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Trip Report by: Erik Egir
Adventurers: Erik Egir, Kjell Bäcklund & Oskar Hjertstedt
Everyone should go to Greenland!
Okay, maybe not everyone. But, everyone who wants a truly wild and isolated wilderness experience should go to Greenland. If you’re reading this, you should plan to go, and soon. Even the air up here feels different. If you respect our beautiful planet and all the people and cultures we share it with, you’ll love Greenland.
We just spent a week backpacking and packrafting through Tasermiut Fjord in southern Greenland. Our time in the fjord was even more of an adventure than our journey to the remote village that was our base camp. But, getting to base camp was certainly an adventure, too. And to think people live up here all year round!
It all started with a Facebook post. “Anyone up for a trip to Greenland?” my friend Kjell asked two years ago. That was the day I signed up for the trip of a lifetime.
I had done plenty of adventures before, in the northern parts of Sweden and Norway near my home. I’m no stranger to climbing, kayaking, trekking, and skiing. But, what we were about to experience was on a completely different scale.
Kjell took the lead in planning the trip. With five previous trips to Greenland, he was the obvious leader. He was our Greenland guru. Over the years, Kjell had seen the Tasermuit Fjord from a distance. But, it was just too far away for most hikers to approach. But we were formulating a plan to get to this remote spot.
The climbers out there probably know about Ketil--the Yosemite of Greenland. It towers higher than 100 meters and is a sheer west-facing granite wall. Ketil is considered to be one of the most challenging big walls on Earth.
Ketil would be where we’d start our trip in the Tasermuit Fjord. We bought maps and poured over them. Over several beers in our hometown Pub in Linköping, Sweden, we realized this wasn’t just going to be a hike. Backpacking an inflatable raft in with us would allow us to go farther and experience more.
This is where Kokopelli Packrafts entered the picture.
We had seen others use packrafts on backpacking trips, and looking at the maps we saw the potential to add this new dimension to our trip. We scanned the market of inflatable boats and were stoked when we found a video of this cool dude showing off the new Kokopelli Rogue-R Deck while drinking coffee. We were sold.
Soon, we’d be drinking coffee in places only our feet and a packraft can take us.
We planned a trip to test our new Kokopelli packraft in a remote location next to Sarek National Park in Sweden. That’s another story altogether. But, we definitely got some experience with portable rafts. We learned how to pack our gear with the packraft, which takes time to figure out. Also, we got some unplanned practice in repairing the inflatable boat in the field after I got a 6in tear on the bottom. Tyvek sheathing tape solved that problem!
Now, we were ready for prime time. We were ready for Greenland.
On a hot autumn morning, we boarded a plane in Copenhagen that took us to Narsusaq airport in Greenland. From Europe, this 4-hour flight is the only direct flight into Greenland. Did you know Greenland is governed by Denmark? Well, now you do.
From Narsusaq, we went south by boat for another 5 hours to the village of Nanortalik, population 1,300. Nanortalik means “Place of Polar Bears,” even southern Greenland is pretty far north!
Photo Credit: Amanda Anderson/Flickr
In Nanortalik, we geared up with food, gas/benzin, and some other miscellaneous supplies. Then, we looked for a local outfitter to take us by boat for the final 2 hours of our approach to Tasermiut Fjord. We met Henrik of Nanortalik boat charter on the docks, Henrik is the man! He gave us a cup of coffee and took us the rest of the way up the fjord. That was one crazy beautiful boat trip.
While he was shuttling us up the fjord, Henrik filled us in on all the info only the locals have. We asked about polar bears, the town is named for them, after all. To our relief, Henrick told us seeing a polar bear “is like winning the lottery.” Okay, we were relieved and a little disappointed. According to Henrik, they don't come this far south much. There hasn’t been an accident in Nanortalik for 50 years.
And with that reassurance, he left us on the shore of Klosterdalen staring up at huge granite peaks. We inflated our packrafts and started the real adventure.
The feeling of those first paddle strokes on the glacial water was so sick! I will never, ever, forget that moment. To be on this adventure at that moment was just…special.
We were really into the wild here. I was the captain of a boat, so small on this beautiful planet earth. There were these enormous mountains towering over us, reminding me exactly how small we are. The whole experience was really surreal.
Side note, be sure to read some stories about Erik Röde before you take your trip here. He led the expedition to found the first settlement in Greenland before the Inuits came down from the north. It sure helped me appreciate this place even more. Setting up camp on the shore of the fjord, I felt a little bit of what life could have been like for those Norse Vikings and Inuits when they arrived here almost a century ago
We walked and paddled in our Kokopelli backpacking rafts for about 10 hours every day. The terrain was rough most of the time. There are no trails out here, not even animal tracks to follow. It’s just you, the map, and a compass. We would walk until there was nothing walkable left, then inflate our rafts and paddle farther. When we could hike again, we packed away the packrafts and hiked on.
Okay, when we got back to shore we didn’t always immediately pack away our packrafts. They make great portable mattresses, and paddling through the fjord was hard work.
And we fished, too. The first Arctic Char we caught was from the shores of Aappilattoq. Oh my god, it was delicious! When you come up this way, be sure to bring a fishing rod. You won’t regret carrying the extra gear when you’re looking at a delicious fish like this one for dinner.
Hands down, the Arctic Char was the best dinner of the trip!
It’s impossible to write about this experience in detail, especially with my limited English. But really, no one could do justice in retelling a trip like this with words alone. You have to experience this place for yourself.
On the boat back to Nanortalik, they told us that a Polar Bear had been spotted two weeks before at the place we just were the day before. We didn’t end up winning the lottery with a Polar Bear sighting, but we came pretty close, apparently!
And as the ice melts from climate change, the bears may start showing up in southern Greenland more often. They’re going to need to find food somewhere. Odds are they come down this way more often looking for it.
If you’ve read this far, you should go to Greenland. You will not regret this trip.
Thanks for reading. And feel free to contact me with questions about this trip or if you have questions about other adventures in Sweden and Norway.
Now go out and explore, and bring your packraft!