Arctic Circle Trail Day 5 – A Day of 2 Parts

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 (Ikkattooq) 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 around 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 at Ikkattooq,  and have an afternoon off. This would make 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 – 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 via a zig zag route through rocky slabs. The climb was 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 again 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 put our sandals on and 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 useful 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 of water and we each had a wash. Tomorrow I may wash a second lot of clothes ready for the last four days of walking.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *