other trips & expeditions

East Greenland Lodge & Hut Based Backcountry Ski Trip – 8 Days

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Trip Summary

  • Summit-to-sea backcountry skiing in one of the wildest areas on earth – the coastal mountains of East Greenland

  • First descents, exploration & beautiful skiing in a unique environment: glaciated alpine peaks, icebergs, frozen fjords

  • Lodge and hut-based, offering an insight into the unique way of life in a tiny Inuit community

  • Highest standard of professional mountain guiding in Greenland: join our small dedicated team headed by locally-based UIAGM/IFMGA guide Matt Spenceley

A week of the very best Greenland backcountry ski touring accessible from our home village of Kulusuk…  Matt, a UIAGM/IFMGA mountain guide who has made this area his home, heads up a close-knit team of passionate guides.  Together, we’ll search out the very best snow on some of the stunning and uniquely Greenlandic mountains of the region – glaciers running down to the ocean, alpine summits & cols, all linked by the frozen fjords.  

East Greenland Backcountry Skiing

ph. H.Spenceley

For those looking to experience Greenland but not keen on a full-blown expedition (or camping!), this is the trip.  You’ll gain an insight into the traditional Inuit way of life up here in the north whilst staying in our simple but comfortable lodge in Kulusuk and spend each day out amongst the glaciers, peaks and frozen fjords.  For part of the trip, we’ll overnight in our remote wilderness hut in the heart of the stunningly wild area in which we’ll be ski touring.  If necessary, snowmobile and even boat assistance will be used to give us access to a large area of brilliant ski terrain.  We love these trips.  Having read the info below, we hope you will too!  Do give Matt or Helen a shout if you’d like to join us up north next season.

Ski Terrain and Location

Greenland Skiing-3

greenland ski tour expedition location map

Big alpine peaks rise directly out of the frozen ocean, bounded to the west by a huge ice cap. This is one of the richest areas for exploratory backcountry skiing on earth – our passion is discovering and skiing the incredible peaks we’ve found here.

The mountains are made up of gneiss, heavily glaciated and surrounded by the frozen waters of a complex of fjords.  They offer a myriad of great touring and descents, often directly from the summits.  The terrain is classically alpine, linking peaks and cols with mellow glacier runs right up to steep couloirs and faces.  We look to find suitable objectives for each group and will discuss with you the type of skiing you like best.  There are countless first descents to be made.  The sea ice of the fjords allows us to link different tours together, finishing one glacier descent at sea level, before following the shore for two kilometres to gain another ascent.

Vertical height gain from sea to summit starts at around 700m and rises to over 2000m further inland. We’ll likely focus on the coastal ranges. Ascents/descents there average around 800m of vertical and we’ll aim to make several a day.

East Greenland Ski Touring

ph. H. Russell

Snow

The weather system in the Kulusuk 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, sticking snow to even the steepest peaks. When the high pressure returns, this moist snow is dried out. The strengthening sun in April can be warm enough to set up spring corn conditions on steeper southern-aspects, 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.

East Greenland Nordic Skiing

ph. Prof. Dr. Andrey Zheludev

Location

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.

East Greenland Backcountry Skiing

ph. H.Spenceley

Safety and Guiding

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.

Accommodation

Kulusuk Village

ph. A. Richardson

Icebergs drift by our village, dog sleds are used to hunt and fish and the Aurora Borealis often lights up the night-time sky – there are few places as wild as East Greenland.

Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights Greenland

ph. H. Russell

We will 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 ski 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 ski 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.

For one or two nights, we’ll overnight in our remote wilderness hut in the heart of the stunningly wild area in which we’ll be ski touring.  Set up with a stove, small living space and a separate sleeping area, it’s good to experience spending some nights out amongst this huge wilderness of mountains, glaciers and fjords and often provides the chance to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights).

Itinerary

    • Day 1

      Please note: East Greenland is an extremely wild frontier region with little 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 hour 50 mins). After settling in and lunch, we’ll head out for a short tour, taking some time to run through avalanche safety and rescue systems.  Overnight in Kulusuk.

