Arctic Circle Trail Day 10 – To the Bakery!

Below is a slightly edited transcription from the logbook I wrote each day. I will be rewriting it as a blog post in due course once I’ve typed up each day.


Gavin: 13.33 – Steve: 12.61 – Anna: 10.65

Ready for a long day – hopefully including an ascent of Nasaasaaq (or Kællingehætten in Danish) which dominates the Sisimiut skyline – the alarm went off at 06:30 and we got up fairly promptly. Some cards, cakes, candles, balloons and badges appeared, and so it was I departed this morning adorned with birthday motifs.

It was a cloudy start, with mist allowing only a grey view of the fjord. We set off to find the path at 08:10, and ended up slightly too high. We soon rectified this and motored along, easily boulder-hopping the first stream. We started the day’s main uphill section and were soon enveloped in cloud, andw e remained in thick clag the whole way to Sisimiut.

We spotted something pointed ahead: was it a hut? A weather station? Steve even suggested that it appeared to be floating! As we got closer it resolved into a small structure with a pointed roof and two gable ends. It was a toilet! Built on the edge of a small outcrop, we had our explanation of why it seemed to hover.

The cloud was forming misty rain, but not enough to warrant waterproofs. There was very little breeze and everything became eerily quiet. We spotted snow patches on the opposite side of the hanging valley we were in. We had a brief break at around 10:20, but the flies were enjoying the calm day so we pressed on.

With sub-300m visibility, at times dropping to less than 100m, cairn spotting was the hardest it had been for the whole trail. A ford was missed, but we again boulder-hopped across at an alternative section. The path descended a little but the cloud did not relent and the rain picked up. We hopped the final ford, waterproofs went on and a brief cold-food lunch was had during a brief let-up in the rain. The rain never got very heavy but it was persistent, staying at a level only just requiring waterproofs.

We passed the Sisimiut ski lift and then the turn off for Nasaasaaq. Given the low visibility there seemed little point in ascending the mountain for the reportedly excellent views, and we were unsure how easy route-finding would be. Two other factors drove us forward towards Greenland’s second “city”:

  1. Anna was dreaming of the bakery mentioned in the guidebook
  2. Steve’s knee, in a support for most of the trail, was finally giving in

The pace slowed but we still made reasonable time. Soon we were next to the final lake and Sismiut was in sight. The path gave way to a track which in turn became a road and our speed increased once more and we made a bee-line for the bakery. Our route into town took us path the Sisimiut hotel, whose restaurant menu we had examined before leaving the UK. We knew musk ox was likely to be on the menu, which would hopefully make up for not having seen any in the last week.

We arrived at the bakery at 14:30. Knowing that the hostel did not open until 16:00, we were forced to stay a while and have two drinks and two cakes each. At the hostel we got booked in without having to phone as the warden arrived at around 16:10 just behind us. Booking in, we discovered that they only take Danish credit cards which could have posed an issue as we were rather short on cash. Fortunately we have booked in for two nights (~225DKRpppn including sheets but not towels), and the warden let us pay tomorrow. Whilst sat in the bakery the rain had intensified and a walk back across town to get cash did not appeal.

With filthy clothes unlikely to impress hotel staff we paid 40DKR to get a load of washing done, changing into a random assortment of leftover clothes while we awaited their return. The showers were hot and powerful and a much-appreciated reward after our trek. As we were relaxing, a very bedraggled Veronique, Alain and Klaus arrived at the hostel, moving into the room next to Anna and I.

When our clothes were dry enough to put back on (still somewhat damp), we asked the warden to book us a table at the hotel for dinner. As it was still raining outside, we treated ourselves to a taxi (60DKR) and were chauffeured to the restaurant for a (Danish) beer and some Greenlandic cuisine. We each opted for the Greenlandic platter to start, while there was a 2 musk ox/1 rib eye steak split on the mains.

The Greenlandic platter came with whale meat, dried cod, smoked salmon, prawns and musk ox.The whale meat was a series of very tough cubes, with a seam of gristle through the middle of each. The meat did not taste of a great deal and wasn’t much fun to try and eat. The cod was dry and without much flavour, while the salmon, musk ox and prawns were excellent. The steaks arrived and were as satisfying as expected, the musk ox a very chunky cut.

Feeling stuffed, we couldn’t fit in dessert but opted instead for two Greenlandic coffees. A trolley was brought across and the coffees made whilst the waitress described the significance of each ingredient: whiskey to represent the hunters, Kahlua the smooth and mild women and coffee the polar night. The lights were dimmed and flaming Grand Marnier was added, resembling the northern lights. A final touch was added, with whipped cream to stand in for the central ice cap. It was one tasty coffee (although definitely not cheap)!

Veronique, Alain and Klaus had also come in and had their dinner, so we finished the evening chatting with them about the trail and their plans before another lazy taxi ride back to the hostel… once we’d remembered the Danish for hostel!

Arctic Circle Trail Day 9 – No Mussels, No Tokens

Below is a slightly edited transcription from the logbook I wrote each day. I will be rewriting it as a blog post in due course once I’ve typed up each day.


Gavin: 14.15 – Steve: 13.3 (no jumper) – Anna: 11.0 (no shirt)

The planned early start was somewhat disrupted by my watch running out of battery and thus not providing an alarm. We still started to rise by 07:05 and set off by 08:25, before the three in the hut. Rather than retrace our steps slightly to the cairned fording point, we crossed the stream next to our tent spot next to the hut via a boulder-hop.

The first stage of the day lead through a mighty forest, with towering willows soaring to as high as 2m. The valley curved round and we continues following the river. There was a lot of high cloud cover, and sun only occasionally made it through. We missed the next fording point and went to the mouth of a gorge before realising. A short boulder-hop crossing and a quick stomp up a steep bank put us back on track.

The return crossing – taken in the correct spot – was harder, but still manageable without having to ford. We stopped and had our first break on the other side at 10:00. Anna and I had elected to wear gaiters today, and this proved wise; although the bog was navigable without them, it did allow for a more gung-ho attitude. The valley turned some more and we walked though some of the least impressive scenery of the trail. The valley was wide and shallow, and they grey cloud did little to throw the empty landscape into more interesting relief.

Reaching the lake shore at 12:00, we had a short (cold food only) lunch before finding the stream mentioned in the book as having a pool filled with arctic char. We spotted a few zooming along the stream and in the pool. Most were dark grey in colour, but one was a rusty orange-brown.

Noting from the book that the path up was not not necessarily obvious, we looked ahead to spot where we expected to find it. There was a track on the hill where the map suggested it should be so we headed for that. Crossing a stream whose banks were blooming with willow-herb, a cairn above the far bank marked the point where we started uphill. As we reached the top, both huts became visible nearly at the same time. The line of cairns was well to out left, though, so perhaps we had not found the intended route up.

We got ourselves onto a track which eventually lead to the hut on the hill, but not before crossing more bog; not the avoidance route we had intended to take as suggested by the book. We still arrived by 13:50, around five and a half hours after departure.

We made lunch and settled in, then hunted for the last geocache tokens. Alas, they were not to be found – we should have gone via the other hut!

We did a bit of pottering about: I got water and climbed the bump behind the hut for excellent views over the fjord. I built a small cairn on top. Anna read the guestbook and saw tales of mussels being collected from the fjord for tasty meals. Steve and I decided to go and harvest some mussels and find the geocache tokens in the other hut, around 2km away. On reaching the beach, we found the tide in; no mussels for us.

At the hut, Alain, Veronique and Klaus were in residence, so we caught up and looked for the tokens. We couldn’t find them there either! The hut seemed to be undergoing renovations, with new shelves and some “wood”-panelling being installed since the photo in the guidebook was taken. Although it sleeps a lot more people than the small hut on the hill it is definitely not as cosy.

We said our goodbyes and set off back up the hill empty handed. Too empty-handed in Steve’s case it turned out. Less than 200m from the hut we heard a shout; Steve had left his shiny new waterproof behind! On our way once more, we found some good-sized bilberries. They were under-ripe. We did find lots of crowberries though, and rapidly picked half a cup full for breakfast tomorrow.

The luck of the draw in food roulette had left me with Pasta in Lasagne Sauce for this evening’s meal: our final dinner on the trail. Despite Steve believing that this meal had made him ill a couple of days ago, I was looking forward to this. I’ve eaten it before and it was the best of the freeze-dried meals I’d had. Sadly, this one tasted not-so-good. Anna, who had the same, decided not to eat it and to have a dessert instead! I ate mine anyway.

While tea was being prepared – i.e. the packets opened and the water boiled – two lads arrived at the door. They both were English, and had left Sisimiut this morning. Seeing that the hut was full, they decided to head for the other hut.

Arctic Circle Trail Day 8 – Giant Reindeer Stag!

Below is a slightly edited transcription from the logbook I wrote each day. I will be rewriting it as a blog post in due course once I’ve typed up each day.


Gavin: 14.4 (with softshell) – Steve: 14.6 – Anna: 11.25!

This morning dawned in a cloud, and visibility was about 30-50m. This lifted as we ate breakfast, replaced with sun. As we dined, we were jolted by a cry from Anna of “giant reindeer stag”! A fair- (though not giant-) sized reindeer was indeed strolling- with a somewhat knock-kneed gait – past our window.

We set off at 08:45 and as it had brightened up I weighed in with my softshell in the pack but started with it on to warm up at the very start. We went down to the luxury hut to look for the geocache tokens. As we approached, we were surprised to see no tents. We knew the German lads were around the corner as we had seen them camped on the beach last night, but had seen who we though were the French couple go by last night. Moving round to the front, the bar was across the door indicating that no-one was inside but there were no entries in the logbook. Could we have had the luxury hut to ourselves after all? No matter; the small hut layout – shared between here, Katiffik and (judging from the guidebook description) the final hut – is perfect for our group of three.

We found the tokens fairly quickly – one for me and one for Steve – and were on our way again. Immediately past the hut, we had to cross the outflow of the lake. This was a reasonably straightforward boulder-hop though the route was a little weaving. Following the path beside the lake and then moving uphill, the track was good but the scrub encroached. This made the use of walking poles difficult.

As we neared the exit of one valley, it appeared as if we might come out on top of a cloud inversion in the next. Sadly the cloud only hung on one side, but still provided an atmospheric feel to the next section. We stopped for a short break at 10:30, and as we set off spotted Klaus in the distance. Perhaps the hut had been occupied after all. Shortly thereafter we spotted more reindeer and then Alain and Veronique. They, as well as Klaus, had stayed in the hut the night before, but obviously just had an early (compared to us) start. They didn’t know what time as neither had a watch!

Moving downhill, I spotted a cairn to our left downhill from where we were. It seemed we were no longer on the marked path. As we could still see down, we continued on the higher path but couldn’t ascertain if the two would merge. We opted to bash downhill and rejoin the main path. Making progress again, we caught up to Klaus, who had stopped to chat to two Danish lads heading the opposite way. One of these was carrying a rifle. Not just on his pack, but in his hands. These were no hunters though: Klaus told us they said it was in case of polar bears! Klaus pressed on while we stopped for lunch near a stream at 12:30.

We set off again at 13:15 and set a good pace to reach the hut by 14:15. The other three were already set up inside; presumably Alain and Veronique had continued on the high path as they had not passed us on the trail. We had a look around and a hunt for the geocache markers. Veronique and Alain seemed bemused so we explained what we were doing. As we were about to give up, I spotted the letter token. Alain then found the number, which had been painted over but was still legible.

We thought the hut would be a little crowded with 6, so decided to pitch the tent outside. With this complete, afternoon tea was taken. The “Big Eat” freeze dried meals are so filling that we’ve struggled to eat the four desserts that we’ve carried. I had managed three, while Steve and Anna had eaten only one each. I nobly ate one of Steve’s to save him some weight for the final two days.

There is a lot of potential bouldering near this hut. As is to be expected, it is very dirty and much of the rock is friable. There seems to be solid rock underneath though, and there are plenty of boulders. I tried a few lines but they were too hard in sandals. The landings were soft though.

The flies have sadly not abated, and seem to be getting worse as we get closer to the coast. I guess the first frosts have not reached this far west yet. We went back into the hut and chatted to the guys while we had tea. At some point, the red-tented Germans turned up but camped some distance away.

Tomorrow night has two huts marked, but one is more commonly used. This hut, however, sleeps only three in the same design as Katiffik. Our aim is an efficient early start to be the first to arrive. Bags are sorted as best they can be and the pan is filled ready for breakfast…

Today I regained my RFTG crown. 2xVP strategy for the win. Literally.

Arctic Circle Trail Day 7 – Here I Am, On the Road Again

Below is a slightly edited transcription from the logbook I wrote each day. I will be rewriting it as a blog post in due course once I’ve typed up each day.


Gavin: 15.9 (softshell in pack, 15.6 without) – Steve: 15! – Anna: 12.15

An early alarm was set but not required this morning, with Klaus rising twice: once at 05:30 and again at 06:15. Books were being read by 06:45 so it was time to get up. Klaus was away around 07:30. We did a final wash of faces, hands, bowls and cups before an 08:10 departure.

We were straight into the uphill section, winding on and off a track made to the nearby dam. The gorge we followed had massive crags on the opposite side, with potential for surely dozens of multi-pitch climbing routes. Flies plagued us on the ascent and we longed for the occasional breeze which temporarily abated their attacks.Perhaps the most unusual “wildlife” sighting of the trip so far occurred when we encountered two local hunters. We saw two people descending the track, and were wondering where they had camped. They turned out to be hunters with half a reindeer each. One would guess that is was originally a single reindeer in one piece, but it’s never good to assume. The carrying technique differed per half; the fore section was strapped to a rucksack, while the rear section was carried on the shoulders: one hind leg either side of the hunter’s neck.

At 09:00, we climbed onto the crest of a ridge and were met by

  • Klaus
  • Tremendous views over the peaks of Taseeqqap Saqqaa and the lakes below

The logbook in the previous hut had referred to some tops of the Taseeqqap Saqqaa looking like breasts, but I think its definitely in the eye of the beholder. We had a short breather to take in the views and Anna decided to take over photography duty.

The route swung west along the rocky crest, and we reached the day’s high point at 10:00 before dropping down to the shore of a small lake for a rest and a bar. It was 10:30 and we’d walked ~3km, so progress was reasonable. Walking around the shoreline of this first lake, a rocky outcrop had to be traversed. Anna requested that we pose to make it look “extreme”, but derided our acting efforts. I questioned the direction, while Steve mused about his character’s motivation. This section was abundant with mushrooms and I again lamented my lack of identification skills.

At 12:00 we dropped down to the third lake of the day for lunch. The path was getting slightly more rough, but still simple enough to follow. Figuring we only had ~7km remaining for the day, we had a leisurely hour for lunch. Rounding the headland at the end of the third lake, the path grew indistinct in places. We followed the curve of the river which at first mislead us about which valley was our target. Remembering the guidebook saying we didn’t need to cross any rivers, I prevented us fording and we stayed on the correct track. This lead us to the boggiest section we’ve yet encountered on the trail; though it is still dry by Scottish standards.

We pressed on and reached the accommodation decision point. Tonight’s finish has two huts available. A small, Katiffik-style three-bed hut on a hill vs. the ten-bed “luxury hut” by the shore. Opting for a night of solitude – and hopefully a slightly later awakening – we struck upwards for the bijou option. We unpacked and hung a few items out to air, scoffed a packet of Jelly Babies, then took a stroll to a beach on the nearby lake to get drinking water.

An attempt was made to go in for a swim, but I only made it to lower thigh before deeming it too cold. Despite the day turning out to be a scorcher, the wind had picked up and the lake was too large to have warmed to a sensible temperature.

Opposite the hut is a reasonable buttress of rock, perhaps 100m high. Today we have seen some very impressive crags, particularly while crossing the bog near the end of the day’s walk.

The hut has a heater, but the fuel tank is empty. The hut is cosy and the evening was sunny so this was not a problem. I spent five minutes practising the harmonica while Steve and Anna had a cup-a-soup starter. I hear a little improvement, but my audience is still not appreciative. The hut has a couple of windows, making it feel light and airy inside. The window opposite the sleeping platform allows a scenic view over the lake below, and the hills behind and is a hard to beat view from a bed.

The interesting wildlife spotting continued today with more reindeer sightings. As we followed the river from the third lake, we saw a young one not 100m away. Attempts to get close proved fruitless as it got scared and took flight. We also spotted deer in a lake from the hut in the evening.

 

Arctic Circle Trail Day 6 – And On the 6th Day They Rested

Below is a slightly edited transcription from the logbook I wrote each day. I will be rewriting it as a blog post in due course once I’ve typed up each day.


No weigh in

The alarm still went off at 07:30, but there was no rush to get up. We lazed for an hour snoozing/reading until Anna (of all people) got up first. At first it appeared that she was going to get water, but this was but a ruse so Steve and I took packs and water containers from the hut down to the nearby creek: a ten minute walk. On the way back, we picked bilberries for breakfast. I showed Anna how to use the stove to make breakfast. Will she remember how?

At around 10:30, the first walker of the day stopped in for a look and a cup of tea. David was from Lancaster and running days together, so moving much quicker than us (he did it in five days in the end).

We did more washing today: first wash of bowls, cups and sporks with actual soap; another clothes wash; and washed hair as well for good measure! We made another washing line to dry the clothes outside the hut. The day brightened up and there was a slight breeze, giving perfect conditions for drying.

The afternoon was spent largely on a small outcrop next to the hut. Anna collected bilberries from the lower slops of the hills behind while I practised the harmonica some more. I still suck (and sometimes blow), but I think there’s some small improvement. We all spent time reading, wandering and updating the contents of the washing line with more clothes, tentage and sleeping bag lines to air and/or dry.

Around 14:30-15:00, the next people arrived. A French couple – Alain and Veronique – and a German chap – Klaus – had been walking together. Alain and Veronique pitched their tent 100m or so away, while Klaus opted to join us in the hut.

Despite collecting around 20l of water this morning, all the washing makes it look like another trip will be necessary. Various food sorting and bag packing has occurred throughout the day to ensure we have sufficient supplies for the remainder of the hike. Anna is targeting a 12kg pack tomorrow, but I don’t think I can break 15kg yet :-(.

Between 17:00 and 17:30, an influx of new arrivals began to fill the area around the hut with tents. First were the red-tented German duo from the beach, who came into the hut searching for the geocache tokens. They told us that they had found the tokens in the canoe centre, and gave us the number we had been missing. They also had found nothing at the previous hut, so perhaps we have not missed too much after all!

As we stepped out to grab the last few things from the line, we saw two more parties: the German couple who camped near Katiffik and our Swiss friends. In the intervening period, I lost two games of RFTG: one apiece for Anna and Steve. A cosy evening was spent chatting to Klaus and the Swiss couple and failing to do the crossword.

Arctic Circle Trail Day 5 – A Day of 2 Parts

Below is a pretty much direct transcription from the logbook I wrote each day. I will be rewriting it as a blog post in due course once I’ve typed up each day.


Pack weights (kg): Gavin: 16.3 (no hat) – Steve: 16.8 – Anna: 13.4 (no shirt)

I awoke this morning to clomping sounds. Thinking it might be a reindeer, I looked outside but it was just our neighbour climbing the slope behind us to take photos of the lake.

With a new day came new weather, and a still morning provided calm reflective waters with only slight ripples spoiling the effect. There were patches of blue sky, but it was mainly cloudy.

We were away by 09:20, beating the other pair – who turned out to be two German lads – who were aiming for the first hut and a short day. We followed the path which climbed right from the outset: the climb we’d wanted to avoid yesterday. We set a medium pace, passing an arctic hare and having a break at ~10:45 with the back of the ascent broken.

Discussions about today’s aim lead to a plan to head for only the first hut and have an afternoon off, making three short days in a row with only 11km marked in the book for tomorrow. Cresting a final rise at 12:00, we got our first glimpse of the hut which was not very far away.

The day had brightened and the morning’s slopes were full of laden bilberry/crowberry plants. The latter were a very easy harvest, with Anna coming away with handfuls at a time. Covering the last stretch to the hut, talk turned first to food – specifically wild fantasies about meals to come – and then to the afternoon’s entertainment. I planned to take some photos of the flora/fungi. I wish I’d studied how to identify porcini mushrooms before coming away. Steve and Anna talked of fishing, reading and berry collecting.

A couple of planes went overhead, but their numbers are diminishing. As we approached the hut, around 12:40, it became evident that someone was in residence. We had a chat and learned that he had shared the hut last night with the Italian pair and a German man. They had left this morning but he was having a rest day. He is walking the trail in the opposite direction to us, aiming for Kangerlussuaq.

We walked to the nearby lake shore to soak feet and make lunch. Over food, we decided to press on and do the next (short) day’s walk as well. This had been mooted as a plan before, allowing a full day of rest instead of two halves. Before leaving, we hunted for the geocache tokens but to no avail. The cache seems likely beyond our reach now :-(.

At 13:50 we started again, almost immediately ascending once more. The climb was fairly steep but short-lived, however, and was followed by some rolling terrain. By 15:00, we got a view down into the next glacial valley and to the head of the fjord beyond. The descent was steep and – looking back – improbable in appearance.

The German at the hut said that he’d taken the bridge across the river and that the usually very boggy section was good and dry. Despite this we picked the ford, allowing easier navigation and another foot-soaking opportunity. The ford was very low and almost boulder-hoppable, but not quite. We forded instead, with water coming to mid-shin at its highest. We were across by 16:00, but promptly lost the path. It’s pretty hard to go too far wrong at this stage though, so we aimed in the right direction and re-found the path, crossing a few dried-up lakes in the process.

The last few kilometers to the hut were completed a bit heads-down, and it only appears when <500m away. At 17:30, with happy faces we found a clean, bright and – most importantly – empty hut. The stove went on almost immediately for a well-earned early tea.

With the benefit of a little more time, we actually found both of the geocache tokens in this hut, but it’s probably too little too late.There is no water immediately to hand, but there was enough left over in the hut’s handy water containers for the evening.

Anna and Steve are commenting on the amount of time to write today’s log, so I’m just writing this sentence to drag it out a bit. As I do, a bird hovers for a few seconds outside the window beating wings to go nowhere.

The flies began to be a nuisance today. I’ve had three go in my ears, two in the eyes and another tried to inspect my right nostril. This hut has a heater, and there is fuel in the tank. After a bit of work comparing the instructions to what was in front of me, I had it alight. Even on the very lowest setting, it warmed the hut up very quickly! It is probably vastly over-powered for this time of year. I boiled a pan over water and we each had a wash. Tomorow I may wash a second lot of clothes.

Arctic Circle Trail Day 4 – Canoe Centre to the Beach

Pack weights (kg): Gavin: 17.4 – Steve: 16.85 – Anna: 13.75

We beat the alarm this morning! “We” being Steve and I, obviously. The washed clothes were not dry (apart from t-shirts), so it was fresh pants and socks today!

