other trips & expeditions

East Greenland Wilderness Trekking – Fjordlands

CONTACT US TO BOOK

Trek Summary

  • An adventurous wilderness journey with internationally qualified guides – UIMLA International Mountain Leaders

  • A unique backpacking trek on one of the wildest coastlines on earth, set amongst the vast mountain ranges of East Greenland

  • A route with a variety of endless terrain, through glaciated valleys, along rugged coastlines and iceberg-filled fjords, remote sandy beaches, and lush river valleys

  • Start and finish from our expedition lodge in the heart of the small Inuit hunting community of Kulusuk

An unsupported trekking expedition deep into some of the wildest, most isolated and beautiful terrain in East Greenland, this is a trip for ambitious trekkers looking for a brilliant wilderness expedition.  Rarely attempted in its entirety, we will spend two weeks amongst the awe-inspiring glaciers, fjords, alpine peaks and arctic tundra of the area known to locals as Tunu.

Organised and led by the experts in East Greenland trekking, this expedition follows a truly inspirational route that we look forward to attempting each year.  Our guiding team, headed by Greenland specialist and IFMGA international mountain guide Matt Spenceley, encompasses a huge amount of experience in this, our home region.  We take pride in sharing our passion for this wild area and utilise all our experience to do so as safely as possible.  Based in the local village of Kulusuk, our expertise in logistics and prevailing conditions ensures that the trip will run as smoothly as possible.

Travelling through the fjords by powerful motorboat, we’ll start our trek near the small hunting community of Tiniteqilaq.  Carrying our supplies (but utilising one depot), we’ll undertake a linear journey through mountain valleys to first reach then follow the shores of the area’s biggest fjord, Sermilik.  This waterway carries a huge volume of icebergs and broken glacial ice from the Icecap to the open ocean.  The terrain is both rugged and at times complex; camp locations are simply stunning. We finish the trek by hiking down the Tasiilap Kua valley, beneath the towering peaks of the Foxes Jaw.

Trek 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.  After a boat journey deep into the inner fjords and onto the mainland, our route traverses an extremely wild, uninhabited area, crossing several low passes to follow the shorelines of some of the most beautiful fjords.  Of these, Sermilik is the largest, carrying vast quantities of calved glacial ice out to sea.

Terrain

The route covers a rich variety of terrain which continually changes.  From large glaciated valleys with towering alpine peaks, river crossings and boulder fields to the banks of river systems, through lush valleys with low lying vegetation and alpine flowers.  We cross sandy beaches and work our way along rocky coastlines, all with views over iceberg-filled fjords.  We follow the valley floors and coastline, rather than steep alpine peaks; our highest col is at 400m.  However, the ground is rugged and continually undulating; daily distances will depend on the specific leg of the journey, some of the rockier valleys take longer than sandy beaches and easier coastline.  Confidence on rough and at times exposed terrain is key.  Occasionally find small sections of trail along the route, but we’ll spend most of our time hiking on untracked ground.  The nature of this wild terrain requires a steady approach, particularly when carrying a big pack, and the use of walking poles is essential.  Spending as much time as possible hiking with a big pack before you arrive in East Greenland will put you in a good position for the trek.

Who is this trip for

Helen & Rich: we wanted to take experienced hikers into some of the most remote and inspiring trekking areas of the Ammassalik region. Being fully self-sufficient, carrying everything we need for our trip we plan only one resupply at the mid-way point.  We’ve created this route for those who seek out the most iconic big trekking trips of an area. This journey is remote, committing and unique, traveling through a range of terrain, from glaciated alpine valleys to ice-choked coastlines and verdant microclimates.   If you are happy carrying large expedition packs (70 – 80L) on untracked rough terrain, with some long days, then you will be well rewarded as this extra effort allows us to travel into the heart of this extremely wild and beautiful area, reaching breathtaking places that are seldom visited.  If you’d like to speak to us about this trip, then please do get in touch.

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.

Flora & Fauna

The valley floors through 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.

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 in Greenland for the 30 minute walk to the lodge, in the heart of Kulusuk.  We’ll spend the afternoon preparing kit for our departure the following day, with some time afterward to explore the village and enjoy the sunset.

    • Day 2

      Travel to the trekking area.  In the morning we’ll head down to the village harbour to meet the boats that will take us northwards through the fjords to the start of our trek.  The spectacular journey takes around 2 hours, during which time we’ll lay a depot of food to be collected mid-way through the trip.  We’re often fortunate enough to spot Fin and Humpback whales during the boat ride.  Our drop-off point is a small bay just north of Tiniteqilaq, a small hunting village which sits on the shore of Sermilik Fjord.  From here, we’ll move some way up the valley before pitching camp for our first night in the wilderness.

    • Day 3

      We’ll set off north through a wide valley to reach the shore of Sermilik Fjord.  The route takes us past a large lake which is often teeming with arctic char during the summer months; the outflow river is a favourite fishing place for the local Inuit hunters.  We’ll set up camp somewhere near the shore, looking out over the iceberg-choked fjord to the ice cap beyond.  Today involves a wide, but usually shallow stream crossing.

    • Day 4

      The shores of Sermilik Fjord.  Today sees us head north along the shoreline, with the aim of reach the Ilivnera valley, which runs inland is our access to the depot we laid on day 2.  We’ll aim to time our departure with low tide so that we can cross a wide sandy bay which is often strewn with icebergs stranded by the low water.  There are a number of stunning campsites near the opening of the Ilivnera valley.

    • Day 5

      The Ilivnera valley.  Heading inland down a beautiful broad valley strewn with wildflowers, we’re once again surrounded on all sides by spectacular mountains.  The wide and flat, so we’ll pick our way down the edge to avoid the small streams and pools in the middle of the valley.  We’ll establish camp in a wide col where three valleys meet.  It’s possible to push on to our depot today, but this can make an extremely long day, so chances are we’ll collect it tomorrow.

    • Day 6

      Today we’ll collect the depot. Heading down the valley to reach the fjord, we’ll first cross the river which flows below the camp. From here, we make our way along the valley side to reach a turn in the valley, where we’re able to drop onto the valley floor and easier walking.  The stream here is another place which is known for it’s arctic char.  Having collected the depot, we’ll retrace our steps to the col and our camp. If we’re feeling good, we may have time to pack up camp and move further along.

    • Day 7

      Back to Sermilik Fjord.  We’ll head back down the Ilivnera valley, on the opposite side this time, aiming for a campsite on the coast.  There are a number of glacier terraces here which make for perfectly flat sites looking out over the fjord again.

    • Day 8

      Moving north along the shore again, the terrain becomes more challenging with more ascents and descents over rugged headlands and inlets.  We’ll also encounter a wide river crossing beneath the snout of a glacier.  As we progress north however, the mountains become ever more spectacular; with a number of vast glaciers in sight and the ice cap rearing up in the background, all of which more than rewards us for our efforts. On a still night, a distant roar can be heard echoing up the valleys; this is the sound of millions of tonnes of ice grinding together amongst the ocean currents at the mouth of the fjords.

    • Day 9

      Ningerti to the Tasiilaq valley.  One final day along the shore of Sermilik Fjord takes us to the entrance of a stunning valley with glacial streams running in from all sides. The headland at the entrance to the valley provides one last glimpse of the vast glaciers which push down from the icecap, and the towering peaks of the Schweizerland Alps.

    • Day 10

      From here, we head south and climb to a col and a rocky landscape which feels otherworldly.  Dropping a short way into the next valley we reach a high glacial lake and small campsite with views down the spectacular valley stretching out ahead of us.

    • Day 11

      As we descend, the valley becomes ever more verdant and spectacular, with wildflowers in clusters along the valley floor and glaciers hanging above us to either side, carving out smooth walls hundreds of metres high.  Local families have been travelling to the lower reaches of the valley for generations, making the most of the rich stocks of trout that can be found in the crystal-clear waters.

    • Day 12

      Leaving this beautiful valley behind, we follow the shores of Tasiilaq Fjord, taking in a number of stream crossings.  With a reasonably early start, it’s possible to climb a small peak which overlooks one of the many glaciers just to the east of the fjord.  A camp up on one of the glacial terraces ensures that we keep the sun for a little longer this evening.

    • Day 13

      Given the length of the trip and complexity of the terrain, it’s very likely that somewhere along the way we’ll take a rest day to soak in our surroundings and enjoy being out in the wilderness.  Having a contingency day also allows us some flexibility in the event of any bad weather which slows our progress.

    • Day 14

      Return to Kulusuk. After a leisurely start we break camp for the last time and pack all of our equipment, ready to meet our boats for the journey back to Kulusuk. It is a beautiful route which takes us down the full length of Ammassalik Fjord past the small fishing village of Kuummiut.

    • Day 15

      Fly from Kulusuk, East Greenland, to Reykjavik, Iceland.

    Galleries

    Testimonials

    • Craig, M

      Greenland Trekking Expedition

      Thanks to the Pirhuk team for one of the most memorable and special experiences of my life. Greenland is a truly special place and Pirhuk have the capability to make it accessible and safe for people like me. Safety underpinned Pirhuk’s approach to the entire expedition, but it was also full of fun and a shared passion for wilderness and the natural world. The Greenland trek was an experience I will never forget, made more special by the professionalism and dedication of the Pirhuk team.

    • 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.

    • 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!!

    • 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.

    • Liz D, UK

      Greenland Trekking Trip

      Thanks for what was an outstanding expedition and for enabling us to see an amazing part of the world which would otherwise be very difficult to get to and experience.

    • Mia & Julien, Canada

      Greenland Trekking Trip

      We both absolutely loved the trek, and it was really a pleasure to have you as a guide! I thought you did a great job of keeping us safe and organized, not to mention entertained.

    • Sharyn B, UK

      Greenland Trekking Trip

      Thanks again for the most amazing trip, I really enjoyed it.

    • David S, USA

      Greenland Trekking Trip

      Thanks again for everything. A wonderful trip to Greenland with you.

    • 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.

    • 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!

    • 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!

    • 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.

    • Philippa S, UK

      Boat Supported Trekking

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