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A Slice of Life on the Ice

Ice has never really been something that I am very keen on. It has its place in a Gin and Tonic but when it is under my feet, disaster is usually imminent. Add metal spikes in to the situation and I was fearful for both mine and other people’s safety. It might seem an odd choice therefore to have booked a two day Ice Camp experience from the beautifully rural base of Kangerlussuaq, but that is what I did and it was certainly a decision that I did not regret. Standing on an icy peak watching the crisp whites and fresh blues of my surroundings turn a vibrant orange as the sun lowered behind the horizon is a sight that will stay with me for a long time.

Embarking on to a substantial 4WD truck, our adventure started with our talented and experienced guides, Karsten and Peter, providing an amusing but incredibly informative narration along the 2 hour journey to the Ice Cap. Stopping at numerous points along the way to see up close a plane wreckage from World War II, wild Reindeers, wild Musk Ox and a enchanting frozen lake, the 40km road between Kangerlussuaq and the Ice Cap is fascinating. With only four people in our group and two guides, it was a very relaxed journey. Peter told us about how the access to the Ice Cap had only been made that easy in recent years. In the late 1990s Volkswagen wanted to test their vehicles on the ice to test how they responded to freezing conditions, thus they built the road to enable the access. The testing of vehicles never materialised but the road remained and enables Albatross Arctic Circle to organise these adventures on the ice.

Albatross Arctic Circle Truck

World War II Plane wreckage

Wild Musk Ox
A frozen lake

The road literally stopping at the Ice Cap’s edge, it was time to load up the sledges with our camping equipment, strap on our crampons and walk approximately 2km to our base camp. Feeling like a Polar Explorer, pulling a sledge was exciting at first but after it collided with my ankles for the twentieth time, the joy wore off. Powered up with biscuits, we set up our camp. Screwing our tent pegs in to the ice, my travel companion and I proudly erected our spacious tent for the night. It was then time for a trial walk to get used to the crampons before the next day’s expedition. Karsten and Peter’s experience shone through as they navigated around what appeared to me to be endless rises and falls of ice in an otherwise landmark-free landscape. They really are at home on the Ice Cap and their knowledge was deep. Jealous, that this was their office, I asked if they had a favourite area of the Ice Cap. Karsten lead us down to a beautiful frozen river that curved around the peaks. Touching the walls of ice that rose around us, they felt dry and like glass. I understood why it was a favoured location.

Hiking to base camp

Camp Ice Cap

Stomping around the ice for two hours, any fears that I had about the environment evaporated completely and I felt very confident as we approached the camp to settle down for dinner. Greedily tucking in to my expedition portion of Creamy Mushroom Risotto, I was shattered. Focussing on my gait (to ensure that I didn’t tangle myself up in the crampons), stamping the crampons in to the ice and taking in glorious view after view of the frozen landscape had proved quite tiring. I was ready for my sleeping bag as I crawled in to the tent. The temperature was -25C during the night and although the equipment provided (inflatable sleeping mat and 4+season sleeping bag and liner) was excellent, I did feel the cold. Fortunately, I am able to sleep in most conditions and after a few minutes of wriggling around to warm up my muscles, did get a good night’s sleep.

Rising the next morning, it dawned on me how isolated we had been during the night on our frozen locale, miles from civilisation and life. Silence surrounded me as I surveyed the endless aquamarine terrain. A four and a half hour circular trek taking in lakes and ice caves lay ahead of us and we wasted no time in getting started. The climate conditions in April meant that the Ice Cap was still completely frozen, but Karsten lead us to areas where lakes and waterfalls would be flowing with crystal clear water in a month or two, and described the geographical features that results from the freezing and thawing process. Continuing our trek we passed three ice caves; their entrances were small and discreet, secreting the fact that they descend for approximately 60ft and could hold multiple double decker buses. Access to these are only for those with ice climbing equipment, so we just looked in to the small black opening from the outside. The photo opportunities were endless as we covered the miles. You may think that you could become bored of the 360 degree view of ice but it changed with every picturesque turn. You may also think that this may seem like an extreme adventure but with a good fitness level it is very achievable. Karsten commented that our group had “strong legs and a good spirit” and in Greenland, that is exactly what you need.

Walking down a frozen river

A frozen river
The entrance to an ice cave
Ice Cap
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