Preparing for a trip to Cape Farewell

I already mentioned it in a post a few weeks ago: I’m travelling to Greenland in a few days for 26 days of heavy solo hiking and packrafting. I have not been in the mountains since I’m back from Nordkinn, and look forward to this trip intensely.

Although having noticed it before on Google Earth as a potential destination before, my interest in extreme southern Greenland as a world-class destination sprouted in 2009 after an extraordinary exploration of the Tasermiut fjord area by my friend Joery Truyen. His trip report is a must-read, and looking at his pictures you will soon understand why this region has hunted my mind ever since. But his trip also scared me, not in the least because of the relentless boulderfields and horrible bushwhacking in the Greenlandic shrub, often growing taller than a man. Joery really did an outstanding job wandering through such seldom visited valleys and climbing unnamed peaks, all of this solo and without resupply. But was I ready for such a trip? And if so, did I really want making a trip where I would often make camp totally exhausted after only a handful kilometers of progress because of the horrendous terrain, even in such an astounding scenery?

Then came the answer: my packraft. Instead of obstacles, the fjords and lakes have become highways cutting through the harsh terrain, and a long top-class trip not being a physical torture suddenly felt possible. Furthermore, instead of being constrained to the few natural corridors accessible to a hiker, the possibilities of making a long trek become endless. Apart from these purely practical considerations, there are of course also the deeper thoughts and feelings. After my trip through Scandinavia, I somehow feel I have lived up to my main dream and biggest challenge in Nordic Europe, and I ready to aim on something of a higher level. Greenland it is.

Compared to Joery’s trip, which was constrained to the valleys east of Tasermiut fjord, my packraft allows me to make a kind of a thru-hike from Narsarsuaq, southeast all the way towards Cape Farewell County. Such a trip, during which I will cross multiple iceberg-loaden fjords, has probably never been made before.

This might become my first Greenlandic panorama view - from the summit of peak 1330m towards the Iceberg-loaden Motzfeldt So and the immense Jespersens glacier (only the 'small' northern branch can be seen on this picture), which flows down from the ice sheet. I'm really hoping for nice weather and a brilliant sunset here.

This might become my first Greenlandic panorama view – from the summit of peak 1330m towards the Iceberg-loaden Motzfeldt So and the immense Jespersens glacier (only the ‘small’ northern branch can be seen on this picture), which flows down from the ice sheet. I’m really hoping for nice weather and a brilliant sunset here.

The first part, from Narsarsuaq towards the Inuit village of Tasiusaq in Tasermiut fjord, will probably take me about 2 weeks. Apart from maybe in the direct environments of Narsarsuaq and Sondre Igaliku, I will probably not encounter a single human on this entire 180km stretch. Especially my high crossing from Lichtenau fjord towards Sondre Sermilik fjord through the Isortup qôrua and Kûgssuatsiaq valleys, and including a long section on boulderfields and moraine ridges above 1000m, is virtually unexplored terrain (as is attested by the complete absence of any pictures on Google Earth, and by extension the entire internet). Hiking maps do not exist for most of this stretch, and I will have to cope with a 1:250000 map based on the old military Soviet cartography. I will need some luck with the wind to cross the Sondre Sermilik fjord (could get stuck here for one or two days), and will eventually reach the head of Tasermiut fjord after 11 of 12 days on the trail. The transition from high to low tide (and good currents) are in the morning hours (when wind speed is on average at its minimum) during these days, and I hope to race down the fjord every morning for a few hours, and then climb a surrounding mountain in the afternoon and evening. Walking along the fjord is possible in case of inclement weather. After 14 or 15 days I should reach Tasiusaq. I will run out of food after 16 days.

The Isortoq River in the lower Isortop qôrua valley. I will packraft across the river at the right (which drains the Sioragdlip sermia glacier, coming right down from the main Greenlandic ice sheet) near the confluence of both streams, and then start tracking the ridge seperating both rivers with great views back through the valley and towards the isolated Akuligruserssuaq range (1655m).

