Trekking Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail (Trip Report)

Before visiting Greenland to hike the Arctic Circle Trail, I mistakenly assumed the country was an enormous mass of snow & ice. However, that’s not entirely true…

While 85% of Greenland is roofed in ice, there’s a narrow strip along the coastline that’s actually green! And red. And purple. And yellow. In fact, i might soon learn that Greenland are often pretty colorful.

It’s also the foremost sparsely populated country on the earth .

To give you a thought of just how sparse, Greenland has more landmass than Mexico, yet features a population of only 50,000 compared to Mexico’s 122 million. There’s tons of untouched wilderness to explore here.

The small town of Kangerlussuaq (population 500) is home to Greenland’s largest international airport. i started my adventure here after a 4 hour flight from Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Arctic Circle Trail

Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail is usually listed together of the simplest long-distance hikes within the world.

The trail stretches up to 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the sting of the ice cap to the fishing town of Sisimiut on the West Coast .

Depending on fitness levels and therefore the specific route chosen, it can take anywhere between 7-12 days to finish . Spread along the trail are some basic wooden huts for inclemency , but packing a tent is suggested .

Only 300 people hike the trail per annum , so while you'll run into other hikers, it’s possible to travel days without seeing a fellow human. the traditional hiking season is from June to August.

I was hiking mid-August to avoid swarms of mosquitos that plague the world earlier within the summer.

Arctic Circle Trail hikers must be totally self-sufficient too.

The only towns are located at the start and end of the trail, meaning you want to pack all of your own food & survival gear for the duration of the hike. Outside the towns, there’s no telephone reception either.

I was looking forward to the present journey for several reasons — testing my survival skills alone within the middle of an arctic wilderness, and enjoying a much-needed break from a world of hyper-connectivity.

DAY 1: Exploring The Ice Cap

I arrived in Greenland in the dark after our plane was delayed in Copenhagen. But it had been still light out. Kangerlussuaq is found North of the Arctic Circle , and therefore the August sun sets around 11pm.

So the next day I booked a day tour with World Of Greenland, requesting they leave me at the ice cap and I’d walk back to town on my very own .

A  bus drove us along a rough , where we spent about an hour walking on the ice. There was no need for crampons or safety ropes here, because the nearby glaciers relieve the pressure that normally causes crevasses. The ice was grippy too, sort of a layer of crusty snow.

Glaciers are rivers of unstable ice that flow down from an ice cap. The ice cap itself doesn’t really move — it’s actually very solid and may be miles deep.

DAY 2: Road To Kangerlussuaq

CRACK! BOOM! SPLASH! This was the sound of ice breaking faraway from the 60 meter (180 foot) glacier beside me. the world trembled because the ice slowly advanced.

Russell Glacier may be a towering wall of white, blue, and black frozen water covered in jagged cracks. It moves about 25 meters per annum , with sunlight and warm summer temperatures helping the ice “calve” into a glacial river.

Mountains of moraine flank the glacier’s sides, loose gravel that’s been bulldozed into huge piles over thousands of years by many plenty of moving ice.

You feel very small standing next thereto all.

The glacier is impressive, and that i hung around for hours watching the spectacle of falling ice. Some chunks were as large as a faculty bus!

It’s important to stay your distance from the face of a glacier. Falling ice can easily crush you, pieces are often ejected out over the river, or large waves from the splash could knock you off your feet into the freezing water.

Spending The Night In Town

A few miles faraway from Kangerlussuaq there’s a prominent mountain near the road called Sugarloaf. Climbing it rewards you with incredible 360 degree views of the world — Greenland’s ice cap to the East, Kangerlussuaq to the West, and therefore the glacial river called Akuliarusiarsuup Kuua below.

At the summit I found a cabin with a couple of wooden radio towers, a part of the old US air station . The hike up looks easy, but it’s actually pretty steep.

Just past the mountain are signs warning you to not venture off the road thanks to possible unexploded ordinance. It seems when the Americans left, they blew up what was left of their ammunition here.

DAY 3: Road To Kellyville/Hundesø

When I first arrived in Kangerlussuaq I mistakenly purchased the incorrect gas canister to fuel my backpacking stove. Now i used to be trying to trace down a replacement with no success. the whole town was out.

A local guy offered to rent me his stove, which used a special sort of gas. But I later learned it couldn’t be refilled at the airport until the “big” 747 airplane left. After wasting hours expecting it to go away , I finally gave up.

So much for decent food & coffee! I’ll hike without a stove.

From Kangerlussuaq most hikers prefer to hire a $50 taxi to the official trailhead 10 miles away. I stubbornly decided to steer the road, starting late within the afternoon.

There’s not much along this road. a small local shipping port, some huge diesel storage tanks, and a research project station called Kellyville (population 7). They study the Earth’s atmosphere & the aurora borealis .

Greenland’s rugged wilderness stretched before me. From here on out, I’m completely on my very own .

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