Camping on the Greenlandic Ice Sheet in May

Af Verificeret Ekspert

This is my ideal plan for how to spend 2 days in Kangerlussuaq. I know it may not be for everyone but for people who have a desire for adventure, I warn you, you will love it! 

For a long time joining camp on the Greenlandic ice sheet was on my bucket list. And finally, this May I can cross it from my list!

Day 1- Arrival and the start of the tour to the Ice Cap

Landing from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq in the morning (around 10:40), I grabbed my luggage and got to Polar Lodge (where I should stay 2nd night so I could leave some luggage I wouldn’t need on the Icecap trip). I packed my outfit and other things I wanted to bring on the trip in a separate bag in my luggage so it was really easy and fast to get ready for the trip. 

After that of course, I grabbed a quick lunch at the airport cafe and headed to an information meeting with my guide at Polar Lodge. Here you usually meet fellow travelers and a guide. 

On the day I chose to do the tour I was alone booked on the tour! I was afraid it would get canceled but to my surprise, it wasn’t. As a Solo traveler, I was so happy as this tour didn’t have a minimum number of travelers to do the tour.  So it was me and the guide going on this adventure! 

I got an overview of the equipment and how to use it, we talked about what is the plan for the next 2 days and the guide also checked my equipment (shoes, bag, water).   

After the meeting, we got in the car and headed towards the ice cap. The drive through the arctic tundra took us 2 hours but believe me it wasn’t boring!

On our way, we saw Musk ox, reindeer, and ptarmigans. We stopped each time and got out to take some pictures of course all at a good distance so we wouldn’t disturb them. I think Kangerlussuaq is one of the best places to see arctic tundra wildlife! Getting closer to the ice cap I started to see different glaciers in the distance.  The guide was amazing, I got to know a lot about the fauna and flora of the area, the history and facts about Greenland, and much more. It was a 2-hour Discovery Channel episode in real life! 

We reached the end of the road and gathered all of the stuff we would need for our camp, like sleeping bags, snacks, pulka, and some other things. We needed to carry all the stuff to the edge of the ice, pack everything on the pulka, and then it was time to get crampons on. 

The guide showed how to adjust and put the crampons on. It was easy and understandable so even if you never tried it before it is not a problem. At first, it felt a bit odd but you get used to it pretty quickly. Remember to lift your legs, as I accidentally drag one leg and almost fall but as long as you take it slow it is all good. 

For this trip, it is important to have sturdy waterproof hiking shoes with ankle support. I understood later why it is needed, crampons won’t fit or be comfortable on flexible shoes (like sneakers). Your shoes must also be waterproof because you can get snow on them and when you walk in the warm tent it melts (in winter time). In summer you will encounter some small streams or puddles you need to cross. On day two one of my shoes let in some water so I got one sock a bit moist and it was still ok because it wasn’t that cold, but if it were winter day I would be freezing….

Crampons & hiking shoes, I also used gathers to protect your trousers from the crampons

After an approximately 1 hour walk with crampons and dragging pulka, we arrived at the place where we were going to set up our camp. Camping on the ice sheet is a teamwork activity so be ready to pitch in and feel like a true explorer. 

We checked all the equipment and got to work, as there were just two of us. The first task was to build a common tent where we would get warm, chill, and eat dinner together. It is a huge 12-person expedition tent so it took us almost 1 hour to build it. The process of attaching the tent with ice screws and building it was really fun and educational. After we finished we decided to have a coffee break before we built the tent where I would spend a night. 

After the camp was set and the guide was preparing inside the common tent. My job was to collect water. There were no running rivers, so I grabbed an ice climbing ax, found a good spot, and started hammering pieces of ice! 

After the short break, we started on my tent. The sleeping tent was much smaller and faster to build, it was a 3-person tent. It looks like a general tent just attached to the ice with screws. If you join this trip you need to be aware that it is a possibility you will need to share the tent with others, but I think that is great as if there are more people in the tent it will be warmer during the night 😉 

I was getting hungry, luckily it was time for dinner. For dinner I could select from different dry trekking foods – my choice was reindeer stew, and my guide tried curry chicken. There were also Vegetarian and Vegan options. It was great just to sit down and enjoy a meal in a warm tent.

