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Discover East Greenland – Boat Supported Trekking

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Trip Summary

  • Experience the fjords, glaciers and wild places of East Greenland with a light daypack

  • Comfortable camps moved each day by boat

  • Extremely seldom-trodden wilderness journey visiting some of our favourite areas

  • Join the most experienced, passionate & internationally qualified Greenland guides & Inuit elders on this trip

  • Small group size to maximise our experience of the wild

Join us in exploring one of the most beautiful and wild coastlines in East Greenland.  This is our home – a land of jagged mountains, huge glaciers, iceberg-filled fjords and culture millennia old.   Together with the most experienced guides, we will explore some of our favourite places in a wilderness few ever see.  Whilst a boat moves our comfortable camp each day, we will walk with light day packs, free to take our time and explore.

Leaving from our home village of Kulusuk, an Inuit subsistence hunting community of 200 people, we’ll traverse fjords, walk through rich tundra, experience arctic wildlife and spend nights camped in view of kilometer-wide glacier faces calving directly into the sea.  We’ll eat fish from the fjords, find edible plants and learn about the people who have made this place their home for thousands of years.  Led by a partnership of some of the most respected Inuit elders and guides we hope to offer you a unique insight into this most special of places we love.

Who Is This Trip For

Helen & Rich: East Greenland is characterised by vast glacier calving faces; towering alpine peaks; verdant, rugged coastline and the expansive fjord system which links them all together. Using our years of experience trekking in the region, we’ve created this route that combines all of these aspects and is a journey that really inspires us. By using boats to transport our expedition kit each day we’re able to make things more comfortable, hiking with only small day packs. This is a great opportunity to explore one of the major wilderness areas on earth, without having to carry a huge expedition pack.  If you’d like further advice on whether this is the right trip for you, please do get in touch.

Trip Location

greenland ski tour expedition location mapKnown as Tunu (translates as ‘Land at the Back’) by the Greenlandic Inuit, the name refers to the East Coast’s extreme isolation. Of Greenland’s population of 57,000, only several thousand live in a handful of settlements on a coastline that runs 3000km from south to north. The Polar Current, carrying pack ice southwards from the Arctic Ocean severely restricted shipping;  The Danish only established their first trading station and mission on the East Coast in the 1890′s.  East Greenlanders are expert hunters in both summer and winter, travelling by boat in summer and dog sled in winter. Due to isolation, East Greenlandic is a distinct dialect to that of the west of the country.

Flights to East Greenland depart from Reykjavik, Iceland and fly over the Denmark Strait to one of the outermost islands of the Tunu region. As well as the ‘international airport’ (a gravel strip and small arrivals building), Kulusuk island is also home to a tiny village, home to around 250, many of whom still still subsistence hunt.  We’ll be overnighting in the village at the start and end of the trek.

Kulusuk Island is the outermost of a series of islands separated by fjords that deeply incise this area of Greenland.  Inland, the World’s second-largest Icecap flows through   alpine-scale mountains to reach the sea, often in calving glacier faces.  It’s this ice, combined with ‘bergs and pack ice carried on the Polar Current that fill the fjords of the Tunu region.

Terrain

The route includes some of the most spectacular locations in our region. There are some sections of trail at times during the route, but we’ll spend much of our time hiking over a variety of untracked ground, through low-lying vegetation and grassy tussocks, across boulder-strewn hillsides, rocky bays and iceberg strewn sandy beaches, with a couple of small river crossings along the way.  The route is focused around the coastline so doesn’t include any major ascents (the highest col being around 400m above sea level), but the journey is constantly undulating across depressions and over headlands throughout the day.  Confidence on rough and at times exposed terrain is required.  We’d advise spending as much time as possible hiking before you arrive in East Greenland, so you’re well prepared for the trip.  The nature of the ground requires a steady approach and the use of walking poles is essential for stream crossings.

From our village, we will traverse wild coastlines to reach the head of Sermiligaq Fjord, the point where three huge glaciers calve into the ocean from a series of ice faces many kilometers wide. We’ll travel by boat around some of the massive icebergs that drift through these waters and go whale watching at known feeding sites. We’ll establish a comfortable camp each night at some of the most beautiful and peaceful spots we know of.  At the very end of August, the first signs of the Aurora Borealis can sometimes be seen in the first dark evenings of the late summer.

Flora and Fauna

The valley floors and coastline along which we travel are surprisingly verdant – the short but intense arctic summer running its course in just a few short months.  A wide variety of plants and flowers can be found including saxifrage, speedwells, alpine gentians and arctic poppies.   Arctic willow is also common – a direct relative to those found in Europe, but never growing more than a few inches above the ground.  Tunu’s coastal waters are an important area for marine life.  Minke, fin, humpback, narwhal and Orca inhabit the area, as well as seals and walruses.  On land, arctic foxes are regular visitors to camp and ensure food is well protected!  Polar bears do occasionally pass through – we will take all necessary safety precautions.