We set off just after 09:00, and within 10 paces I realised we hadn’t found the geocache tokens. While Anna and Steve started the day, I ran back to hunt for the washers. I found one – a letter – but not a second :-(.  As we didn’t find any in the Katiffik hut either, we may not be able to do the cache.

The early path was indistinct in places, but the air was pungent with the aroma of labrador tea, a local herb that looks a lot like rosemary and can be brewed into a hot drink. We spotted a canoe by the bank and went to have a look, but there were some very big holes in it. Anna wondered how many would be on the frame at the end of the lake. She guessed 3, I guessed 2 and Steve went for 0. In fact, there were 2 on the frame, one of which looked vaguely watertight. There was, however, a third left on the bank so Steve and I carried it up and placed it on the frame.

It was 10:30 and we’d done 3km, so we had a bar and discussed the day’s target. The most popular option seemed to be to head for a beach described in the book as “Mediterranean” and camp there.

We continued on, through another “boggy” section that was dry, and the terrain opened up into a broad sloping glacial valley. Passing the Italians, we got a view down to the lake that was our target. Before the final descent to the first marked tent site, we had lunch at 12:00. Rain which had been threatening for a while got slightly more menacing, but still there was debate over the need for waterproofs. Tops went on but not trousers, which proved half-right as again the rain remained as intermittent drops.

We arrived at the beach at around 13:15/13:30. Anna went straight into the lake for a foot soaking, watching a couple of tiny fish swim around them. After the tent was up and a mugshot eaten, various endeavours were undertaken:

  • A washing line was strung up using walking poles to allow final drying of washing and airing of socks
  • A dry stone wall tall enough to shelter a small rodent was erected by me
  • Steve set about crafting a fishing hook/weight/float/line using some line found in a hut

At ~17:00, the rain got a little more rain-like and we moved inside. Macaroni Cheese was my draw in tonight’s lottery, while Steve pulled Potato and Salmon in Dill Sauce. Anna continues not to play.

The Italians went past shortly after we stopped, aiming to get “as far as we can” today. For us, tomorrow’s target is either the suggested end point for today’s walk or the one after. It’s 9km to the first or 20km to the second.

At 17:45 Anna heard voices, and we discovered new arrivals at the beach. The pair in the red tent who were camped on the peninsula before the canoe centre had arrived and set up a short distance away. At one point we spotted a boat on the lake, presumably fishing. It didn’t come close to us, so no more could be discerned.

By around 19:00 the rain was easing and we were hungry so Steve went out to make tea. Wind still made cooking interesting, but the dry-stone shelter helped. After two victories for me at RFTG, we went for a late-night (21:30) stroll along the beach. There were (very small) patches of blue sky, excellent stones for skimming (shale?) and laughing birds (loons?).

The first 1/2 litre of our whisky supply is no more :-C – we should have brought two bottles after all!

 

Arctic Circle Trail Day 3 – The Lake

Pack weights (kg): Gavin: 17.07 (no water) – Steve: 17.35 – Anna: 14.97 (no shirt)

The alarm went off at 07:45, just as everyone was sitting up to start the day.

They're catching us!
They’re catching us!

The first pair from Katiffik, the Italians, set off just after 08:00 as we were emerging from the hut. No canoes had mysteriously arrived in the night so the walking route was chosen for us. As the route follows the lake all day, I decided to carry no water at all, and just drink from the lake as I went. Though wearing my softshell and hat, this left my pack at a sprightly 17.07kg!

Our pace was good, and we passed the Swiss couple at ~10:30, as well as another pair going in the opposite direction. We had a bar break at 11:00 by the shore after a small rise. The sky was a little grey with the wind coming and going, but the visibility was good and there was no rain.

Across the lake
Across the lake

We had lunch near the halfway mark of the day at 13:00 sat on a large boulder. I tried a bouldering problem on the back which had an easy start leading to a hard top-out that I had no chance of getting.  The ground is still very dry – patches which are surely normally bog are fine to stroll across. We visited the “object d’interest” marked on the map after lunch, but couldn’t find anything there.

Mega-cairn
Mega-cairn

We passed the big cairn that is pictured in the book, and it is still standing! It looks somewhat precarious, but seems sturdy enough. Anna and Steve didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm for my timed photo attempts, as I tried to get a correctly-exposed snap. Anna’s feet were hurting badly by this point, though Steve’s knee – now encased in a support – is holding up well.

Antler sculpture
Antler sculpture

At 16:00, we pass the final marked camp spot which is occupied by a pair in a red tent whom we’ve not seen before. Climbing to the hillock above we have a break and our first view of the canoe centre. We arrive by 17:00 and set about our tasks: Anna soaking her feet while I made hot chocolate and did the first round of clothes washing in a bucket. Will the sweaty smells be gone? Time will tell… We then took advantage of the bucket a second time to have a full stripwash before tea.

