Hiking Greenland – Nasaasaaq Mountain – Sisimiut

The most popular day-hike from Sisimiut is the climb up Palasip Qaqqaa – the 544m mountain that overlooks the airport. However, Tyson and I aren’t really ones to follow the crowds, and so on the first clear day after arriving in Sisimiut, we decided to tackle the pyramid-shaped Nasaasaaq Mountain (784m) instead.

Nasaasaaq mountain rises steeply behind the colourful houses of Sisimiut - West Greenland
The summit of Nasaasaaq is the triangular peak to the left of the image, and a key landmark above Sismiut. It is actually much higher than the bluff on the right, which we also climbed

We picked up the trail notes for the “Hard Route” (of course!) from the foyer of the Hotel Sisimiut and headed along the extremely boring 2km of road past the lakes that provide the town with drinking water. We had already hiked this section of road a few days earlier when we arrived in Sisimiut after 8 days on the Arctic Circle Trail. It wasn’t interesting then, and was even less so now! But as soon as we left the road and started trying to follow the trail notes, things became very interesting indeed!

We headed across boggy ground towards the rocky knoll as per the instructions

Start of the "Hard Route" up Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
The start of the “Hard Route” up Nasaasaaq mountain

and figured that the steep gully to our left looked about right.

Steep gully at the start of the "Hard Route" up Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland

The added bonus was a fairly well defined track that we followed for most of the way up, and the occasional small stone cairn with blue paint on it.

Hiking up the trail along the gully at the start of the Nasaasaaq mountain hike - Sisimiut, West Greenland
We had a fairly early start to our hike

At the top of the pass we had a beautiful view over the valley we’d hiked along on the last day of the Arctic Circle Trail

View from the small pass at the top of the gully along the Hard Route up Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
The valley through which the Arctic Circle Trail approaches Sisimiut

before turning right along a very faint trail leading off to what looked to be a cairn in the distance. Hmmm… Is this right? It was what the trail notes said to do, but it didn’t inspire confidence that our “superhighway” trail suddenly became barely visible.

Heading along an uncertain trail - Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Tyson is thinking “Are you sure??”

We persevered, however, and eventually arrived at the structure I had seen from the pass. It was indeed a cairn, and it even had blue paint on it!

Hiker approaching a cairn on the flank of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Thank goodness this thing that I’d seen in the distance turned out to be a cairn!

This was a relief, as we were clearly not following the .gpx trail I’d downloaded. That trail was about 100m straight up the cliff towering above us, with no way for us to reach it from our current location. We really had little choice but to follow the edge of the cliff or backtrack and try to find a different route. We decided to press on…

View of Sisimiut from above, hiking the flank of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Sisimiut, with its two lakes that act as drinking water reservoirs, spread out below the route we took to the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain

Fortunately, we encountered several other cairns, which ultimately led us along the upper flank of the mountain. Meanwhile, Tyson did his best to ignore the very steep drop-off to our right (fortunately dodgy heights don’t worry me too much)!

View over hiker and distant valley as we flank the side of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Cliff on one side, steep drop on the other. There was only one way forward.

Eventually, the trail turned upwards and we played “spot the blue spot” as we ascended through the rocks to the saddle point mentioned in the trail notes. It did exist! Despite us long having given up hope of ever finding it.

Hiker making his way up steep rocky slope - Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Fortunately it wasn’t too hard to spot the next “blue spot” amongst all the rocks

Now that we’d managed to make it onto the ridge, we decided to first of all head over to our right to explore the rocky bluff in that direction.

Rocky bluff that forms the end of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Rocky bluff at the end of the Nasaasaaq mountain range

We had a great view back over to our goal for the hike – the summit of Narsaasaaq,

View of Nasaasaaq peak from the rocky bluff - Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
The triangular Nasaasaaq peak from the rocky bluff at the end of the mountain

as well as Sisimiut

View of Sisimiut from rocky bluff of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Greenland’s second largest city – Sisimiut – seen from the rocky bluff. Palasip Qaqqaa, the most popular day-hike, is the mountain at top-right

and the alpine peaks along the Arctic Circle to the South of the city.

Peaks to the south of Sisimiut from Nasaasaaq mountain - West Greenland
Looking South to the Arctic Circle

After taking in the views for a while, it was time to turn around and head for the main event.

Hiker heading towards the triangular peak of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland

The closer we got to the final ascent, the more daunting it looked.

Side-view of the steep ascent to the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Note the two hikers at the base of the slope!

And indeed. This is not one for the faint-hearted or vertiginous! For the most part, it is a very, very steep rock scramble/climb, though there is a trail to help guide you along the only accessible route

Scrambling up boulders on the way to the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
It was an impressive rock scramble/climb to the summit

which has ropes to help you up/down otherwise impassable obstacles.

rope assists on the way to the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Thank goodness for the ropes!

In the end, the 360-degree panoramic reward was totally worth the effort and nerves – especially on a day like this with clear views and no wind.

Panorama of ridge view at summit of  Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland

[move cursor over the image to see the full panorama]

Panorama of valley with Arctic Circle Trail from the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland

[move cursor over the image to see the full panorama]

Views from the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
Views from the summit of Nasaasaaq – the Amerloq Fjord (top) and Sisimiut (bottom)

Unfortunately, the light was not the best for photography 🙁 If I ever get another opportunity, I will camp at the saddle and climb the peak twice – once in the evening for the views over the Amerloq fjord and the abandoned settlement of Assaqutaq, and again in the morning for views over the valley through which the Arctic Circle Trail runs.

Amerloq Fjord from the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
The Amerloq Fjord as seen from the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain. Can you spot the abandoned settlement of Assaqutaq on the island at bottom-right?

After about an hour at the top, we very carefully made our way back to the saddle and decided to follow the “Medium-hard Route” back to Sisimiut.

Medium-Hard route down Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
The Medium-hard route was very obvious

This trail led us down towards the valley with the Arctic Circle Trail, and there we discovered where we’d gone wrong on the way up.

At the top of the first gully, we should have walked about 100m further and started to descend before turning right. There is a VERY obvious trail heading up towards the saddle if you do that, and all of the “Hard Route” trail notes suddenly make perfect sense. I guess we followed the “Super-hard-core Route” up the mountain! But it did have more spectacular views 😉

The “Medium-hard Route” is another obvious track that turns off from the Arctic Circle Trail rather than ascending up the gully. If you are hiking the Arctic Circle Trail, have time, and the weather is reasonable, I’d recommend taking this trail at the end of the hike and spending an extra night camping at the saddle of Nasaasaaq. This would allow you to climb the mountain on the way into town, rather than doing it as a day hike afterwards. Look for the cairn with both red (indicating the Arctic Circle Trail) and blue (indicating the Nasaasaaq trail) paint on it, and a trail leading off to your left as you approach Sisimiut.

Trail coming up from the Arctic Circle Trail - Nasaasaaq mountain - Sisimiut, West Greenland
The track for the “Medium-hard Route” heading down towards the Arctic Circle Trail

Recommendation

The hike to the summit of Nasaasaaq mountain is truly spectacular and a little challenging – even if you don’t take the “Super-hard-core Route”.

Both the “Hard Route” and “Medium-hard Route” have steep sections and parts where you need to scramble over rocks, but the real issue is the final ascent to the summit. If you are not good with heights or are uncertain about your abilities, do not attempt this part!! You still have amazing views over Sisimiut, the mountains along the Arctic Circle to the South, and up the Amerloq Fjord from the rocky bluff at the end of the Nasaasaaq range, so stick with that and don’t force a search and rescue operation (it is more common than you imagine!)

Trekking Information

Distance = 14.7km

Time taken = 6hr 35mins

GPX File = Hiking-Greenland-Nasaasaaq-Mountain.gpx

Strava Link =https://www.strava.com/activities/1813015128

Map

Basic Map of the route we took up Nasaasaaq Mountain near Sisimiut, West Greenland - from Strava

Altitude Profile

Altitude Profile of the route we took up Nasaasaaq Mountain near Sisimiut, West Greenland - from Strava

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