pack ice still in the area.  Which is how I found myself on a Bell 212 helicopter at lunchtime.

Helicopter transfer - Kulusuk - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

It is only a 10-minute flight from Kulusuk to Tasiilaq and fortunately the weather was mostly clear for some awesome views of the ice and mountains in the fjords.

Views from the helicopter transfer - Kulusuk - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

Aerial view of Kulusuk (top) and Tasiilaq (bottom) as well as views of the ice and mountains in the fjord

Got another upgrade at The Red House to be in the main building and not in a dorm room, but when I asked about hikes, I ran into an unexpected problem.

Polar Bear sign - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

Short hikes were apparently OK, but longer hikes were out unless I went with someone with a gun.   Hmmm… I hadn’t really thought about polar bears…   

Decided to spend the afternoon enjoying the sunshine and the view out on the front deck of The Red House reading a book (The Circle) and having a bit of a look around town – I’d worry about a hike the next day.

Tasiilaq - East Greenland

My second day in Tasiilaq dawned quite foggy, so hung around for a bit waiting for the fog to lift, and ended up finishing my book around lunchtime.   I then decided that I was going to brave the polar bears (they somehow seemed less frightening than the disturbingly plausible future painted in The Circle) and asked whether it was possible to do a couple of the specific hikes marked on the map without a gun.  The answer was “most likely, yes”.  Though there had been polar bears quite close to town relatively recently.  Okaaaaaaay….

Map of Tasiilaq area - East Greenland

Map of the Tasiilaq area. I did the loop around the lake to the west of town and most of the climb up to Qaqqartivakajik

Given the fog was lingering over in the next valley, I decided to hike up the Flower Valley and around some of the lakes.   Before leaving, the manager of The Red House, Robert, quipped that I wouldn’t see too many flowers in the Flower Valley that aren’t plastic … yes, the first thing you walk past is the cemetery.

Flower Valley - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

It was a really easy but lovely walk that was sheltered from the wind and passed by a bunch of lakes.

Lakes along the Flower Valley Hike - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

The views back towards the fjord on the last stretch were also amazing, though the fog was coming back in quite quickly.

The fjord from the Flower Valley Hike - Tasiilaq - East Greenland

I spent the evening ogling everyone else’s food and wishing I’d ordered dinner at The Red House.  It looked amazing, and if I come back for another visit – I’m totally buying dinner here!

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Kulusuk – East Greenland

My Air Greenland flight from Nuuk to Kulusuk was delayed by 3 hours due to crap weather once again in the capital.  I love how on these internal Greenland flights there is no allocated seating 🙂

Air Greenland boarding pass

Seat = Free. Not often you get to choose where you want to sit on the plane! Though it is first in first served…

We eventually took off, and I headed to my third destination on this enormous island – East Greenland.

Kulusuk airport - East Greenland

Kulusuk airport with Air Greenland plane

I was originally meant to immediately get a boat transfer across to Tasiilaq, but there was still a lot of pack-ice and the company I had booked through recommended that I switch to a helicopter transfer instead (surprisingly it was only twice as expensive).   However, there were no flights after I landed, and none the next day either.  

So I had 2 days in Kulusuk, and was the only person staying at the incredible Kulusuk Hostel.   This is yet another awesome hostel, that is extremely well equipped and has an amazing view out the living room window or from the front porch, including sled dogs!

View from Kulusuk Hostel - East Greenland

View from Kulusuk Hostel at 11pm – sled dogs, ice and beautiful skies

It is run by the company Icelandic Mountain Guides – the same company through which I’m doing the 12-day Unplugged Wilderness Trek, and it turns out that the hostel is mostly used for hiking groups rather than individual travelers.  I’m so glad they let me stay! 

Kulusuk itself is very small (only about 250 people) but very picturesque.  In fact, the tiny part of East Greenland that I’ve seen so far indicates that the scenery in East Greenland is going to be a lot more dramatic than what I saw in South Greenland and Nuuk.

