Before I start this i must say Greenland has almost no Wifi and the Ice Cap of course has no internet…and I was there for 3 days…when I go back to Ilulissat, the town Internet was down…I will post good pictures when I get home…these are just a few iphone pics
Friday was the day… the whole reason I came to Greenland…to go see the Ice Cap and stay at the Eqi Camp, which are several huts on a cliff right next to the tongue of the Ice Cap. I chose to spend the money to stay in what is called the Comfort Hut…it is all glass on one wall looking out into the Ice Fjord and the Ice Cap…
We took off by boat from the Ilulissat Harbor..but not before I had to hike into town with my full pack on my back because it seems the cabs are unpredictable on a Holiday and Friday was their National Day…It was good practice for when I get to Eqi…where I was told I will need to carry my bag up stairs built into the cliff quite a distance…well at least there would be stairs!
The day started off a little uncertain, weatherwise, when I woke up at 5am…it was raining…and a little foggy…but I had heard the weather would be completely different at the Glacier, which was about 6 hours north. But by the time I hit the road, heading into town, the rain had stopped and it looked like a lovely day was in store…as soon as I got to World of Greenland, they loaded us into various vans and shuttled us onto our “luxury” boat (-: It was a small ice crusher boat(not able to get through black ice but able to cut through Glacier Ice) that looked like it had seen a few icebergs in it’s time…there were a few people from the plane as well as the Australian woman I had hiked with the day before…Once again we were treated to the beauty of sailing between the Icebergs…until we left the bay in Ilulissat. I clamored to the upper deck and joined the lovely German couple I had met on the plane. The chill soon turned to serious cold and the wind as the boat was going along made the temperature even icier..A couple caught my eye…they were bundled up in Seal Skin jackets and had these Penguin Hats on that I mistook for Puffins…seems I still have Puffins on the brain…I, of course, had to take their picture…and as destiny would have it, they, too, were spending 2 nights at the Glacier Huts…Most on the boat were just going out to see the Glacier for a day trip…it’s a full 12 hour trip for those just enjoying the tour. The British family from the plane were also along…I was impressed by this because they had done the Midnight Sail the night before…but I guess when in Greenland why sleep! (-:
The boat trip was non eventful until we began to catch glimpses of the Ice Cap…and then we entered what is called the Ice Fjord…at this point, I was quite appreciative of the fact I was in a good solid Ice boat…because it was needed to cut between the small Ice Bergs…suddenly, we noticed that the Ice was rather solid around us…but the boat kept going forward…at a slower pace so as not to hit any “black ice”…When I looked out the back, I could see the ice closing in the area we just came through…Pictures do not do it justice…it was like we were traveling on land…We eventually got as close as we were going to get because the Ice was getting too thick…So we stopped and turned the engine off to watch the Glacier…but more importantly to listen…The sound of thunder came out of the area and we all got quiet and positioned our cameras to see the calving of the ice…which is when large chunks of the Ice Cap break off into the water…but we saw nothing…every few minutes we’d hear the Thunder…and then,finally, to our pleasure a piece broke of on the far right…of course, my camera was not fast enough to catch it…then the noises happened again and we all looked intently on where the next piece would break…again, it happened in the same area and again too fast to catch…I have learned since being at the camp, that the glacier tends to calve into itself in the interior parts which is the loud thundering we would hear and yet not seeing anything…This particular Glacier known as the Eqip Sermia moves 2 km per day…the one in Ilulissat moves 50 km per day…that is why tin he bay there has so many huge Ice Bergs at Ilulissat After an hour, we headed toward our drop off…we could see out Huts way up on the hillside…we were told that there had been a rather large tsunami the day before and it wiped out the loading dock, the bottom portion of the stairs and all the supplies that they had down there…when I got to the camp, one of the Danish guides showed us the tsunami hitting rather high up the rock area on his camera…he said they heard the crack of the very very large piece of ice and the crash into the Fjord and knew they had 4 minutes to get up…the first wave crashed over the dock…the 2nd took some supplies and the 3rd came even higher…at which point you could see them scrambling to even higher ground…and the 4th wave was the worse…it wiped everything they had and crashed over the sign, which is fairly high up…an Arctic Tsunami is actually quite common and there are warnings in Ilulissat to not go on the bay beach since they have had Tsunamis wipe out camps……BUT this Tsunami did create great havoc here at the camp and since we are the first group of the season, they were a bit worried…and I must say, it made the hike up quite difficult for me and my heavy pack…Since there were no stairs at the lower level and we needed to hike up on some slippery flat rock that was quite steep…it certainly reminded me that I needed to pack even lighter next time! But who am I to complain when there were several people who looked quite a bit older than I and they seemed to manage it just fine. But I did appreciate my pack when I saw some trying to haul their suitcases on wheels up the rocks! when we left the boat, most of us were taking pictures…those on the boat were waving us farewell… As I made my way up, I would turn around to take in the view…and there was our little boat making it’s way through the ice…I took a dozen or so pictures showing the ice surrounding it…
We were given a short orientation and safety meeting and then had some cake and tea at the Cafe. The first thing most of us noticed were the throngs of killer mosquitoes all over the beautifully painted white walls…Yep even the cold don’t stop those buggers.
