The peninsula north of the Eternity fiord
“We need to go to Greenland!” I was barely awake when Fredrik called me way too early one morning. Having two small children the adventure photographer Fredrik Schenholm is used to getting up with the early birds.
“I have been thinking”, he said. “Greenland must be amazing, and it can’t be too hard to set up something ourselves”, he continued.
"Our dream of ski touring in Greenland had materialized into something to remember for life, beyond all expectations." - Frederik Schenholm, the author
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Said and done, we started planning for a Grenland adventure focusing on simplicity, powder skiing, glaciers and fjords. Soon to join the planning was the fellow journalist and adventurer Martin Letzter and former snowboarder – nowadays a dedicated ski tourer – Tom Seeman. We got in contact with some locally knowledged people which made it easier for us to establish a rough plan for the whole adventure.
It is Tuesday morning and just before we boarded the plane at Copenhagen airport we got a phone call from our local guide Sören Lyberth.
“The forecast for tomorrow does not look good so I suggest we leave already tonight as soon as you arrive in Maniitsoq”.
The original plan was to spend the evening at Hotel Maniitsoq and have a soft start on Wednesday, shopping for groceries and supplies before heading out with the boat towards the Eternity fiord. But plans are only good if they can be adapted to the circumstances and the stop over time in Kangerlussuaq was used to prepare the shopping list. So two hours after the arrival in Maniitsoq we were already on our way towards a week in the beautiful wilderness of Western Greenland.
West Greenland is known for good off-piste skiing between April and early June. At the same time, as the weather can be overwhelming sunny with powder snow, it can as well be windy and raining.
Even though the weather can vary, it is somewhat more stable than one could foresee due to the very large inland. In April there is obviously a better chance for powder snow, but it can also still be quite cold If you prefer spring snow, May might be the month to go. But as always there is no easy choice and mountain weather is hard to predict so you just have to pick your date and hope for the best.
After a two hour long boat ride, having passed the magnificent ski touring haven of Hamburgerland, we closed in towards the intended camping site just to realize that the fjord was covered with too thick an ice layer. “No, there is no chance to break through with the boat”, our driver Sören firmly said.
Again the importance of having adjustable plans was shown and we turned around and headed towards our second option on the south shore of the peninsula. At nine a’clock in the evening we were left alone on the shoreline while the snow started to fall.
Being just south of the Arctic circle the light is not a problem at this time of the year so the basecamp could quickly be established curiously spectated by an arctic fox on one side of the valley and its hunted rabbit on the other side.
“Wake up all you tired travellers, breakfast is served in the apse!”, Tom shouted way too early on Wednesday morning. But all the tiredness was quickly swept away as we saw our surroundings. It was crystal blue water and stunning white mountains as long as our eyes could see.
Ski resorts nowadays very often compete with Ski-in-ski-out accommodation. But this was the real stuff.
Stepping into the ski gear at the door step of our tents, we had a close to endless access to ski tours in all different grades of difficulty. The coming days, Greenland welcomed us in a way we could only have dreamt of with cold powder snow, large glaciers, magnificent alpine peaks and deep-blue fjords sparkling from the sunshine.
The mountains are perfect for ski-touring, easy accessible with several good runs down from each summit. The peninsula offers rides in all aspects which is good if one want to find good snow independent of recent weather while at the same time minimize the risk of avalanches.
There are several glaciers on the peninsula and we passed some of them roped in. All in all an adventure like this is quite easily arranged and if you have sufficient mountain experience, it is not as far away as you might believe.
The alternative is to join the tours with one of the several good helicopter guiding companies or Ski & Sail companies located around Maniitsoq.
They provide guides who know the area and are able to pick the best ride for current conditions. What is for sure is that there is room for everyone! Ski-touring in the surroundings of Maniitsoq is unlimited in the number of available mountains and incredible runs and not the least overwhelming scenery.
As strange as it might sound camping in the winter is actually better than in the summer. You can use the snow to flatten the ground where you want to sleep, you can dig yourself some extra height in the tent apse, make a real nice outside kitchen out of snow and there is plenty of water all around you. However it might be cold so you need a tent, sleeping equipment and a stow suitable for winter conditions.
Also, take your time. The weather and snow conditions can vary from day to day. And staying over a week made us even take time for some relaxed days in the basecamp, reading and building ourselves an igloo, fully enjoying being out in the wild far from the stress of our day to day lives.
“How does it look?”, Johan shouted. “Not too bad…”, Martin replied, and then pointed his skis down the steep part of the glacier. A few moments later he showed up some 500 meters below us with a promising snow plume behind him in each super G turn heading towards the fjord.
The last day could not have been more perfect. Clear blue sky, no wind and fantastic powder snow. Our dream of ski touring in Greenland had materialized into something to remember for life, beyond all expectations.