Hiking from Nuuk to Kapisillit – shelter to shelter
Said in all humbleness; my feet have touched soil in some quite spectacular mountains and corners around this world. However, this hike in the Greenlandic wilderness was one for the books!
Seven days completely off the grid in all kinds of terrain, where you only greet arctic animals and breathtaking landscapes from snow-capped mountains to astonishing fjords. A trail that will sweep off every hiker’s feet. Read on and hear about my hike from Nuuk to the settlement of Kapisillit in June 2022.
First things first: The preparations
A one-week hike in Greenland’s wild and raw nature takes some planning. We (my hiking buddy, Emma, and I) were fortunate to have great friends around us who made this tour possible.
We borrowed essential types of equipment such as a satellite communicator, snowshoes, and sleeping equipment. Moreover, we arranged an emergency pick-up with our boatowner friends if luck was not on our side. Luckily, that never became relevant.
A big portion of the preparation was about fuel for the legs. What to bring and how much? From meals and snacks to coffee and well-deserved goodnight beverages. You can read our full packing list (food, clothes, and equipment) at the bottom of this blog.
In terms of our time plan for this 110km hike with nine shelters along the way, we decided to take it day by day since we did not want any kind of deadline. We planned our return to Nuuk when we arrived in Kapisillit (the phone signal gets back in Kapisillit).
The trail is pretty straightforward when it comes to navigation, and you can use the mountains, fjords, and rivers as waypoints. With that said, we benefited from the apps Earthmate and Maps.me which both work offline and have the route marked from A to Z.
Day 1: From Nuuk to the rolling rocks at the Kobbefjord (shelter 2)
Ready, set, walk! We began our journey by the prison in Nuuk where the entrance to the Paradise Valley starts. The sky was blue and the temperature was on point – and so was our mood. We were pretty excited about what lay ahead of us!
Note: There was not a single moment without sun throughout the entire hike, so instead of replicating a blue sky and a shiny sun: it was like that every day. And oh, remember to bring sunscreen and a nice hat. They become great allies!
And back to the hike. Even though June sounds like summer, we needed snowshoes from the very beginning. We walked to shelter 1, had lunch, and walked down the descent. Shelter 1 has an amazing location, but it is not that far from Nuuk, so we wanted a longer stroke and end our first day in shelter 2.
After the descent, we walked along “the highway” where you cross the land from fjord to fjord. Here, the landscape turned brownish, and a lovely smell of grass occurred. From there, we could continue without snowshoes all the way to shelter 2.
One more note: Throughout the entire hike, we could always find springs from the mountains, which meant refilling of water was never really an issue. And you can also just melt some snow as a plan b!
We arrived to shelter 2 in the evening and started out with a not-so-warm dip in the fjord. Hereafter, we consumed a dehydrated meal and enjoyed the idyllic surroundings. Shelter 2 is without question a unique spot where you kind of feel like moving in, so get there in time if you are going!
Day 2: To the bottom of the Kobbefjord (shelter 3)
We were super excited about the second day since it was not our first time hiking to shelter 2. From there, it was totally new territory for us and the adventure could really begin.
The day started out by passing “the rolling rocks”. You sort of have to find your inner Spider-Man to pass the area – the rocks were quite big! Neither Emma nor I have a big history of practicing parkour, so it was not always so elegant and it was also pretty demanding with our backpacks, but we had lots of fun!
After the rolling rocks, we followed the coastline to the very bottom of the fjord where shelter 3 was located. You have the fjord to the right and the mountain chain on the left, so it takes a high per mille to get lost along that stroke.
The terrain was quite demanding with a swampy underlayer and tall thick branches growing like insane. At some point, I sort of regretted not bringing a machete…
In general, we quickly learned that a mile is not just a mile in the Greenlandic wilderness. And I repeat: a mile is not just a mile in the Greenlandic wilderness. Have that in mind if you are planning to do this hike.
Our peak of the day was when we suddenly heard a big bang from the mountains. A big waterfall was reborn and the water started to flush heavily out of the mountainside. Pretty cool to witness, if I have to say it myself.
We struggled a bit to find shelter 3 at the bottom of the Kobbefjord. At this point, we learned it was important to stay on the marked route shown on the apps when we were near a shelter. If you do that, the shelters will appear right in front of your eyes.
Day 3: To Qassi (shelter 4)
Day three was all about ascending. We got back in our snowshoes and set course towards the mountain of Qassi. However, we quickly met a majestic waterfall, so a break was needed to appreciate it – that was a rule!
Just before the ascent of Qassi, we had lunch at an ice-blue lake. During lunch, the funniest little arctic fox tried to interrupt us, and I do not blame our new friend for trying… We had rice mixed with delicious powder minestrone. After lunch, a quick nap was on the schedule.
We started the ascent which was around 700 meters. It was not that far, but steep and with slushy snow, which resulted in some tickling in the thighs if I have to tell the true story.
When we reached the top, our minds were blown away in two different ways. Firstly, the view was out of this world. Secondly, the shelter had no door and was filled with snow – not in function, in other words.
Nonetheless, the view completely dominated the mood and we just used the tent we brought along. It was a rocky landscape, so we used big rocks instead of tent pegs.
We started a bonfire and cooked our dinner on the flames and enjoyed the extraordinary scenery with the sound of small avalanches around us. A magical evening I will take with me to the very end.
Day 4: To Ameralik (Shelter 5)
I guess to wake up in a dream from a dream is the definition of inception. Nonetheless, it felt like that in that scenery! We started out day four (as every other morning) with our beloved oatmeal with almonds, cranberries, and sugar. And coffee of course!
We knew the stroke of the day would be downhill, so we took it quite slowly that morning. The majority of the snowy trail was parallel with a big river – almost all the way to shelter 5. Here, we got the chance to really feel the peaceful nature by seeing a herd of reindeer on the way.
At the end of the river, where it turned into a powerful waterfall, we could take off our snowshoes. Shortly after, we could see shelter 5. Once again, our heads almost exploded. The shelter had the most breathtaking view over the Ameralik Fjord with snow-capped mountains in the background. These shelters were just the gift that kept on giving.
For the first time, we arrived at a shelter during the afternoon. We had time for a “shower” and took it slowly in terms of dinner and relaxing.
One more note: Shelter 5 is actually the perfect endpoint from Nuuk if you want a shorter hike than all the way to Kapisillit. There is a beach where you easily can get picked up by boat.
I still haven’t mentioned the special bullet on our packing list, but each night, we enjoyed a heartwarming tea – or “sick fox tea” as we randomly called it. Anyhow, this evening we enjoyed more than one!
Ingredients: rum, lemon tea, random fruit tea, and sugar. And mark my words; it tastes like a glamorous sky bar cocktail out there in the wilderness – that I promise.
Day 5: To Timmianguit (shelter 6)
Like day four ended by going down alongside a waterfall, day five started by going up alongside a waterfall. At the top, we had to get back into our snowshoes.
Day five was a lot about walking long distances in strong wind and in snow that felt like slush-ice. To sum up the day in a few words: cold and wet feet! However, the libs were still smiling and the sun was still shining.
Another beautiful day, another beautiful shelter. Shelter 6 was located in an incredible spot and we were so lucky that someone had left oatmeal in there, which we were running low on. So Qujanaq (thank you in Greenlandic) to the previous oatmeal owners!
One more note: People leave gas canisters and eatable leftovers (dehydrated meals, sugar, etc.) in the shelters for future hikers to come. You can be lucky, but do not count on it when you pack! Luck wanted us some gas canisters, oatmeal, coffee creamer, and a delicious dehydrated bolognese along the way.
Day 6: To Aqajamerngit Qulaat (shelter 7)
The topic of day six was the element of water. We started out by walking a lot in the melting snow in the mountains. Afterward, a new kind of terrain lay ahead where our water shoes came in handy. We had to do a big river crossing which was a really fun challenge.
On the other side of the river, the landscape changed from snow to a wonderful lush area. It was just next to Qooqqut, which is a popular starting point for another and much shorter hike to Kapisillit.
The last stroke of the day was through a valley. Here, the definition of slushy snow reached new heights. I am tempted to say we swam from there to shelter 7 – even with snowshoes!
Day 7: To Itinnera (shelter 9)
On the seventh day, we decided to skip shelter 8 and go directly to shelter 9. The route brought us back to the Ameralik Fjord where we walked for 20 kilometers. When we reached the fjord, there was no more need for snowshoes for the rest of the hike to Kapisillit.
We were convinced the trail for the day would be a walk in the park, but once again, the terrain was difficult and time-consuming with a lot of big branches and many river crosses. A cool part of that stroke was all the eagles we saw!
We arrived at the last shelter on our journey around midnight. Even though our sleeping bags were whispering in our ears, it was an unforgettable moment. The combination of silhouettes of mountains in front of the red night sky, and tunes from Lord of the Rings on our speaker in the background, was just on the verge to break the ceiling for perfection.
Last note: I highly recommend bringing a speaker and downloading the soundtracks from Lord of the Rings if you decide to go on this hike – or any other hike… It is a booster for the legs and the mind!
Day 8: To the settlement of Kapisillit
Our last day was a short one. Shelter 9 is only 10 kilometers away from Kapisillit and the trail is fairly easy. The only big challenge of the day was an unexpected one. The area was staged for a mosquito invasion and it was impossible to get rid of them (our smell on the eighth day of hiking was probably also like candy for mosquitoes). We felt very lucky it was only on the last day we had to share our hike with them!
We reached Kapisillit at 2:30 pm which was exactly the same time of the day we started our journey seven days before.
Emma and I were loaded with joy and cheered with an Underberg together as the first thing. I do not really fancy the taste, but I sure do fancy the tradition to end a hike with an Underberg!
Fun fact: The name “Kapisillit” means the place with the salmon in Greenlandic.
And speaking of 2:30 pm… The only store in Kapisillit (where every purchase is possible) closes at 3 pm. We were not aware of that, so we somehow felt there was a bigger meaning with the universe since we felt so lucky. And believe me; we shopped!
After we performed a massacre on our private economy in the only store in town, we contacted our friends and asked if they could sail to Kapisillit and bring us back home. Luckily, they answered with a yes.
While we were waiting for our friends, we enjoyed some sunny hours on the beach in Kapisillit and had a good time with our new bags filled with chocolate, beers, chips, and much more. A lot of calories later, our friends arrived and we had the most beautiful evening sail back home to Nuuk.
Later thoughts on our hike to Kapisillit
I would like to wrap up this blog with a cliché quote that goes like this: Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory. In more non-poetically words; our tour was awesome in the present, but after some days passing by in the everyday life and it sinks in, the adjective awesome is just not enough.
I would highly recommend all hike enthusiasts to do the Kapisillit hike if you visit Nuuk – or at least pieces of the trail!
Hat & cap
Jetboil & gas canister
Coffee & tea
Oatmeal with almonds, berries, and sugar
Rice bags and powder minestrone
Sunscreen & lip balm
Do you want to experience the settlement of Kapisillit?
See some of our boat tours (not hiking) to the wonderful settlement of Kapisillit below: