Trekking Greenland – Unplugged Wilderness Day 2

Vibrant pink and purple skies at 2am over the Karale fjord and its glaciers, as seen from our campsite

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 (Havarti I think) 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 South Greenland, 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!

View from above of the table containing the various ingredients we could use to prepare lunch for the day's hike

This was lunch on the second-last day of the trek, 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 trekking.  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.  Although it is the widest in the area, the Karale 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!

Group hiking along the fjord with the Karale glacier prominent in the background

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

Trekking group hiking on scree en route to the Karale Glacier viewpoint

Scree is not the easiest terrain to walk on I have to admit, and we weren’t following any trails to make it easier.

And, because there happened to be another unnamed glacier between us and the Karale viewpoint, 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 

Trekking group at the base of the unnamed glacier fitting their crampons, and closeup of my shoe with crampons fitted

We carried these basic crampons with us for the entire trek

and off we set.

Trekking group hiking across another unnamed glacier on the way to the Karale glacier viewpoint

The unnamed glacier was actually quite steep. Thank goodness for crampons!

The views on the glacier were absolutely stunning.

The group hiking on the unnamed glacier, as well as details within the glacier itself

The top of a glacier is probably not as rough and jagged as you might expect

and I found a very cool rock (Greenland is full of cool rocks) that seemed to be made entirely of minerals.  Where was my geologist friend that I was also wishing for in South Greenland??!!

Close-up of a rock formed completely of long green and white mineral crystals

I have no idea what this rock is – but it’s awesome!

After coming down off the unnamed glacier, we were confronted by a bit of an obstacle.  In an effort to ease us into the whole experience, Maxime (wonderful guide that he is) set about constructing stepping stones so that we could walk across without getting wet or changing into our river shoes.

Maxime investigating whether he could place stepping stones to allow us to cross the stream without changing shoes

He was being very nice to us – checking out whether it was possible to place stepping stones for a dry crossing

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

Wide angle and closeup view of the Karale Glacier and its face, as seen from the viewpoint we hiked to

Glacier faces are amazingly complex and beautiful. And very exciting when you see a piece break off!

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

2 of my trekking companions looking very small in front of the mountains on the other side of the Karale fjord

I love telephoto lenses

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

Looking up the steep slope of the unknown glacier towards the mountains behind

More adjustments to crampons 

Maxime kneeling down on the unnamed glacier to adjust the crampons of one of my trekking companions

A guide’s work is never done.  Yes, Maxime carried a gun for our entire trek, in case of polar bears

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

Trekking group coming down off the unnamed glacier, and image of glacier quicksand and my muddy shoe

Quicksand at the base of the glacier is one of the many dangers of glacier hiking

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

View of our first campsite for the Unplugged Wilderness Trek, taken from up the hill at the Karale Fjord

Our campsite at the Karale Fjord with the Knud Rasmussen Glacier in the background. The cook/dining tent is the large tent on the left

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 about the Unplugged Wilderness Trek

If this post has piqued your curiosity about 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
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