Along the lake
Along the lake

The hut is huge and well kept. We’ve set ourselves up in one of the two dorm rooms and had a round of food roulette. I got Potato and Salmon in Dill Sauce for tea, which has a whopping 72.7g fat!

We again passed the Italians just before our arrival at the hut. Their plan was to camp one or two km further on, and their chosen spot can be seen from the centre.

Cairn
Cairn

The guestbook is full of good stuff. One page mentions some people bouldering on a rock by the path: perhaps the same boulder I was playing on? Another highlight was an “Ode to the canoe centre” lamenting the lack of canoes. There are no canoes parked outside for us to finish the last few km of the lake with tomorrow. We did see a couple paddling the opposite way up the lake after lunch, so they definitely do exist! There’s also another in the adjoining workshop which is more hole than canoe.

Fungus
Fungus

There’s a box outside the hut marked “non-combustible waste”, so it looks someone must do a rubbish collection every now and again. This hut has a plastic bag-based toilet system, and I guess they have to come anyway to collect those. The sign on the box says they’d rather not have to carry out people’s rubbish and we’re packing all ours out rather than leaving it behind.

With three days gone, we decided to consume the first of our “emergency rations”. The wine gum packet said ten servings: it did not have ten walker-sized servings…  Dessert was managed by Steve and I, but an early night beckons after a tiring day.

Arctic Circle Trail Day 2 – Caravan to Katiffik

Pack weights (kg): Gavin: 18.7 (no jumper) – Steve: 19.1 (no jumper) – Anna: 16.1 (no shirt)

Ready to start the day
Ready to start the day

The alarm was not met with much activity this morning, but breakfast was today taken on the front verandah. Despite snacking yesterday, there were plenty of bilberries left to add to our porridge. The brackish water from the lake had been fine for cooking freeze-dried meals and porridge but I drew the line at tea. I managed half a cup before throwing the rest away.

Anna and Steve
Anna and Steve

We set off at 09:15, and soon warmed up: our jumpers were back in our bags within half an hour. Steady progress between lakes brought us back to fresh water and a rest on a nice boulder at around 10:45. The wind picked up as we were leaving but soon died away. As I rejoined the path I fell into a knee-deep hole and nearly broke a leg. A gentle climb up (the biggest of the day) was completed in short order, and then it was gentle walking along a plateau.

Bowler-hat cairn
Bowler-hat cairn

We ate lunch at 12:30 by a lake on very dusty ground. It was probably a dried up bog, but it seemed very unusual to have such dust around when not on a beach or gravelly soil. The wind picked up strongly as soon as we sat down, and didn’t relent much for a while.

Reindeer skulls
Reindeer skulls

We came to the first noted ford in the book, which was very low and easy to cross on boulders without stopping. The ground nearby showed signs of this being much more significant at wetter times of the year, but it was no more than 2ft wide as we passed.

Local wildlife
Local wildlife

At 15:00, while having a rest, rain started spotting. After short deliberation waterproofs were donned, which proved wise with a moderate drizzle setting in for half an hour. As this stopped, we crested a rise and three things became apparent:

  1. We’d taken the high path the book advised against as it peters out
  2. My knee was starting to hurt
  3. Two people were ahead of us, and we were only <2km from the hut
Katiffik hut
Katiffik hut

Fortunately for us the pair (the Italian couple who passed us last night) stopped for a rest, allowing a burst of speed to take us to the hut, arriving first at 16:00. They pitched a tent nearby a while later. We spread out socks, coats and boots to air and nearly lost some as a strong wind picked up once more, forcing us inside the hut.

An empty canoe frame
An empty canoe frame

Steve and I had much fun playing food roulette; an exiting game, wherein the player draws food randomly from the rucksack rather than picking a specific meal. Sadly for Steve, he drew macaroni cheese for dinner, having had it already for lunch. There were a few hooks in the hut, but not enough to hang all our stuff from. Fortunately we brought loads of cord and clothes pegs, so we strung up a line. The hut is nice and clean and well looked-after. Despite only having one window it’s fairly light inside.

Practicing the harmonica
Practicing the harmonica

We saw some reindeer from a distance today, and some Canada geese, but still no musk oxen. I lost my RFTG crown to Steve. It was only a matter of time. A new pair of people, German, arrived at 21:15. They looked into the hut, but opted to pitch a tent for the night rather than try to cram in with us.

Before we came to Greenland, I searched the interwebs to see if there were any geocaches on the trail. I found one, which was particularly interesting as it involved a series of clues along the trail leading to the cache at the end. The clues are in the form of metal washers screwed into wood in some of the huts. We searched for the tokens, but haven’t found any here, so it looks like they must be in other huts.