    • Day 2

      Our first full tour.  Early starts aren’t normally necessary as the days never get too warm.  After a good breakfast, we’ll take a short journey by snowmobile to the base of our first chosen peak.  We’ve a long list of brilliant peaks to ski, whether we aim for something we know well or attempt a new tour and descent.  At the end of the day’s adventure, Georg and the guys from the village will travel out and take us home for the evening.

    • Day 3

      Each evening, we’ll check weather, consider prevailing conditions and decide where we think the best snow to be.  Come the morning, we’ll travel in and explore.  We should have plenty of time to relax once back to the village.  We spend a lot of time sourcing good food (that’s caught locally or can be sent out by boat before the ice returns).

    • Day 4

      With all the gear required for the coming days, the snowmobiles will be packed and we’ll leave the village behind.  Whilst the snowmobiles drop off the kit at the hut, we’ll venture out and most likely attempt one of the beautiful snow peaks that lie above Apusiaajik Glacier.  This will involve skinning past the amphitheatre calving face of the glacier – an impressive and wild spot.  The ascent continues on moderately-angled glacial slopes.  Some kick-turning gains the shoulder, from where we can look far to the north over the icebergs and floes of Sermiligaq Fjord and the Denmark Strait.  A short boot-pack gains the summit, from where those looking for a steep descent are presented with a number of lines. and for those who are not, we return to the shoulder and ski the fall-line southern bowl all the way to a valley that takes us via a circular route to the hut.

      The isolation of the hut is striking and we’ll spend some time settling in and making ourselves comfortable for the coming days.

    • Day 5

      A full day of ski touring from the hut, either heading for the mountains surrounding Apusiaajik Glacier or crossing a broad valley and skiing the huge bowls of the southern mountains.  Overnight at the hut.

    • Day 6

      After packing up all of our equipment in the hut, we’ll head for a ski tour.  Georg and Iippa will collect this kit before meeting us at the end of the day and returning to the village and overnighting there.

    • Day 7

      Our last day of skiing. Travelling in to a tour by snowmobile is an option or we could also ski from the village, heading for the main peak of Kulusuk Island, Qalorajaarneq.  The outermost peak, the views out to the ocean and westwards along the coast are breath-taking.  A quiet last evening in Greenland, or for those who want to, a night at the community hall dancemik, the weekly village party!

    • Day 8

      Back to the snow-strip for the flight back to Reykjavik, Iceland.  8 days living and skiing in Greenland can leave a deep impression and the transition back to a city of traffic and people can be a strange experience.  Luckily, the capital city of Reykjavik is a great place to readjust, a combination of the bustling main street, great cafes and restaurants, all in view of the North Atlantic and surrounding volcanic peaks.

    Galleries

    Testimonials

    • Rich T, UK

      Greenland Steep Skiing Week

      Matt, your guiding was second to none; the fact you managed to get into into steep aesthetically beautiful lines in light of the wind and snow conditions is a testament to your skills as a guide. Also the continual tips and skills for big mountain skiing and access were fantastic.

    • 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.

    • John N, Scotland

      East Greenland Exploratory Backcountry Ski Expedition

      The expedition was a fantastic experience that was definitely the pinnacle of my ski touring life.

    • Michael C, UK

      East Greenland Exploratory Backcountry Ski Expedition

      Thank you both, for making our recent trip so memorable; your hard work and organisational skills to make it all possible were most appreciated. The whole trip surpassed my wildest expectations - the company, the place and with such good weather.

    • Stephen L, UK

      Apusiaajik Backcountry Ski Expedition 2010

      Thanks for all your help on the trip, certainly made it very enjoyable.

    • 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.

    • Gemma A, UK

      Greenland Steep Skiing Week

      Our time with you in Greenland just couldn’t have been better and I’ve got home feeling exhilarated and inspired. Thank you!

    • 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!

    • 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.