other trips & expeditions

East Greenland Exploratory Ski Touring Expedition

CONTACT US TO BOOK

First Descents in the Alpine Ranges of East Greenland

  • Our longest, highly exploratory backcountry ski expedition, searching out big first descents

  • Rare access to the big inland alpine terrain of East Greenland

  • Dog sled and/or boat into basecamp with the local Inuit; sledge-hauling to move camp

  • Highest standard of professional mountain guiding in Greenland: highly experienced, locally based IFMGA mountain guide

Each year, local IFMGA mountain guide and passionate skier Matt Spenceley undertakes one highly exploratory backcountry ski touring expedition searching for the most exciting adventurous skiing in Greenland.  New areas, first descents and stunningly wild locations all factor highly in finding the next area.  For next season we’re planning to explore some of the beautiful peaks and incredible ski lines we spotted last spring!

The aim is to travel into the mountains by dog sled and/or boat, then stay highly mobile by using sledges – we can easily move camp to access the most inspiring objectives.  This expedition is suitable for ski mountaineers looking to join a like-minded team in making big first descents in a wildly beautiful area.

Expedition Area

greenland ski tour expedition location map

East Greenland offers one of the greatest tracts of the most exciting, least explored ski terrain on earth.

Last season, we looked over to some of the most beautiful ski peaks we’ve ever seen, an area offering huge potential for brilliant ski mountaineering and first descents. Next spring, we’re heading there. At the point where the highest inland peaks meet the ocean, we can ski from high summits to the shores of the frozen fjords or travel inland onto the glaciers and big peaks there.

The mountains are formed of gneiss and are heavily glaciated offering many classic descents in bowls, couloirs and face lines from classically sharp alpine summits. Glaciation is extensive, crevasse risk generally low due to a deep snow pack. Vertical height gain from sea to summit starts at around 1000m and rises to over 2200m a short way inland. Frozen fjords and major glaciers intersect the area, allowing easy access to many peaks.

Snow

The weather system in the Schweizerland region oscillates between long periods of high pressure – bringing stable, cold, clear conditions – and low-pressure storms driving in snow from the NE. Coming in off the ocean, these weather systems are relatively warm and the snow settles quickly. The strengthening sun in April can be warm enough to set up spring corn conditions on southern-aspect steeps, whilst northern aspects keep powder (note: long daylight hours and low-angle sunlight due to our northerly position keeps spring snow good for many hours). Whilst avalanche conditions are dynamic and require constant vigilance, our snowpack usually settles quickly due to moisture content. Persistent weak layers are uncommon.

Location

East Greenland is known as Tunu ( ‘Land at the Back’) to the Greenlandic Inuit, referring to the area’s extreme isolation. Of Greenland’s population of 57,000, fewer than 4000 live in a handful of settlements on a coastline that runs 3000km from south to north. The first trading colony was only established in the 1890′s, and to this day, the local community keep alive many of the ancient ways of life used to survive in this beautiful but severe environment.

Flights to East Greenland depart from Reykjavik, Iceland and land on our home island of Kulusuk.

Guiding and Safety

IFMGA Certified IFMGA logoMountain Guides

Pirhuk sets by far the highest standards in professional arctic mountain guiding in both qualifications and experience.  As in the Alps, we strongly believe that only the IFMGA international mountain guides’ qualification is appropriate in this environment.  Unlike the Alps, Greenland currently does not enforce any minimum guiding standard in mountains as serious as anywhere on earth, effectively meaning that anyone can claim to be ‘guide’. IFMGA Mountain guides hold the highest, and only, internationally recognised certification in avalanche assessment, ski and mountain guiding. We combine this expertise with many years of experience in managing the unique risks Greenland presents.

Bears, Sea Ice & Storms

To ski in Greenland, polar bears, changeable sea ice and arctic storms must be understood and managed – it’s not enough to grab a gun and ski out from the airport.  We set the standards in managing these risks through training, management plans and a huge body of experience that has grown through guiding here season after season.  We pride ourselves on providing the most professional guiding in Greenland.

Itinerary

    • Day 1

      East Greenland is an extremely wild and remote region with limited infrastructure, big mountains and very few people. Sea ice and snow conditions can change on a daily basis so flexibility in the plan is essential. Together, with safety as our primary focus, we’ll decide on each day’s objectives to maximise good skiing.

      Fly from Reykjavik Domestic Airport to Kulusuk, East Greenland (approx. 1 hr 50 mins).  From the airport we’ll skin back to our lodge in Kulusuk; there’ll be time to change and prepare skis at the airport when you arrive.  In the afternoon we’ll talk through plans then spend some time practicing avalanche rescue.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 2

      A day skiing from the lodge and an opportunity to test kit and find our ski legs before heading off on expedition.  In the morning we’ll meet the snowmobile down on the sea ice for a tow-in to the heavily glaciated island just across the bay.  With lots of objectives available, we’ll choose something which best suits conditions.  In the evening will pack bags ready to depart in the morning.  Overnight accommodation at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 3

      To reach our first camp we’ll travel north through a network of fjords.  Sea ice conditions will dictate whether we travel by boat or dog-sled, and will play a big part in determining how complex today’s logistics are.  The plan is to have our first camp established by the end of the day.

    • Day 4

      Provided we’ve reached the intended base camp location we’ll first make a recce into the coastal mountain range (photo above), checking on snow conditions and access to objectives.

    • Day 5 - 7

      The exact plan will of course be dependent upon conditions.  We’ll search out the best snow and finest ski descents, likely spending at least 3 days ascending and skiing summit-to-sea descents down by the coast.  Vertical descent in this area is in the region of 1500m.  These peaks look stunning – possibly some of the best lines in a region of great ski peaks…

    • Day 8

      Pack the sledges and haul up the fjord to a camp at the base of the highest peaks in the area (over 2200m of vertical height gain).  Several years ago, we found some beautiful lines rising above an unnamed side glacier and have been waiting to go back and ski them.

    • Day 9 - 11

      Within striking distance of the high glaciers, we’ll travel light and attempt a couple of the highest peaks or lines on them that we’ve identified.  This is big glaciated alpine terrain.

    • Day 12

      One final day to attempt an objective from this camp.  Depending on where our camp is located and the distance back to the fjord, we may need to start hauling sledges today.

    • Day 13

      Normally a long day which involves packing up camp and pulling sledges back to the fjord to meet our pick up for the journey back to Kulusuk.  Again, we’ll use boats and/or dog sleds depending on which best suits conditions.  These long days often prove to be memorable – a rare chance to travel with the local Inuit.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 14

      We’ll take a snowmobile tow out from the village to another of the ski objectives just across the bay.  Today also gives us a contingency day in the event of any bad weather.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 15

      After breakfast we’ll load up the trailer with baggage for the transfer back to the airport.  We’ll mostly likely skin to the airport, packing last items into ski bags when we get there.  Fly Kulusuk to Reykjavik, Iceland.

    Galleries

    Testimonials

    • Angus P, Scotland

      East Greenland Exploratory Backcountry Ski Expedition

      Still living off the memories of a great trip!

    • Andrew E, UK

      Exploratory Greenland Backcountry Ski Expedition

      Thank you again for a great trip in Greenland – your guidance made the trip possible and gave us a brilliant tour and some great routes.

    • Archie T, Scotland

      Exploratory Greenland Backcountry Ski Expedition

      Thanks again for a great trip, I got a lot out of it on every level, both on skis and off.

    • Brent M, Scotland

      Exploratory Greenland Backcountry Ski Expedition

      I really need to thank you and Rich for what was for me the trip of a lifetime.... Some guides and instructors one skis with are just working, others are clearly really enjoying themselves in a professional and personal context. That’s what made a good trip great.

    • Susie C, UK

      East Greenland Exploratory Ski Touring Expedition

      I miss far too much. Too many favourite things and magic moments.

    • Christian S, Switzerland

      East Greenland Exploratory Ski Touring Expedition

      An unforgettable experience. Matt is a remarkable guide. And the Greenlandic backcountry speaks for itself. Magical.

    • Stephen L, UK

      East Greenland Exploratory Ski Touring Expedition

      Just brilliant. Great company and skiing in the most stunning setting.

    • Steve C, Quebec

      East Greenland Exploratory Backcountry Ski Expedition

      Hi guys, just back from a fantastic ski trip with Pirhuk. This was great and we are looking forward for our next trip with you in Greenland.

    • Elisabeth M, Norway

      Apusiaajik Backcountry Ski Expedition 2010

      Hi! Just wanted to say thanx for a great skiing trip to Greenland in April! Perfect settings, and Dave and Owen did a really good job as guides.

    • Chris S

      Exploratory Greenland Backcountry Expedition

      Your leadership and teaching were superb.

    • Rob N, USA

      East Greenland Backcountry Ski Expedition

      I just wanted to thank you again for a marvelous trip. I do miss the scenery, the touring/climbing, and especially the new friends.

    • Ron M, USA

      East Greenland Backcountry Ski Expedition 2008

      Thanks again for a great trip. Stay in touch!

    • Ali T, UK

      Greenland Steep Skiing Week

      Thank you so much for such a great trip. It really was amazing and I learned so many new things. You have a great set-up and really were super hosts.