From March 13th through the 23rd, I was a member of a group of 10 hearty souls that participated in the second running of “Fatbike Greenland”. For 6 of the 10 days of the trip, I rode a fat tire Transalpes bike 230 kilometers from the base of the Russell Glacier to the coastal city of Sisimiut. The ride is sponsored by Abenteurreisen, Switzerland, and supported in Greenland by Sirius Greenland.
The trip officially started in Copenhagen where the 9 participants met their Abenteurreisen Swiss-German guide for a get-acquainted dinner. The group was made up of 7 Swiss-Germans (2 women and 5 men), a Dutch woman, and me. We met in Copenhagen, as the only commercial flights to Greenland originate from this city. For an idea as to the remoteness of this large island destination, the flying time to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland was approximately 4.5 hours, ever so close to eastern Canada.
The memory of stepping off the airplane and embracing the cold and doing a 360 to survey the landscape is permanently embedded in my mind. I did not know what this wild place would have to offer, but it had my full attention and enthusiasm to give it my best effort.
Later that first afternoon we met the 3-person Team Sirius Greenland support group. It was a warm introduction to Inuit culture with some local humor; as the lone vegetarian of the group, I was teased with the joke “what is a vegetarian called in Greenland? A poor hunter.” This 3-person team drove the snowmobiles that transported our baggage, carried the fuel that warmed the huts and tents, gave us warm drinks and snacks along the route, cooked our meals, and kept us entertained with their knowledge of Greenland and local lore.
Some highlights of the trip:
• Seeing the Aurora Borealis was nothing but spectacular. I saw shades of green that I had never seen before; it was out of this world.
• After riding by myself for a while, I heard the sound approach me and finally a “hey!” from an unknown source. I pulled to my right and looked to the rear only to see a sled team silently passing me by. Yes, this is Greenland – sweet!
• The coldest part of the ride was at the start because it was inland. The night before at Kangerlussuaq, temperatures were in the range of -22 degrees F. I am sure it was in that range when we started at 10:00 am the next day and may have warmed to -5. The following nights were in the area of -10, and during the day it was between -5 to 5 above. Only on the last days as we got closer to Sismiut did it reach 10 above.
• The colorful city of Sismiut is built on the coast’s edge, and decorated with wood frame houses featuring all the colors of the rainbow and more. The city is alive with people of all ages, shopping bags in tow, walking to the various markets. It’s a city of women pushing strollers and children in colorful snowsuits playing in their own winter wonderland.
• Days of canceled flights while snowbound in Sisimiut gave us the opportunity to be further exposed to the wonders of Mother Nature and Greenland hospitality. It was a chance to ride snowmobiles and discover local watering holes.
• The administrative coordination with Adenteurreisen and Team Sirius ground support was unsurpassed. The clothing needs listed and daily itineraries were spot-on, and a snowmobile with warm tea served by a cheerful support team member was always nearby. In the huts the meals were hearty and plentiful, and followed by a discussion of the day’s events while enjoying a libation; camaraderie is an international feeling.
As for the route, with the exception of the first day of riding on a road between the Russell Glacier and Kangerlussuaq, the remaining 5 days were on lakes, fjords, and rivers with connecting sections of land. Two of the days had sections of bike and hike over steeper grades. The beautiful snowy landscape, accompanied by the complete silence of these spaces, is without parallel.
Worth noting is the fact that the trail we followed is the only overland connection between the only year-round airport in Kangerlussuaq (pop. 500), and our destination of the coastal city of Sisimiut (pop. 5,500). After 11 days of fun and adventure, it was time to bid farewell to a snowy and refreshing island with a warm heart, taking with me memories for a lifetime. www.fatbike-greenland.com