Greenland 2009 part IV: Mellem Landet

Mellem Landet (The middle Land) is a narrow mountainous and rugged piece of land close to the ice cap. South Greenland’s airport Narsarsuaq is located on Mellem Landet just next to Tunulliarfik fjord. The land is enclosed by two big glaciers which gently slide from the interior ice cap to the ocean. One of the two glaciers doesn’t reach the fjord anymore nowadays. The Kuusuaq river which drains Kuussuup Sermia glacier (kuussuup sermia means the glacier of the big river) is so big that there is no possibility to ford the river. So the hiking opportunities on Mellem Landet are only limited to a few days, ideal to end my long stay on Greenland.

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
The view back over Blomsterdalen and the Kuusuaq river.

It was late afternoon when I arrived at Narsarsuaq airport. A small Inuit settlement with a grocery store is located next to the airport. All the inhabitants are employed at the airport or in tourism services. After a resupply at the grocery store, I started the long hike through Blomsterdalen while the landscape slowly became more interesting. At the valley head where the Kuusuaq river runs out of a canyon, a steep climb followed to reach the mountain plateau of Mellem Landet. The climb was partly secured with ropes. A few steps along some small mountain lakes on the plateau and I reached a nice bivouac place with view over the tongue of Kuussuup Sermia.

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
Bivouac above Kuussuup Sermia.

The next day I searched my way further north on Mellem Landet while the terrain became more rugged the further I approached the northern point of the peninsula. The viewpoint north of point 1102m where the two glaciers separate would be my destination for the day. Only rock and snowfields remained when I reached point 1102m but the views over the surroundings were amazing. Both Kuussuup Sermia and Qooqqup Sermia were mostly visible further north along the top of the central mountain ridge and spectacular mountains arose in the northeast on the opposite side of the glacier. In the northwest Valhaltinden demanded all attention. A big lake with drifting icebergs was lying at the feet of the mountain.

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
An arctic hare on Mellem Landet. I saw many of them but they al ran away like a rocket. This one was probably ill since I could approach him up to a few meters.

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
My SPOT messenger at work.

It was difficult to find a place to pitch my tarp at the northern edge of Mellem Landet. After a lot of searching I found a small flat piece of moss on the rocks, just large enough to ditch the stakes. I enjoyed the views over the ice cap while the sun made its way to the horizon. There even was a constant abrasive sound to hear. The noise came from the ice below, slowly sliding its way to the ocean. Despite the sound it was quiet and peaceful there. I felt completely alone on earth, a perfect evening!

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
Bivouac along Qooqqup Sermia glacier north of Point 1102m.

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
The ice cap and Qooqqup Sermia.

The next morning I awoke in a fog and got lost on my way back to the south. There is absolutely no possibility to orientate in dense fog on Mellem Landet since recognizable points in the landscape are completely absent. I tried to stay on route by orientating with my map and compass the best I could, but after a while I noticed Kuussuup Sermia glacier below when I arrived at the edge of an abyss on the west side of the plateau. Oh no! This was completely wrong! I wanted to stay heading for the mouth of Qooqqup Sermia in the fjord at the east side of Mellem Landet. I then tried to go southeast in search for the “Glacier of the valley”. Luckily the clouds slowly began to lift and gradually visibility improved drastically so it was not that difficult anymore at the end to find the viewpoint above the glacier front. The fjord was all white, completely covered with crumbled ice.

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
The glacier front of Qooqqup Sermia in Qooqqut fjord (the ice fjord). Every ten minutes some ice fell of producing loud noises.

I stayed admiring the crumbling ice of the glacier front for an hour and finally returned to the valley head of Blomsterdalen. The next day I walked back to the airport through the valley and waited for my plane to leave. On the plane I could admire the ice cap and the east coast from 30.000ft. Greenland is so amazing and beautifully rugged. Next time I definitely should bring my packraft!

Greenland 2009: Mellem Landet
The last bivouac on Greenland, at the head of Blomsterdalen.

Greenland 2009: The Icecap
The ice cap from the plane.

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Greenland 2009 part III: Nanortalik

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord tourist boat tour
The front of Sermeq glacier in the head of Tasermiut fjord. It is sad to see how fast this glacier is melting and retreating. Probably 2 or 3 years to go and the glacier will not touch the fjord anymore.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord tourist boat tour
A visit to the falls of the Uiluiit Kuua river into the blue waters of Tasermiut fjord at Klosterdalen while on the tourist boat tour through Tasermiut. When I arrived at this spot 3 weeks earlier I had a hard time finding a possibility to ford the river.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord tourist boat tour
Nulamertorsuaq and Ulamertorsuaq seen from the boat on the fjord.

I must admit, I had been counting the last days in Tasermiut. I was exhausted by a lack of sufficient food towards the end of the hike. Now it was time to recover and strengthen again before the last few days on Mellem Landet. I had taken into account a few days on Nanortalik to rest before heading to Mellem Landet. These resting days came now much appreciated.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord tourist boat tour
Searching a passage between the ice to reach Nanortalik’s harbor.

