During the previous days I had been walking next to Tasermiut fjord and through a few of its adjacent valleys. The day before I bushwhacked through Qinnguadalen and finally arrived at the shore of Tasersuaq, the big lake enclosed between impressive peaks.
Looking back through the valley just before reaching the waterfalls above Kangerluk fjord. Here only tundra was growing in the valley and no longer shrub vegetation due to the colder climate closer to the ocean.
It had been raining almost the entire night with quite some wind but I was able to remain dry under the tarp. I continued my way along the shore of Tasersuaq, mostly walking and sometimes even jumping from stone to stone. Hiking further away from the lake would be heavy bushwhacking through the dwarf birches. At the mouth of Qingeq Kujalleq valley I left Tasersuaq at my back, waded the river and hiked slowly uphill through the valley, bushwhacking for most of the time. Deeper in the valley the terrain became more rocky and the shrub disappeared. But then the rain returned when I crossed the mountain pass at the end in the valley. I descended into a new valley, the valley that ran out to Kangerluk fjord. The hiking went fast in this valley. Only tundra was left here on the ground, no more shrub vegetation. The climate obviously turned out colder here as I approached closer to the icy Atlantic. Abundant snow fields were hanging on the valley slopes, even partly covering the valley floor. Further beyond the river dropped itself down to the fjord in a series of waterfalls. I made camp in the rain above the icy fjord.
The morning began like the previous day had come to an end, with rain. A few hours later the rain stopped and the first sunrays touched the fjord below. I started to break up camp and climbed unnamed peak 969m, which towered above the southern side of the fjord. I reached the summit after climbing over a lot of snow and loose rocks closer to the ridge. The views were again amazing. Countless peaks were towering into the sky like needles in the west and dark icy fjords were visible down below in the east. Cape Farvel was not visible, hidden behind the nearby peaks in the southeast. Below to the south I had a view into Issortusut valley, the valley through which I wanted to search for a passage over a mountain pass which could bring me further south and closer to the isolated Inuit village Aappilattoq.
The glacier plateau above Kangerluk fjord with the shrunken glacial tongue. At the end of the 19th century (end of the Little Ice Age in Greenland) the glacier came down to the moraine wall at the bottom of the picture.
Back down along the fjord I continued with my trip, hiking further east along Kangerluk fjord to reach the mouth of Issortusut valley in the evening. Here I decided to make the next bivouac. It was cold. Enormous icebergs were drifting in the fjord while dark clouds had again taken the entire sky and the first drops soon fell down. Time to go to sleep.
The rainy period came to an end before the morning set in. Issortusut valley was a beautiful valley with relatively easy hiking. But that came abruptly to an end once the tongue glacier in the valley head came into sight. Once above 350m, the valley floor was suddenly entirely covered by a snow deck. The sun, meanwhile burning vigorously, had softened the snow deck. I continued my way, postholing through the white mass, crossing snow bridges over the river and finally arriving at the big nameless lake hidden in a wide glacial depression that made up the valley head of Issortusut valley were brown rocks and white snow with monstrous peaks above made the landscape look impressively frightening and beautiful at the same time. The lake, more than one kilometer long, was except from the outlet completely covered by ice and snow. On the eastern shore and along the outlet steep slopes fell into the lake. It looked impossible to pass the lake over these slopes. I took the time to rest and eat my midday lunch of tour bread at the lake outlet. Then I searched a way to pass the steep slopes above the northern point of the lake. Luckily I made it through by climbing high above the lake.
On the map, the two high mountain passes south of the lake looked to offer a possibility to cross the mountains to the south to get closer to Cape Farvel. I continued postholing through the thick snow cover, slowly approaching the slopes below the first mountain pass. From time to time I traversed another infamous boulder field again, but this time the boulder rocks were still covered by the snow deck. Here and there a relatively deep gap in the snow betrayed a cavity in the boulder field. The snow covered slope looked more like a glacier this way. My progression was slow, carefully as I was not to sag through the snow deck and disappear in a hollow below.
After some time I arrived on a moraine below another glacier. Here I decided to leave my backpack behind and climb to both the mountain passes. This way I could visually decide from each mountain pass which one would offer the easiest way down to the fjord at the other side of the mountains. Finally I choose the mountain pass southwest of the lake instead of the one at the south.
I took my backpack again and climbed towards the couloir below the mountain pass on the snow with crampons on. The slope was now lying in the shade so the snow had rapidly become hard again. Higher up I entered the deep couloir which gave access to the mountain pass.
