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Greenland: Hiking on Top of the World

GREENLAND | Thursday, 6 March 2014 | Views [4694]

Greenland is an incredible country. It is cold, harsh and extreme. But for those who brave these conditions, it provides an unparalleled experience to be one with nature in its very raw and real form. Hiking on a blanket of Greenland’s white, 80% of the country’s cover, solid water, was an experience that gives me the chills each time I think of it, an adventure quite unlike any other I had had.

It’s not just white

By my fourth day in Greenland, I was in love with the country’s remarkable land contours that spread for miles in various shades of green and brown, occasionally intercepted by stretches of white spilling over dun mountains in the distance, blending with the sky. The patterns made the landscape so gorgeous that Eric the Red was probably right in naming it Greenland as opposed to another theory of the nomenclature being a misnomer meant only to entice settlers. Either ways, I was hooked.

Land and Ice. Divine.

To experience the ‘other’ side of this Green, (and something without which our Greenlandic adventure would never have been complete) the National Geographic Crew, Jason Edwards and I decided to hike our way across rolling hills to the edge of a Glacier. The first leg of the trip was extremely tiring, across grass that stretch for miles, soft like heather and perfect for rolling on, but one, which made walking a tough enterprise.

At the end of the first leg of the hike, when I saw the view, a gorgeous lake harbored by a glacier, I was filled with awe! This was definitely a treasure worth sweating for, (and sweat we did despite the negative temperatures brought a notch further down by howling winds) And, as if in reward for the sweaty tired treasure seekers, the country offered Red Garnets embedded in its tiny rocks loosely strewn around the hill.

If you look closely at this photograph, you might notice my friend Simon, a tiny blob of yellow here, digging at a rock for souvenirs.

Across Boulders we hike 

Moving on further, we circumnavigated the lake, the second stretch of our hike and it started to snow. The path was laden with loose sand, stones, and boulders ready to leap off; each step demanded careful attention. A wrong footing on a slack rock, (right after I took this one) and I had my first tumble rolling few feet below as soft snowflakes fell from above.

On how to preserve a Snowflake

Before this trip, a friend of mine who had never seen snow before had asked me to preserve a snowflake for him, probably presuming that it snows in Greenland all the time. Now it doesn’t, but absolutely does more often than at many other places (and this was Autumn). Without glass plates and other assorted paraphernalia required in making his wish true, I knew I had little chance. But, when we took a moment’s breather and this one sole flake came and rested on my camera strap, I preserved it my way.

Like a solid cloud 

 

From a distance, the vast stretches of whites of the polar ice cap gave a sense of softness. I wanted to jump on to them, from an imaginary pedestal, wanting to roll on in its indulgent blanket. A want I had always equated up till now with clouds each time I looked out of an airplane window.

Its sharp up close 

Up close the softness felt false, it looked a menacing affair of sharp cuts around the edges turned blue from the algae that grows between its folds, making me want to reconsider my wish.

In a six heeled fashion

Up till this stretch, we had been hiking for hours and our ‘actual hike’ had not even begun. To get on with it, our guide and friend, Adam, laid out crampons and hiking sticks for us. Strapping on these tiny six pointed heels under my shoe was a tricky affair involving a little dance in balance with each foot.

Braving a Crevasse

As we hiked on the polar ice cap, I was teeming with adrenaline and apprehension in almost equal measures. The path was laden with deep crevasses. Crossing each meant manipulating my mind’s primeval resistance with bravery. A little foolhardiness or one wrong move and falling into one, little rescue.

It’s all white

With no reference for scale, and nothing but unbounded sweeps of ice, gauging distance was tough and every stretch looked relatively conquerable but, in theory. In reality, each step was a struggle and meant checking each landing for its solidness. When I managed to reach our ‘tiny’ summit, I was ecstatic, on top of the world! 

Like a Cowboy on Ice

Walking back, especially downslope meant walking like a cowboy, bending knees, taking each step deliberately slow and in style. Layered like a wooly mammoth, I tried, trotting like a cowboy, without a cowboy’s élan, struggling to balance, settling instead for the clumsy finesse of an ice warrior as bad weather started to droop in.

When one adventure ends, another begins

At the end of the polar ice cap hike, I was greeted back with silt and massive moraines deposited over years, a stark contrast of black to the whites of the ice before. It was an anticlimax limbo where I rested for a moment, took off my gear and breathed in the great adventure as I lunged up to begin my hike back. With whites of the polar ice cap etched in my heart, I felt good as I raced back along Tundra tracks, accepting challenge from bad weather gods, and promising to be back, someday, for more.   

About the Author

Divya Agrawal joined National Geographic photographer, Jason Edwards, on assignment in Greenland as the winner of the World Nomads 2013 Travel Photography Scholarship. Read more about Divya's Greenland adventures here.

Want to see more stunning photos from Greenland? Check out the rest of Divya's images.

Travel. Learn. Create.

For all of you aspiring creatives, check out our Scholarships page for the latest opportunities, tips, advice and interviews with industry professionals in the fields of photography, travel writing and filmmaking.

And if you're lucky enough to be mentored by one of our industry professionals, it could kick start your career!

 

Tags: greenland, hiking, photography, polar, travel

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