There was a group of tourists in Nanortalik which wanted to make a tourist boat tour into Tasermiut. Niels was able to arrange the boat tour exactly the day of my previously agreed day of return. The cruise through the fjord was a welcome gift from Niels. We visited the glacier front of Sermeq from the boat and went on land in Klosterdalen to search for the ruins of the ancient monastery from the late middle ages. It’s unbelievable that Norse monks were once able to survive here in this rugged environment. But actually they didn’t survive. At the time the little ice age struck Greenland, all the Vikings and the monks which came with them in a later stage, died by the harsh climate, unable as they were to adapt. Only the Inuit remained. They were the only that had the knowledge to survive the colder and longer winters.

Greenland 2009: Nanortalik
The village of Nanortalik in the evening, surrounded by sea ice and mountains.

Tasermiut fjord had been filled with ice from the Atlantic like a funnel the days before due to the southerly winds. Luckily the wind had changed now so most of the ice had been drifted out of the fjord again. However, it still remained quite a difficult job for the boat to reach the harbor of Nanortalik. I said hello to Niels at the tourist office and went plundering the supermarket with resupply. Then I slowly walked along the coast to the most southern point of the island, called Tuapassuit Nuua, where I had a nice view over the icy Atlantic and the village with the mountains behind. The small Angissoq island group was visible a few kilometers deeper in the ocean. It was a strange feeling to be standing there in the cold breeze along the ocean with all those ice bergs drifting by and sometimes clashing and roaring on rocks underwater. Polar bears could have been stranded on the Angissoq islands over there, even though the risk was low since most of them usually begin to swim back north along the east coast during ice break up at spring. Yet, an Inuit at Nanortalik told me one fisherman had noticed a residual female polar bear with her cubs on one of the Angissoq islands during last may. The word Nanortalik even means village of the ice bear. But for one or another reason the polar bears know they better don’t visit Nanortalik. A polar bear which tries to come close to a village gets immediately shot and luckily for us hikers, the bears don’t like the warmer climate of the inner fjords.

Greenland 2009: Nanortalik
Icebergs near the coast of Nanortalik Island.

Greenland 2009: Nanortalik
The Atlantic Ocean filled with field ice and a few icebergs as seen from Tuapassuit Nuua on Nanortalik Island.

Greenland 2009: Nanortalik
Bivouac near Tuapassuit Nuua with the Angissoq islands on the horizon.

On day two I climbed a hill on the northern side of the island and pitched my tarp again for the night. The views were again amazing. In the north there was the vast Sondre Sermilik fjord filled with field ice. The next morning sea fog had formed over the Atlantic during the night and was now slowly approaching the island, swallowing the ice bergs on its way. Luckily the fog never came ashore. I remained admiring the phenomenon for the entire morning to finally return to the village in the afternoon to catch my flight by helicopter to Narsarsuaq on Mellem Landet.

Greenland 2009: Nanortalik
Sondre Sermilik fjord seen from Quassik.

Greenland 2009: Nanortalik
Approaching sea fog over the icy Atlantic Ocean.

Greenland 2009: Nanortalik
The church of Nanortalik.

It was a relaxing few days on the island and I was strong enough again for a few days of hiking through the harsh mountain terrain close to the ice cap.

Greenland 2009 part II: Tasersuaq & Cape Farvel Country

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Breaking down the tarp above Kangerluk 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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Lower Issortusut valley with Illua fjord seen from the east ridge of Peak 1279m.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
A calving iceberg in Kangerluk.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
A male Lapland Bunting (Calcarius Lapponicus) along Kangerluk fjord. These birds are found everywhere on the tundra of South-Greenland. They come as close as 2m next to you.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape FarvelWalking over the tundra above the ice filled Kangerluk fjord.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape FarvelEvening at Issortusut with the icebergs in the Kangerluk fjord in the background.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Walking upstream through Issortusut valley.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Looking back to the icy lake and Peak 1208m while reaching the couloir of the 800m high mountain pass.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Bivouac on the rocks in the couloir under the mountain pass.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
At the cliffs, no possibility to go any further.

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?

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
While passing through the ledge in the cliff face high above the Strait Aappilattup Avanna with the Island Pamialluk on the other side.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Evening above Aappilattup Avanna with a view on the mountains around Cape Farvel.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Evening above Aappilattup Avanna covered with field ice and with a view on the impressive mountains rising with there feet from sea level in the strait Torsukattak all up into the clouds.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Field ice drifting through Aappilattup Avanna.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Morning at the edge of the cliffs above Aappilattup Avanna.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
This must be heaven on earth.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Bivouac on top of the mountain ridge above Aappilattup Avanna with an overwhelming view on the mountain peaks in the south.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The bay of Stordalens Havn at high tide, a totally different sight than two days before when I passed the bay at low tide. The bay is only about 2m deep at high tide.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
View into a side valley at the swamp near the saddle in Itillersuaq valley.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Looking back to the saddle in Itillersuaq valley with the Alleruusakasit peaks behind.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Bivouac at the slope under Peak 1102m above Itillersuaq valley.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The meanders of Sisoorartut Kuua river.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Evening glow on the north faces above 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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Next bivouac on the edge of a terrace above Itillersuaq.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The southern part of Tasermiut fjord and the Atlantic Ocean from Peak 1410m.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The Atlantic Ocean covered with field ice, icebergs and the Angissoq islands.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Ketil and Ulamertorsuaq with the interior ice cap behind seen from peak 1410m in the evening light.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Slowly struggling further over the boulders next to a large mountain lake (525m) towards the mountain pass hidden behind the mountain ridge in the center of the picture.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The Qinngua river in lovely Qinnguadalen.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Looking back over Tasersuaq while climbing through the thickets to a mountain pass above the lake.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The result after one hour of bushwhacking and I didn’t reach the mountain pass yet.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
On the worst descend in my life! Pushing myself through the thickets of willow and birch above Tasersuaq while midges were constantly buzzing around my head.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Ready for the night on the southwest end of Tasersuaq lake after a day were I got exhausted.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
At Qalutaassuaq (245m), the hill above Tasiusaq, with Tasersuaq and the surrounding mountain peaks in the distance.

