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East Greenland Glacier Trek – Schweizerland Alps Traverse

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Trek Summary

  • Join a rarely attempted multi-day glacier trekking traverse of the stunningly wild Schweizerland Alps

  • Experience a pristine arctic wilderness of vast glaciers, towering mountains, delicate flora & ice cliffs calving into the ocean

  • Summit one or more trekking peaks

  • Led by a highly experienced and internationally qualified alpine mountain guide (IFMGA) – learn or refine rope work, crampon and axe skills

Each summer, we look forward to an adventurous crossing of this utterly beautiful and wild mountain range.  The Schweizerland Alps lie on the mainland directly north of our home village of Kulusuk.  It’s a heavily glaciated alpine range of gneiss spires that Matt has been exploring and climbing for the last few decades.  In 2006, he looked over onto the big glacial plateau that occupies the eastern fringe and realised it would be possible to link the bay of Tuno with the very head of Sermiligaq Fjord – a journey that would encompass two of our favourite spots with the huge glaciers and mountains that lie in-between.

Alongside a highly experienced IFMGA Mountain Guide, this expedition will take you into the heart of one of the wildest regions out there.  We use our years of experience in the area to help us build trips which inspire us as much as we hope they do you;  sharing our passion for the place we hope to reach areas which very few other people get to.  Combining the highest standards in arctic mountain guiding with many years living in our home village, Kulusuk, we use our local knowledge and logistical expertise to ensure our trips run as smoothly, and safely, as possible.

An exploration of a vast alpine range.  We’ll use powerful motor boats to access the start point of the trek to north of Kulusuk; a stunning journey which is dominated by the peaks of the Schweizerland Alps looming ever closer as we push up the fjord.  Initially following a lush valley and rugged coastline, we soon ascend onto the huge glacial plateau which forms much of the route.  Here the mountains and glaciers extend as far as the eye can see, whilst below us spreads the fjord system which characterises the coastline of East Greenland.  Moving each day, we’ll carry expedition packs through incredible terrain, using a high camp to attempt one or two technically simple trekking peaks.  We meet the boats again near the calving face of the Karale Glacier, having descended many kilometres of ice to reach the ocean.

Who Is This Trip For

If you’re looking for an adventurous, wild trek in a remote region our Schweizerland Alps Traverse offers a unique, challenging journey through one of the major mountain ranges in East Greenland.  The trip is designed to take experienced trekkers into terrain which is usually the reserve of mountaineers; using basic mountaineering skills which we’ll learn and refine along the way, we can access the high glaciers surrounded by towering alpine peaks, with the aim of summitting a technically simple trekking peak.  The journey is unsupported, so you’ll need to be comfortable carrying a heavy pack on rough ground.  As a reward, you’ll trek deep into some of the most impressive alpine scenery in the region on a route which takes you far away from other trekkers.  If you’d like to speak to us about this trip, please do get in touch.

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.

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.

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  alpine mountaineering, climbing, ski, avalanche assessment and mountain guiding.  We combine this expertise with many years of experience in managing the unique risks Greenland presents.

Itinerary

    • Day 1

      Fly Reykjavik, Iceland to Kulusuk, East Greenland.  A spectacular flight over the icebergs of the Denmark Strait, offering great views of Greenland’s coastline and the pack ice as you get closer.  Landing on the gravel airstrip in amongst the mountains is quite an experience.  We’ll meet you at the airstrip in Kulusuk for the 30 minute walk back to our lodge, where we’ll discuss plans and prepare kit for our departure the following day.  Afterward, there’ll be time to explore the village a little before dinner.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 2

      In the morning, bags packed, we’ll meet the boats at the village harbour for the journey north to the start of our trek.  The 2 hour journey is spectacular, taking us between icebergs and rocky islands, passing towering peaks that rear up out of the sea.  From our drop-off point in a narrow fjord we head south east to gain the snout of a small glacier which descends into the valley from the peaks above us.  After a short glacier crossing, usually on dry ice, we descend into the valley on the far side.  The valley becomes increasingly lush as we continue back to fjord level and a wide bay where we’ll camp.

    • Day 3

      After walking along the shore we turn inland up an alluvial river valley which gives access to the snout of an unnamed glacier.  Making camp here, we’ll head over onto the glacier; an opportunity to work on some of the core glacier skills we’ll need for the rest of the journey.

    • Day 4

      From our camp it’s possible to ascend on dry ice to the snow line at around 800m above sea level.  Most likely taking advantage of colder temperatures in the early morning, we’ll then aim for the glacial plateau and make camp there.  Our first evening spent high on the glacier is incredible, surrounded by impressive peaks with glaciers stretching off in all directions.  Whilst up high, so long as conditions allow, the plan is to attempt one or two technically simple peaks that will no doubt afford extensive views of the entire range and the surrounding fjords.  From our high camp on the glacier we’ll be able to check out potential objectives before setting off.

    • Day 5

      From the high glacial plateau we descend north to a junction with the vast Karale Glacier, which carries ice from some of the major peaks just a little further inland.  Here the scale is hard to comprehend, with many kilometres of ice leading to Sermilik Fjord to the north, and in the opposite direction the calving face of the glacier hundreds of metres below us in Sermiligaq Fjord; our destination for tomorrow.

    • Day 6

      Breaking camp, we begin our descent of the glacier, negotiating the complex network of crevasses to find the easiest route to the fjord and our camp for the evening; a small headland overlooking the huge calving face of the glacier.  Here our crampon skills really come into their own as we weave through the ice, carefully choosing a safe passage.  Our camp for the night is spectacular, with the constant cracking of the ice grinding its way inexorably into the fjord.

    • Day 7

      Waking to the sound of the glacier, we’ll have some time to enjoy being out in the wild before our boat arrives to pick us up for the journey back to Kulusuk.  Depending on how we’re feeling, it’s possible to get another good day of hiking in before the boat arrives.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

       

    • Day 8

      Fly from Kulusuk, Greenland, to Reykjavik, Iceland.

    Testimonials

    • Michal W, Poland

      Greenland Trekking

      The trip to Greenland for me and Magda was a journey of our lifetime. It was really fantastic, we had great time. Thank you for everything. I hope we'll see you again soon:)

    • Sharyn B, UK

      Greenland Trekking Trip

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

    • 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!

    • 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 H, UK

      Greenland Trekking Expedition

      I wanted to say thank you for a great trip, it was extremely enjoyable.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

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