The idea of the trip was to try and paddle around Cape Farewell from Nanortalik and return, attempting some Alpine ascents of any suitable peaks we came across along the way.
Cape Farewell is at the southern tip of Greenland and exposed to the entire ocean swell, it is also a committing coast with high cliffs and no easy landings; we knew this would be the crux of the trip, and we also knew Cape Farewell is the windiest region in the world, so getting a good weather window would be vitally important.
We shipped two barrels out to Neil Jepson at the Nanortalik Tourism Service a month before we left, these contained all the food packed into day bags and the climbing equipment; we left on the 12th of August, a little later than I usually go. The later departure was due to having to wait for the kayaks to be available, which were hired through Doug Copper of Glenmore Lodge from their fleet of P&H Capellas stored with Neil. Two days and 4 flights later, including 2 by helicopter, we arrived and were met by Neil; he was very helpful and we picked up the boats and barrels that day, meaning we were able to leave the next day.
The Capellas had skegs and I was worried we wouldn’t get all the kit in; we had 23 days’ food, all the camping kit, two 50m ropes and climbing gear. It was a tight fit with the cockpit rammed and quite a bit of gear strapped to deck bags, but it all was in and we left around lunchtime on the 14th. The boats were very heavy and, because of the gear on the back, they weather cocked badly even with the skeg down; not ideal as we headed off into a side wind!
The first headland we encountered was exposed to swell with no easy landings and we realised this could be an awkward on our return in bigger conditions. At our first campsite we stashed 3 food bags for our return as there looked like some possible climbing in the area on our return, this also got rid of some kit from back decks. The next few days we were in the shelter of an island system, then we had another exposed headland to a campsite at Ink Gait, the site of an old Viking settlement over 1000 years ago. We camped in the ruins of an old church and also had our first encounter with a Minke Whale who came very close!
The following day we had a mountaineering day with a rope and small rack and climbed Ikiagtqaqot to 900m, a lovely ridge scramble with small pitches of scrambling and stunning views in
good weather. We managed to get a mobile signal as we had a view of the settlement of Frederiksdal and the forecast seemed ok. We did work out on the trip that the weather changes very fast and the difference between a report from Nanortalik and out on the coast could be vast.
We did decide to go for the crux of the trip and attempt Cape Christian and Cape Farewell, this would be a big day in distance and we had a lot of fog to deal with at the start. Cape Christian eventually appeared out of the fog, but as we came around the headland the wind suddenly increased and we were faced with the sight of a large area of breaking waves over some low islands in front. The wind was now blowing hard from behind and we struggled to get the heavy boats around into the swell and wind, so we decided we had to land on a very rocky shore. Although it was a difficult landing on a boulder beach, we were glad to be safe as the wind steadily increased; we were storm bound here all day, and although the wind eased by the next day, the swell was still big.
We crossed the bay and as we came around the Cape, the fog came in and the wind increased, but luckily after struggling around the wind eased. There were no easy landings, so we had to stay in our boats ’til we found a little shelter; eventually we landed at the west tip of Eggers Island and the following day did a new climb of 8 pitches on the scabby side of Quvperitqaqa, a grade HVS 5a called Dance with Seals.
The next few days we had good weather paddling down Ikaq Fjord, but we again got caught out crossing Anordliutssup Ima when the wind and waves picked up to a force 5 and we were committed to cross. We stopped briefly in the village of Augpilagtoq, where the villagers told us they had shot a polar bear a few weeks ago; this was our only stop in 3 weeks. We were storm bound for a day close to here, but the weather improved again and we headed south down Torssukatak Fjord, again we hit bad, windy weather at the end of the fjord and had to turn and run to find shelter. The weather was definitely changing and following a pattern of calm in the morning and windy in the afternoon, so we got early starts and got back into the shelter of Iglu Kasip Tunua Fjord, where we knew there was an old hut where we left some food; we had a day here stormbound, then headed down the fjord and camped.
We spent 3 days here, one day again sheltering from rain, but the second day, although it was foggy, we went to try and climb a big mountain face we had seen. As we climbed, we came out of the cloud and the face was bigger than we thought, 12 pitches later we reached the top; some good climbing and the usual loose rock on a big mountain face. The climb was graded at E1 5B and we called it Keeping the Faith. We now had a week left to explore another area we had seen closer to Nanortalik; we had to negotiate another headland we had passed when it was windy the day before, but when we woke up from camp it was flat and calm in the bay we were in.
We set off and as soon as we headed onto the open sea we got the swell and wind, the next hour we battled around the tide; the swell and wind created some of the biggest seas I have ever been in and any rescue was out of question. We made it into bay and landed, once again the wind got stronger as the afternoon wore on, so we found a sheltered spot for the tent; it was now bitterly cold with snow on the tops.
As we were now in sight of Nanortalik, I managed to get a phone signal and got a weather forecast. More bad weather was coming in 2 days, so we decided the following day to head back in rather than be stormbound again. The following day was calm and we headed back in around mid afternoon for showers and beers. We had finished a few days early, but we had succeeded in all our objectives and felt happy that we had survived some very challenging conditions.
270km over a 21 day period (approx. 15 paddle days, 4 days stormbound and 3 climbing days)
2x Plastic P&H Capella 166s with Skegs
2x Werner Paddles and 1 Set of Spare Paddles
Palm Aleutian Dry Suits
Palm Buoyancy Aids
Palm Nova Wellies
Palm Spray Decks
Terra Nova Heavy Duty Hyperspace
Mountain Equipment Titan 850 Down Bags
MSR Whisperlite Combo
2x DMM Alpine Harnesses
2x 9.8 m DMM 50M Ropes
12x Quick Draws
5x Slings and Krabs
Double Set of Wires 1-10
9 Assorted Cams
Mobiles (although only a few places had phone coverage)
Various Camera Kit
The Team Would Like to Thank the Following:
P&H Sea Kayaks
Gino Watkins Funding and Arctic Club
Welsh Sports Association
Wild West Beef Jerky
A to Z Expeditions