Day 10: Love... (in Sisimiut)
Roughly 100 km north of the polar circle in southwest Greenland lies the Arctic Circle Trail. This long distance trail stretches for 170 km from the international airport of Greenland in Kangerlussuaq to Greenland’s second largest city Sisimiut. During the summer months from June to September, the trail is free of snow and offers a spectacular hike from the inland to Greenland’s coast. Except for a few cabins and one bridge over the biggest river the trail offers no luxuries, not even cell phone reception. The landscape along the path is very diverse, changing with each kilometre one comes closer to the coast.
The international airport at Kangerlussuaq enjoys around 300 clear-sky days per year, so the weather should be good, and the trail starts by following an easy tarmac and dirt road. Beyond the research station at Kellyville, the trail is simply a narrow path across empty tundra dotted with lakes. If you plan to walk from hut to hut, then the route will take maybe nine days, unless stages are doubled-up. Using a tent offers greater flexibility, and some trekkers complete the route in as little as a week. Huts are located at Hundesø, Katiffik, The Canoe Centre, Ikkattook, Eqalugaarniarfik, Innajuattok, Nerumaq and Kangerluarsuk Tulleq. Youth hostels and hotels are located at the terminal points of Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut.
There is the option to use a free kayak to paddle all day along the large lake of Amitsorsuaq, rather than walk along its shore. There are only a handful of kayaks, and if they are all moored at the ‘wrong’ end of the lake, then walking is the only option.
The trail is often low-lying, below 500ft (150m), but climbs on occasions over 1300ft (400m), notably around Ikkattook, Iluliumanersuup Portornga and Qerrortusuk Majoriaa. There are a handful of river crossings whose difficulty depends on melt-water and rainfall. These are difficult early in the season, but much easier to ford later. The largest river, in Ole’s Lakseelv valley, has a footbridge if required.
The end of the trail is the colourful coastal town of Sisimiut, the second largest town in Greenland, with a population of only 5500. Weather at this end of the trail is basically a 50/50 lottery between wet and dry days. There are flights back to Kangerlussuaq, though very rarely, trekkers have been known to walk back.
(Martin Krämer & Paddy Dillon)
I returned to the deep north once more in August, this time to hike and enjoy the Arctic Circle Trail, most likely the most well-known long-distance path in Greenland.
We started in Kangerlussuaq and found ourselves in Sisimiut after nine days, having hiked 180km in total. The weather was perfect except a rainy second day, which we luckily solved by staying in a caravan-like hut at the Hundesø lake.
Although the trail itself may not be as scenic as Icelandic Laugavegurinn or Hornstrandir area, or mountainous areas in northern Sweden, the isolation, freedom and sense of free space are incomparable - one meets fellow trekkers only occasionally, and some of those encounters may be surprising meetings with local hunters.
It was indeed a special and rewarding time – so much to see!
This is a shot taken during our 10th day in the area - having hiked the complete trail, we spent one more day in Sisimiut exploring the picturesque city.