maandag 20 oktober 2014

Greenland Chapter 4: Earth and Water - Towards the unknown fjords and a new objective

Kangikitsoq Fjord... Almost!!!
… Together we cruised down the mountain river in our kayaks with a ton of gear. We were surrounded by the most beautiful mountains, glaciers, rocky fields, flowers, meadows,… in a nutshell: wild nature at its best! Unlike the flat and deep waters of the fjords, kayaking on this shallow and small mountain river in Klosterdalen with a rubber ‘flat-water’ kayak was exciting. We had been sick of hiking! Check out the ridiculous amount of hiking we did to follow the story: 
Greenland Big Wall Kayak Trip - The Map

Me, kayaking straight into the small lake.
Back in time… (day 23)

After the disappointment of the Titans we returned on day 23 all the way towards the Tasermiut entrance of the Klosterdalen valley and ended our third day hiking back where we started. We aimed to get all the other gear we had left three days before and carry it up to the Titans and from there on we would make our way with a total of 240kg towards the other end of the valley (Kangikitsoq Fjord). When we arrived that night at 8pm we saw a sailboat that had his anchorage in the bay below the Ketil Fjeld south face. Tim, social and unashamed like he is, didn’t hesitate and suggested to go and have a look at the sailboat. Who knows… maybe they could bring our gear to the other side of the Klosterdalen Valley so we didn’t have to carry it all… We blew up a kayak and peddled straight to the boat. This is where we met a nice crew of British sailors on their ten week trip in south Greenland. After some thee and blueberry crumble we had a plan, they agreed bringing our extra food and gear (40kg) towards the Inuit Village of Aappilattoq. They would be there in more or less one week, that’s the time we probably needed to carry all our gear to the other end of the valley and continue by kayak to the village.

Back to day 26…

Our two loaded kayaks in the small lake after the river excitement.
We were lucky because we could cover some distance in the valley by kayak. During the last five days we hiked three times every distance with a backpack of 35 kg, so 6 bag’s in total for the two of us. The days were long, the distance we covered we did five times, three times with the bags and two times to return for the bags. This morning we started our day with some kayaking on the big river lake which is 2,5 km long. What a luxury, not having to hike that distance five times! Unfortunately, from the end of the lake we had to hike more or less 2 km again with the bags. We hiked to a point were we could set up the kayaks again and continue on the mountain river that alights in a small mountain lake. This is where we are right now, I was ahead of Tim kayaking in the direction of the small lake. The closer we came to the lake the calmer the river became. Suddenly the stream pushed us into the lake, which was breathtakingly. The lake was full of granite boulders sticking out of the water and on shore on both sides of the lake, smooth hills covered with low blackberry bushes and more boulders gave a peaceful atmosphere. At the end of the lake the river continued, but this time it became to wild for our rubber boats to go any further. Here we got on shore and made camp, only half a day hiking with all the bags and we would be at the beginning of the Kangikitsoq Fjord.

Day 27, our legs were tired and keeping balance hiking over this rough terrain with 35kg became more difficult every day. It was about time we could kayak long distances again. In five times 40 minutes walking we arrived at the start of the fjord. What a relief and a great performance. In total we hiked the Klosterdalen valley (22,5 km) five times with a total of 100 kg per person on the back and an altitude gain and descent of 600m through rough terrain. This afternoon we deserved a rest. We found a grassy flat spot next to the seawater, the weather was nice and we chilled and made our small expedition pizzas. Our idyllic camping spot was located next to the rivermouth and surrounded by the sea. We were surrounded by steep hills as well on the land as in the sea. The hills in the sea made gorgeous little islands.     
Expedition pizza's!
The Idillic camping spot at the start of the Kangikitsoq Fjord.
Only one hour later things changed on our heavenly camping spot. Although the sea was very far away when we had pitched up the tent, the tides came in quickly. Suddenly we started to worry about the dryness of our spot, maybe this grassy spot didn’t had any low bushes because the seawater would cover it when the tides get high? This would explain the few death fish we found lying around in the grass…  We had only ten minutes to react. We ate our last pizza and started to blow up the kayaks, took the tent down and packed everything together. We had to rush, the seawater already started to flood on the grass. Before we even entirely realised what was happening, small fish were swimming where our tent had been five minutes ago and we were standing ankle deep in the water. I’ve never blown up a kayak this quick! Loaded with the gear, they were now floating on top of the grassy spot. This was the easiest way to get off shore we had ever experienced, in ten minutes the tides lifted our kayaks and off we went. The rules of Nature, you have to listen. 
Me ready for take off from the grassy platform!

