Hiking Greenland – Searching for Tugtupit at Kvanefjeld

It turns out that Narsaq is a mecca for geology buffs (pick me! pick me!  I was actually very tempted to study Geology rather than Astronomy at University) so I was super-excited about hiking to Kvanefjeld to search for Tugtupit (also known as “Reindeer stone”) – a rare mineral only found in a few places in the world.

The small amount of information I received about this hike suggested that I take a taxi to Narsaq Farm to cut out the first 7kms of walking – most of which I’d hiked yesterday and all of which is just along a gravel road.  But, tight-arse that I am (and in dire need of exercise), I decided to walk the whole thing: ~25km in total.

I have to admit, the walk along the road is not particularly taxing (though it does climb slowly).  Nor is it very interesting, so this waterfall (with Kuannersuit in the background) came as a very welcome distraction, and a good place for a snack after 2 hours of hiking!

Small waterfall with Kuannersuit mountain in the background. As seen on the Kvanefjeld hike near Narsaq in South Greenland

It also turned out to be only 200m from the side road to the old uranium mine.  From the hike description: “In the last corner before the mine, you climb your way further up to the top of Kvanefjeld.”  Right … so straight up that vertical cliff then!

Looking up at Kvanefjeld from the road leading from Narsaq in South Greenland

Kvanefjeld is the mountain. It goes straight up! Here I am at the start of the road to the Uranium mine.

The description of the hiking route also stated: “The best place to look for Tugtupit is from the old mine towards the top”, but I was so fixated on making sure I didn’t fall back down the cliff, that I barely had the brainpower to look for rocks!  I was at the point of being genuinely worried about how I was going to get back down (I’m doing all of these hikes in South Greenland by myself), when I stumbled on a “I-think-this-might-be-a”-path, and decided to follow it for a bit.  Before I knew it, I was on top of the mountain with amazing views back down over Narsaq Bay!

View of Narsaq Bay from top of Kvanefjeld in South Greenland

View of Narsaq Bay from the top of Kvanefjeld

It was absolutely stunning up there, with more tarns (small bodies of water trapped in the rocks) and lakes and views to the surrounding mountains, that I decided to keep hiking along the ridge towards the peak.   I’d worry about how to get down later!

View from the Narsaq fjord and lakes from the summit of Kvanefjeld in South Greenland

So, I walked along looking for the elusive Tugtupit and wishing that I had a geologist/gemologist/mineralogist friend with me to tell me exactly what I was looking for.  Or even just a good picture that I’d had the foresight to download off the internet when I still had access… 

I’d picked up several different types of pink rocks wondering if they were the right ones, but then stumbled upon a pink stone that looked a little bit “special”.   I can’t describe why it looked a little bit special – but it was a deep, semi-transparent, reddish-pink that just didn’t look like anything else I’d seen.  So, I discarded everything else and filled my pockets with the best specimens of what I hoped was Tugtupit.

Rocks containing pink grains that I thought might have been Tugtupit. Kvanefjeld near Narsaq in South Greenland

Is this the infamous Tugtupit?

I kept hiking, admiring both the rocks at my feet (Kvanefjeld is famous for having over 200 minerals in the one place – where was my geologist friend?!) and the scenery around me.   There were even views across the fjord to the Greenland Ice Sheet!  I can’t tell you how excited I was to see that 🙂

The Greenland ice sheet as seen from the summit of Kvanefjeld near Narsaq in South Greenland

Looking across to the Greenland Ice sheet from the top of Kvanefjeld

I made it to the summit for a late lunch and 360-degree views, which included the even higher mountains further up the valley.

Panoramic view from the summit of Kvanefjeld near Narsaq in South Greenland

From this vantage point, I also scoped out the possibility of descending to the North through the pass between Kvanefjeld and Ilimmaasaq (a suggestion by an Icelander I met at the hotel).   Actually, it looked to be less scary than the way I had come up, so I backtracked a little and headed down that way past some more beautiful lakes.

A small lake below the summit of Kvanefjeld near Narsaq in South Greenland

And, indeed, it was slightly less scary.   Still bloody steep, but I decided to head over to the left, where I figured the grass would keep the rocks in place as I picked my way down.

The steep, rocky route I used to descend from Kvanefjeld near Narsaq in South Greenland

It went straight down! I headed for the grass on the left. You can see the “road” below.

I managed to make it down in one piece and started the long hike back along the road towards Narsaq.

In the end, what I collected was not Tugtupit ☹  It took a couple of hours of internet searching to figure out that it was actually another rare-ish mineral called Eudialyte.  But to be honest, I actually thought it was nicer looking than the Tugtupit anyway.   And it turns out that you don’t actually have to climb the mountain to find Eudialyte.  If you walk past the turnoff to the uranium mine and look in the gravel on the river side of the road – there is plenty of it right there!    But it does mean you miss out on the glorious views and adrenaline rush.

Looking forward to turning my rock collection into jewelry whenever I get around to doing that stone cutting and polishing course followed by the silver-smithing course…

Distance Walked: ~25km

Time: ~8-9 hours

Note: do not attempt to climb Kvanefjeld if you are in any way even slightly unstable on your feet.  And if you have bad knees, it’s probably also not a good idea, as coming back down is a killer!

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 tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

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