Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

I guess planning for the Arctic Circle Trail has been a textbook ‘life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans’ example.

After I had to cancel my 2019 plans to hike the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland because of a viral infection (and went on to do the Kumano Kodo in Japan instead, a relatively easy and comfortable trail), I instantly started preparing my second attempt at an Arctic Circle Trail thru-hike in August 2020.

And then Corona happened. It was on. Then off. Then on again. At some point, the latest Greenlandic guidelines asked for travelers to self-quarantine and re-test after 5 days (which would force me to force-march the 166km Arctic Circle Trail in 4,5 days to keep my planning). But with the easing of the Greenland restrictions in July 2020, this restriction was lifted and I could pretty much stick to my original plan, as detailed below.

Polle cut out

Some key choices I made for my Greenland and Arctic Circle Trail visit

While planning I made some choices:


  • Rather than flying to Kangerlussuaq, start hiking there and then catching a flight back from Sisimiut, I decided to travel to Sisimiut first and then start hiking to Kangerlussuaq as the endpoint. It will reduce my number of travel days and the chance there are problems with getting back in time to Kangerlussuaq for my flight back to Copenhagen (as I won’t be dependent on the weather in Sisimiut being perfect at the end of the trail).
  • Just like last time, I settled on Ilullisat as the best option to spend some extra time. Here, as well, I have allowed for 24 buffer time between leaving Ilullisat and leaving from Kangerlussuaq. In case of bad weather, I have some wiggle room to catch my flight back to Copenhagen.
  • I decided to fly from Copenhagen (the most feasible option, coming from Europe) and -in contrast to last time- only spend the night there to be rested for my next flight rather than spending some time there before/after the Greenland trip to mentally prepare for the hike. Eventually, my airline rescheduled my flight which gave me an extra two days to explore Copenhagen and to meet up with some of the amazing VisitGreenland team in Copenhagen.
  • Finally, I decided to book bed & breakfasts/hotels in Ilulissat and Kangerlussuaq rather than relying on my tent – at least as a precaution in case I would want or need to recover from the hike and the cold. Eventually, I decided to cancel these again to have even more flexibility and to save some cost.

Rough Day Planning for my Greenland and Arctic Circle Trail visit




So, here’s the rough day planning. I have not a set route planning. I could either take a maximum of 8 days to finish Sisimiut to Kangerlussuaq or stick to the original schedule of 6 days for the 166km hike from Sisimiut to Kangerlussuaq and extend the hike to Russell Glacier:

Day 1 (August 15th) – stay in Copenhagen


  • Travel to Copenhagen.
  • Sleep at the AC Hotel by Marriott Bella Sky Copenhagen (part of Marriott).
  • Visit Copenhagen, meet up with VisitGreenland members, meet up with some friends.


Day 2 (August 16th) – stay in Copenhagen


  • Sleep at the AC Hotel by Marriott Bella Sky Copenhagen (part of Marriott).


Day 3 (August 17th) – sleep on the trail


  • Morning
    • Breakfast at hotel
    • 09h00-12h40 Travel from Copenhagen to Sisimiut (Greenland) via Kangerlussuaq (Greenland).
  • Afternoon:
    • Spend time in Sisimiut:
      • Either take the taxi or hike 5 kilometers from the airport to the city.
      • Get my last groceries (only some fresh fruits, the rest I have packed already) and a gas canister in Sisimiut (probably at Sisimiut Outdoor).
      • 🥘 Get my last decent, warm meal at Seamen’s Home before heading out on the trail.
      • Inform local authorities of my hiking plans.
      • I’ll probably climb Nasaasaaq hill near Sisimiut (small detour from the trail, before joining the trail at the Skilift) before heading out for the trail. I’ll skip Teleøen which has some really great ruins and the seal and whale safari (Thanks Jesper Schroder for the tips) as I will be doing that in Ilulissat.
    • 🥾Hiking Day 1 (20km to Kangerluarsauk Tulleq – key objective would be at the amazing Lake House by the end of hiking day 2, a total of 50km)
  • Evening: first night on the trail


Day 4 (August 18th) – sleep on the trail


Lake House on the Arctic Circle Trail. Photo by Phoebe Smith


  • 🥾Hiking Day 2


Day 5 (August 19th) – sleep on the trail


  • 🥾Hiking Day 3


Day 6 (August 20th) – sleep on the trail


  • 🥾Hiking Day 4

Day 7 (August 21st) – sleep on the trail


  • 🥾Hiking Day 5

Day 8 (August 22nd) – sleep on the trail


  • 🥾Hiking Day 6

Day 9 (August 23rd) – sleep on the trail

Russell Glacier should be something like thisRussell Glacier should be something like this


  • 🥾Hiking Day 7
  • Most likely passing through Kangerlussuaq on my way to Russell Glacier. Make sure to walk to the camping site near the Polar Lodge to meet up with the trail legend Frieder Weiße from polarrouten.net.
  • 🧼Washing day – make sure I have some clean gear for my Ilimanaq stay.
  • Thanks to Jesper Schroder: “It is free to around Russell, just don’t put your tent up too close to Russell, it is a glacier and therefore there is ice that falls down. As long as you don’t keep your hut on the rocks but on the grass then you should be fine”

Day 10 (August 24th) – sleep in Ilulissat


  • 🥾Hiking Day 8
  • Hiking back from Russell Glacier to Kangerlussuaq.
  • 15h10-15h55 flight Ilulissat
  • 19h00-23h00 kayak
  • Sleep Hotel Ilulissat Bed & Breakfast

Day 11 (August 25th) – sleep in Ilimanaq lodge

Hopefully waking up like this at the terrace at IIimanaq lodgeTerrace at IIimanaq lodge


  • 07h00 Boat to Eqi glacier
  • 17h00-18h00 transfer to Ilimanaq
  • Dinner in Restaurant Egede.
  • Sleep in the Ilimanaq lodge

Day 12 (August 26th) – sleep in Ilulissat


  • 16h00-17h00 Ilulissat transfer
  • Sleep Hotel Ilulissat Bed & Breakfast

Day 13 (August 27th) – sleep in Kangerlussuaq


  • Morning Ilulissat hike; Visit the Sermermiut valley UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • 15h30-16h20 To Kangerlussuaq
  • Sleep Polar Lodge

Day 14 (August 28th) – sleep in Copenhagen


  • 11h40-20h00 leave for Copenhagen
  • Sleep at the AC Hotel by Marriott Bella Sky Copenhagen (part of Marriott).

Day 15 (August 29th) – sleep back home


  • 06h45 early flight home



Got some tips, ideas? Let me know.


Sources I used

Some sources I used while finalizing my day planning:




Photo by Globingaround

 

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  • […] What to do next to hiking. I’m currently looking into things to do next to my hike. Visiting glaciers looked obvious, but as traveling within Greenland is either difficult, slow or expensive, for a long while, I wasn’t sure what my real options were. I quickly ruled out Nuuk (too busy) and settled on Ilulissat and started working from there (see my extensive day planning for that). […]

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