Back from Greenland

Last weekend I returned from Greenland after almost 5 weeks in the wilderness.

Every long trip I have made throughout the last decade has been unique in it’s own way with rich memories which I will take with me for the rest of my life. My Pyrenees trips in 2007 and 2010 were the first long trips, where I discovered myself and started developing this passion. The 2750km Scandinavia thru-hike in 2012 was the one where I felt a very special drive on the way which provided my with seemingly infinite energy in often harsh conditions – it is the trip on which I look back with a lot of pride. Greenland in 2013 was the first real wilderness experience, and the South Island traverse in early 2015 during which everything seemed to go so easily, just because of the relaxed feeling you automatically get in New Zealand – it was the best trip of my life.

And then there was this Greenland expedition… a trip which was without any doubt the most beautiful I have ever made and which has impressed and touched me deeply. The feeling which I had during those weeks in the wilderness is hard to explain. As I stuggled through boulderfields and moraine, watched the sun set from mountain with views unknown to human gaze, and slalommed along countless muskoxen, I no longer felt like a spectator of any kind in this vast wilderness, but was an integral part of it, obeying to the same rules and laws of nature as any animal out there.

My trip was blessed with sensational weather conditions – during the first 4 weeks of the trip I had only a few overcast days with some rain and a few mornings with sea fog – all the rest was just blue skies and warm temperatures. I hiked over 80% of the distance in t-shirt in august. In september summer slipped away and the conditions started detoriorating quickly, with snow down to sea level by the time I reached Kangerlussuaq. Thanks to all this amazing weather, I was able to complete almost my entire planning including summits, although some proved to be a bit too difficult to make it all the way up. But who cares, really.

What West Greenland lacks in terms of big icebergs in comparison to most other places around the island, it makes up with a rich wildlife. I spotted countless arctic fox, muskoxen, reindeer, arctic hare, white-tailed eagles, seals and ptarmigan on the way, often from very close distance.

It will be a pain adapting to the rat race again after such a sensational experience in the wilderness. Apart from a hunting Inuit family on the second day, I did not encounter a single soul during the entire trip. I will take it easy the next few weeks to give myself the time to process all of it, so don’t expect any trip report too soon.

Greenland, I’ll be back!

I met an Inuit family when beaching my packraft on the second day of the trip. The men were gone hunting for reindeer, but I got a warm welcome with coffee and cookies from their wives, children and grandparents. They were the last people I would see throughout the entire trip.

I met an Inuit family when beaching my packraft on the second day of the trip. The men were gone hunting for reindeer, but I got a warm welcome with coffee and cookies from their wives, children and grandparents. They were the last people I would see throughout the entire trip.

Camping in a nameless valley north of Sondre Stromfjord

Camping in a nameless valley north of Sondre Stromfjord

Paddling through the Taseq qutdleq valley

Paddling through the Taseq qutdleq valley

Reindeer could be seen throughout the trip

Reindeer could be seen throughout the trip

Another splendid morning in the Taseq qutdleq valley

Another splendid morning in the Taseq qutdleq valley

Ancient Viking grave on a place I will not tell

Ancient Viking grave on a place I will not tell

During the endless string of sunny days during the first half of the trip I managed to climb a few nameless mountains with views which were probably unknown to human gaze. I called this one towering above the Eternity Fjord the Garden of Eden.

During the endless string of sunny days during the first half of the trip I managed to climb a few nameless mountains with views which were probably unknown to human gaze. I called this one towering above the Eternity Fjord the Garden of Eden.

Views from another nameless summit, which I called "The Stegosaurus" because of its spectacular broken summit ridge.

Views from another nameless summit, which I called “The Stegosaurus” because of its spectacular broken summit ridge.

Views from another nameless summit, which I called "The Stegosaurus" because of its spectacular broken summit ridge.

Views from another nameless summit, which I called “The Stegosaurus” because of its spectacular broken summit ridge.

Mighty summits in the Niaqornata qula range as seen from the outflow of the Tasersuaq lake.

Mighty summits in the Niaqornata qula range as seen from the outflow of the Tasersuaq lake.

Another beauty camp in at the head of the Puiartoq Bay.

Another beauty camp in at the head of the Puiartoq Bay.

After 18 days solo in the wild, these Inuit children were the first humans I saw. We played handball and soccer for hours while I waited for boat transport to my resupply town of Maniitsoq

After 18 days solo in the wild, these Inuit children were the first humans I saw. We played handball and soccer for hours while I waited for boat transport to my resupply town of Maniitsoq

Paddling nameless lakes with travelling through a remote valley north of the Qapiarfiup sermia ice sheet

Paddling nameless lakes with travelling through a remote valley north of the Qapiarfiup sermia ice sheet

During the second half of the trip I travelled remote valleys squeezed in between ice sheets, with massive glaciers all around the place.