I headed for my Comfort Hut(inside bathroom and all)…The other huts had dry toilets and no shower…I decided I wanted a little luxury after spending a couple of weeks in Iceland doing the Guest House shared facilities thing….while opening the door the wind whipped it back so hard it almost took my finger with it…I already suffered a serious finger injury in Iceland with the wind so I should have been more atuned…Once in this “hut”, I was treated to the most spectacular view of the Ice Cap…this place was worth every penny and the fact I will have to retire later in life suddenly became less of an issue! (-: The room was so bright…and there was a large king sized bed that looked like something I would find in Vegas!(check out the pics) and there was this amazing wall of windows looking out onto the Fjord and the Ice Cap…truly breathtaking…And the next thing I noticed were all the black specs hopping around the walls…well this Floridian would not be outdone by some ol Greenlandic Mosquito…I have dealt with the really tough ones…the insipid Southern brethren…I started in with my best moves and was happily surprised to find out how slow they are…I guess being under ice for 9 months can dull your reflexes! Then there were the flies…again…very slow…yes yes, I slapped them with my hand…I know I know…cruel and gross…but out here ya gotta do what ya gotta do…and they were not going to disturb my serenity! I was as efficient as Obama was when he grabbed that fly in one swipe during that first network interview…yep these guys were toast… The one big drawback was the wind…it was whipping up with hurricane strength gusts…I looked out from my private terrace, to see the Ice Fjord was suddenly losing it’s Ice Sheet…the wind was pushing it across the Fjord at a record pace…amazing…Just ½ hour earlier the Fjord was solid Ice.
I decided to try to do a small hike before dinner..it was only 4pm…I asked one of the young guides who are here to recommend a nice short hike…he recommended a hike up to a glacial lake where we get our water…All of the guides I have had here in Greenland have just arrived for the first time 1-2 weeks ago…they have all been students from Denmark. What they lack in experience, they more than make up for in enthusiasm, eagerness and friendliness…and they all seem to be well versed in this area…So this young 20 something recommends the lake and off I go…but not without getting far off track…this time I blame the wind…I was walking into it and it was as if I was lifting twice my body weight…which reminded me that I really do need to drop a few pounds! I ended up in some tundra and soon discovered that they are not all on rock faces…there are plenty of crevices to lose your foot or leg…so I judiciously walked across trying to re-find the almost unmarked path…and after some serious attention and effort found my way up…This made me wonder if that sweet 20 something Danish guide had recommended the steepest hike as a compliment to me because he thought I looked young and fit, especially in this insane wind…OR did he just want to have 1 less tourist to worry about?!
Whichever it was, my goal was to make it back by dinner…AND in one piece!
By the time I got to the beautiful lake after slipping and sliding on steep flat rock, that was made slippery by the water coming over it from one of the many waterfalls, I was looking for a nice transport to take me down…but, alas, it was not to be…so instead I made my way to the lakes edge to drink some fresh water…OMG so delicious…so amazing…and so cold…but what’s a little frostbite when you get to imbibe the freshest & tastiest water on the planet…I have become obsessed with water and it’s depletion over the last 10 or so years…it drives me mad when I see people watering their lawns before or after we’ve had a lot of rain…Water is the most under valued resource that we are losing faster than any other…This is one of the reasons why I so enjoyed Iceland and their over abundance of the stuff.
Here at the Eqi Camp,there is plenty of water just not plenty of hot water so we’ve been asked to take quick hot showers…easy enough
Once at the lake, I noticed those Stone Markers off through a gully so, of course, I had to go and explore…the wind gust had dissipated just a bit….and I had no interest in going back down those steep rocks with the wind gusting at my back….I saw that scene play out in my head…as a gust catches my wind breaker and sails me down flat on my face about 50 feet! Instead, I carried on and on…seeing each marker was like being hypnotized into going even further along what used to be a clear path and was now just a lot of rocks and boulders…but someone had been here and put these rock markers up…I was just hoping it was someone from the last few decades! This area is a centerpiece of many Scientific Polar Investigators since the middle of the 18th century. The famous French Polar Researcher, Paul-Emile Victor used Eqi as a base while testing the thickness of inland ice from 1949-1953. His cabin still exists today at the camp.(see pic below).
The hike was absolutely lovely. I hiked through a valley and saw a type of cavern and immediately wondered if Polar Bears got down this far south…keep in mind we are above the Arctic Circle yet just a tad bit south for them…at least on a regular basis…there was a young male a few years ago who wandered into the Ilulissat…unfortunately for him , the Inuits don’t appreciate the Polar Bear as a charming creature and shot it because it was in the town. Although, I am sure they made use of every bit of him as they do the whales that they kill. No, I have yet to taste a whale…once again the hypocrite in me appears…I won’t eat a whale based on “it’s a whale” but I have no problem with Santa’s Reindeer!…Although I had been promised that none of Santa’s were harmed…
I digressed…so as I am wondering about the Polar bear, it reminds me of when we were doing the “In Search of” episode on the Lake Monster hunt…and we all knew there are no lake monsters…BUT as we were out on the Loch with the Nessie Scientists, with all the sonar…I did have just a little expectation of finding something…Same here with the Polar Bear…But very happy that I didn’t since I later learned that yes, they can travel here but if so, they are very very lost and even more hungry!
I decided to stop and sit on a boulder to try to hear the famous Greenland “silence” that I had been told was so wonderful…and so far have not found…since Ilulissat is a very bustling little city…and when I have gone on hikes it has been on a guided one and another with another person…so this was my opportunity…and the damned wind was too deafening to hear the silence .But that was ok…because the beauty did overtake the wind…and I did love it just being me…alone…I need to hike alone and feel like I am discovering…peaceful and serene…I know others have been here and this is not a true discovery but for me it’s all new. Everything here is wild and unpredictable…whether it’s things happening on time or not at all…or the weather, which changes in an instant…but like those things, the gems to be found are spectacular. There are few places that awe me with their incredible scenery…The Himalayas are one…and this Eqip Sermia is the other. On a little informational side not, since the Ice has been melting, it seems Greenland is a place of many literal gems too…they say this may be the next Gold Rush…It’s sad because I am sure it will be invaded and capitalized on by large Corporation and countries exploiting the resources…As a matter of fact, there is a show on Animal Planet called “Ice Cold Gold” about Gemologists coming here and searching for Gold…Bad sign for this place…I hope, they try to salvage their natural beauty and not give in to the money. I know the Greenlanders wouldn’t give in…but the Danish may. Greenland is a Danish territory but the Greenlanders have full autonomy…similar to Puerto Rico and the US
After continuing up to explore some more, I looked at my watch and realized I needed to start finding my way back…Now I had the wind at my back…and had it just been wind, I would have been delighted…but these amazingly strong gusts were very disconcerting, to say the least.
One thing about hiking in these conditions and harsh terrain is that you have no choice but to stay in the moment…something many of us rarely have the opportunity to do.
With the Wind at my back, I just leaned back and suddenly thought this must be what it’s like to ride a recumbent bike…just lean back and move forward. Well the wind did get the best of me a couple of times but my instinct to buckle my knees saved me from being used like the sail in my earlier fantasy. Another terrain issue was loose rock…and there was plenty of it…As a flatlander, loose rock on a steep grade is not your friend, especially with the wind at your back going down…but then not worrying how stupid you look going down with such trepidation is a plus of hiking alone!