After dinner, we decided to go for a short walk around our camp before bed. It was a beautiful soft light, as in May the sun is not getting down! Which means no Northern lights.  

After the walk, we come back to the tent to get an evening cup of tea before bed. A great tip from the guide was to fill my water bottle with hot water to keep warm in my sleeping bag at night. It was just -5 degrees at night, but as I loved the warmth I followed his advice. My advice is to bring a water bottle you can put in the dishwasher, like a plastic bottle so it is not insulated like metal water bottles and gives you heat. My personal preference and advice is to have a new pair of socks and change them before going to bed so they are not moist and do not attract cold. 

All equipment tents, sleeping bags, the inner layer in a sleeping bag, and mats were provided and worked perfectly. It wasn’t cold at all even despite the fact I was alone in the tent. 

Day 2- Ice hiking on Greenlandic Ice Cap!

Our morning started by waking up at 7:30. The night in the tent was fine, I had a great night’s sleep! Maybe a bit short but I was excited to get up and continue this adventure! 

Tip from me, bring a buff and hat. I always like to use my buff to cover my mouth and nose (as usually, my nose gets cold) and wear a hat while I sleep, it makes a difference!  I did some hiking trips in the cold weather so I won’t recommend breathing in your sleeping bag as it creates condensation and makes you feel cold. 

The guide was already boiling water for morning coffee and preparing the breakfast table. I did not expect anything fancy, but I was surprised! I started with oats with milk and then the guide took out small iron pans, which we will use to make hot toast! It was the most delicious toast I ever tried! 

After a great breakfast and coffee, we prepared for a longer hike. It was not a cold day but pretty windy so I was so happy with my windbreaker jacket and warm gloves. We went up and down small mountains from ice, and found some lakes (unfortunately they were frozen), and crevasses. As all the water was frozen, the guide found a safe place and managed to walk a bit between valleys of ice, where in summer water runs between them. That was the most thrilling part of the hike! 

So note from the guide, if you are coming in May or September the snow, and ice could be melting but there is a good chance that everything is still frozen. If you are coming in summer (June-August ) you can see rivers and lakes melting on the ice sheet, crazy thing, you can even do a dip in the lake on the ice cap! So don’t forget your swimsuit and towel! In winter time and autumn, most of the ice will be covered by snow but you will have an amazing opportunity to see Northern lights while camping on the ice sheet!

Our hike took almost 5 hours, so by now, I was comfortable using crampons. No need to say I also took quite a lot of pictures of ice.  I think the ice cap looks like a frozen desert. The never-ending ice mountains and glacier walls in the distance made this ice hike so much more special. 

When we got back to the camp we had lunch which was similar to breakfast and relaxed a bit before we started to pack everything down. We packed our pulkas and headed back to the car. On the way back we drove on the same road and I got another chance to spot some animals. On the trip back we were less chatty as 2 days spent in the fresh air, hiking, and sleeping in the tent drains your batteries a bit. But you don’t need a lot of energy to enjoy the views! 

But wait, I almost forgot to share the most fun part (I think). It was our outdoor toilet! It is something special to go on the toilet standing on the ice sheet, I am pretty sure it was the toilet with the best view! Every time I used it it was like the adventure itself, feeling a bit strange but also laughing at the situation. 

We were back in Kangerlussuaq around 18:00. I found my key to the room, got a quick shower, and was ready for my transfer at 19:00 to Restaurant Roklubben (I booked a table at the restaurant before leaving for the camping trip and it was the best decision ever!) 

I finished 2 wonderful days with a Greenlandic buffet, tasting shrimp, halibut, musk ox, and reindeer. All the food was delicious and having dinner with a view to the lake felt so relaxing. 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience on the ice sheet, I strongly believe it is the best way to spend time in Kangerlussuaq if you like to spice up your trip with a bit of wild adventure. I hope I inspired you to spend some time in Kangerlussuaq on your trip to Greenland! 

Last but not least, I would like to say a special thank you to my guide Martin as he made this trip memorable! He taught me so much about Greenland’s flora and fauna and the ice sheet. I also feel like I know a bit more about the lives of people who go and cross the ice sheet on expeditions, which is cool! 

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