I was happy to be there on the pass at the end. The day had been long and tough. The mountain pass was existing of large abrasive belts of granite with snow in between were a few melt puddles gave me an easy access to water. Once more impressive peaks came into view at the other side of the mountain pass. Descending here looked steep but easier than over the other mountain pass since the snowfields would make things easier over here. The southern side of the other mountain pass looked more difficult due to a lot of boulders and moraines.
But it was too late now to continue with going down. I studied the clouds to get an idea about the upcoming weather. It looked to deteriorate again so I definitely was in need for a descent bivouac spot. But were to pitch my tarp up here on this aerie place? How hard I looked, there was no possibility to make a comfortable bivouac up here on the mountain pass, let alone to pitch the tarp. After some time I found a relatively flat rocky spot further down in the couloir. With using a pile of rocks, I was able to pitch the tarp tightly enough here for a quite and restful night. It’s amazing what you can do with such a small tarp on such a wild and rocky place. It was raining pretty moderately when I went to sleep but the night remained peaceful indeed under the tarp.
Day 18. After the rain of the night the weather was improving again during daytime. I descended the mountain pass on its west flank, most of the time rather steep over snowfields. Down below after passing the moraine of the nearby glacier and some low growing shrub near sea level, I reached Stordalens Havn, a shallow bay extending northwest from the strait Aappilattup Avanna. It was close to low tide. The salt water rapidly withdrew out of the bay and a vast plain of dark and wet clay appeared with a braided stream of white glacial water in the middle searching its way to the sea. Beyond all this, the impressive peaks of Alleruusakasit towering into the sky next to the strait. Man, what a view!
After lunch I continued my way along the shore in eastern direction towards the Inuit village Aappilattoq, accompanied by encircling mosquitoes. The terrain quickly became more difficult again. Despite the low tide I couldn’t really profit from the pebble beaches. They were mostly overgrown with slippery kelp vegetation and from time to time the beach was made up of a succession of boulders. So I mostly hiked over the steep tundra slope a bit higher above the sea level. But one thing was really amazing. The view I had over the water onto the island Pamialluk and the mountains of Alleruusakasit remained indescribable, beautiful.
Walking on belts of rock in the direction of the very isolated Inuit village of Aappilattoq above the initially low cliff coast above the strait of Aappilattup Avanna with the island Pamialluk at the other side. There I started to realize that the chance of reaching Aappilattoq was very small. About 1km further the mountains fell over a high vertical cliff coast into the sea.
I continued for a long time along the shore until something alarming appeared before my eyes. The shore abruptly changed into high cliffs over there. It looked impossible to pass beyond those cliffs. The Inuit village was located behind. On the map there seemed to be a passage just at sea level below the cliffs. A black hiking route (black means extremely hard on the map) was drawn on my map, exactly passing over this passage under the cliffs just along the coast. Despite what I saw visually with my eyes, I continued anyway until I reached the rock face of the cliffs.
No, there was absolutely no way to continue pass along these cliffs. The rock face fell vertically into the sea. No signs of a passage down below at sea level. The drawings on the map were a fantasy! I was stuck. I was angry too, angry with the map maker. What to do now?
I decided to search for a bivouac spot by returning a bit and climbing higher, away from the sea. But by climbing higher I suddenly discovered a sloping ledge in the cliff face. Curious I was, I couldn’t resist to climb to this ledge, seeing were it would lead to. The ledge was only one to maximum two meters wide with a overhanging rock face above which made crawling on my hands and knees mandatory for most of the time to keep continuing. I was now already more than 200m above sea level. What was I doing here? Just on the right side below me the steep and almost vertical rock face fell down straight into the sea, lying there more than 200m below. Luckily I didn’t got any fear of the heights. I climbed and climbed higher through the ledge. It sometimes looked like a tunnel. There seemed no end in sight. Where would this arrive? Was the ledge going to cease?
I don’t remember how long it was but after a long time I suddenly arrived almost on top of the cliffs, around 300m above sea level. The ledge opened itself up into a wider slope with boulders over which I continued climbing. Suddenly I was there, standing on top of the cliffs with a wide panoramic view over the further course of the icy strait with the mountains on the islands near Cape Farvel in the distance. I was laughing. It looked like a dream but it wasn’t. It was real! I really had climbed through the cliff face and reached a heavenly place.
