Beyond the Arctic Circle Trail // RW1

Beyond the Arctic Circle Trail // RW1

Beyond the Arctic Circle Trail // RW1

Beyond the Arctic Circle Trail // RW1

The wind had changed. The smooth mirror-like surface of the water had been whipped up into little waves, and far across the lake a band of rain accompanied by grey moody skies could be seen rapidly approaching.

Amitsorsuaq, a sprawling lake that stretches 23km across the wilderness of Greenland above the Arctic Circle, has a number of large canoes scattered around the shore. The remnants of a defunct business, most are patched with gaffer tape and come with deep dents and scratches in the hulls. As luck had it, the only structurally sound canoe was waiting pulled up on the near shore, the aluminium gleaming in the sun.

With a 20kg rucksack weighing down the front, the canoe glided through the calm waters, with gentle strokes of the paddle steering it along the northern shore. Granite cliffs rose straight from the water casting their shadows across the ripples in the water, the shore stretching far ahead beyond sight.

After two hours of paddling, an island up ahead with a small 100m peak jutting out from the water, signalled the half way point. The wind had started picking up and waves were hitting the port side, water spraying over the edge. With no rudder or companion up front, keeping the bow pointing forward was becoming harder and harder. Frantic thrusts of the paddle only slowed the inevitable loss of control with the canoe abruptly coming to a halt against the rocks. Pulling it up and out of the water, gracelessly onto life-jackets, was a struggle but would spare the hull being pounded against the rocks. An unexpected and rather isolated camping spot awaited that night.

The wind had changed. The smooth mirror-like surface of the water had been whipped up into little waves, and far across the lake a band of rain accompanied by grey moody skies could be seen rapidly approaching.

Amitsorsuaq, a sprawling lake that stretches 23km across the wilderness of Greenland above the Arctic Circle, has a number of large canoes scattered around the shore. The remnants of a defunct business, most are patched with gaffer tape and come with deep dents and scratches in the hulls. As luck had it, the only structurally sound canoe was waiting pulled up on the near shore, the aluminium gleaming in the sun.

With a 20kg rucksack weighing down the front, the canoe glided through the calm waters, with gentle strokes of the paddle steering it along the northern shore. Granite cliffs rose straight from the water casting their shadows across the ripples in the water, the shore stretching far ahead beyond sight.

After two hours of paddling, an island up ahead with a small 100m peak jutting out from the water, signalled the half way point. The wind had started picking up and waves were hitting the port side, water spraying over the edge. With no rudder or companion up front, keeping the bow pointing forward was becoming harder and harder. Frantic thrusts of the paddle only slowed the inevitable loss of control with the canoe abruptly coming to a halt against the rocks. Pulling it up and out of the water, gracelessly onto life-jackets, was a struggle but would spare the hull being pounded against the rocks. An unexpected and rather isolated camping spot awaited that night.

Greenland canoeing
Greenland canoeing

The heavy rain through the night subsided in the early morning, revealing a beautiful, rugged landscape. The steep cliffs stopped any thought of trekking out along the northern edge of the lake, with the marked 160km long Arctic Circle Trail leading along the southern side, some 3km across the water. A steep reindeer trail led through the boulders up a scree slope with stunning views across up the valley towards the far end of the lake. Further along the ridge an Arctic Hare, with its bright white winter camouflage coat, stood out against the black rock and green grass of late autumn. Easy pickings for an Arctic Fox, it slowly ambled away through the low birch shrub and wild blueberry bushes.

By late afternoon the wind had died down and there was hope of getting to the far side of the lake by nightfall. A cup of tea brewed up on the camp stove tasted better than ever and as the tent was pulled down it felt slightly sad to be leaving such a beautiful spot. A final glance over the shoulder, as the canoe left the shore behind, was a reminder of how wonderful wild camping in the least expected places can be.

As the southern shore came closer, thoughts of what lay beyond the cliffs left behind teased and tugged at the adventurer inside. On the map, barely visible, were the small dotted black lines leading far from the trail into other valleys and around the far sides of vast lakes. Marked for experienced navigators and in reality, not paths but possible routes through the wilderness – they still led the eyes to the furthest reaches of the map.

It wasn’t the trail itself that held the most interest, it was what lay just beyond.

The heavy rain through the night subsided in the early morning, revealing a beautiful, rugged landscape. The steep cliffs stopped any thought of trekking out along the northern edge of the lake, with the marked 160km long Arctic Circle Trail leading along the southern side, some 3km across the water. A steep reindeer trail led through the boulders up a scree slope with stunning views across up the valley towards the far end of the lake. Further along the ridge an Arctic Hare, with its bright white winter camouflage coat, stood out against the black rock and green grass of late autumn. Easy pickings for an Arctic Fox, it slowly ambled away through the low birch shrub and wild blueberry bushes.

By late afternoon the wind had died down and there was hope of getting to the far side of the lake by nightfall. A cup of tea brewed up on the camp stove tasted better than ever and as the tent was pulled down it felt slightly sad to be leaving such a beautiful spot. A final glance over the shoulder, as the canoe left the shore behind, was a reminder of how wonderful wild camping in the least expected places can be.

As the southern shore came closer, thoughts of what lay beyond the cliffs left behind teased and tugged at the adventurer inside. On the map, barely visible, were the small dotted black lines leading far from the trail into other valleys and around the far sides of vast lakes. Marked for experienced navigators and in reality, not paths but possible routes through the wilderness – they still led the eyes to the furthest reaches of the map.

It wasn’t the trail itself that held the most interest, it was what lay just beyond.

  • Alone On Mykines // Faroe Islands // RW1
  • French Mountain-Fearing // RW2
  • Arctic Circle Trail // Greenland // RW1
  • From Them, Came Us // Namibia // RW3
  • Lost in Hope // England // RW4
  • Alone On Mykines // Faroe Islands // RW1
  • French Mountain-Fearing // RW2
  • Arctic Circle Trail // Greenland // RW1
  • From Them, Came Us // Namibia // RW3
  • Lost in Hope // England // RW4