During the second half of the trip I travelled remote valleys squeezed in between ice sheets, with massive glaciers all around the place.

The iceberg graveyard of Iluliagdlup Tasia, a lake which is dammed by 2 massive glaciers, preventing the water to drain. The water level of the lakes rises at a rate of about 40-50m per year, and eventually lifts the damming glacier enough to allow a spectacular outburst flood, which drains all the water in the entire lake (with a surface of about 50km²) in a single go. This happens about every 7 years, after which a new cycle begins. The lake level was low this year, and I found icebergs on land up to 100m above the current lake level, all suggesting a relatively recent last outburst event.

The iceberg graveyard of Iluliagdlup Tasia, a lake which is dammed by 2 massive glaciers, preventing the water to drain. The water level of the lakes rises at a rate of about 40-50m per year, and eventually lifts the damming glacier enough to allow a spectacular outburst flood, which drains all the water in the entire lake (with a surface of about 50km²) in a single go. This happens about every 7 years, after which a new cycle begins. The lake level was low this year, and I found icebergs on land up to 100m above the current lake level, all suggesting a relatively recent last outburst event.

Crossing the iceberg graveyard of Iluliagdlup Tasia

Crossing the iceberg graveyard of Iluliagdlup Tasia

Back down to Eternity fjord

Back down to Eternity fjord

I was stuck at this spot along the Eternity Fjord for almost 48 hours because of wind and high waves preventing a safe crossing by packraft. But I didn't mind too much, really ;-)

I was stuck at this spot along the Eternity Fjord for almost 48 hours because of wind and high waves preventing a safe crossing by packraft. But I didn’t mind too much, really😉

Paddling on Eternity fjord

Paddling on Eternity fjord

Taking out of Eternity Fjord

Taking out of Eternity Fjord

Travelling through the very remote Kangerdlugssuatsiaup qingua valley.

Travelling through the very remote Kangerdlugssuatsiaup qingua valley.

Waterfall in the remote Kangerdlugssuatsiaup qingua valley.

Waterfall in the remote Kangerdlugssuatsiaup qingua valley.

I saw the northern lights on every single clear night as soon as it got sufficiently dark from the end of august onwards. But this night they were extremely active and dancing through the entire sky.

I saw the northern lights on every single clear night as soon as it got sufficiently dark from the end of august onwards. But this night they were extremely active and dancing through the entire sky.

I spotted up to 300 muskoxen per day during the final week of my trip, and my path must have looked like a drunk man's slalom as I tried to keep a safe distance to the aggressive bulls.

I spotted up to 300 muskoxen per day during the final week of my trip, and my path must have looked like a drunk man’s slalom as I tried to keep a safe distance to the aggressive bulls.

Arctic hare were easy to spot on the tundra. It was difficult to approach them during the first weeks, but when the weather grew colder in early september them seemed to freeze into a lower state of consciousness, pretty much like my fingers as I struggled with the controls of my camera.

Arctic hare were easy to spot on the tundra. It was difficult to approach them during the first weeks, but when the weather grew colder in early september them seemed to freeze into a lower state of consciousness, pretty much like my fingers as I struggled with the controls of my camera.

By the end of august the tundra exploded into autumn colours

By the end of august the tundra exploded into autumn colours

20 thoughts on “Back from Greenland

  1. erikvloeberghs says:

    Wonderful again! I hope you will give a presentation of this Greenland trek during the next Wandel- en fiertsbeurs in Flanders Expo, Ghent…

  2. poksumdo says:

    Congratulations Willem on your well planned and executed expedition. Brilliant images of the country and wildlife. Seeing so many musk oxen must have been a huge bonus. Eternity Fjord looks spectacular especially in clear weather. Well done brother

  3. Tormod Antonsen says:

    Thank You. Beautiful trip and well written report. Makes me remember and relish more my own trips. Interesting names🙂
    In Norway we have a saying of well Wishes and happy days that when directly translated turns out to be Something like; “Don’t get any fishes” …
    So for your next trip:Sjitt fiske!

  4. Matthias says:

    Glad you made it and happy that you obviously had a wonderful time! Would you share what this trip did cost you transportation whise? Thank you!

    • Willem says:

      Hi Matthias, thanks for reading!

      This is the breakdown of my transportation costs:
      – Flight ticket Brussels-Copenhagen-Brussels: 130€
      – Flight ticket Copenhagen-Kangerlussuaq-Copenhagen: 720€
      – Boat transport Kangerlussuaq – starting point (approx 55km): 350€
      – Boat transports near Maniitsoq (approx. 60km): 90€

      I arranged my boat transport from Kangerlussuaq through a commercial organization before the trip. In Maniitsoq I contacted locals through Facebook and by just talking to people in the harbour. They took me for just the cost of their gasoline. You could try the same in Kangerlussuaq, but there are less locals with boats there and the harbour is located 11km out of town.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s