I immediately returned through the ledge. I had left my backpack behind and I still was in need to search for water. Down the ledge I recovered my backpack and found water by filling my platypus with melting water dripping from a large block of snow lying at the feet of the cliffs. Then I climbed again through the ledge to the top of the cliffs, this time more challenging with the backpack on my back.
Once arrived on top I finally took the time to admire the views. The sun was descending to the horizon. It was getting dark when I pitched the tarp on the tundra slope between the rocks, just a few meters from the abyss with the sea below. From under the tarp I could admire the ice drifting through the strait in the deeps. It felt like the most amazing moment of the trip had come, but this peak moment turned out more spectacular than I ever had been dreaming about. The evening and night was cloudy but the weather remained nice and I slept like a rose.
Aappilattoq was now only 5km away. The Inuit village wasn’t yet visible from my bivouac spot. The next morning I decided to leave the Inuit village for what it was. The route towards the village seemed too crazy and in the distance a steep slippery rock face was discernable and looked impossible to pass. I decided to leave my tarp pitched on the slope and to make a day hike higher into the mountains in search for even more spectacular views. This way I arrived on a mind blowing spot on the shoulder of peak 1302m south of Issuttussoq. The landscape which was lying at my feet over there must have been the most rugged but also the most beautiful mountain view I have ever seen in my life! This was heaven on earth. I can’t find the right words to describe this place. It was so special that I made the decision to return to the tarp, break up and climb back to pitch my tarp on top of the shoulder. The ground was rocky but it seemed possible to make another incredible bivouac, even more spectacular than the night before. And so I did. In the later afternoon I pitched my tarp on the mountain shoulder and remained admiring the place, the peaks, the ice drifting deep below and the view into the valley Itillersuaq through which I planned to continue tomorrow.
After a good nights sleep and a wonderful morning with nice alpenglow on the peaks, I broke up the tarp again and descended to the strait by passing again through the ledge in the cliff face. Then I returned to Stordalens Havn over the difficult sections along the shore. The bay was now under water as it was near high tide. I hold the midday lunch at the mouth of the nameless river running east through Itillersuaq valley. The amount of mosquitoes was unbearable this time so I sprayed DEET on my arms. After lunch I walked further west through Itillersuaq, a wide tundra valley with phenomenal peaks towering above the valley along both sides with hanging glaciers on the north walls of the Alleruusakasit peaks. The end moraines of the glaciers reach the middle of the valley with a few of the glaciers itself still reaching the bottom of the valley. For a moment, another pair of Greenlandic white tailed eagles came circling loudly above my head.
When I just passed the swampy saddle deeper in the valley, I encountered the nice meandering Sisoorartut Kuua river with crystal clear waters and many small fish shooting away with my presence. The river drained a deep side valley. The mountain slope on the corner of this side valley and the Itillersuaq valley seemed to offer a nice bivouac spot. So I waded the stream and climbed the mountain slope till I reached a point at 550m just under the wall of a boulder moraine. Here I pitched the tarp on the mountain slope with again an unbearable horde of mosquitoes buzzing around my head. My camp site was again well chosen. The meandering river down below and the north faces on the opposite site of the valley made the picture complete. There was still time to climb higher on the slope for even better views that evening, so I climbed towards the summit of the nearby unnamed peak 1102m over its south ridge. The ascent became technical and difficult the higher I approached the summit. I stranded 40m below the summit. Narrow and steep sloping rock slabs prevented I save passage to the summit without proper equipment. But I didn’t mind not reaching the summit. The views were once more spectacular. The Atlantic was now visible over the mountains in the southwest and the southern part of Tasermiut fjord too. To my surprise, the fjord was all white! The southerly winds of the last few days had been stowed the ice from the Atlantic into the fjord. The fjord was now completely filled with field ice, here and there enclosed with larger ice bergs. Tasiusaq must have been shut off from the outside world, the Inuit unable to go out fishing.
I awaited the sunset until descending again to the tarp. The day after I continued west through the valley along the river till a narrow point in the valley. Here I climbed northward over the valley slope, crossed a wild river coming from a big lake higher in the mountains, till I reached a terrace above the valley. Here I found a perfect bivouac spot with again a nice view over Itillersuaq.
Once more I repeated yesterday by climbing unnamed peak 1410m west of Putooruttoq (1519m). This mountain turned out easier to climb than the peak of yesterday but the route to its summit was long and remained strenuous by climbing over rocks and smaller boulders all the way to the summit. Hours later I arrived on the flat summit were a large stone man was built. The mountain seemed to be a perfect destination from Tasiusaq and seemed to be climbed a few times each year. I remained admiring the views from the summit for hours till the sun touched the horizon in the northwest. Should I tell you again how much captivated I was by the views? I could see the ocean, almost the entire length of Tasermiut fjord, still filled with a lot of ice, the peaks of Ketil, Ulamertorsuaq along which I walked many days before and with in the distance the ice cap with so many more countless peaks and towers in almost all directions. It was one o’clock in the night when I reached the tarp again under a blue sky just dark enough for the most vibrant stars to shine. Again an incredible day with nice weather came to an end.
The sun was risen already high above the horizon when I woke up the next morning. A rough passage northward through rugged mountains, passing a high mountain pass was on the menu today to reach Tasersuaq again. My progression became immediately slow as the terrain consisted only of rocks and boulders when I passed the nameless big high mountain lake. It took me almost two hours to pass the 1.5km long northern shore of the lake. Higher in the rocky mountain valley I encountered more and more snow and moraines, passed several more smaller mountain lakes of which the higher ones turned out to be still completely frozen. I reached the 850m high mountain pass in a world were black and white were the only colors. A steep hanging glacier fell down into the second highest mountain lake, the glacier front vomiting icebergs into the lake.
On the other side of the mountain pass a narrow steep descending valley gave way to the eastern shore of Tasersuaq with lovely Qinnguadalen beyond. I walked down on crampons and ice axe in hand, most of the time over snow and along waterfalls. A lot lower the terrain became more friendly and the snow disappeared. I continued till the upper edge of the mountain birch forest surrounding the lower slopes around Tasersuaq. The weather had become dull during the day. It was overcast with a strong northeasterly wind but it didn’t rain. I pitched the tarp on a small open tundra spot between the dwarf birches. I was tired. Today had been a very tough day. I was running out of food too. I had been eating breakfast muesli all day since my tour bread was all eaten. If I wouldn’t reach Tasiusaq tomorrow I will risk too run out of food for one day before reaching the Inuit village. Tasiusaq was 17km in birds flight from my bivouac spot and seen the hard bushwhacking terrain around Tasersuaq, I was not that sure I could reach the village in one more day. I didn’t want to think much about it, it didn’t make much sense too. So I immediately went to sleep to be in good shape again for the tough day of tomorrow.
But I couldn’t find a good nights sleep. The night was too hot. I kept my sleeping bag open like a blanket over my body. This was still too warm. I still felt tired the next morning. To continue westward along the southern shore of Tasersuaq, there are two possibilities according to the map. One is to follow the shore of the lake just at water level, passing under the very steep slopes of a mountain ridge extending northward from the massif of Putooruttoq into the lake. This option is indicated as a black dotted line on the map, meaning this route would be extremely difficult. I had found one short report on the internet of a fellow which had walked here and stated that he had no other choice than to wade through the lake hip deep to be able to pass under the cliff face. So this route didn’t sound lake a fluent route at all to me. So I chose the second option which climbed to a mountain pass in the mountain shoulder. This route was colored in red on the map which meant only a normally hard route but since the route through Qinnguadalen and Tupassaat which I took a weak earlier were also colored in red while these routes were just the hardest I met on the entire trip, I wasn’t that sure anymore about the hiking routes drawn on the map. The map is a disgrace, that was very clear to me.
So I bushwhacked my way through the dwarf birches and willows towards the mountain pass, slowly gaining altitude above Tasersuaq. It took me a long time to reach the pass where strong easterly winds made me decide to forget about a longer stay on the pass. On the other side of the pass I had to walk down again to the shore of the lake. But I was not happy with what I saw here. A forest of polar willows and birch growing higher than mans eye completely covered the mountain slope again. This was going to be very hard. The first half of the slope was very steep, 45° and even steeper and all overgrown with willow shrub. But the hell really broke loose halfway. The terrain became less steep but the birch forest with small groups of willows in between grew 3 to 4m high. I pushed myself through the thickets. Boulders were embedded in the forest with small river gorges in between. This was the most difficult bushwhacking I ever encountered in my life. I was happy when finally arrived at the shore of the lake but that modest moment of joy became rapidly interrupted as I continued my way along the shore. The terrain didn’t became more friendly at all. I ended up jumping from stone to stone in the lake. This way I was at least released from the bushwhacking. But in fact not completely as the boulders which made up the shore of the lake were not always passable so that from time to time I had no other choice to make another bushwhacking passage around the bigger boulders.
