Login | March 18, 2019

Going green

Pete’s World

Published: July 30, 2018

Feel like hiking on the wild side, like the really, really wild side? Well, if you do, then I think I know of just the place to take that hike…Greenland.

Now before you poo-poo the idea, let me assure you that Greenland’s not the land of eternal frigid weather, it’s not a vast wasteland, nor is it filled with people-eating polar bears, and finally, it’s most definitely not a bleak, flat and featureless landscape.

So let me give you a little perspective on Greenland before I delve into the hiking. Greenland’s a pretty big place, roughly the size of Western Europe - 836,330 square miles to be exact. Yet inhabiting this large island is a population that’s so small it could easily fit inside of a large pro football stadium.

I like to think of Greenland as Old Father Time, because it contains some of the oldest rocks on Earth, some up to 3.85 billion years old. That in itself is pretty amazing considering the fact that the Earth is deemed to be 4.6 billion years old.

Because it’s situated at a fairly very high latitude, Greenland climate is arctic in the north and subarctic in the south. Its topography is indeed mainly flat, but that’s because of the Greenlandic Ice Cap which is the second largest ice cap on the planet and occupies two-thirds of Greenland’s landmass.

Yet amidst that vast ice cap is an immense band of mountainous terrain surrounding the periphery of the island. It’s raw, it’s rugged, it’s untamed, it’s awe-inspiring, and it’s the perfect place to find your hiking wild side.

Without a doubt, hiking in Greenland is an experience in freedom and solitude you’ll find in few other places on earth, and it stands as one of the planet’s last bastions of terra firma which has largely remained unaltered by…us.

Greenlandic hiking is available in all shapes, sizes, and intensity levels, affording both the long distance trekker and the casual day-hiker a wide ranges of choices.

Now nearly all of Greenland’s hiking destinations lie in the south where the landscape varies wildly. Southern Greenland is so diverse that within one long day hike you could easily cross lush valleys, traverse streams and rivers, ridge walk above iceberg choked fiords, climb across windswept mountains passes, then still have time to settle in for dinner at the local hostel.

Okay, we’ve nailed down the fact that southern Greenland is the place to hike. The best time to go there is from mid-June thru mid-September, and contrary to popular belief southern Greenland is far from being an icebox. Summer temps can get darn right warm, however, once you get up into the coastal mountains all bets are off because high-country weather can morph into cold very rapidly.

As far as hiking and backpacking necessities, one should carry a quality tunnel or dome tent - which are quite stable in high winds - in addition to a 3-season sleeping bag and an insulating ground mattress. If you’re opting for indoor hostel-type accommodations then a summer bag and mattress are all that’s necessary.

Backpackers will need a stove, freeze dried food, and a small wardrobe of 3-season clothing - and don’t forget the mosquito head net which is mandatory in muskeg bogs and lowlands valleys.

Getting to Greenland isn’t so easy because there’s zero US-Greenland air hubs. You’ll need to fly out of Cleveland to Iceland via Wow Airlines or Iceland Air, then turn around and fly back west to Greenland via Air Iceland Connect or Greenland Air.

If you want to visit some of the more remote villages, well, you’re spending additional dimes on Greenland Air for those side trips. But let me forewarn you, just doing a simple little roundtrip ditty with no side trips, that alone may induce sticker shock. That’s because the Greenland leg of any itinerary is always the priciest segment.

But honestly, going to Greenland is worth every dollar you’ll spend. Heck, just flying low across southern Greenland is a mind blowing, otherworldly experience. And I swear, on my first inbound Greenlandic flight to Nuuk I must have shot 200-300 pics from the turboprop’s spacious window.

Next week I’ll fill you in on a couple of southern Greenland’s great day hiking venues, in addition to discussing the Big Kahuna, Greenland’s famous 124-mile Arctic Circle backpacking trail.