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Tasermiut with a small part of the ice cap on the left and Tasersuaq surrounded by wild mountains on the right, seen from Qaqqatsiaq (500m).

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.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The little Inuit village of Tasiusaq counts about 30 little houses and 90 inhabitants.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
At Tasiusaq I met Superman-Eskimo with his two friends. Fortunately I didn’t need to be rescued.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The last evening in Tasermiut fjord with a bivouac next to the village of Tasiusaq.

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.

Greenland 2009 part I: Tasermiut fjord

During the summer of 2009 I’ve spent five weeks on the southern corner of Greenland. This is the first long post out of four about this long adventure.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Small iceberg drifting in Tasermiut fjord.

At the time I arrived at Nanortalik, the Inuit village on a small island 87km from Cape Farvel, Greenland’s southernmost cape, everything immediately turned into a hurry. I had arranged a boat charter for the next day with Niels from the tourist service. He was waiting for me at the heliport and after we met he suddenly told me I could go on a boat into Tasermiut fjord already in two hours! A professional American photographer working for National Geographic Magazine had arrived in Nanortalik. He was going to photograph the mountains in the fjord and I could join with him on its boat charter into Tasermiut instantly. I rapidly went to the supermarket to buy the latest provisions for my trip into Tasermiut while not trying to worry about the prices, then packed my backpack as fast as I could and went to the port quay where two Inuit were preparing the boat.

Unfortunately I didn’t had my camera by hand on the boat because of the hurry but the views were already amazing. The deeper we entered into Tasermiut the more wild the mountains became. Isolated icebergs were drifting on the southern part of the fjord. I even noticed a few seals on the ice. They jumped into the water each time we came too close. Peter the photographer was sitting in the front of the boat next to the Inuit steersman. Peter was talking all the time but I couldn’t understand the conversation because of the noise from the engine. I was sitting in the back next to a young Inuit, about my age. He was not able to speak English so I remained looking around admiring the landscape. Then suddenly the steersman asked me what I was going to do in the fjord. I explained him my plans. The reaction of the Inuit on trekkers like me is every time the same. Most of them don’t really seem to understand the satisfaction you can get from hiking in a remote place for a long time. But the young Inuit didn’t react as such. He showed me a picture on its cell phone after the steersman started to communicate with Peter again. It was a picture of himself standing on the branches high in a big tree. The picture surely wasn’t taken in Greenland as there are not such big trees here. I assumed the picture was taken in Denmark. Then he made some gestures and I immediately understood what he was trying to say. The Inuit was proud he could have climbed in such a big tree for once, trees which he had never seen before in his homeland. And that is the reason why I was here in Greenland too, not for the trees but for these wild landscapes which I cannot find at home.

I was dropped on the beach at the mouth of Kuussuaq river, the big river which drains Tasersuaq, a huge lake next to the fjord enclosed between alpine peaks. The boat was leaving to drop Peter deeper in the fjord at Klosterdalen. We waved at each other and while the boat left an unpleasant feeling immediately grew in me. The feeling was bilateral. I felt lonely, but this feeling wasn’t really bothering me as it felt more positive than negative. I also felt a sudden pressure, a pressure not to fail on this remote trip. Never before I was so abruptly dropped of in the wilderness. Before I had always started from a village or a road to start penetrating deeper into the wilderness. Immediately there was no way back now. I was alone and isolated. Did I have enough food with me? Did I forget to bring a critical gear item? Maybe something fell out of my backpack unnoticed when I was stuffing the food in my backpack in Nanortalik? I tried to suppress these thoughts which were nothing more than signs of initial stress and walked to nearby Tasersuaq to search for a bivouac place on the tundra next to the sand beaches of the lake. The surroundings were majestic but also a bit frightening at the same time. It was the end of June now and the summer had yet to begin. There was still a lot of snow on the peaks, snow that would be inevitable once I would climb away from the fjord. But what frightened me more were the polar willows. There were willows growing almost everywhere below 200m, covering the ground as a one to two meter thick layer of shrub, difficult to bushwhack. I kept my food close to my body when I went to sleep under the tarp. I had already noticed the footprints of a few polar foxes in the sand on the beach. I didn’t want to let steel my food in my sleep.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Walking between stranded ice on the beach of Tasermiut fjord.

The next days I walked northward on the beach next to the fjord. It was a hard time and my progression slow as my backpack was still weighing over 30kg. Humps of field ice were laying stranded on the beach each time at low tide.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The wild walls and spires of Ketil and Ulamertorsuaq partly hidden in clouds, seen from the summit of Suikkassuaq.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Evening on the third day with already a lot of midges and mosquitoes circling around my head.

On the third day after a rainy night which threw a fresh layer of snow on the mountains, I decided to climb Suikkasuaq (1524m) from the fjord. I left my tarp behind with my food well packed in the backpack underneath. The mountain looked steep from the fjord but I took a route up the mountain from its much less steep southern flank after ascending in the small adjacent valley above the fjord. I could reach the summit easily through the snow without any technical difficulties. Despite the weather wasn’t clear, I was able to see almost the entire length of Tasermiut fjord with snowy peaks around in every direction.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
A resting moment at the fluvial delta of Qoorormiut river before the crossing of the icy cold water. In the background the snowy mountains on the other side of Tasermiut fjord.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
At the river in Nulamertorsuaq valley with evening glow on the peaks.

The next day I arrived at Nulamertorsuaq valley while the weather finally cleared up. As surprise I wasn’t alone there. A group of Swedish climbers were on a alpine expedition, trying an attempt on the big wall of Nulamertorsuaq and the tower of Ulamertorsuaq. They pitched their base camp close to the fjord. Only two climbers were now in base camp. The others went to the base of the wall of Nulamertorsuaq in the head of the valley to construct a secondary camp over there. But there was also another guy. It was Peter. He was renting a zodiac from the tourist office in Nanortalik and had arrived here after a few days in Klosterdalen. He didn’t photograph anything yet. The weather had been too bad all the time for its professional photography. The climbers told me they were already a month nailed in their base camp because it had been raining or snowing frequently the entire past month and the low clouds never lifted during the dry spells in between. Happy as they were now that Niels told them over their satellite telephone that a period of nice weather would break through, they immediately were heading for the big wall.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The spires of Ulamertorsuaq seen from an altitude of about 1000m on its northwest ridge. The scenery one can see from this spot is so encredibly wild.

The valley was really wonderful. Big granite peaks with huge vertical walls were standing like monuments next to the fjord. I remained one day in de valley, climbing on the ridge of Ulamertorsuaq under its tower during the morning until there was no further possibility to climb any higher. At midday a was napping on top of the inselberg in the valley which gave a superb view over Tasermiut and the mountain peaks. In the evening I started climbing towards the summit of Piramiden, not knowing were I would be stranding again. At the end I was climbing on crampons and with ice axe on the snow, almost reaching the summit of Piramiden. The peaks were lit by alpenglow when I arrived just 30m under the final spire which made the summit of the peak. The place is really amazing and incredibly wild with view onto needle like peaks everywhere in the east and north.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Tasermiut fjord and the fluvial delta of the river from Nulamertorsuaq valley.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Looking at Ulamertorsuaq’s north face with Nulamertorsuaq in the back.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Resting moment under the vertical walls on the southwest ridge of Piramiden with a beautiful view over Tasermiut fjord.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The view from Piramiden (1560m).

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Ketil (2003m) as seen from just under the summit of Piramiden (1560m).

It became harder the further I continued northward along the fjord during the next day. Beside the willows, dwarf birches appeared more often now. The bushes were a nerve racking job to bushwhack and a beach was absent most of the time next to the fjord so there was no other choice than to bushwhack. Suddenly I saw a polar fox between the trees. We were both looking each other straight into the eyes while after a few seconds the fox fled away. Minutes later I stumbled upon an open spot between the thickets where another young polar fox, I don’t know if it was the same one of a few minutes earlier, remained barking at me constantly. I was happy to meet these cute foxes.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Lost in the birch trees along Tasermiut fjord. I didn’t like the bushwhacking here.

The day remained bushwhacking all the time until I suddenly stumbled on a big river. It was the Uiluiit Kuaa which drained Klosterdalen. The river was just on the edge of flooding with the grey silty glacial water flowing at high speed through the river bed. I immediately started to search for a place to ford. The river emptied into the fjord over a wide waterfall. It was possible to step further into the river bed over the rocks here. According to the information written on the backside of the map, this should be the suggested place to wade the river, just above the waterfall. But there was no single hair on my body which wanted to even try it over here. The water was way to furious and fast. If I would try it here I definitely would be swept away by the current into the waterfall. So I continued to search for a ford further upstream while sounding the depth of the river with my walking poles. Just next to the river bank I sometimes couldn’t even feel the bottom with my poles which meant the river must have been deeper than 1.5m already next to the river bank. Further upstream the river turned into churning whitewater. Wading here would mean committing suicide. I realized I was stuck here. The river was impossible to wade or I must swim to the other side over the deep and more quiet section just upstream of the waterfall. Seen the icy temperatures of the glacial water this was the last thing I would try. I ended with studying the mouth of the river into the fjord just below the waterfall. It was high tide now but despite the high water level in the fjord and the cloudy water there seemed to be a river delta present under water. So I made the decision the bivouac close to the fjord and wait for low tide tomorrow at 06h17 and try to wade over the delta in the fjord. If this wouldn’t succeed there would be no other solution than to keep bushwhacking deeper into Klosterdalen to search for a spot to wade the river much further upstream.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
This young polar fox was always barking at me. When I came too close he hid behind the rock.

