It is one oft those once in live things. 80 miles by foot from the Fjord Kangersuneq to Nuuk with a maximum speed of 1 mph. It could not be any better.
Apart from the last day, before Nuuk, the way is pathless and without any marks. The hiking maps show a possible way, but that is only a recommendation. Dealing with a compass, and know-how in map orientation is a must; we usually use GPS only as a back-up.
The first part, from Kangersuneq to Qooqqut, is easier; the second part goes into the mountains. The requirement lies in the range of T3 to T5 on a scale of 1 (easy) to 6 (climbing with a rope). The Swiss Alpine Club SAC defines T3 in its mountain hiking scale as “challenging mountain hiking, surefootedness, average orientation ability, and elementary alpine experience.” Some parts are T4, “you need your hands,” and T5, “easy climbing but exposed.” The two highest passes are about 2,000 feet high (700 meters) – this corresponds to an altitude in the Alps of around 9,000 feet (3,000 meters).
-> get GPS-Information on Wikiloc
People in Nuuk and Kapisillit told us stories of trekkers who returned because the tour was too difficult in the mountains. Others wanted to hike from Nuuk to Kapisillit and back in two weeks but were not able to do so because they were far too slow. Others started in Nuuk with too little food in their backpack and apparently arrived famished in Qooqqut. We do interpret these stories as evidence of the seriousness of the tour.
During our preparation, we defined exit points on the fjords where we could break off. In this case, we would have organized a boat via satellite pager or tried to wave a passing boat. There are several small shelters; we spent two nights in one of them and awaited a rainy day.
In Kapisillit, an Inuit gave us the following recommendation: “If you are stopped at a location, go back and try another way. Sometimes you only need to go back a few meters to find another possibility.”
From icecap to the coast, not vice versa
Why did we go from Kapisillit to Nuuk and not vice versa? We made this decision after studying the maps. As mentioned above, the second part leads into the mountains, and there await some steep sections. Also, the weight of the backpacks decreased until we reached the higher passes, and after the first few days of hiking, we were in better shape for the second part.
Before Nuuk, southwest below Mount Aqqitsoq 943, you have to go through a large field with huge stones (marked in black on the map “Nuuk”). Even though the field is only about 2’000 feet wide (700 meters), you need some time to climb through. It is marked with yellow painted arrows and smileys, flags, and, in the middle, with a rope. For some reason, the marks are only visible if you follow them from east to west, but not in the reverse direction. Why? No idea about this.
Flights to Nuuk and Boat for Kangersuneq Fjord
Air Greenland and Icelandair fly weekly from Copenhagen via Kangerlussuaq to Nuuk and from Reykjavik to Nuuk. Boats go from Nuuk to the end of the fjord near Kapisillit.
Books, maps, compass, and GPS
This tour is not described in a travel guide or on the Internet. There are two maps, “Nuuk Kapisillit, Qooggut & Austmannadalen” (scale 1: 100,000) and “Nuuk” (1: 75,000). The map of Nuuk shows the declination for your compass—you need a compass such as Suunto GP 6.
Satellite Pagers and Personal Locator Beacons
Worst case is a broken leg or similar that prevents one from hiking. The other would leave alone to get help, possibly for days and during bad weather. With devices such as Spot-Me, you can trigger an alarm via international GEOS. The localization is done in an instant. Rescue in Greenland is usually by helicopter.
Other devices such as InReach Explorer from DeLorme are slightly more expensive; they also have an emergency call button. Also, they can be used as GPS devices. Via satellite network, it is also possible to exchange SMS messages, and you can download weather reports, which are updated every six hours. Personal Locator Beacons have a stronger transmitter power.
Mosquitoes, reindeer, and polar bears
There are special pants, shirts, and head nets that protect quite well against the activities of the mosquitoes. We had little problems with them, apart from one night before the weather changed fundamentally. Before the rain began, the mosquitoes behaved like a bunch of drunk idiots.
Reindeers are very shy; your best chance to meet one is near one of the lakes in the early morning hours. The fact that they are around is shown by the endless imprints of their hooves.
Before traveling to Greenland, we have asked several people about the danger of polar bears. The answers were negative to each request. We started believing that there is no risk. However, on the way, we were confronted with warnings. Try to get actual information about that point when arriving in Nuuk, and let people know how you can be reached in case of an emergency (for example by using Delorme’s InReach Explorer) – you will sleep much better.