Once I got down most of the way, I caught sight of my British Couple(really she is a Dane but had lived in London for so long she did speak with a British accent) in the seal skin jackets…they were heading up…as we passed they said they were just shooting some nature pictures and we ended up heading to the little Cafe Hut together for dinner…where we were treated to a buffet of everything you can imagine except the musk ox that I really want to try…We ate lamb, Reindeer, Halibut, veggies, rice, potatoes and a Thai dish…Yes, like everywhere else in Greenland, people are not Greenlandic in the tourism sector…the cook is a lovely Thai woman who married a Dane and has lived here for many years….oh, let me not forget that they have fresh Glacial water with Glacier Ice…that does pop in your mouth…and the water is just wonderful…if this is the water I could drink at home, I would drink a lot more water…
Besides the fabulous food, we were treated to the company of some wild foxes outside our cafe window…seems the cook leaves them food since this area is so hard to survive…these foxes mainly subsist on fish and a mussel kind of food…they also eat birds…I think the cook feeding them probably saves some of those poor beautiful little birdies!
After Dinner, Anis, one of the guides showed us his Tsunami video and told us that our boat also turned around when we were looking at the Glacier since one of the calvings caused quite a wave and he was worried about the Tsunami…funny, I don’t think any of us were aware of that.
After the big day, I retired to my incredible Hut and just sat out on the patio marveling at the view…it really really is spectacular…but the day…and maybe these last few weeks had worn me out, so I did decide to go to bed early…9:30pm…left all my window shades up so I could have full view of the glacier all “night”…the light doesn’t bother me with sleep…it just usually keeps me energized later into the night…but my body clock still wakes me before 6am…But my first night at Eqi was the best sleep I have had in 3 weeks or more…10 ½ hours!
I rolled out of bed late and decided to just throw some clothes on and eat breakfast and THEN shower..One thing that I’ve let go of here is worrying about my hair and makeup…neither are much appreciated by the wind and weather here…or in Iceland for that matter! The hike up the the Cafe was a sure fire awakener…steep hike and cold wind blowing…THAT woke me up…Breakfast was good and I got to speak with the guides a bit…I decided to take it easy today since we are doing a 5 hour hike at 3pm to the glacial lagoon and tip of the Ice Cap…and I want to savor the time in my incredible hut, which has the best view there is…and I can choose to be inside in the warm OR outside on my porch with less wind ripping across while I sit on chairs covered in Musk Ox fur!..After breakfast I made a packed lunch and headed out on my way to relax…just relax. After watching the glacier for awhile and hearing nothing because of the wind, I decided to do a short 1 1/2-2 hour hike to the Glacier beach…I followed the markers perfectly…BUT they suddenly led up this shear rock face…as I stood below, I could see the trail rock marked in yellow but was dumbfounded that they thought someone could actually climb up it…one false move and you slide about 25-50 feet…I walked lower to see if there was any other option but the rock circled around to the water…so I made a half attempt before my fear of heights kicked in with full force..I backed off and decided to check with the guide on the trek this afternoon to see if there was an easier or at the very least, a less height challenging way around! If so, I will get up early and do the full 4 hour hike to the Delta my 3rd and last day…before I have to be at the Cafe at 1pm and board the boat at 2pm…it will be good to end on a long hike especially since the boat ride back will take many hours.
I decided to wander back toward the hut…found a nice boulder and sat down, again facing the Ice Cap…why else be here…and ate my packed lunch…tried to catch some calvings on video but the wind was just still too loud…but at least, today, the gusts are much less…AND the up side to all this wind is no mosquitoes…I successfully killed the 50 or so in my hut the day I came in…quite a fun game…But now I just want the wind to calm so I can video some of the calvings of the ice…The sound is fascinating…sometimes it sounds like loud thunder and others it sounds like a rumbling of an earthquake….and then there is just the small cracklings too.
I watched as the boat came in the pick up those going back and drop off some more…Lucky for them, there was no ice flow so they could get the boat in much closer…but I think our Ice Breaking adventure was more fun.
I saw 10 people get off and work their way up and it looked like 2 little kids were with them…they must be pretty hardy kids to manage this terrain…but then I saw really little ones in the Himalayas too…and actually the kids seemed to just bound up the flat rock…oh to be 4 or 5 again (-:
The Hike to the Glacier(tongue of the Ice Cap) was great…there were many of us trudging along the trail, including the little 3 ½ year old boy and his 5 year old sister…They put us all to shame…This was a 4 1/2-5 hour hike and some of the terrain was messy and difficult…these kids made mince meat out of the rest of us…We crossed 3 rivers and 2 were a bit intense with slippery rocks to ttraverse…filled our water bottles in each one…I love that you can just drink from anywhere…such a treat…we also had to go over a large boulder field…with many loose boulders so you really had to watch where you stepped…and then we hit the wall…this is the part of the Moraine that the Glacier used to cover before it’s retreat. I have a picture that shows some gray on the brown mountain that extends out quite a ways…this is the markings from where the Glacier came out as recent as 13 years ago…again, it is retreating at 2 meters a days here and the one in Ilulissiat is retreating at 50 meters a day…They think that within 10-15 years, the glacier won’t be seen from these huts…sad to think that the area that is most known for Paul-Emile’s exploration will no longer have sight of the Ice Cap.
Once we started up this hill of very very loose rock, it dawned on me that what goes up must come down…and there was no way I was coming down this way…there was really no ledge for your feet going up…it was one of the scarier climbs….And I was not alone, a Danish woman also was adverse to heights and she was really struggling…her husband assured her that he would be by her side on the way down…her expression and continual comments cast doubt on her belief that he would be there….meanwhile, I was behind the 5 year old and her mother…now, when I hike something like this, with great steepness and loose terrain, I need to move very fast up and capitalize on the momentum of my body going forward…so that in best case, I do not slide back! But this was a little difficult with my little 5 year old friend, who seemed more interested in all the lovely rocks and flowers she could pick up. At one point, I just stopped to pretend to take a picture so they would get far enough ahead…but this allowed me to actually look down and then I could feel my heart racing since one false move was not allowed here…the guides were way in the back so I couldn’t rely on their hand to steady my nervousness…So all I needed was my momentum…and then I heard it, the slide…Yes, someone had slid and the rocks were heading in my direction…thank goodness they spread out before anything hit but it was certainly a reminder that I did not want to break my leg up here…then how could I go on my final Greenland 8 hour 25km hike on my last day! Finally up at the top, I looked over and saw there was just one more ridge to climb and then we would be there…Some decided they were close enough…I, on the other hand knew that this was the reason I came to Greenland…to see the Ice Cap up close…and personal…and that I did…the money shots were taken…although I look quite haggard…jacket tied to my waist and actually sweating…it was 3 degrees celsius(approx 37 degrees Fahrenheit) and I was sweating…yes, my blood has thickened…and I am dreading returning to 90 degree weather….But who cares, that is not now… because NOW, I was standing at the Ice Cap and I couldn’t care less what the future held or the fact that my hair was a mess or that I was completely disheveled…my goal was achieved…and then it happened…the rumbling of the glacier…My camera just happened to be positioned and I caught a calving in process on video…not sure about the sound since people were talking around me…this drove me nuts on this trip…I couldn’t believe how many people would talk during these things and miss the sound of the ice breaking…That’s a twofer…standing at the Ice cap AND captured an Ice Break off…This Danish Couple and I stood there with cameras ready for the next one but the guides wanted to move on so we did…the way down was different and seemed much easier, even though there were some tenuous moments when one of the young guys slipped…but we all made it back just in time for a fabulous dinner…AND I finally go to taste Musk Ox…very tasty…tender steak…not gamey…
As soon as we got back, it began to drizzle and we noticed the ice is setting back into the Fjord…the fog is rolling in through the fjord and something tells me that by tomorrow, we will be Iced in…BUT the wind has died down …all just just in time to leave. On the other hand, the mosquitoes suddenly appeared in force halfway back on our hike…so our timing could not have been more perfect.
The last day started with the most beautiful views…the skies were clear and the Fjord was peppered with little Ice pieces…Just gorgeous…There was a lovely older(79 years) Danish woman traveling by herself and when I asked what she planned to hike today, she sheepishly said she wasn’t hiking because she needed a guide…So I decided instead of trying the Glacier Beach, I invited her to do the Lake Hike…without the wind, I think it was a good hike…turns out she did it with another couple the day before…BUT she hadn’t gone off trail like I did…So we headed up…She was another one to put me to shame…this woman could move…she may have been nervous about finding the trail but she was super fit. We had a great hike up and stood at the top looking out just reveling in the beauty…I was sad this was it…so I took a deep breath and enjoyed the moment.
That moment and the one at the Glacier and lying in bed at night staring at the Ice Cap at 1am…3am and so forth will be moments I will cherish…
I do apologize but my camera does not seem to want to upload any more pictures so I am relegated to my iphone until I get home and trade it in for a new one(thank goodness for extended warrantees)
So there are NO pictures of the boat in the ice flow or me at the Ice Cap…and missing lots of other good ones…but here is a tasting…just a taste..of the Eqi camp: