Trekking Greenland – Arctic Circle Trail – Katiffik to Canoe Center

Tyson and I awoke to the sounds of Rob and Emilio in confused discussion.  It turned out that the thought of cold food for the next 9 days was too much for Emilio and he was planning to turn back to Kangerlussuaq.  Rob was trying to understand why it was such a big deal and working to convince him to stick it out. 

I cracked open my cold-soaked porridge and eavesdropped as the conversation unfolded.  And even though hot porridge is not my favourite thing in the world and I figured cold porridge would be infinitely worse, it turned out to be not too bad!  Especially with the wild blueberries I’d collected yesterday along the trail thrown in 🙂

Plate of porridge and wild blueberries - standard breakfast along the Arctic Circle trail in West Greenland
My standard breakfast on the Arctic Circle Trail. Porridge and wild blueberries.

In the end, there was no changing Emilio’s mind. However, we did manage to convince him to leave us the 1/2-canister of screw-in gas as we watched him head back in the direction from which we’d arrived yesterday.

And then there were 3.

Rob, Tyson and myself agreed that we would need to camp at the huts each night so that we could try to scavenge gas.  None of us really fancied cold dinners, so the idea was to search the huts for gas left by other hikers and/or beg other hikers staying there to share enough gas for us to heat water for our meals.  This was going to be interesting!

Our first port of call today was Katiffik Hut – the first official hut of the Arctic Circle Trail and the place where almost everyone stops at the end of Day 1 out of Kangerlussuaq.  Tyson and I took a bit of a “choose your own adventure” route up the hill that overlooks the hut and lake

 Tyson starting down the hill towards the Katiffik Hut and Amitsorsuaq Lake.  Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Can you see the Katiffik Hut at the end of 
Amitsorsuaq Lake? 

before descending once more to arrive at this small wooden structure.

Katiffik - the first official hut of the Arctic Circle trail - is very cute but very small.  West Greenland.
It is tiny, and very cute!

All the information on the web makes it very clear that many of the huts along the trail are small, and that hikers should be prepared to camp each night in their own tent.  They aren’t kidding!  Katiffik Hut has a small cooking area and a platform that will sleep 3 people.  Another 3 could sleep underneath the platform in a pinch, but any more than that are going to have a hard time fitting in!

Interior of the Katiffik hut - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Inside Katiffik Hut – it is cozy!

Rob had beaten us there and had already snavelled another half canister of gas off a group of 3 hikers from Poland (hereafter known as The Poles) so that was great news!  And while he went on ahead, Tyson and I spent some time checking out the old canoe rack and the surroundings of the hut.

Old canoe rack with katiffik hut in the background - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
An old canoe rack at the Katiffik Hut

The Amitsorsuaq Lake is one of the longest along the Arctic Circle Trail. If you are lucky, there are occasionally canoes here that will allow you to take the weight off your shoulders (ie your backpack) and paddle most of the way to the next hut on the trail – the aptly named Canoe Center.

Unfortunately, luck was not on our side today so we shouldered our packs and headed off around the lake on foot.

Leaving Katiffik hut - the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Leaving Katiffik Hut

The trail kept relatively close to the shore of the lake, though was not without some minor rocky challenges

rocky obstacles along the Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
There are only a few places along the trail that present some minor technical challenges

and a highlight was this awesome sculpture made from reindeer antlers.

Sculpture made of reindeer antlers along the Arctic Circle Trail, West Greenland
Arctic Circle Trail artwork

Then, about half-way down the lake, we spotted the glint of a man-made object in the distance.  A canoe! 

Tyson checking out the canoe we found half way down Amitsorsuaq Lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Tyson was very excited to find a canoe

Complete with lifejackets and what can optimistically be described as “half a paddle”.

Tyson sitting in the canoe showing the half-paddle - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Well, it was a paddle of sorts…

Tyson did a test launch off the bank to check that the canoe was not going to sink on us (all good, despite the massive duct-tape patch on the hull!)

Despite the massive duct tape patch on the underside of the canoe - it was water-tight. Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Believe it or not, the canoe was water-tight once we’d re-stuck the duct-tape. No wonder MacGyver was such a fan of the stuff!

before loading it up with our packs and heading off down the lake to find a place to pick me up.

Views of Tyson paddling along the Amitsorsuaq Lake  - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Although I was on foot, at least I wasn’t carrying my heavy pack

It was awesome fun and very relaxing being out on the silent water,

Relaxing and paddling along the Amitsorsuaq Lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
This was so much fun!

and I learned an important lesson: always trek with a Canadian in case you need to do some paddling!  It turns out I’m not a natural at paddling a canoe with only half an oar, and so had to rely on Tyson’s superior skills to actually keep us heading in the right direction.  

Even with a very slight breeze helping us, our progress was slower than had we been on foot.  And although Tyson managed to improve on this slightly by duct-taping (magic stuff!) his hiking pole to our half-paddle to give it a longer handle, we could see The Poles catching up to us. 

Finally, after about 4km and with the cold starting to infiltrate our layered clothing, we decided to ditch the canoe and get back on our feet.  We pulled up at a lovely sandy beach, rolled the canoe over, and hoped that Rob would find it as he hiked along the trail.

Our canoe left on the shore of the Amitsorsuaq Lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Beautiful landing spot

Almost immediately, we came across another reindeer that was much closer than those we’d seen yesterday

Reindeer - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland

as we continued our journey along the lake’s edge.

Panorama of the - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland

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

When it came into sight, the Canoe Center was almost perfectly reflected in calm waters.

Canoe Center and mountains reflected in the still waters of Amitsorsuaq Lake - Arctic Circle Trail - West Greenland
Our destination for the night

This is by far the largest hut on the trail, and although there was still plenty of room for us to sleep inside, Tyson and I decided to pitch his tent.  We did, however, head back inside to see if we could scav some gas off our fellow trekkers to cook our dinner.  It was unbelievable that of the 30+ canisters in the cupboard under the sink, not one of them had even a sniff of gas in it!  Come on people!  Pack your used canisters out with you as well as your garbage!

Fortunately we found some very generous fellow adventurers who happily shared their gas with us, and we even managed a cup-of-soup starter and a cup of tea tonight with dinner! 🙂

Read more about hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

If this post has piqued your curiosity about hiking and trekking in Greenland, read about the rest of my adventure over 8 days on the Arctic Circle Trail:

If it has sparked an interest in Greenland more generally, learn more about this amazing country at Visit Greenland, and check out the wide range of tours of all kinds (not just hiking and trekking) at Guide to Greenland.

Trekking Information

Distance = 23.9 km

Time taken = 9hrs 20mins

GPX File = Arctic-Circle-Trail-Katiffik-Canoe-Center.gpx

Strava Link = https://www.strava.com/activities/2022856613

Map

Basic map of the route from the Katiffik Hut along the Arctic Circle Trail to the Canoe Center - from Strava

Altitude Profile

Altitude profile of the route from the Katiffik Hut along the Arctic Circle Trail to the Canoe Center - from Strava
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