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East Greenland Ski Touring Expedition – Ammassalik Fjord

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Expedition Summary

  • Exploratory summit-to-sea backcountry skiing in the wild coastal alpine mountains of East Greenland

  • Join us in exploring the huge ski potential of the region, making first descents from our comfortable lodge, mountain hut & a wild basecamp

  • Journey north through the fjords with local Inuit hunters to reach a remote, shore-side basecamp location

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

Two weeks of the most exciting exploratory backcountry ski touring in East Greenland…  Join us in searching out first descents in the wild alpine ranges to the north of our lodge.

We’ve planned this trip around everything we love about skiing on this pristine, remote coastline.  Two weeks allows us to ski from the lodge, to explore the northern aspects above our mountain hut and to make first descents from a wild & remote fjord-side basecamp.

East Greenland’s remote and mountainous fjordlands offer a ski touring mecca of alpine peaks, glaciers, icebergs and sea ice.  This is a frontier land of pristine wilderness we feel hugely privileged to explore by ski.

Expedition Location

Ski Greenland

ph. Pirhuk – H.Spenceley

greenland ski tour expedition location map

 

Alpine-scale 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 beautiful 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 several kilometres to gain another ascent.

Vertical height gain from sea to summit starts at around 700m and rises to over 2000m further inland. The plan is to spend the first days of the expedition skiing on the outermost islands before travelling north into the big mountains.

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 (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 each season brings different challenges, most of our snow arrives on maritime weather fronts so tends to settle quickly.  Persistent weak layers are uncommon.

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.

From the village, dogsled teams will take us out onto the sea ice of the fjords to access our first backcountry tour on the mountainous islands that make up the coast of this region.

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

The Lodge, Hut & Basecamp

Basecamp Greenland

ph. H. Russell

The expedition will start and finish from our home ski lodge in the tiny Inuit village of Kulusuk.  We’ll also overnight at our new mountain hut, located on the wild north shores of a mountainous island to the north.  Heated by stove, the hut provides a brilliant starting point from which to explore the surrounding mountains.  We have direct access to three different glaciers and many more summits.

The focus of the expedition lies further north in a wild fjord that cuts deep into the inland ranges.  Here, tents will allow us to overnight in the best place to access these seriously wild mountains.  To make this as comfortable as possible, we’ll take in a big double-wall basecamp tent and enough fuel to dry kit and stay comfortable in the evenings.

With this set-up, we effectively have a mobile mountain hut that can be placed amidst the most inspiring mountain terrain.

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; closely following conditions, we’ll adapt the plan below to suit.  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).  We’ll skin from the airport to the village; there’ll be time to change and prepare skis at the airport.  In the afternoon we’ll skin a short way out of the village to practice avalanche rescue.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 2 - 3

      We’ll spend the first two days skiing from our lodge.  Each morning we’ll meet the snowmobile on the sea ice for the tow-in to the heavily glaciated island just across the bay.  The summits on the island range from 600-800m in elevation, so we’ll link a couple of ascents/descents each day, choosing objectives which offer the best lines for the conditions.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 4

      Today we’ll set out from the village with the aim of traversing the island to reach our mountain hut which sits just above the sea ice on the north side of the island.  This often involves an ascent of a major peak on the island, giving views out to the Denmark Strait, and across the vast mountain ranges which stretch off to both north and south.  Our expedition kit will be taken around to the hut by snowmobile.

    • Day 5

      Today we’ll make a day tour from the hut.  Giving access to the northern aspects, the hut opens up a number of new possibilities and we’ll choose one of many descents available, returning to the hut at the end of the day.

    • Day 6

      A motor boat is due to meet us at the ice edge – the point where open water meets sea ice.  This point varies from season to season but is usually around 7 kilometres from the hut.  With all our kit packed on sledges, we’ll haul them for up to 4 hours (if you’ve not sledge-hauled before, this will be a relatively easy journey mostly on smooth sea ice).  Once on the boat, we’ll follow the fjord north.  This evening we’ll establish a shore-side camp which gives access to some exciting objectives.

    • Day 7 - 13

      Exploratory backcountry skiing.  Each day, we’ll set out from basecamp to ski a different peak, looking for the best conditions on the mountain.  Ascents may be up to 1500m on glaciated alpine terrain and may often involve basic crampon and single axe use.  We’re specifically looking for new lines and summits to ski so will make a plan based on info we have on the area, current conditions and what excites us all most once we get to basecamp!

      Your guide will cover any rope skills necessary (e.g. glacier travel) and is always on hand to provide any tips on technique you might want to work on or refine.

      Rest days will be taken to suit the team.

    • Day 14

      We’ll pack up the basecamp ready to meet the boat for the journey back to Kulusuk.  It’s rare to have direct access to Kulusuk by boat, so more than likely we’ll be dropped off at one of the ice edges, from which we’ll need to haul sleds back to the village.  Depending on ice conditions, this can be a long day.  Overnight at our lodge in Kulusuk.

    • Day 15

      After breakfast we’ll load bags onto the trailer for the transfer back to the airport.  We’ll likely skin back, packing last items into our ski bags when we arrive.  A flight from Kulusuk back over the Denmark Strait to Iceland.   Clear weather makes for magic views of the east coast.

       

    Galleries

    Testimonials

    • Bryan W, Scotland

      East Greenland Exploratory Backcountry Ski Expedition

      Our Greenland adventure was nothing less than superb.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Stephen L, UK

      Apusiaajik Backcountry Ski Expedition 2010

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

    • 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.

    • 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!