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mcrtchly: Track 3099 in area near Greenland, Vestgrønland ()
Middleland - or there and back again
Length: 25.7km, Creator time taken: 32h53m, Ascent: 1002m, Descent: 1116m
Places:Start at Lon -45.422, Lat 61.1582, end at Lon -45.3833, Lat 61.1778 3km NE from Start Logged as completed by 2
For a video of this route see: https://youtu.be/S0DFMLa3L_M
The name Middleland conjures up thoughts of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, perhaps with the idyllic farmlands of the Shire (home of the Hobbits) or the lush forest and mountains of Rivendell (home of the Elves). But think again and think of Mordor, replacing the ferocious Orcs with equally ferocious biting insects. Or the forest of Mirkwood with equally entangling dwarf trees. The fact that kernowclimber has been likened to Frodo on occasions adds to the sense that we were journeying through a strange world!
Middleland (Mellem Landet) is a long (30km) and narrow (6km) strip of land pincered between two glaciers in South West Greenland. It is a popular area for a one day hike to touch the Kuussuup glacier on its western flank. Longer, less frequented treks, are the two day hike over to the eastern flank to see the calving Qooqqup glacier or 3-4 day hike to the northern end to see the glaciers spilt around the land mass. Due to limited time we opted to do the 2 day trek to the calving glacier.
The route starts at Narsarsuaq at the western extremity of Middleland. Narsarsauq is one of the main international airports in Greenland and has summer flights from Iceland and Denmark. The runway is situated on the outwash plain of the Kuussuup glacier and the airport was originally built in WWII by the USA as a transit base (called Bluie West One) for flights to Europe. During the Korean War the Americans constructed a 600 bed hospital there for wounded service people, but the base was superseded after the construction of the larger Thule air base in North Greenland, which still operates as a US base today. The Bluie West One base closed in 1951 and reverted to Danish control in 1958. The population of Narsarsuaq is only about 160 with the airport and tourism being the main sources of employment. A long tarmac road leads NE from Narsarsuaq along the foot of Middleland and adjacent to the outflow from the Kuussuup glacier. At the end of the tarmac a gravel road passes through a picturesque outwash plain named Blomsterdalen (the flower valley) although the flowers were past their prime when we visited in late August. After weaving through some hay fields the route, now a path, leads to a nearly 300m ascent onto the Middleland plateau by the side of a waterfall. This ascent is quite steep in places either on rock or through the dwarf trees. In places thick ropes have been fixed in place, presumably by the tourist companies who take clients to see the glacier. In most cases you can climb without using the ropes but they are handy where the rock has been polished by the passage of countless feet, and certainly on descent when the gravelly ground can be decidedly dodgy. From the top, a 2km path and a 200m descent leads to the nose of the Kuussuup glacier and this is the route that most tourists take. Instead of going to the Kuussuup glacier which isn’t calving and is basically just a pile of dirty, melting ice, we chose instead to head north east along the spine of Middleland as it gradually ascended to over 600m. As with many walks in Greenland, this was not as straight forward as the map would have you believe; there are many ups and downs, lakes to go around and of course, dwarf trees. We camped overnight by one the lakes about 1.5km short of our target viewpoint on the eastern flank of Middleland. The next day, we left the tent and most of our gear for what we thought would be a quick hike to the viewpoint. But once again the map was deceptive. The first problem that we encountered was a 75m deep ravine between two lakes with near vertical walls. After much time wasting we found a descent via a steep gully into the ravine and a gentler path the other side. On our return we spotted a much easier shore and western side lake ‘475’ route which is shown on our GPS track. The second major problem was gaining access to the viewpoint, which according to the map was east of lake ‘475’. The view point was actually atop a 100m high rocky hill and we investigated many ascent options but were thwarted by steep and loose rock faces. Eventually we found a route on the western side of the hill which involved a hands on (grade 1) scramble up loose rock. The climb was worth all the effort as the views down on the Qooqqup glacier were spectacular. We sat mesmerised viewing the point where the glacier meets the sea; every so often the ice creaked and cracked and large blocks of ice had fallen into the water, totally choking the fjord. There are expansive views to the south and east, although in Greenland, with its clear air, distances can be deceptive. It looked like 3-4km to the end of the fjord, but in reality it was 15km.
The hike from our tent to the viewpoint and back (with stops) had taken over 4 hours (to cover only 3km) and after a quick lunch we packed up our tent for the long walk back to Narsarsuaq. The descent was straightforward but care was needed on the 300m climb down from the plateau. Then there was the long and seemingly endless walk back along the track and tarmac road. We arrived back in Narsarsuaq just in time for dinner and a refreshing Greenlandic beer or two.
Uploaded on: Wed, 16 Sep 2015 (20:37:48) Trackback: http://mountainviews.ie/track/3099/ To download GPS tracks you must be enrolled and logged in. See "Login or enrol", top right - quick and easy.
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