Sunday, September 30, 2012

Greenland:Day Two

Our plan for the day was to paddle into the fjord just north of where we had camped and hopefully see the glaciers which were calving into the sea before returning south.  It was another beautiful day, with light winds and blue skies but our progress was stopped after a couple of miles because of the density of the ice.  So without seeing the glaciers we turned and headed south, we had 17 days left to reach Ilulissat.
It was the scale of the scenery which took some adjusting to.  The cliffs were huge and in places the mountains rose to over 2,000 metres within a few miles of the sea.
We had been really fortunate with two days of excellent weather and were looking forward to more of the same the following day.  Another 23 nautical miles covered.
Following one of the leads into the fjord.  Almost immediately it became apparent that the ice was denser than we had previously thought.
 Alex heading into the ice, the glaciers were out of sight.
Andy at the ice barrier.  It was clear that we weren't be able to make any further progress, so we turned around and headed south.
Lunch on a small headland, Anoritup nua.  The cliffs in the distance are the southern coast of Agpat, with the highest mountains rising to over 1,600 metres within 2 or 3 miles of the sea.
These cliffs stretched for about 10 miles and rose to nearly 1,000 metres in height.  There is nothing comparable in the UK.  Note the paddler in bottom left.
This was a really strange area known as The Desert.  By some quirk of geology there was no vegetation growing over quite a large area.
Crossing towards Ikerasak, where we were going to camp.  There were plenty of large bergs offering some interesting photo opportunities.
 The normal evening chores.  We were as close as possible to sea in an attempt to keep the insect population to a minimum but it was still necessary to use midge nets.
 The perfect view from the tent.  Uummannaq Island.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Greenland: First Day

On most long trips the first days packing always seems to present challenges but we quickly had several supermarket trolley loads of food stashed away and were heading out of the small harbour at Uummannaq, into the bright sunshine.
Stories of icebergs collapsing follow you around in Greenland and it is very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security but this film below was shot in Uummannaq in August and if it had occured whilst we were leaving, our trip would have been over before it started as the waves crashed across the area we were using to pack!

Iluliaq aserortoq from Franz Petersen on Vimeo.

Our route for the day took us across a 4 mile channel to the island of Storoen, before passing under some kilometre high cliffs  and heading towards the ice.  The weather remain settled throughout the day meaning that it was relatively straightforward to cover 20 nautical miles during the day. It was 6 very contended sea kayakers who sat on the rocks at the end of the day contemplating the awesome scenery we had paddled past during the day.

 The island of Storoen dominated our view for the first few miles.
It is always important to look behind.  This is the amazing view of Uummannaq Island as we paddled away from the harbour.
Miles of vertical cliffs dominated the north coast of Storoen
At this point the cliffs are over 1,000 metres high, they were of a scale which was difficult to comprehend
Our first encounter with a berg on any size was close to the small island of Satut.
Large bergs very quickly gave way to smaller, but more densely packed, pieces of ice.
Our first camp site was close to the small hut at Qingoq.  Sitting inside whilst we ate our evening meal gave some welcome respite from the attentions of the local insect population
 Our target for the following day was into the ice and around to the right, hopefully getting a view of the calving glaciers in Itivdllarssup Kangerdlua.
 24 hours of daylight means that the views can be simple stunning at midnight.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Greenland Summer

As readers of this blog will be aware I consider the west coast of Greenland to be one of the finest sea kayaking destinations anywhere.  The stunning scenery, rich historical landscape, diverse wild life and wilderness combine to create a truly memorable environment.We were fortunate this year to be able to head further north than in the past, flying into Uummannaq and then paddling south,  nearly 300 nautical miles back to Ilulissat.

The northern waters of Disko Bay seen from the helicopter, it would be over two week before returned through this area in our kayaks and there would be significantly more ice.
Nicky collecting our hand luggage from the Bell 212 we flew to Uummannaq in.  What a great experience.
The kayaks had been left at the side of the road by Yann and the other French sea kayakers.  The backdrop was simple stunning and that was were we would be heading tomorrow.
The village of Uummannaq has a population of about 1,300 but it is dwarfed by the mountain which rises dramatically to a height of 1170 metres straight out of the sea.  Any ascent would be challenging day out!
Exploring the village in the evening we came across the local kayak club, with a variety of craft.
The following morning as we packed the kayaks the cloud base obscured what we assumed was pretty dramatic scenery.  Following a visit to the supermarket the skies had cleared revealing the surrounding mountains.

Andy and myself were the first afloat and eager to start the crossing the nearest islands.  As we sat in the harbour, absorbing the scale of the environment we had little idea just how dramatic our first days paddle would actually be.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

30th Wedding Anniversary

After 30 years of marriage we decided to celebrate by heading across the Atlantic to one of our favourite cities, New York and no visit to the Big Apple is complete without a paddle.
From New York Kayak Co. at Pier 40 we crossed to the New Jersey shore and headed downstream on the last of the tide to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  The warm sunshine and light winds combined to create almost ideal kayaking conditions, and it certainly was a great way to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary

 Approaching Ellis Island.  In common with the Statue of Liberty there is an exclusion zone around the Island, which is indicated by white buoys.   Do not encroach on the islands as there is generally a swift response from the security services
 New buildings arising from the site of the original World Trade Centre dominate the views of Lower Manhattan
 Lisa and Sarah don't paddle that much so a double was the ideal kayak.  In the distance is the Verazzano Narrows bridge, beyond which lies the open ocean.
 There can be few more dramatic locations, in a made made landscape, to paddle in a kayak, than just off the Statue of Liberty.
 When circumnavigating the Island just make sure that you don't approach too closely and remember to remain vigilant because of the number of ferries and tourist boats found in the area.
Approaching Manhattan, on the return journey.  The choppy waters are all the result of the boat traffic on the Hudson.  There are no beaches, only concrete walls, so there is no absorption of the energy in the waves, they just bounce back from the wall, at times creating quite entertaining conditions.
Almost back at Pier 40 after a memorable few hours on the water.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Where has the summer gone?

It has been a frantic few months, proving difficult to update the blog on anything which resembles a regular basis.  It was refreshing to return to one of my favourite sea kayaking destinations, the Ecrehous.
The 12 nm return trip was a real pleasure in the early September sunshine, possible the last opportunity to apply sunscreen in 2012.  In addition the tide wasn't running too quickly, having a maximum rate of about 3 knots so we had a reasonable large window of opportunity for the crossing.

 Looking towards France, the clarity of the water was exceptional
 One of the original date stones of the small houses.  They are part of the parish of St Martin, the north east parish of Jersey
 There was quite a large number of visitors to the reef but it didn't seem crowded
 Some of the small houses which punctuate some of the isolated rocks of the archipelago
 It was Cliff's first visit so we decided to go in the Jersey Canoe Club double.
 The plastic double was ideal for a seal launch down the shingle bank
A great way to start the return paddle to Jersey

A memorable day on the water and the start of many great days to come.