Arctic Circle Trail Day 1 – The First Weigh-in

Pack weights (kg): Gavin: 19.7 – Steve: 19.1 – Anna: 16.1

Our hostel in Kangerlussuaq
Our hostel in Kangerlussuaq

It has been really sunny today. We were walking by 08:45, following the road west. The hoped-for 18kg pack did not materialise, and I started the walk with closer to 20kg. I’ve walked with more, though, and never yet had to carry ten days worth of food. I’m hoping for this weight to drop off quite rapidly. Today was the only day where we wont have easy access to drinking water as we go, so my water container was full and contributing 2kg alone. It proved a wise choice to carry so much with the heat.

Looking back to Kanglussuaq
Looking back to Kanglussuaq

We set a good pace, and watched planes come and go. The cries of “plane” each time one was spotted will presumably become less frequent as we get further away from the airport in the coming days. We had our first break just after 10:00, on a rock overlooking the fjord. All the drivers wave to us as we pass. We took the detour down to the harbour, but there really isn’t anything to see, aside from a horribly graffitied rocky outcrop. It was pleasant enough to have a last sight of the sea at close range though, which will be our last for a few days.

Graffiti at the docks
Graffiti at the docks

At around 11:30 we began the gently climb up to Kellyville. This is the last settlement before the trail starts properly, and we did briefly debate getting a taxi and skipping the majority of this first day’s walk. We met a Swiss couple while on the icecap tour yesterday who were doing exactly this, but it seemed a little too much like cheating. Plus, we came to Greenland to walk so walk we did. The Swiss couple have a flight one day later than us, and were planning to take it easy, so we should catch them up at some point.

Welcome to Kellyville...
Welcome to Kellyville…

We had lunch at the old mast site, sat on one of the concrete plinths, the first cairn and red semi-circle in sight. Our lunch was only cheese and bread as we did not have enough water to make a hot drink. Some local woman and children were collecting berries from the surrounding area. We hope to find lots of bilberries and crowberries as we go to make a tasty addition to our morning porridge.

The first cairn
The first cairn

About a kilometer after the first cairn, we collected some water at the last freshwater lake for five miles. There are a series of brackish lakes in this section, and we banked on being able to use this water at least for cooking our freeze-dried dinners. A German man we met at the airport, who had walked the trail last week, told us the water was perfectly drinkable and that we would have no issues.

The Hundesø caravan
The Hundesø caravan

Finally on the trail proper, we continued making good time and we reached the caravan by the Hundesø lake at ~14:00. Although it was still early in the day, we decided to stop here for the night to rest feet. The afternoon was sunny, and we decided to try not to push ourselves too hard at the start to give us the best chance of all making it to Sisimiut.

There are quite a lot of flies about, but they are not bothering us yet… My knee – weak and painful after the aborted cycle to the ice cap – has been OK. There have been a few twinges – worst when descending from the radio mast to the lake – but overall it’s been manageable. I only took one ibuprofen today, before the ascent to Kellyville.

No hunting!
No hunting!

I brought a harmonica with me on this trip, intending to learn how to play in the evenings. While messing about with it in Kangerlussuaq, I could not get the “draw” (suck) note on the second hole to sound properly. I thought this meant the harmonica was broken, which was sad, but today I discovered that it does work, I just need to open my throat more and move more air through it. Curiously, it’s harder to play than the lower note of the draw 1 hole, but at least it’s just my poor technique and not the harp.

We saw a walker go by as we ate a mugshot at the caravan. This was the first hiker we’ve seen on the trail, but they did not stop at the caravan. Two more walkers went past later. This couple did come up to the caravan for a look, but opted to continue walking and camp a little further on.

The caravan has a paraffin heater, but the fuel tank seems to be disconnected. There’s a lot of “stuff” inside and around it, including a fair amount of leftover food. It has two verandahs/platforms: one to the front and one to the rear. We had lunch and dinner on the one overlooking the lake, and it is very sheltered from the prevailing wind. In the wind the air is cool, but sat on the deck it was almost too hot!

Playing Race for the Galaxy
Playing Race for the Galaxy

Steve went on a bilberry hunt and found a good amount, and I collected a few as well. Will they last till breakfast? Anna wishes it to be noted that she had a wash in the lake! She did, however, stop short of going in for a swim.

Near the hut is a wooden outhouse; a “loo with a view” (so long as you leave the door open)!

To while away the evenings, we brought a card game with us (in addition to my harmonica): Race for the Galaxy. Anna and I have played it before, but Steve is still learning. At the moment I’m winning the games, but it seems unlikely to last.