Kulusuk - East Greenland

On my one full day in Kulusuk, I decided to hike out to the viewpoint at Isikajia on the other side of the island.  

Map of Kulusuk Island - East Greenland

The lovely Jóhanna (who looks after the hostel during summer) suggested that I cut across country rather than follow the road for the first part, but in the end, I decided not to.   I did, however, take an off-road shortcut across a short section a little further along.  Thanks Jóhanna, but I’m glad I didn’t take your original advice – it was incredibly damp and boggy and I had to backtrack several times, and still my feet ended up wet! 😉

The hike is not difficult at all – you simply follow the road around behind the airport and up over the centre of the island.

Hike from Kulusuk to Isikajia - East Greenland

It was pretty, but not spectacular, unless you looked behind you back towards Kulusuk and the fjord and mountains beyond.

Looking back towards Kulusuk - East Greenland

Looking back towards Kulusuk

Just at the point where I thought the views might get spectacular in the direction I was walking, I ran into low cloud.

Hike from Kulusuk to Isikajia - East Greenland

I persevered for a little further until I got over the next saddle point – and it did look like it would have been amazing if I could have seen the surroundings.

Hike from Kulusuk to Isikajia - East Greenland

Oh how I wish I could have had a clear view! It looks like it would have been incredible!

But, alas, it wasn’t to be.  Having studied the movement of the fog for the previous 1.5 hours, I doubted that it would clear, and so rather than continuing on to the end of the road and the “viewpoint” (which was well and truly in the fog), I returned to the Hostel – getting buzzed by the helicopter shuttles going between Kulusuk and Tasiilaq along the way.

Helicopter transfers - Kulusuk - East Greenland

I went for a bit of a wander around town.  It really is a stunning place

Kulusuk - East Greenland

with sled-dogs chained up absolutely everywhere waiting for the winter to arrive.

sled dogs - Kulusuk - East Greenland

I loved listening to their chorus of an evening

 

and the ever-so-cute sled-dog puppies were a bonus 😊

sled dog puppies - Kulusuk - East Greenland

I’d read  some pretty meh reviews about Kulusuk – but I thought it was beautiful and really enjoyed my time there chatting with Jóhanna and hanging out in the hostel.  

Kulusuk - East Greenland

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Narsarsuaq Glacier hike – South Greenland

The weather in Greenland can be a little like the weather in Melbourne.   When I set out on the Narsarsuaq Glacier hike (green trail in the below map) at 8:30am it was very overcast and started to spit with rain.  By the time I started the return journey at 11:30am, it was bright sunshine and hardly a cloud in the sky.  By the time I got back at 1:30pm, it was overcast again.   You have to be prepared for all weather!

Narsarsuaq hikes - South Greenland

The first several kms of this hike, I have to admit, are pretty boring.  You simply follow the flat, bitumen road out of town through the Hospital Valley.  There’s not that much to see – a big hill on the right, a smaller hill (where the Ridge Hike goes) and a small lake on the left, and eventually, a chimney which, I can only assume, used to be part of a hospital.

Hospital Valley - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

I guess the chimney is all that is left of the hospital?

When the bitumen ends, well, you can probably guess what follows if you’ve been following all my posts from South Greenland

Narsarsuaq Glacier hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Bloody pebbly roads!

Another pebbly gravel road! 🙁   Actually, this one wasn’t too bad because the pebbles were larger and it was actually possible to walk beside the road for a lot of it.   

This went over a small pass, at the bottom of which was the Flower Valley

Flower Valley - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Looking back at the pass to Narsarsuaq from Flower Valley

After some more nice, flat walking with the occasional stream jump thrown in for good measure, you arrive at a waterfall and the almost vertical path (with ropes!) to take you up to the viewpoint over the glacier.

The ascent to the Narsarsuaq Glacier viewpoint - South Greenland

Yes, it is steep!

I think I mentioned this in a previous blog post somewhere – I actually prefer this type of hiking (where you end up using your hands and your feet to climb) as opposed to just an uphill slog – and in this case, it was only about a 250m vertical climb.    Lots more flowers similar to yesterday’s hike, and some pretty spectacular views back towards Narsarsuaq!

View back towards Narsarsuaq on the way up to the viewpoint - South Greenland

View back towards Narsarsuaq from about 2/3 of the way up to the viewpoint

At the top, there is a very picturesque lake which, unfortunately, the mosquitoes also find to be quite a good place to hang out.  It turns out that my 50 cent insect repellent from Iran does work quite well, and again, thank you head net!  😊 

Lakes on the way to the Narsarsuaq Glacier viewpoint - South Greenland

Then a little further along – the viewpoint of the Narsarsuaq Glacier.

Narsarsuaq Glacier viewpoint - South Greenland

I love glaciers!

It is a gorgeous place, and really, you can never marvel at too many glaciers!    

I decided not to do the hike down to the Glacier itself.  The ice looked pretty dirty and I’d been up close and very personal with the Viedma Glacier in Argentina a few years ago when I went ice climbing there (sorry – before I started blogging 🙁 ).  My recommendation: if you really want to explore a glacier – go ice climbing (not ice hiking) – you have to hike on the ice to get out to the crevasses anyway!  

So, admired the view from the top for quite a while, then headed back to relax in the amazing Narsarsuaq Hostel (seriously – all the hostels in South Greenland are incredible!) and read some more of my book, and watch another couple of episodes of Game of Thrones Season 6 😊  Yes, I am a year behind…

And just for fun – look who was there to greet me when I got back!   Yes, even the dogs wear head nets in Greenland to save them from the insects 🙂

Head net on a dog - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

 

Distance: ~14km

Time: ~5 hours (I didn’t hike down to the glacier, only to the viewpoint)

Notes:  If you are at all unsteady on your feet, this is not the hike for you.   The up-and-over the waterfall to the viewpoint is very steep (there are ropes to help you) so if you don’t like using your hands as well as your feet while you hike, best do the Ridge Hike instead.

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Ridge Hike – Narsarsuaq – South Greenland

My transfer from Qassiarsuk to Narsarsuaq didn’t leave until 2pm, which meant that I didn’t really have time to do much of a hike at either place, despite the glorious weather!   Fortunately, the Ridge Hike (yellow in the below map) from Narsarsuaq is a relatively short hike up to a view of the Narsarsuaq Glacier (Kiattuut Sermiat), so I decided I would head out and do that one when I arrived.

Narsarsuaq hikes - South Greenland

Unlike some of the hikes I’ve done in previous days, it is a very easy trail to follow (no red dots, no need to follow contours) and the walking is not strenuous.  There was also tons of relatively tall vegetation lining the way – something very different to what I’ve become accustomed to over the past week or so.

You can't really miss the trail for the Ridge Hike

The Ridge Hike has a very easy-to-follow trail.

The added bonus – many of the wildflowers were out (Greenland has a lot them in the right season), so I took my time stopping and photographing them along the way.  “To stop and smell the roses, no matter what” is a philosophy I adopted about 2 years ago, and although these weren’t roses and didn’t have a smell, they were very pretty 😊  

Wildflowers - Ridge Hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

In the end, the viewpoint overlooks the river, and the face of the glacier is hidden behind more rocky outcrops.

View from the Ridge Hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

Still, it is a nice view of the sheet of ice with some spectacular-looking mountains in the background.

View of the glacier and mountains - the Ridge Hike - Narsarsuaq - South Greenland

So a nice gentle hike today – ready for the full hike to the face of the Narsarsuaq Glacier tomorrow 😊

 

Distance: ~7km

Time: ~2.5 hours

Notes:  Stop and admire the flowers 😊

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