Safety & Guiding

This trip is organised and led by the most experienced and qualified guiding team in East Greenland. We combine certification to the highest international standards (IFMGA/UIMLA) with many consecutive years of experience in leading wilderness expeditions in Greenland, whether in the fjords and the mountains, or the glaciers and Ice Cap. This is our home and we’re proud to utilise this expertise to facilitate the most exciting trips as safely as possible. At present, unlike many other mountain ranges around the World, guiding is completely unregulated in Greenland; anyone can and often does claim to be a guide. Headed by IFMGA international mountain guide Matt Spenceley, we set the standards for professional arctic guiding in Greenland with the most rigorous safety systems in place to manage all the risks involved.

There is a small but significant risk of meeting polar bears in East Greenland. We don’t leave it to chance: with the right equipment, experience and systems, we carefully manage this risk.

Accommodation

East Greenland Backcountry Skiing

ph. H.Spenceley

At the start and end of the expedition, we’ll be based in Nanoq Lodge in the tiny village of Kulusuk, home to 250 mostly Inuit folk and surrounded by beautiful alpine peaks. We take great pride in the work we’ve put into our expedition lodge and look forward to welcoming you. Built to withstand severe arctic conditions, the lodge has running water (a rare thing in the village!) and is set up as a comfortable and practical place to launch our expeditions from. Spending time in the village provides a rare insight into a community that has adapted to and thrived in the high Arctic over the last thousands of years.

Itinerary

    • Day 1

      Fly from Reykjavik, Iceland to Kulusuk, East Greenland.  A spectacular flight over the icebergs of the Denmark Strait, giving expansive views of Greenland’s coast and the pack ice as you get closer.  We’ll meet you at the airport outside the village for the 30 minute walk to the lodge, in the heart of Kulusuk.  In the afternoon we’ll check over kit and pack bags ready for our departure the next morning, before taking a walk around the village to stretch our legs.  We often experience beautiful sunsets, and if the weather is good we can head up one of the small hills in the village to watch the sun set over the mountains.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 2

      An early start. In the morning we’ll meet the boats at the village harbour for the journey to the start of the trek, which takes around 1 hour 30 minutes.  It’s a spectacular journey down Ammassalik Fjord, one of the major waterways in the area and our access to the mountains which lie to the north.  Leaving the boats with our camp equipment, we’ll follow a broad river valley past the head of a narrow fjord; from here we get our first glimpse of the ice cap.  Continuing north past a large lake, often teeming with arctic char, we’ll cross a broad, shallow stream before the last stretch of hiking to reach a beautiful bay looking out across Sermilik Fjord to the ice cap beyond.  We’ll spend our first night in the wild here, listening to the cracking and grinding of the many icebergs out in the fjord.

    • Day 3

      The next stretch of the trek takes us further north along the shores of Sermilik Fjord to reach the Ilivnera valley, which heads back in land and is our route for the following day.  Following the rugged coast we cross a wide sandy bay, which often has icebergs stranded on the beach.  Timing is key here; we’ll aim to cross the wide bay at, or close to low tide, to maximise the distance we can cover on the easy-going terrain.  There are a number of stunning camp sites near the opening of the Ilivnera valley.

    • Day 4

      The Ilivnera valley.  Heading inland up a beautiful broad valley strewn with wildflowers, we’re once again surrounded on all sides by spectacular mountains.  Making our way to a col at the head of the valley, we then begin our descent back to sea level.  The valley is narrower here and forces us to cross a stream before making our way down the far side to reach the valley floor, where the stream, now wider and shallower, leads down to the fjord.  The fjord is shallow here and we’ll make our way down the coast a short way to a point where the boats can come in to meet us.  A short boat ride take us to Tasiilaq Fjord and our camp for the evening.

    • Day 5

      Tasiilap Kua to Kuummiut Tuno.  Today sees us climb gently into a lush valley which provides the link between Ammassalik Fjord and the bay of Tuno, where we’ll make camp for the evening.  The bay is shallow and calm and the early mornings here can be stunning, with the mirror-like surface of the water reflecting perfectly the silhouette of the mountains on the far side.

    • Day 6

      After breakfast, we’ll pack up camp and load up the boat.  Our route today takes us across a wide, sandy delta formed by the outflow from the major glacier systems high above us. After a number of stream crossings, we get back onto dry land, and tackle a succession of small ascents and descents as we follow the coast. We finish the day in Ikateq, on the lookout for ripe blueberries on the many bushes which grow here on the south facing slopes.

    • Day 7

      The following day starts with a stream crossing.  The stream, which flows from a small lake, is often teeming with arctic char.  Having made the crossing, we continue north-east along the valley side, just above the level of the fjord, for a few kilometres.  Crossing another stream, we now take to the beach, which offers an easier route than the now steep hillside above.  After a couple more kilometres our way is barred by a rock buttress protruding into the fjord, here we’re forced to climb up the hillside a short way before descending and following easier angled terrain to reach our campsite in a small bay looking south toward the Denmark Strait.  It’s key that we time the second part of today’s trek to coincide with low tide, so we may have an early start to make this possible.

    • Day 8

      The valley above the camp is strewn with huge boulders, once part of the impressive peaks which sit above.  We’ll follow the stream uphill before turning away to make a steep climb of a few hundred metres to a col.  From here, the views to the north open up, giving our first glimpse of the huge calving face of a nearby glacier.  Now we traverse, with a series of ascents and descents leading us past a small waterfall to a rocky ridge.  Here the view only gets better, looking out over numerous glaciers and towering alpine spires.  Descending past some small lakes, we eventually make it back to sea level and our shore-side campsite.  Our final night in the wild.

    • Day 9

      Today sees us walk along the coastline in sight of several big glaciers.  Walking to the constant rumble of the glaciers pushing toward the ocean, we then turn inland slightly to make an ascent of a low peak, which gives views into the Schweizerland Alps, a system of major glaciers and big alpine peaks.  Making our way back to the coast we meet the boats which arrive to take us back to Kulusuk.  On route, we’ll pass by the towering calving face of the Knud Rasmussen glacier; an awe-inspiring spectacle.  From here, a two hour boat journey takes us back to Kulusuk, where we’ll overnight at our lodge.

    • Day 10

      In the morning before you fly, there’ll be a last opportunity to explore the village and you may choose to visit the little museum in Kulusuk.  Run by a local family, there are some fascinating pieces of clothing and traditional hunting equipment.  Fly from Kulusuk to Reykjavik City Airport.

       

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    Testimonials

    • Mahnaz A, USA

      East Greenland Boat Supported Trek

      Thank you Pirhuk for an amazing adventure. The astounding beauty of East Greenland will stay with me always. No pictures or words can accurately describe it. You have to go experience it for yourself. Our extremely knowledgeable leader/guide Rich made us all feel safe while trekking in one of the wildest places in the world. He went above and beyond to ensure everyone was well taken care of throughout the journey. Thanks also to the entire team at Pirhuk for their hospitality and kindness. Hope to return soon!

    • Sue, UK

      East Greenland Boat Supported Trek

      Thank you for being such a wonderful, thoughtful, kind and caring guide and for taking us to such lovely campsites in awe inspiring territory! We also must thank you Matt and Rich for your wonderful hospitality at the Lodge. It really was the most fabulous trip ever!!

    • Marilyn F, USA

      East Greenland Boat Supported Trek

      What an absolutely wonderful trek. As long as I live, I'll never forget the mist, the moss, the glaciers and mountains of Greenland. Thank you so much for a magnificent adventure.

    • Jacob K, Canada

      East Greenland Trekking - Fjordlands Expedition

      Incredibly professional and well prepared expedition along Sermilik Fjord! Pirhuk took care of everything, were incredibly responsive by email prior to the trip, and had really well maintained gear on the trek itself. I felt very well taken care of and they really had their act together when it came to bear safety. Not to mention that Rich was pretty much the best guide I've ever had.

    • John N, Scotland

      East Greenland Boat Supported Trek

      Helen you were outstanding as the trek leader and that meant that we were able to really enjoy the trip and it made it such a memorable experience for us. Again, my heartfelt thanks to you all - we are so lucky to have had such amazing experiences in such wonderful country with you.

    • Harry R, UK

      Boat Supported Trekking

      Helen and Matt - thanks for an amazing trip! It was a pleasure to spend time with you both. Everything was very professionally run, from the initial arrangements through to the safety and logistics on the trip itself, and the variety of landscapes and experiences that we enjoyed, made for a hugely memorable and enjoyable trip. Now I have the problem of wondering what I can do next that will rival Greenland with Pirhuk!

    • Philippa S, UK

      Boat Supported Trekking

      Thanks again for a fabulous experience that I will never forget!

    • Alana E, Australia

      East Greenland Trekking - Fjordlands Expedition

      What an amazing and unforgettable two weeks trekking in South East Greenland. A challenging trip but made so enjoyable by our enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide Rich who led the small group ensuring our safety all the way. The hospitality before and after the trek shown by the entire team at Pirhik also made our group feel right at home! Thank you for such a great trip, it has honestly been one of, if not the best trip I've been on.

    • Michael C, UK

      Greenland Mountaineering

      Thank you, for another, memorable trip. As ever your hard work and dedication to make these trips something special is appreciated.

    • Tom W, UK

      East Greenland Boat Supported Trek

      Thank you for a wonderful holiday. It was every bit as good an experience as I had imagined. Thanks for making it all happen. Pirhuk's set up and organisation was first rate and thoroughly professional. You must all be proud of it.