Trekking Greenland – Unplugged Wilderness Day 1

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 Circuit Trek last year in Peru.  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 exactly did Unplugged Wilderness take us?  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 southern 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 on 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. 

Maps.Me with dropped pins showing where I went in Greenland and the route of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

I love charting my route with the Maps.Me app!

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 🙂 

Aerial views of the landscape and ice in the fjord on a helicopter transfer between Tasiilaq and Kulusuk, East Greenland

Always a spectacular sight – looking down on amazing landscapes from the air.

There I met my 12 other trekking companions 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 hiked 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.

A view of Kulusuk, the second largest settlement in East Greenland, and icebergs in the fjord

An amazing view of Kulusuk and icebergs in the fjord as we hiked into town from the airport

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

Loading the speedboats in Kulusuk Harbour at the start of the Unplugged Wilderness Trek in East Greenland

Loading the speedboats in Kulusuk Harbour – the first of many times we did this on the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

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

Dead seals tied to the dock and refrigerated in the water of Kulusuk Harbor

Seal meat is still one of the primary food sources for the people of Greenland. Why not use the frigid water of the fjord to keep them fresh until you are ready to prepare them to eat.

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.

Views of mountains and glaciers in the Sermiligaaq Fjord as we approach our first campsite for the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

We needed 3 speedboats to transfer us and all our gear up the Sermiligaaq Fjord to our first campsite. Amazing views of the mountainous landscape and the Knud Rasmussen Glacier (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 and doing day-hikes in this area for 3 days so would not see them again for a while.

Arrival and helping to unload the speedboats at first campsite for the Unplugged Wilderness Trek.

Getting dropped off and left literally in the middle of nowhere. We all had to pitch in and help unload and decided to form a human chain as the most efficient way to get everything to shore.

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 of the Karale Fjord and three glaciers (including Karale and Knud Rasmussen) from the first campsite of Unplugged Wilderness.

Our first campsite was one of the most spectacular for the trek. From our tents we had a glimpse of the Knud Rasmussen Glacier (top), an unnamed glacier (right in middle image) and the Karale Glacier (left in middle image and bottom)

We went for a short hike 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.

Views of the fjord and mountains on a short hike from first campsite

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 on the shore of the Karale fjord at our first campsite on the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

This was the first and only time we cooked outside for the whole trek. It was absolutely freezing but the result was awesome!

It was amazing!

My trekking companions and I eating dinner in the cook/dining tent on the first day of Unplugged Wilderness

A very typical scene – our trekking group clustered around tables in the cook/dining tent eating. It was nice and cosy, which helped to keep it warm. Photo: Francesco Brunelli

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

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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