Places:Start at Lon -44.5413, Lat 60.4466, end at Start Logged as completed by 2
Do you fancy a real wildlife experience, cut off from the modern world and left to your own resources? Well if you do, then Greenland is the place to go and no place is more apt than Tasermiut fjord in the south western extremity of the country. The fjord starts at the ‘town’ of Nanortalik (population just over 1,300 persons) and runs for 70km up to the edge of the permanent ice sheet covering the interior of the country. The fjord is popular with pack-rafters, day trippers from Nanortalik and rock climbers, but only a handful of trekkers venture far away from its shore – for reasons you will see later. Our aim was to trek up the Klosterdalen valley from the fjord and sample the spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. To get to the start of the trek we first had to fly over 110km by helicopter from our base in Narsarsuaq to Nanortalik. Air Greenland uses small Bell 212 helicopters on short range internal flights which seat up to 9 passengers. The helicopters fly low over the landscape and often make other stops en route to a destination, giving fantastic views and photo opportunities. After an overnight stay in Nanortalik we were taken along the fjord by a pre-arranged rib boat (operated by the Tasermiut South Greenland Expeditions Company). The trip along the fjord is not to be missed as it is lined with rugged peaks, some of which reach to over 2,000m in height, and the awesome sight of the nearly 1.5km high wall of ice at its end. The journey time was a little under 2 hours before we landed on a seaweed strewn beach, bid farewell to our boatmen and carried our heavy packs to our first camp at the beginning of Klosterdalen, so named as this valley was once the site of an Augustinian monastery founded in the tenth century by Norse monks. Our first camp site had a great view of Ketil which is one of the best granite climbing monoliths in the world, on a par with El Capitan in the USA and Torres del Paine in Chile, but not as well known.
Following a chilly night (we had taken 3 season sleeping bags but these were at their limit) we encountered our first problem – biting insects. There are midges, mosquitos and horse flies in South Greenland on a scale (physically and numerically) that we have never encountered before. We had to don head nets and wear two layers of clothing on top plus copious amounts of DEET to protect us (in fact we hadn’t brought far enough DEET). Following the route along Klosterdalen as shown on the 1:100,000 scale Harvey’s map, we soon encountered our second problem – dwarf willow and birch trees. The willow wasn’t too bad being generally waist high but the birch is denser, up to 2m high and consists of a tangle of branches which make progress very slow and hard. After the first stretch of trees, the route opened out into bog far worse than anything we’ve encountered in Ireland, and then hugged the shoreline of a couple of lakes, but numerous inlets too wide to cross forced us back into the trees. After 7 hours of bushwhacking we were exhausted and having covered 4km according to the map but over 7km due to the zig-zagging through the trees, we decided to camp for the night beside the Uiluiit Kuua River which drains the valley. Our progress of only 1km per hour as we found out later, is the norm for Klosterdalen. On the second day we progressed up the valley over boggy ground for just over 500m until we had to cross the Uiluiit Kuua River in order to access a branch valley. Crossing the freezing cold river meant changing our boots for plastic ‘Crocs’ and wading with our boots hanging around our necks. When crossing rivers like this it is advisable to cross a straight section of a river without boulders or rapids, diagonally in a downstream direction and keep your backpack unbuckled (in case you fall over and need to jettison it in a hurry). On the far side of the river we encountered yet more trees and then glacial moraine which often had house sized boulders obscured by dense vegetation. After more slow progress through a boulder field above the snowline, we eventually gained the col of the branch valley at 600m where we set up camp, which offered grandstand views down into Klosterdalen and of the Ketil massif opposite. A short stroll took us to a partially frozen lake in the col with breath-taking mountain scenery. It is possible to continue the trek past this lake and back down to sea level, after which you could either get a boat back to Nanortalik (a very long way) or continue up a second col to reach the Qinnquadalen valley and a route which would take you back to Tasermiut fjord. Not having the time to do the full traverse to Qinnquadalen (and hearing via satellite communication about an incoming föhn wind) we descended back down to Klosterdalen on the third day. On the return we ditched the Harvey map and saw easier ways to descend and avoid most of the worse terrain. We camped for the third night at the same place as on the way up. On the fourth day, having seen that the route on the map was not the best, we ignored it and just followed the river for most of the way back (to avoid the trees). Consequently, we meandered round huge boulders, scrambled over rocks and waded through narrow channels in the river. In fact we recommend totally ignoring the route as shown on the map; stick as close to the river as possible, although this might not be advisable in early summer when it is likely to be in spate. We reached Tasermiut fjord again in the mid-afternoon to be met by our boatman. The ride back to Nanortalik was bitterly cold due to the change in the weather but the hot shower, cold beer and real food (after eating freeze dried rations) when got to our accommodation was very welcome. The trek was only 24km, a distance which could be covered in one day in Ireland, but in Greenland at 1km per hour you need to plan for many days. However brutal the terrain might be, the real problem is the horrendous number of biting insects. If you want to read a more detailed description of our trek then see kernowclimber’s blog on http://kernowclimber.blogspot.ie/2015/09/through-net-dimly-wilderness-trekking.html We have also uploaded a video to Youtube on https://youtu.be/fFihqt587gs
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Note: ALL information such as Ascent, Length and Creator time taken etc should be regarded as approximate. The creator's comments are opinions and may not be accurate or still correct.
Your time to complete will depend on your speed plus break time and your mode of transport. For walkers: Naismith's rule, a rough and often inaccurate estimate, suggests a time of 5h 25m + time stopped for breaks
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