Our idyllic camping spot became a watery swamp!
This time we searched for a safer spot high above the seawater. It didn’t require much discussion time to decide were our new camping spot would be. We chose one of the islands in the middle of the fjord, climbed up on one with a perfect flat spot and made an even more idyllic camping spot come true! Here we were, seven days of hiking behind, on a small island surrounded by water, fish and mountains. The feeling of autonomy was highly present, we got there on our own strength with 200kg of gear. Satisfied we enjoyed the bareness around us we had never experienced somewhere else before.
Tim and I pointing at the magic island, look at that dome on the dome-like island!
For extra training I exercised my standup paddle boarding techniques! 
Chilling with all our mess on the island.
The water way to an unknown culture

It was day 28th of the trip since we had left Belgium and for the first day in one week our legs could rest the whole day. This time we made our arms work. Again we woke up on a sunny day, packed our tent and left the island. We continued by kayak descending the Kangikitsoq Fjord following our ‘old school’ maps in the direction of Aappilattoq. This was such a nice way of transportation, the kayaks are big, stable and comfortable. Both of us had each three big bags on top of the kayak. Using lashing straps, ropes and minitractions we strapped the bags to the boats so they couldn’t fall out on moving water. The first 45 minutes my whole upper body was hurting but after a while it is like running, you just go and find your own rhythm and flow. Because the environment around us was so big and intimidating you really feel small and vulnerable. The fjord is long and 2 km wide so peddling sometimes seems endless. 

Exploring the icebergs...
Three weeks before, when we left Nanortalik we talked to José, the head guide of the tourist company ‘Tasermiut Expeditions’, about the kayak conditions in these fjords. With a little concern he told us the sea could get really rough because of the wind that slides down the glaciers straight into the fjords. On the map he showed us several spots were the Piteraq can get really bad. Kayaking in this sunny and airless weather wasn’t particularly scary. I guess the weather gods were with us because with our big fat inflatable kayaks we realised to peddle twice as far the distance José told us would be possible in one day. We kayaked 17 km all the way towards the exit of the Kangerluk fjord and it took us about 6 to 7 hours. It felt so great to cover a distance this big in one day compared to the slow hiking days where we had to hike every gained distance five times.
Tim enjoying our 5th our of kayaking that day! 
Kids were standing on shore between the red, green and blue houses of the Inuit village Aappilattoq. We arrived in their bay on our 29th day in between the fisherman’s speedboats and got on shore. The kids welcomed us immediately and helped pulling out our kayaks and moving the gear on shore. Like always it felt strange to arrive in a remote place were people live and you don’t really belong. Aappilattoq has 120 citizens who live in small wooden and colourful houses. The atmosphere is mysterious at the beginning, mostly we saw kids playing around, but that was it. There is not much going on besides fishing in summer and seal hunting in the winter. 
A quite morning in Aappilattoq.
The village is basic; there was a kid’s playground, where we were standing with our gear, a small school, one shop, a post office and one community house. First of all we went to the shop and bought some real bread, fruit, cake and more sweets. Delicious! We bought the food we were craving for the last several weeks. But it was strange when we finally had the food. It did feel like the amazing relief we imagined it would feel like. Strange sometimes how quick you forget the luxury you have when you’re right in the middle of it! Sometimes it’s just better to dream about something you don’t have then when you finally get it, even with the food it is like that. At the shop and postoffice we hoped to find our two bags the British sailors promised to deliver. Apparently they hadn’t seen any sailboat for a long time so we hoped we would still cross them when continuing towards the basecamp of the Thumbnail in Stordalens Havn. After we got stuffed with all the unhealthy food we started to have a look around. Soon we realised we had nothing to do there besides eating. What a life, but not what we were here for! The moment we decided to leave Aappilattoq by kayak again we met Themo, the only citizen who spoke some English. He told us about the village and the life as an Inuit in Aappilattoq. The citizens are very social and the community feeling is very important for them.