The next morning the water levels in the fjord had dropped for two meters and sandbars now emerged above the water level. A river delta appeared in the low waters of the fjord. Happy as I was I immediately tried to wade over the delta. The wide river channels were only knee deep now and the current slow. I only had to fight with the icy temperature of the water but that was now only a detail. I was happy not to end up swimming through the river.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The falls of Uiluiit Kuua river into Tasermiut fjord. On the right you can see the delta of the river in the fjord at low tide. That is the place where I found a possibility to wade.

I continued further north along the fjord which meant bushwhacking again as the shore existed of a low cliff face next to Klosterdalen. The thickets even grew closer to each other than ever before on the trip. I was more climbing into the trees and putting steps from branch to branch than walking on the soil between the trees. After a long time I reached the gravel beach passed the cliffs and the day became a relief as I could remain walking on the beach all the way to the huge fluvial delta of Tiningnertooq river draining the next valley. Sermeq came now well into view, the glacier which came down from the ice cap into the fjord, while yet new impressive peaks appeared on my right towering high above Tiningnertooq valley.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Looking at Sermeq from the huge fluvial delta of Tiningnertooq.

When I approached the large fluvial delta of the river, I suddenly heard those typical screeching noises above me. I looked up into the sky and saw two big eagles circling around. I had never seen such big eagles before in my life. It were a couple of Greenlandic white tailed eagles which apparently seem to be the second largest eagle on the planet. I immediately stopped walking and remained staring at those beautiful large birds while a raven came flying closer a moment later, attacking the eagles in flight. Despite their extreme wingspan they didn’t seem to be left alone here by the much smaller ravens. I was so stunned about the eagles that I forgot to take pictures of them. One of the eagles returned to its nest which seemed to be built high on a ledge in the almost vertical walls of a nearby mountain. The other flew away over the fjord.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The wild Tiningnertooq valley with its green bottom, the silty river and the glaciers in the back.

Not much later I encountered the delta of the Tiningnertooq river. The river was huge but was spreading itself out in multiple channels over the delta which didn’t seem to be that deep. I took off my pants and mountain boots and waded the five channels to the other side. The water was extremely cold but the wading itself remained without troubles.

Then I hid a food cache between stones on the valley slope and took a short midday nap. The plan was to make a loop of two days further north so I could leave excessive food behind. In the lower part of the Tiningnertooq valley the terrain remained rather easy walking on the tundra, but that changed deeper into the valley. I crossed several swamps and than encountered the first willow bushes. The polar willows grew two to three meters high here. Bushwhacking remained somewhat easier here than through the dwarf birches along Tasermiut but progression remained slow and agitating nonetheless. I tried to find an easier passage along the river without much success. Deeper in the valley I changed plan to climb over the rock slope above the bushes even though that asked for stone hopping from boulder to boulder. This way I had a wide view over the valley but at the end it didn’t turn out as easier walking. So I descended back into the willows.

Halfway the valley I got above the tree line and walking became finally easier. The deep U-shaped valley was impressive. Big wild glaciers fell down to the bottom of the valley head and the peaks above the southern side of the valley were still covered with a thick snow cover. At a certain moment I heard a loud noise above me. An avalanche of wet snow was descending from the mountains and fell down all the way onto the valley floor where I had been walking a minute earlier, carrying a lot of boulders on its way. It was impressive to see but I was happy at the same time not to be standing in its path.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Standing on the mountain pass with a view towards the Tininnertuup towers.

At the head of the valley close to the tongue of the glacier, I left the valley floor behind me and started climbing in zigzags over the northern valley slope towards a mountain pass in the mountain ridge. There was a black hiking route drawn on the map over the pass. By climbing over boulders and snowfields and later on with my hands over the rocks I reached the 950m high mountain pass where I was amazed by the wild views. Only steep mountain peaks, some of them towering into the sky like needles, snow, glaciers and grey rocks were the only things to see around.

A glacier was lying below at the other side of the mountain pass just like was drawn on the map. There were no open cracks visible in the glacier. It was instead still covered by a snow deck which must be even thicker than one meter, just what I had been hoping for. I descended the rocks and stepped onto the glacier. The snow was soft now and I sagged till my hips in the snow. That was less fun. Much further the glacier became steep enough so I could start sliding down over the snow on my butt.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Bivouac under an overhanging rock under the Tininnertuup towers. During that night my sleeping mattress got leak on the rocks.

Below I reached the glacier bed were a chaos of boulders had been left aside by the retreating of the glacier. Much snow was still lying between the boulders. The snow was now more compacted so I tried to walk on the snow as much as possible but a few times I sagged into a melting hole in the snow. It was getting dark already but there was no possibility to make a bivouac on this terrain. I kept walking until I reached the lower part of the moraine were I found a nice spot to sleep under an overhanging boulder between a maze of more boulders, snowfields and streams of melting water. This way I didn’t have to pitch the tarp and was staying dry from the rain. During the night I woke up by the cold leaking through my Prolite air mattress. All the air seemed to be escaped out of my Thermarest. The valve was still tightly closed so it appeared to have become leak on the scree. I blew it up as much as I could and could find a good nights sleep again. A dense fog had formed around with drizzle falling onto the boulder. Water drops were dripping next to my bivy bag but I stayed dry myself.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
In the mountains under the glacier in the head of Tininnertuup valley with midges and mosquitoes flying everywhere around.

An unbearable amount of midges and mosquitoes was teasing me during the morning. I sprayed DEET for the first time but it didn’t make much difference. The creatures kept buzzing around my head and only didn’t land on my arms anymore.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Walking through Tininnertuup valley towards the fjord after wading several smaller streams.

The fog was dissolving rather quickly during the morning and when I was ready to go the sun was shining vigorously. It even became a warm day in the mountains. I left the moraine and walked further through the valley under the Tininnertuup towers towards the head of Tasermiut, crossing several glacial streams. Lower in the valley the fjord came back in sight. Just before the point where the valley starts to make a steep final drop down to the fjord, I stepped onto the side moraine wall of Sermitsiaq, the most southern glacier of Greenland which drains the ice cap. The glacier was impressive despite the fact that it didn’t make contact anymore with the fjord. About a century ago the glacier fell down into Tasermiut and has now already retreated for 2km. I descended the boulders of the huge moraine wall and walked to the small extending peninsula between the fjord and the lake scoured out by the glacier. There was a lot of wind around the fjord so I waited till the evening to pitch the tarp. I was now close to Sermeq too. This glacier still fell down into the fjord but the glacier front was now only a bit less wide than 100m while on the map the glacier front was drawn like 800m wide. A few small icebergs were drifting in front of the glacier front. I assumed Sermeq had once been much more active with producing icebergs. Maybe one or a few years from now and the glacier will not touch the fjord anymore.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Lifting morning clouds at the bivouac place under Sermitsiaq glacier.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Sermeq at the head of Tasermiut fjord with dissolving morning cloud.

During the night the fjord wind died down and a beautiful morning followed. Low clouds initially obscured the view to the mountains but everything dissolved in about one hour of time. I walked to the mouth of the river from the Tininnertuup valley. Yesterday I had already been looking at the river and it seemed only possible to wade just at its mouth into the fjord. It was again low tide now during the morning, the best time to wade such a river. But the river turned out much more difficult to wade than I had thought before. The water came till my hips and I had much difficulties to keep wading in a straight line. The water was pushing me towards the fjord. Luckily passed halfway I found a shallow bank underwater or I would have been dragged down into the deep waters of the fjord.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Trying to follow my path over the steep boulder slopes along Tasermiut fjord.

Then I continued returning to my food cache in Tiningnertooq valley by walking over the steep mountain slope along the fjord. This turned out in boulder hopping most of the time. There were a few small streams which searched their way to the fjord through a small ravine on the slope. Luckily there was always a spot to find were I could descend down into the ravine, step over the stream and climb back out of the ravine. Later on a pebble beach appeared and walking became easy again.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The huge fluvial delta of Tiningnertooq river in Tasermiut.

My food cache remained untouched. I immediately put everything back in my backpack and walked towards the Tiningnertooq river. It was a warm sunny day now and when I arrived on the banks of the river I almost lost all my courage. The river was flooding! The water level must have been almost one meter higher than two days earlier when I succeeded wading the river on its delta without problems with much less water. I followed the river downstream towards the delta.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The Tiningnertooq river is flooding due to the high amounts of snow melting on this warm and sunny afternoon and I need to find a way to cross it!

The river channels were much wider now but didn’t looked very deep. The water of the fjord was now penetrating deeper onto the delta as high tide was approaching, not the ideal time to wade but I didn’t want to wait for hours for the water levels to drop. Most of the channels were now about 100m wide and not deep at all. The freezing temperatures were the only difficulty to face. But that changed when the main river channel followed at the end. Here everything looked different. The main channel was less wide than most of the other channels but the water was flowing at a much faster speed of around 25km/h. I could hear the sound of scraping gravel on the bottom of the channel bed. I stepped into the water and immediately couldn’t wade in a straight line. I constantly felt small stones, transported into the current, clashing against my feet and lower legs. I needed all my strength to keep my balance in the current with my hiking poles. The water never became deeper than my knees but the current was so powerful that I stepped out of the channel about 60m further downstream, about the distance of the width of the channel.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Crossing the Tiningnertooq river on its delta while a handful mosquitos are sucking in the back of my legs. Here you can see me wading through one of the easier channels.

For the rest of the day I returned the same way as before towards Klosterdalen and heard a polar fox barking at me for a long time along the fjord. In lower Klosterdalen I searched for the ruins of the Norse monastery from the middle ages but didn’t found anything. I pitched the tarp on a hill were I had a lookout over the swamps deeper in Klosterdalen. The Uiluiit Kuaa was also flooding now at some places just like the Tiningnertooq river.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The big tower of Ketil guarding the entrance to Klosterdalen. The big wall on it’s northwest face has a vertical height difference of 1400m. Many of the best rock climbers in the world have made an attempt to climb the peak over this wall, most of them failed. The peak is compared with El Capitan in Yosemite and Monte Fitz Roy in Patagonia, though Ketil’s face is higher and by far less attempted due to its remote location and relatively unknown status.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
A few very young larch trees are growing on a natural way at the entrance of Klosterdalen close to the fjord. Proves of global warming can be found everywhere on South-Greenland.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Bivouac on a hill in Klosterdalen close to the Klosterruin with the mountain peaks glowing under the evening sun.

The next day I walked deeper into Klosterdalen towards a mountain pass which would give way to Tupaassat valley and Kangikitsoq fjord. Behind the rock beds under the steep colossal north face of Ketil’s tower, towering 2000m above the valley floor, where the whitewater of the Uiluit Kuaa drops towards Tasermiut, the valley floor of Klosterdalen becomes wide and flat. The valley floor is one big swamp here, 8km long and half to one kilometer wide. The river flowed relatively slowly through the swamp in a deep winding channel. Walking through the swamp turned out impossible, so I had no other choice than to bushwhack through the dwarf birches on the valley slope next to the swamp. Deeper in the valley I could step on a levee at the bank of a small river channel in the swamp and keep following the small channel all its way through the swamp. Halfway the valley I left the valley floor and climbed towards the 520m high mountain pass, at first bushwhacking till the tree line.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Hippuris Vulgaris dancing with the winds in the swamps of Klosterdalen.

There was I cold strong breeze blowing through the mountain pass. A frozen mountain lake with a lot of snow on the mountain slopes was all I could already see at the other side of the pass. A ring of stones was constructed on the pass. It seemed I was not the first one who was going to spent the night on the pass. When my tarp was pitched between the ring of stones I found a small can with 300g of pork meet. The word “take” was engraved on the canned meat and “produced January 2007” was typed on it. It seemed to be left here a year ago by the last people who crossed the pass and then survived the winter. I couldn’t help it by opening the can and eat the meat. It wasn’t very tasteful anymore but I ate everything just for the extra calories.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Still overcast the next morning at the bivouac place on the mountain pass above Klosterdalen with a view on the peaks and towers on the other side of the valley.

I passed the icy lake over the snow at its north side opposite as the hiking route on the map suggests. Hiking over the rocky terrain and the snowfields was now easy again. Numerous peaks towered into the sky along both sides of the valley with hanging glaciers draping the steep slopes of the U-shaped valley. At a certain moment I had a view over the entire continuation of the valley with Kangikitsoq fjord in the distance. The valley looked wild and difficult closer to the fjord. Large icebergs were drifting on the fjord, dimensions bigger than I had seen before in Tasermiut. It seemed cold over there.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Passing the icy lake high in Tupaassat valley with only snow and rocks around.

Halfway in Tupaassat valley I passed a 3km long mountain lake while the terrain became hard again. I walked carefully along the lake as there were spots with quicksand. And then at the end of the lake I bumped against hell. The lake was dammed by a huge wall of granite boulders, a moraine left aside by the glacier of an adjacent valley. The boulders measured dimensions ranging from a car to the container of a truck and they occupied the whole width of the valley floor. Passing along the moraine over the valley slope was impossible, too steep. It took a lot of time to find a passage through the maze.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The lower part of Tupaassat valley with too many bushes and to many difficult boulder moraines and Kangikitsoq fjord filled with icebergs behind with the mountainous islands near Cape Farvel behind the fjord.

When I finally stepped out of the first boulder moraine I lost all my courage. After a flat fluvial plain only moraine relics consisting of even larger boulders were visible all over the valley floor. What the hell! I made a short descent onto the plain and started to search for a bivouac spot. Proceeding through the boulders would have been stupid now. The fluvial plain was soggy and all over covered by low willow shrub with frequent small streams of melting water flowing through the shrub. There was no other option than to search a bivouac spot along the river. But the river in Tupaassat was also partly flooding at the moment due to the high amounts of snow melting again in the mountains. Luckily I did found a spot to lay down and pitch the tarp on a higher gravel bar. The river was impressive. A furious glacial stream of white cloudy water joined the crystal clear water of the main river. One half of the river remained cloudy over a long distance while the other half remained clear blue water were I could see the bottom of the river everywhere, two to three meters deep. The water was flowing at very high speed with big loud swirls in the bends. The hiking route drawn on the map suggests to wade the river here! I was asking myself who made that stupid decision to draw it like that on the map. Even with low water levels, this river seemed very hard and dangerous wading.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
The high mountains in Tupaassat valley from a bend in the river. The mountains rise more than 1600m straight from the valley floor.

My head was lost in a cloud of midges during the entire evening. I prepared dinner and went to sleep immediately after. I was a bit anxious, worried what the day of tomorrow would bring. Tupaassat valley seemed like a doorway to hell.

My enthusiasm was not that high when I stood in front of the next wall of boulders during the morning. There was again no passage to find to reach the debris cones on the lower valley slope were it looked easier walking. The whole day remained searching passages through a huge labyrinth of boulders. Some boulders had the dimensions of a house. I frequently had to jump from boulder to boulder, turn back as I reached a dead end, waded through waist deep water along the flooded river to avoid another strenuous passage through the maze. After a long time I encountered a debris cone of smaller boulders which fell from the valley slope into the boulder field on the valley floor. I could reach the debris cone and climb over it towards the valley slope. Here progression became straightforward over the debris on the valley slope above the boulders. I was partly relieved.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
A Greenlandic White-tailed Eagle above Tupaassat valley. With a wingspan of around 250cm, the Greenlandic White-tailed eagle is significantly larger than the European white-tailed eagle and the second largest eagle in the world after the wedge-tailed eagle. I saw 6 eagles in total during the trip, always in a couple. One always came circling above me for about ten minutes, I assume of curiosity, while making loud noises. For more information about these eagles have a look at Wikipedia and Greenland tourism.

Towards the end of the valley another lake lies embedded between the boulders. Its name is Drepanocladus Dam. When I was next to the lake a couple of Greenlandic white tailed eagles came circling above me for the second time. Passed by the lake, the boulder moraine on the valley floor stopped and the valley floor now only existed of tundra with scattered inselbergs, some of them up to 60m high. I walked towards the shore of the fjord and pitched the tarp next to the river delta.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Drepanocladus Dam in the lower Tupaassat valley is a natural lake blocked by a boulder moraine. According to the map one should cross the river just downstream of Drepanocladus Dam and continue one’s way upstream the valley along the eastern side of the river. In reality this is deadly dangerous! Some years ago the Inuit youth camp school of Nuugaarsuk walked upstream the valley with a small group of young Inuit children during their summer vacation. They tried to cross the river as the map suggests. Two boys, one of 17 years old and the other 19 years old, were immediately swept away in the furious river. A big rescue operation followed but their bodies have never been found.

It was cold along the fjord. Huge icebergs were drifting on the fjord. About every half an hour a piece of ice broke off an iceberg, clashing into the water with a thunderous sound. I was very tired and went to sleep early. Today I had only covered a distance of 4km on the map. The terrain had been too hard for more.

I couldn’t find a good nights sleep during the night. Temperatures dropped to freezing and I was on the edge of shivering in my sleeping bag on my leak thermarest. Despite the freezing night mosquitoes were very abundant during the morning.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Kangikitsoq fjord with icebergs and the mountains around Cape Farvel seen from an inselberg next to the delta of the river. Note my tarp pitched next to the delta.

I climbed away from Kangikitsoq fjord in the morning towards a 550m high mountain pass which gave access to Qinnguadalen which, according to the map, must be one of the most lovely valleys in entire Greenland. The mountain pass was still all over covered with a thick snow cover but that made it easier to pass over it. I descended into the valley along the young Qinngua river under a huge glacial tongue till at a certain moment I encountered another field of boulders on the valley floor. Oh no, not again!

Yes, it was true. The upper part of Qinnguadalen was not much different then the passage between the two lakes in Tupaassat valley yesterday. It took me hours to find a passage through the boulders. Most of them had again dimensions between a truck container and a house. I spent the entire afternoon and evening to search a way through the 3km long maze of boulders. It was late in the evening when I finally arrived on some tundra terrain still high in Qinnguadalen. Despite all the roughness around, it was an attractive place. Hanging glacial tongues covered the valley slopes, their moraines spreading out onto the valley floor, high peaks along both sides of the valley. And by looking southwest through the U-shaped valley the wild peaks of Putooruttoq were visible above Tasersuaq.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
A dark evening in Qinnguadalen with a splendid view on the mountain massif of Putooruttoq.

The weather had deteriorated today. It was now overcast and windy with gusts rushing downward through the valley. I pitched the tarp behind a wall on the tundra to be somewhat protected against the gusts.

I was curious what the lower part of Qinnguadalen would bring. I passed the latest boulder moraines in the middle of the valley the next morning and then reached the tree line. Yes, lower Qinnguadalen would be the climatologically warmest place on entire Greenland and hence the valley is very green with a thick carpet of willow and birch on the lower valley floor. The birch trees even grow up to 5m high close to Tasersuaq, the highest trees in Greenland. On the map the lower part of Qinnguadalen, where this unique and only forest in Greenland is located, was described like a paradise, but for this bushwhacking soul it didn’t seem to be like that. The thickets meant once again hard bushwhacking all day long. During the afternoon a rainstorm set in and the mountain peaks disappeared in the clouds.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Looking back through Qinnguadalen while wringing and pushing myself through the bushes of willow and birch along the Qinngua river.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
Standing in Qinnguadalen at the remnants of an old Norse farm from the 12th or 13th century.

I reached the most eastern point of Tasersuaq in the evening and pitched the tarp low between the birch next to the shore. The rainstorm continued the entire night and morning. The wind gusts changed direction all the time. It was a miracle for myself to be able to keep myself dry under the tarp.

Greenland 2009: Tasermiut fjord & Cape Farvel
After a night with much rain and wind, the sun is finally breaking through the clouds on the bivouac place at the eastern shore of Tasersuaq.

14 days were passed now. I was slightly passed halfway on my adventure into Tasermiut. Before heading to Tasiusaq where I would be picked up on a boat to Nanortalik, I wanted to search for a passage high through the mountains to reach the fjord land close to Greenland’s southernmost cape, Cape Farvel, where the very isolated Inuit village of Aappilattoq is located. I’ll publish the continuation of the trip in a second long post.