IAT Reaches Greenland's Eastern Settlement
On June 19 after the IAT AGM in Reykjavik, Iceland, IAT Chairperson Paul Wylezol and IATNL Vice Chair Arne Helgeland traveled to south Greenland to meet with IAT partner Blue Ice Explorer and walk sections of the new IAT route near Eric the Red's historic settlement at Brattahlid.
But even before touching down at the airport in Narsarsuaq, it was visible from the air that Greenland is a sparsely populated land of rock and ice.
Still, in the historic Eastern Settlement region of the south, the outer valleys are remarkably green, and often dotted with sheep on the treeless grassy slopes.
A view of Qassiarsuk (Brattahlid), opposite the airport settlement of Narsarsuaq
The first order of business after touching down was to stop by Blue Ice Explorer headquarters, just a few minutes walk from the airport. There Paul and Arne met IAT rep Birgitte Pedersen who briefed them on their 4-day walking and boating itinerary, and the new IAT Greenland route.
Left to right: IATNL Vice Chair Arne Helgeland, IAT Chairperson Paul Wylezol, Blue Ice Explorer co-owner Jacky Simoud, Blue Ice Explorer guide, and Blue Ice Explorer planner and IAT rep Birgitte Pedersen
From there the two were ferried across Eriksfjord to Qassiarsuk - Eric the Red's Brattahlid - to a Blue Ice Explorer cottage for the night, before setting out at 6:00am on a 7-hour return trek to Tasiusaq.
The hike began with a stop at Leif Erikson's bronze statue overlooking Brattahlid, followed by a recreated Norse church near the historic archeological site.
Left to Right, Arne and Paul at the Leif Erikson statue in Qassiarsuk
This location marks the beginning of the IAT in Greenland, after the northern terminus in North America near L'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage site believed to be the Vinland of the Norse Sagas.
From Brattahlid, Paul and Arne climbed the gentle slope and made their way to the community and inlet of Tasiusaq. On their way they encountered a small group of Icelandic ponies relaxing in the morning sun,
before encountering thick fog hugging the lowlands of the next valley, a common early morning sight given the large glaciers and abundant icebergs cooling the early morning air. But just as they were about to head back to Eriksfjord, the veil lifted to reveal a magnificent landscape of water, ice, mountain, and sky.
Once back in Qassiarsuk, Paul and Arne waited briefly at the dock to be ferried back to Narsarsuaq
Local men at the dock in Qassiarsuk
where they took Blue Ice Explorer's bright red arctic vessel Puttut to Itilleq.
Arne and Paul framing the 1662m summit Illerfissalik (Burfjeld), end of the IAT in South Greenland
Along the way they were treated with fantastic views of 1,000+ meter mountains, and hundreds of icebergs calving off the large Qoorooq glacier at the head of Eriksfjord.
Once ashore, a 4km walk brought them to Igaliku, and Blue Ice Explorer's cluster of small hotel, cabins, bathroom, and dining room.
Here they stayed for two nights and a pleasant day-hike to the base of Illerfissalik (Burfjeld) mountain, which provided spectacular views of Eriksfjord and Qoorooq glacier.
The route provided great views of the surrounding mountains and streams, with crystal clear water flowing over rapids and falls.
After a stop at the ruins of Garðar, seat of the bishop of Greenland during Norse times
and the boat ride back to Narsarsuaq, the final adventure for Paul and Arne was a half day hike to Kiattuut Sermiat glacier.
.....followed by a cold beer and tender musk ox steak in Narsarsuaq Hotel - a tough end to hiking the IAT in South Greenland!
Thanks to Birgitte and staff at Blue Ice Explorer for arranging 4 great days of adventure and comfort on the scenic IAT of South Greenland.