Suddenly we got invited for coffee and cake in the small house of an old, but known and well appreciated man. It was his 65th birthday and he started his retirement after many years of working in the community centre. Tim and I sat in the middle of the room, surrounded by a whole Inuit family of all ages. After a while only my curiosity broke the awkward silences when I tried to communicate with them using sign language and the easiest English I could speak. Slowly we got to know the family situation and why the ‘birthday grandpa’ was such a respected man. He had been the communication point of the village for several years. 
The party house with some local loading up the beers!
That night we got invited to the most random party I had ever been to. With almost forty people we sat around tables in a small red Inuit hut the size of a squash room. We got dinner and drinks like we were family members. Tim and I expected some funky Inuit meal but against all our expectations they served us an almost typical Belgian meal! Because they don’t have land to grow vegetables and the climate isn’t perfect for it, they have to buy vegetables in the store, in cans of coarse. They served us peas and carrots in a can, boiled potatoes and a peace of meat, the perfect Flemish dish, which made us think of our families at home. Except for the meat, it was a particular bird they had shot around the area. After some ceremony and singing in Greenlandic language the party started. The local band appeared and the tables went aside! The local band had one guitar and one keyboard with an amplifier. We were curious about the music they would play. As soon as everything was installed they immediately started. Before we knew everybody was dancing and singing out loud and we were right in the middle of it. While Tim was dancing with the mega drunk lady of the son of the birthday grandpa, I was swinging around the small hut with a lady three times my weight! The big guy behind the keyboard pressed infrequently some random keys and played some beats while the guy with the guitar jammed quite well. Suddenly the music changed and some kind of soccer loud screaming song started. Tim and I had no clue what happened when we suddenly followed everybody outside in a row dancing in a circle around the whole house singing the soccer-like song. Enjoying ourselves we danced and sang for a bit longer before leaving the party that was getting more and more full of drunk little Inuit’s. I hope my birthday party is as cool when I’m 65.
On the right... Tim's drunk but lovely dancing partner for the night!
Meeting up with the ‘Lads’

The next day, day 30, we said goodbye to some hangover locals, packed our tent and left again by kayak in the direction of Stordalens Havn, 10 km further away. While kayaking we kept an eye open hoping we would run into the British sailors. Lucky bastards we were, when we arrived at Stordalens Havn the Brits sailed into the bay at the same time we did. Unbelievable actually how much ‘logistical’ luck we have on this trip. We didn’t have to pay too much for all the bags on the plane, the Norwegain lift into Tasermiut, the British sailors who transported 40 kilo’s and most of all… the weather that was more or less good for about 30 days now! What is next? Or what not? We planned to stay for two more weeks in the area of Torsukatak Fjord so we could aim for a new line on the humongous big wall ‘The Thumbnail’ with a height of 1350 meter. Also we had been thinking about our way back home. Since we had met the British sailors we had the idea to ask them if we could join them on their sailboat crossing the Atlantic ocean all the way back to England. The last few days Tim had been obsessively talking about sailing all day every day. So when we met them again in Stordalens Havn Tim bluntly asked the crew if we could get a ride back on their boat. Friendly and psyched as they were they didn’t mind having two dirtbags with over 200kg of stinky climbing gear on their boat. They would pick us up in over a week time so we could have an attempt on the Thumbnail before crossing the ocean back to civilisation.

The mighty Thumbnail blasting out of the water!
We spent one night in Stordalens Havn basecamp and prepared for the Big Wall goal. Finally we reached the point we had aimed for this long. The Thumbnail was waiting for us… a new virgin big wall climb was there to be climbed. But things turned out differently… things turned out not liked expected… A complex story of disappointments… in ourselves, in the team… This story will be revealed in the next “Chapter 5: The Thumbnail – A struggle with ourselves, the team and the goals…”

Some bouldering on the way in Klosterdalen.
Pizza time in the 'very' soon flooded meadow.
Tim's first 'first' ascent!
The island! 
Found a new bone for my though surfer boy neckless! 


It's an incredibly unbelievable article, thank you so much for sharing it with us! You're right, I agree with you, there are definitely a lot of unknown things in the world we never used to see or hear about! Click on to see what these things are!

What a lovely trip and great photos!
I am thinking about hiking in Klosterdalen in summer 2017.
How much time would you recommend for a hike from the beginning of Klosterdalen in Tasermiut Fjord and all the way through the valley to Kangikitsoq Fjord, by foot? Could you recommend a good map that covers the area?
Thank you!

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More