The Isortoq River in the lower Isortop qôrua valley. I will packraft across the river at the right (which drains the Sioragdlip sermia glacier, coming right down from the main Greenlandic ice sheet) near the confluence of both streams, and then start tracking the ridge seperating both rivers with great views back through the valley and towards the isolated Akuligruserssuaq range (1655m).

The wildest section of the entire trip will be the high crossing from the Istortup qôrua valley towards Sondre Sermilik fjord. I will walk through an entirely mineral landscape of ice and rocks for two days, with nearby mountains soaring to over 2000m.

The wildest section of the entire trip will be the high crossing from the Istortup qôrua valley towards Sondre Sermilik fjord. I will walk through an entirely mineral landscape of ice and rocks for two days, with nearby mountains soaring to over 2000m.

If I have the time, I'm dreaming of a rest day near the mouth of the Isortup river into Sondre Sermilik fjord. And take my time for this ridgewalk high above the fjord, and some packrafting on the meandering, turqoise river.

If I have the time, I’m dreaming of a rest day near the mouth of the Isortup river into Sondre Sermilik fjord. And take my time for this ridgewalk high above the fjord, and some packrafting on the meandering, turqoise river.

With new supplies, I will then make a loop east of Tasiusaq which is mainly based on Joery’s 2009 trip. I will avoid the harshest terrain by packrafting across the Tasersuaq lake instead of bushwhacking along its shore, and by skipping the Tupaassat and Qinnquadalen valleys, but instead directly heading east towards Kangerluk fjord. The colder oceanic climate keeps the shrub low in this area. I will then have to search for a passage towards the Itillersuaq valley, which will guide me back to Tasiusaq. As I am not taking crampons nor ice axe, this high crossing could be a bit problematic, but based on Joery’s experiences it looks like it should be possible to make it across without taking risks. If weather allows, I hope to climb several mountains during this loop.

The Suikkassuaq mountain (1524m) at the eastern side of Tasermiut fjord seems to be one of the main summits within my possibilities. It is located in what could be one of the wildest landscapes on earth, with the granite faces of Ketil (2003m) and Ulamertorsuaq (1843m) dropping nearly vertically all the way down to the fjords. These walls are among the longest and most challenging climber's ascents in the world.

The Suikkassuaq mountain (1524m) at the eastern side of Tasermiut fjord seems to be one of the main summits within my possibilities. It is located in what could be one of the wildest landscapes on earth, with the granite faces of Ketil (2003m) and Ulamertorsuaq (1843m) dropping nearly vertically all the way down to the fjords. These walls are among the longest and most challenging climber’s ascents in the world.

If everything goes as planned, I will arrive back in Tasiusaq after 22 or 23 days. That gives me 3 or 4 more days to tranquilly follow Tasermiut fjord down to Nanortalik. This area is famous for whale-spotting, so who knows? Killer whales usually arrive in the fjord in late august, so I will probably be too early for that (but I’m not sure I want them to circle around my tiny packraft anyway). If the weather forecast I will be able to check in Tasiusaq is too bad to raft across the fjord, or if I have been too slow on the earlier parts of the trip, I can just take a ferry transfer to cover those final 30km before starting my journey back home.

During the last few days, I hope to have a relaxed stroll along the Tasermiut fjord towards Nanortalik. The terrain opens up, with the jagged peaks and the ice sheet still on the horizon.

During the last few days, I hope to have a relaxed stroll along the Tasermiut fjord towards Nanortalik. The terrain opens up, with the jagged peaks and the ice sheet still on the horizon.

You can view my Gear list Greenland 2013 here. Not too much has changed compared to the list of my Scandinavia-trip last year (which you can still find browsing the menu on this blog). I’ll take a larger drybag (95L compared to 65L) to be able to carry supplies for up to 16 days. I will leave my Tyvek sleeping bag cover at home, and thus use my sleeping bag directly beneath the flysheet of my Cricket Tent (which also has an inner net with bathtub floor). I will have to carry some more alcohol for my stove at the start of the trip (about 620ml for 16 days). Instead of my solar charger, I will just carry enough spare camera and GoPro batteries for the entire trip. I also swapped my Flyroc 310 shoes (which apparently are no longer in production) for Roclite 315’s, which offer some more protection at the toes (could be useful in the rough mountain terrain). My gear list totalizes nearly 15,5kg, of which about 12kg will effectively be in my pack while hiking in dry weather.

I have bought slightly more than 24kg of food to cover the entire distance. I will carry 16 days of supplies when I leave Narsarsuaq (an additional 15kg). My pack weight will thus be a painful 27kg when I start this trip. When I reach Tasiusaq after 14-15 days, I will pick up the rest of my supplies (another 9kg), which I will have sent forward by post from Narsarsuaq. That should be enough to make it towards Nanortalik. My menu is based on 4250kCal/day rations. Those who want to know more can have a look at my Food list Greenland 2013

And yep, I’m not done with my Scandinavia report yet! I’m working on the last bits, and hope to get everything online soon after I return from Greenland.

See you in august!

Map with my intended route for this trip. Blue are packrafting sections, green are summits I may try to climb, dotted lines indicate sections where I have not yet decided which route I will take.

Map with my intended route for this trip. Blue are packrafting sections, green are summits I may try to climb, dotted lines indicate sections where I have not yet decided which route I will take.

9 thoughts on “Preparing for a trip to Cape Farewell

  1. jeroenbouman says:

    That’s a HUGE trip, enjoy it! But you’re going to miss the most spectacular landscape I’ve ever seen at the top of Kangikitsoq-fjord. And the route from there to Qinnguadalen is also much nicer than Tasermiut Fjorden which I found very boring. Qinnguadalen could be packrafted for the most part, and that huge boulderfield is a challenge but absolutely doable.

    Tip: the inflation bag for the yak also fits on a Neo Air. But I’m sure you know this.
    Tip 2: I’ve just bought a pair of La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. Not only are they much better made than Inov8 (better fit & support, seem much, much more durable), they also dry out much faster (at least 50% faster) than my Roclite 315.

    PS: a vaccination for rabies is no luxury in Greenland. Takes 3 jabs over 4 weeks though, and is expensive.
    PPS: take care on the fjords in early morning when mist can suddenly pop up. You don’t want to get run over by a fast motor boat!

  2. Spelt says:

    This sounds amazing and I’m sure it will be even better than you anticipate. I had read DJZOW’s report a while ago, but having re-read it I am impressed all over again at the landscape.

  3. Willem says:

    Thanks for you feedback guys! Jeroen, that’s interesting info about rabies. I don’t have a vaccination, but if I get bitten by a fox I will take the necassary steps to get back to civilization for a check/treatment as soon as possible.

    My choice to follow Tasermiut is also because of practical considerations. Doing to Klosterdalen/Qinnguadalen/Tasersuaq loop before picking up my food drop in Tasiusaq would mean carrying a few more days of supplies from the start, and I’m afraid that would be too much for me. I’m sure I will enjoy the Tasermiut stretch if the weather is ok and I can climb some mountains along the fjord.

  4. Dries Berlengee says:

    WARNING

    Based on your reports we did a part of your route in July of this year. We did the loop starting from Tasiussaq. We did the loop clockwise. Beautiful and doable trip EXCEPT for one part. At one part you will first have to climb and than descend in the direction of Stordalens Havn. DO NOT TAKE this route without climbing gear (crampons/axes/ropes), which we didn’t have and the necessary experience. Tons of snow, avalanches, icey lakes, very steep slopes and cliffs, slippery rocks, you name it and we had it that day. Locals told us they had a very long winter, called us crazy and luckely to be alive. I don’t know if following the coastline would be a better option, but it’s certainly a detour.

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