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.
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.
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.
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.
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!