Trekking the Inuit Trail

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August 16th 2013
Published: September 3rd 2013
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I felt a slight nudge on my right shoulder as I nap through the 2 hour flight from Reykjavik to Kulusuk, it was Tim, one of the French guys in our group of 7 who will be doing the Inuit trail for 12 days. He pointed the scenery outside the window, we are approaching Kulusuk and you can see huge icebergs floating out into the sea and some smaller ones closer to shore, the landing tarmac is gravel yet the landing was smooth, we are now in Greenland. The sun was shining, a bit chilly and the menacing mosquitoes annoy you. The airport is quite small, we waited outside for our luggages to be brought out by a fork lift, it parks on the side and people start to gather their belongings, a quad bike came to pick up our provisions and we all walked to the hostel/office of Icelandic Mountain Guides, the company we are doing this trek with towards town about half hour walk.

We had our lunch at their office, a small red house, it's like their base here, the staff sleep here and organize the Greenland trips from here, we had a great lunch of cheese,

where's the polar bear
caviar, butter, cold cuts and good bread. Then Kata our trek leader lined up all the provisions on the grass outside and divided into 7 portions, we each have to help and carry our share of provisions for the next 4 to 5 days. My pack probably weighed 45 lbs when everything was said and done, I can't really complain as everyone else have the same. Kata collected her rifle, our protection from polar bears, as we all test our packs on our backs to see how heavy it is, a few loafs of bread are still waiting in the grass, no one wants to pick up anymore extra weight! We walked down to the pier to take a speed boat to our starting point in one of the mountainous islands, as we prepare to load our packs into the boats there were a couple of locals sat in the pier talking to us and asking for things, one says he is an alcoholic, we were all polite in saying no and they never bothered us after. We saw few dead seals floating on the side of the pier, recently hunted animals, for feeding the huskies we assumed.

So on we go, the boat is navigating through a labyrinth of icebergs and floating chunks of ice, it was cold and we all huddled together, After about 2 hours we reached our destination almost to the bottom of the Ammassalik fjord, we got dropped off at one of the rocky outcrops and then we started walking. The goal being to find a suitable camping site for the night, it is now about 5 pm, we all got our walking sticks ready and licked our chops.. The first hour was tough as we try to get used to the heavy packs, the island is rocky but also some greeneries, lumpy grass, moss and soil, we passed by a group of hikers from Czech Republic already set up camp, Kata talked to their leader, some cordial hellos, later Kata told us they have the same destination as us for the first 4 days, then they finish and we keep going, the arrogant guide suggested to Kata we need to hike up and over a glacier to get to the town we will get our re supply, they were trying to make us take another path, but Kata isn't budging, though this is the first time she is guiding this trek she is armed with notes, maps and GPS and knows exactly where we are going., She simply said " nice try". Greenland is big enough why these guys don't wanna share the trail we have no clue.

We walked a little bit further about an hour more to get as far away from the Czechs, 4 kms later we decided to camp atop a hill, our main goal is camp next to a water source, which at this site happens to be a turbid glacier river running on the banks of the fjord or a few springs with pure clear water but quite a walk away. The night was cold, we set up our tents but hardly any flat ground, I can't even peg my tent to the ground. Freeze dried chicken curry was dinner, just pour hot water, wait 5 minutes and eat, my 1st time to use these types, made by a Norwegian company, it was surprisingly good. Tea and dessert then off to bed. There are 7 of us including the guide, 3 easy going French guys, who is sharing a big tent, A Scottish girl, me and a Canadian woman who will join us tomorrow. I brought my own tent, just to try how well a Big Agnes Copper spur 2 person tent will hold up on these conditions.

I must say my tent will be tight for 2 people, my backpack lies next to me. In my middle of the night, well I knew by looking at my watch, 2 am and it is still bright as if it was the afternoon, the wind started blowing hard and my tent fly was flapping about, my tent held up well until I sat down and started to re arrange my stuff, it was trying to fly with the wind, I cannot peg it as the ground was soft and no rocks around, so at 6am I decided to break camp,then just sat and waited for the rest to wake up around 8am, we had a quick breakfast and then we are set to go again. The goal is to get to the mouth of Sermilik fjord, so we head up to a valley treading through high mountains past the Lake of trout. Continuing to a large pass we admire the granitic peaks and glaciers that surrounds us, then we got to a point we have to do our first river crossing. We changed into our running shoes, off with the boots and waded in freezing mucky water, Kata was ahead and gave us specific instructions, watch where she goes and if she disappears, do not follow her and find another way to get across, simple enough. Giving us an ok signal we started to cross, Tim and I ended up in a quicksand filled area, I got worried when he stuck his foot on the soft sand and started sinking down to his knees, fortunately he is strong enough to pull himself off and we followed Pascal into safety.

Exhausted from the crossing we rested and had some snacks and slowly put our boots back on, tying our wet runners to our packs to dry it quicker. Then up a hill we go again, before slightly descending to another valley, the walk was long and tiring with 45 lbs pack, I was thinking to myself what the hell did I get myself into, especially when we started to follow a glacial river and we have to tip toe sideways on the granitic walls,my feet were
Kulusuk airportKulusuk airportKulusuk airport

quad bikes for taxis
sore but that remorse ended quickly when we caught sight of the panoramic Sermilik fjord, full of ice chunks it was a sight to behold, so beautiful and peaceful, the sun was intense but the air is cold, emanating from the cold waters that holds these vast berg bits. Now we have to decide where to camp, we walked a bit further more hoping to find a running stream to camp beside in,then Kata told us to wait and she will check out a better place to camp, that was then that I noticed the other pair of runners I have is now gone! It came loose off the pack! Darn.. now I may have to cross rivers barefooted.

We found a nice area next ro a river stream and close to the sea. This time the ground was firm, and rocks aplenty to secure my tent from getting blown by strong winds. Then I went for a walk to explore the area, climbed some hills and gathered water from the stream, it is so fresh and cold! Some of us braved the cold water and cleaned ourselves next to the stream, after dinner I watched the sun set

provisions are being prepared and ready to be divided
but it is still bright at midnite, The Canadian woman, Karen arrived on her own, she was dropped off by a boat from Kulusuk to catch up with us but have to hike to get to our camp as the ice were problematic for the boat to safely navigate through. She brought some more food! Oh my aching back(more food to carry)...Sleep was good but everytime I open my eyes it's still bright, I covered my face with my towel and passed out. Waking up to a beautiful sunny morning, we prepare to venture further out on the Sermilik fjord, which is around 7kms long,we started by going inland, and again traversing the soft pillowy grass expanse before htting granite rocks again, as we get near the sea again we see cluttered everywhere are icebergs of all shapes and sizes, and in the distance the great Greenland ice sheet. Side hillling was no fun!

For most of the day we follow along the banks of a river, crossing streams and walking on iceberg laden beach, some bigger than a car or a house, it was low tide but soon realized we need to hurry as we try and cross

getting ready to leave Kulusuk hostel and begin hiking
an inland sea to the other side, off with the boots again, but since I lost my left shoe I used my flip flop, using a duct tape to secure it on my foot, it worked, by now it got drizzly, mist is in the air and the tide started to rise again, lucky for us we made it across in time. My feet were freezing as I try to dry them and put on my boots, we had another snack break and then off again, climbing cliffs and ridges on a very rocky terrain some rocks are loose, quite hard to get a good grip underfoot and with a heavy pack its proven to be a challenge. This day is difficult for us all, more than 8 hours of walking, we can't find a good enough area to camp so we hiked up another ridge and found a small lake behind a grassy area, we stayed there for the night,our camp area is quite picturesque we have great views of the icle laden fjord in front of us and behind is a small lake where we gather our water for cooking and drinking, rain is in the air, and
Ammassalik FjordAmmassalik FjordAmmassalik Fjord

wild camping Day 1
just after dinner it started pouring down, we were all safely in our tents by then, I woke up to an orchestra of snoring coming from the French tent, the next morning they blame each other who snore the loudest!

It rained a bit last night and was cold and hazy in the morning, we headed on, it was gloomy and we had lunch at the mouth of a river, Tim decided to try his luck fishing here as we have lunch but did not catch anything, we moved on and soon enough, another river crossing,as I was crossing something on my right jumped, I stopped and saw an arctic char of fair size struggling to get back on water, I must have stratled it, the girls want us to let it go so we helped it back to the stream, the boys weren't happy, we wanted it for dinner! Anyway I have to put on my flip flop again for the crossing and tape it with duct tape on my left foot, Kata the guide waded first, the French guys followed still with their boots on, me and the two girls followed, the water is so
river crossing on Day 2river crossing on Day 2river crossing on Day 2

taking our boots off and putting some runners for the crossing
cold and we river was quite wide, took us awhile to get across, the only good thing is that the river level is low, and there are patches of sand, more like crossing a series of streams in succession really, we made it to the other side and watched in amazement how the French dudes will manage to cross, they can be really stubborn, not wanting to take their boots off, one relented after he fell in the water, the other took a looong detour but ended up taking his boots off and wading the streams and following us and another took his boots and pants off before he waded! It was a comical crossing, Kata making a snide comment "why listen to your guide?"

The terrain got challenging from there on, lots of slippery pink rocks, and got so foggy we almost lost Shona, as we approached a small lake, I stopped to gather some drinking water and ran literally to catch up with the group, not good to get lost in the fog, Tim was at the end of the group and he asked me where is Shona, how the hell I know I thought I was the last one, then we heard a faint cry for help, we can hear her but we don't know where she is, so Kata have to fetch her as we waited we snacked on some more toblerone chocolates. We ended up camping at the bottom of a nice valley, glaciers surrounding us, I was exhausted but releived we made camp in 9 hours. Tim lent me the fishing pole and I tried to fish on the small lake but got frustrated when the hook keeps snagging amongst the rocks so I gave up. Since we are sheltered by the tall mountains form the wind, the mozzies were out and about feeding on us, so after dinner I went straight to bed.

The 5th day started on a sunny day, we hiked up the craggy mountains that loomed our campsite, it was a struggle again, we keep going up and up on solid granite rocks, I felt the full weight of the pack on my back, everytime we cross through patches of snow, I slip, my legs are weak and tired, did not help that it was still foggy. Eventually we caught sight of the sea,we are on the Amitsivattiva fjord, it looks like a narrow peninsula, a slew of islands we can see from a distance, chincks of ice clog the waterway, what a beautiful sight, but first we have to find a suitable camp site, there is hardly any flat ground, we found one and it was just perfect, overlooking the fjord. We set up camp, which was a challenge as it was windy but it died down, and as we get ready for dinner the sun started to sink in the horizon and full bright ornage color surrounds us, we all got up and went by the edge of the ridge we are in to take tons of pictures of the sunset then it started to drizzle but did not amount to anything behind us formed a rainbow! It trully was a beautiful day, despite the pain of walking on rugged rocky terrains, at the end of the day we are always rewarded with fantastic scenery.

Day 6 our goal is to make it to a small town called Tiniteqilaq, we can see it from a distance, about an hours walk from our campsite, arriving there was strange, our first encounter with a settlement since Kulusuk 6 days ago, we stopped at a grocery shop and Kata stocked up on provisions, most things available are Danish products, the chocolates were very very good!, Anyway we walked the town and chilled for a bit, there is a chance to shower and laundry in this town but only 2 people went for it, we all are stinky anyway so what's the point of trying to smell good, in a few hours we will sweat again.There seems to be a lot of construction going on, this town is booming, also we saw sled dogs tied up everywhere, Kata told us not to touch or pet them as they can be vicious. One of the houses has a drying polar bear skin on it's porch,of course we all took a picture. The harbor is quite scenic and a couple of sailboats went past. Around noon time aour boat driver arrived and we all hopped in and got transfereed to Ammassalik island, again, dodging berg bits a short half hour ride and got dropped off at a rocky place where we sat for lunch before climbing up once again, we admire the view as we take a break atop the slope, Sermilik fjord once again in front of us, a red ship came past and it looks puny compared to some of the icebergs floating in the water.

Kata decided we have to head inland and the scenery changes completely, we took a high road through a landscape of granite domes formed by glacial erosion, crossing a few snow patches, slipping sliding on slick rocks, the fog is descending upon us, and its getting cold, we found a few flat grounds on a ledge, we settled there, the French guys opting to go one level down to the "balcony" as they thought the space is too tight for all of us to fit. In front of us is a magnificent looking small glacier and a good sized glacial lake, a stream flows to the right of our camp. Wind started getting intense and dinner was freezing, I secured my tent with rocks, and hoped it would hold up during the night, as mist started to spray on us, we all went to bed but not before admiring the sheer beauty of our surroundings, everywhere we set camp is beautiful, wild and peaceful..

Additional photos below
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3rd September 2013

Trekking Greenland
I must admit I started laughing somewhere around day three when you announced in your blog that [q]the terrain got challenging from there[/q]. Crossing the rivers sounded horrible....far before you got to the challenging terrain. Cold, wind, fog, mist rain and some amazing fjords, bay, glaciers and rainbows......stunning, peaceful and wild. You've seen parts of the country that we didn\'t see. Love follow this trip. I would not have wanted to cross the freezing water. When I was working in Antarctica I did a nude polar swim in 28 degree water. Been there, done that, don\'t want to do the cold water thing again.
4th September 2013

what a contrast form Reunion- nature, climate and hike conditions. Interesting to read and the only way i can enjoy scenery of such a place is through pictures. Thanks
4th September 2013

I don\'t think I am physically strong and tough enough for this kind of trekking even in my younger years. Camping in fair weather is my forte.
4th September 2013

Very good blog. Really liked it.

Tot: 3.053s; Tpl: 0.071s; cc: 45; qc: 202; dbt: 0.1424s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 2mb