Pakitsoq – sunshine and tide races

After the winds of the day before it was a pleasure to wake to a calm morning.  Breakfast was a very pleasant affair as we knew that we would be heading south, towards Pakitsoq, after the delays of the last 24 hours and could start to relax, with a good forecast for the next few days.  We were quickly underway and our first stop for the day was Kugssuaq, where we knew that there was an easy landing and a good stream.

After the winds of the day before it was a pleasure to paddle in such calm conditions.
Always a pleasant place to stop for lunch, the beach at Kugssuaq.
Washing hair
In addition to being an ideal lunch spot Kugssuaq is a great place to wash your hair.

I have crossed Pakitsoq 13 times in the last few years and on every single occasion have seen whales.  This year was no exception, although the views were rather distant.  The first indication of whales in the vicinity is when you heard their breathing or saw the spray from their breath rising above the surface of the sea.  Our focus though was ensuring that we managed to enter Pakitsoq safely, through the tidal narrows.
I have always found that the safest way to enter Pakitsoq is to arrive at the narrows early, whilst he tide is still pouring out. Then either sit and wait or play in the tide race, until the outgoing flow has slackened enough to enable you to paddle through the narrows with a degree of control and in relative safety.  We managed to enter, with a bit of uphill paddling at 17.30, this was on a day when high water at Ilulissat was at 21.05 and low water was at 14.18.  The tide times are available here.

Looking into the narrows which lead into the inner part of Pakitsoq. It was just a matter of waiting for the tide to rise and the outgoing stream to slow down.
taken a couple of years ago this shows the quantity of moving water in the narrows

Once you are inside Pakitsoq a totally different world is revealed. The biggest difference is that there are no icebergs, so camping and moving the kayaks is much easier. There is no longer the need to have the kayaks 10 metres above the high water mark, just in case a large berg should roll over. Just as no bergs will make it through the gap because of the narrow water and the tides the same probably applies to large marine mammals so don’t expect to see whales swimming around in here.
One thing to take into account is that the two daily tides are unequal in height. The evening tide is normally quite a bit bigger than the morning one, so take this into account when deciding how far to lift the kayaks up, the last line of wet seaweed is probably not far enough. On the day we entered the evening tide had a height of 2.6 metres, which seems to equate to a Spring, whilst the morning high water was only 1.8 metres.
Once inside there are a number of options available but we chose to paddle the southern arm, which is much narrower and to explore some of the small islands scattered around the bay.  Last time we had been in this area we camped at the head of the inlet, which allowed us to walk and see an amazing glacial landscape.

This was the furthest we could paddle into Pakitsoq. The icecap wasn’t to far away. Wind blown deposits were gradually smothering the vegetation. This felt a very bleak spot.
Some of the group felt the inner parts of Pakitsoq to be claustrophobic and felt happier as we headed back towards more open water.
There is always a desire to climb to the top of the island and this was no exception. Great views alround. Note everybody is wearing Crocs the perfect footwear for kayaking in the Arctic.
Paddling away from one of the islands inside Pakitsoq. The water is coloured by the small particles which have been carried into the bay by the glacial meltwater streams.

Overall a very enjoyable day and made that much easier by the fact we didn’t to pack and unpack the kayaks.  A day paddling an empty kayak is almost like having a rest day.  The evening was spent relaxing around the campsite, admiring the view and rejoicing in the fact that there were no insects to bother us.  The only negative feeling was a growing realization that in the next couple of days the trip would be over.  Greenland was once again casting its spell as a truly special sea kayaking destination.

Just inside and on the southern shore of Pakitsup ilordlia is a perfect camping spot. Great views and no worrying about icebergs, because there aren’t any.

Disko Bay – Day 14 – Pakitsoq

After a truly memorable day exploring glaciated landscapes the day before, it was time to start to head west back towards the open waters.  The tide hadn’t risen high enough to float the kayaks so initially we had to drag the kayaks through some rather sticky glacial mud, at the head of Pakitsoq.
Eventually with a falling tide and slight tail wind we made rapid progress through the narrows, reaching the open water relatively quickly.  For the first time on the trip we saw a number of groups of geese, close to the waters edge plus a some distant views of an Arctic Fox.
We finished for the day relatively early and some of us passed an hour or so rolling and rescuing.  Although the water was cold it wasn’t as harsh as we had experienced on other days, which might have been because of the lack of ice floating in the water.
Whilst chatting about a particular rescue I swallowed 4 insects, which was an indication of what it might be like on the land.  That evening was the worst we experienced on the trip for insects.  To say they were unbearable would be an under statement.  It was impossible to be outside for more than a few seconds, the only refuge was in the tipi.  The lack of photographs for today, is an indication of what an impact they had that evening.
It was an early night and probably 30 minutes was spent inside the tent, ensuring that all the biting insects had been dealt with, before we settled down to sleep.
Probably the only negative aspect of kayaking in Greenland.
It wasn’t that warm as we prepared to drag our kayaks across the mud flats in search of water deep enough to float them.
Looking west as we paddled out of the narrows.  The milky water indicates that we were still pretty close to the meltwater streams.
How often is that you come across a roche moutonee, whilst out sea kayaking.  The glacial landscape was always revealing new features.
Lunch was taken on one of the small islands in an attempt to reduce our contact with the insects.  It seemed to work.
 The summit of the island was covered in a range of small plants and lichens.

Disko Bay – Day 13

It was strange to be kayaking with no ice visible in the water, it was as if we had entered a completely different world.  Somehow the landscape seemed less harsh, initially.  We had decided to explore the southern arm of this large, sheltered inlet, access to which, was protected by fast moving tidal streams.
Lunch was taken on a beautiful sandy beach, something we hadn’t seen too much off in the last couple of weeks, just before we headed into the narrows of Qingua kujataleq.  What followed later that afternoon were some of the most memorable experiences of our summer in Greenland and guaranteed to send anybody with an interest in glacial landscapes into raptures of delight.
 A rare sight in Disko Bay, a small sandy beach.  This was a perfect place for lunch prior to entering the narrows at Qingua kujataleq.  There were no insects, so it was a completely relaxing break.
 Entering the narrows.  The change in water colour is an indication of melt water streams feeding the inlet.
 Nicky trying to seek some sheltered water to make progress upstream.  At this point there was a significant flow from left to right.
 We should probably have foreseen this, but suddenly we started to run out of water.
 This was a far as we could go, although looking at the map we thought we should have been able to make further progress towards the ice cap.
 A steep climb up a stream bed, just behind where we landed and a walk along a raised valley delivered us to this viewpoint.
 A world of moraine, melt water streams and ice.  It would have been so easy to miss this remarkable glacial landscape if we hadn’t made the effort to go walking.
 On our maps this was marked as the sea, which it clearly isn’t.  We are still trying to decide whether it was a glacial outwash plain or an old lake bed.
 Whatever the origins of the flat landscape there were very few splashes of colour.  We did see some other human foot prints but interestingly this was the only day on the entire trip when we didn’t see any other people.
We are pretty certain this is a varve, an annual layer of sediment.
 After a lovely day kayaking and truly memorable walk we were rewarded with a spectacular camp site.

Disko Bay – Day 12

This was to be a day dominated by some white water kayaking, not something that I have experienced that frequently whilst paddling in Greenland. It finished with our entry into the inner part of the Pakitsoq fjord.  A considerable  area, which differs in numerous ways from the rest of the kayaking, which is experienced off the west coast of Greenland.  It was the start of a couple days of memorable experiences
Preparing to depart after breakfast.  Our early morning porridge was made slightly more interesting due to the fact that as we sat on the rocks, our friend Yann, from southern Brittany paddled past.  Sea kayaking really is a small world.
 Alex heading south in Ata Sund.  Quite a bit of the ice from the previous day had disappeared.
 We arrived at the entrance into the inner section of Pakitsoq, slightly early, so the tide was still ebbing with some force.
 Jim heading out into the current, for a bit of play time.
 Toby crossing into the main stream.  Once the tide reached a certain level the rough water disappeared really quickly.  It was an interesting 90 minutes of play in the white water, which is in total contrast to most of the kayaking experienced in Greenland.

 Passing through the narrows into Pakitsup ilordlia.  It was strange to think that we were still paddling on the sea.
 Once through the narrows a totally different environment is revealed.  The ice cap is just visible through the dip in the skyline.  The complete lack of ice bergs also meant that we didn’t have to carry our kayaks so far in the evening, to avoid any possible waves generated by calving bergs.
 A delightful campsite, made even more enjoyable by the complete lack of insects.
On evenings like this there is always the temptation to leave the tent door open.