At the mouth of a small stream I kept a pause and ate my latest portion of breakfast muesli. From now on a warm meal was the only food I had left and it became clear that I wouldn’t reach Tasiusaq today. I was very tired. If I would lay myself down I was sure I would have fallen asleep immediately.
After lunch I continued over the difficult terrain. Hours later the forest became more like shrub while more open places appeared between the dwarf birches. It was a relief to be finally progressing faster. The first sheep appeared later on, property of the Inuit sheep farm Saputit Tasia north of Tasiusaq.
I walked further towards the extreme southwest point of the lake. Every footstep became a major effort now. My head started getting dizzy and I had to stop several times to rest on a stone as I couldn’t go on. I was exhausted. It was late when I finally arrived at the extreme southwest point of Tasersuaq, still 6km northeast of Tasiusaq. Here I immediately pitched the tarp, ate the evening meal and went to sleep. This was the toughest day I ever had in the wild. Because I couldn’t have reached Aappilattoq for a resupply I had no other choice than to make rations of the food I had left. The hard terrain made my body beg for more calories and my head for fresh sugars. All the small portions I ate were not enough. I was skinny too. My pants had become too wide for my waist. I had to tighten the belt a lot more, otherwise my pants fell down from my waist. Tomorrow I would reach Tasiusaq where I could buy provisions in the small grocery store. But in what condition would I reach the Inuit village? Just like the night before, I couldn’t fall asleep. It seemed that at a certain fatigue level, falling asleep itself asks too much energy. I was awake the entire night. Only during the morning I could find some sleep for a few hours.
Saputit Tasia sheep farm with its grasslands on the left next to the small lake. The sheep farmers on South-Greenland are not able to hold a large herd of sheep as they need to feed their sheep with hay during the winter and the hay is produced from the grass on the fields. These fields do not cover a large area as there aren’t much places to find with flat ground without much stones and rocks.
A tractor next to the fields of Saputit Tasia sheep farm. The sheep farmers on South-Greenland cultivate grass during the short summer to feed their sheep with hay during the long winter. The farmer of Saputit Tasia has only a very small area of grassland for his small herd of sheep. The farmers try to remove all the rocks and stones from the ground to get an area to cultivate as large as possible with a lot of damaged material as a result. The Norsemen started already with this tremendous work during the middle ages.
I started walking towards Tasiusaq in the late morning with an empty stomach. To my surprise I felt in good shape and could walk in fast cadence without the need to make a pause all the way to the village. When I arrived in the Inuit village, I immediately asked where I could find the grocery store. The store was built at the shore next to the small harbor. I immediately bought a lot of food and climbed on a hill to eat as much as I could. Meanwhile I could observe the village, the Inuit and their daily life. Tasiusaq existed only of about 30 little houses for 90 inhabitants. Only a few men were left in the village. The others were gone fishing on the ocean or the fjord. Children were playing outside and an old drunken man was sitting next to the grocery store. Life here seemed simple but harsh at times.
Tasermiut had changed a lot now too. There was still a lot of ice drifting in the fjord but boats could now maneuver between the ice. The ice fields were now drifting back southward out of the fjord by the change of wind direction. It seemed I wouldn’t get stuck here. By the end of the day I climbed to the hill above the village and spent the night on top of it with wide views onto the ice cap and the peaks around Tasersuaq.
The day after I walked over the open tundra northeast to climb Qaqqatsiaq were I met another great view over Tasersuaq and Tasermiut. I pitched the tarp just under the summit of the hill and spent another night on a hill. On the last day I returned to Tasiusaq and spent a lot of time with relaxing and eating at a nice small mountain lake. The weather was perfect, sunny with only weak winds. In the evening I arrived in Tasiusaq again and pitched the tarp behind a large rocky hill out of sight from the village. It was getting cold. This was my last night in Tasermiut and actually I wasn’t regretting it. The trip had been too strenuous to be able to enjoy it unhindered, but despite the difficulties of the terrain, it felt like I had made the trip of a lifetime.
The next morning I returned to the grocery store and asked to make a phone call to Niels in Nanortalik. The boat was already on its way he told me, with a lot of tourists on board. I was excited to join a tourist boat tour through Tasermiut fjord. This way I could admire the entire length of the fjord again, but this time in a relaxed manner. This was the perfect ending of this wild trip in Tasermiut.
In a next post the journey will continue on Nanortalik island.