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Kain Mellowship

My name is Kain Mellowship and I’m a 30 year old photographer and lover of the great outdoors from Australia

I’m currently living in Copenhagen and enjoying all of the incredible travelling opportunities that living in Scandinavia offers. I recently took a 4 week solo hiking trip to Greenland that began with a 165 kilometre/7 day hiking trail known as The Arctic Circle Trail. Please read on as I give a small recap of my time on one of the most remote trails in the world. 

 

The Arctic Circle Trail (ACT) is a 165-kilometre through hiking trail located in Greenland stretching between Kangerlussuaq and the coastal town of Sisimiut which generally takes between 7-10 days to complete. It’s the biggest ice-free patch of Greenland and offers hundreds of stunning lakes that are fed by the ice sheet’s meltwater, and it offers spectacular hiking-friendly landscapes during the summer months. The terrain isn’t particularly difficult and could be hiked by almost anyone with a reasonable level of fitness, hiking experience and willpower. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, comes with the fact that there are no towns or villages, no grocery stores, no hospitals, no emergency help—basically, no nothing until you walk the full 165 km trail and come out at the other end. You have to be 100% self-sufficient out there and carry everything you need for the entirety of the trail. Along the way, there’s the possibility to stay in one of several very basic wooden cabins scattered along the trail. I carried a tent because I intended to only sleep outdoors in order to fully enjoy the beauty of Greenland’s untouched nature. I was lucky enough to have the Robens Kite Tent to give me shelter from the harsh Greenlandic elements as well as the Pamir 750 sleeping bag to keep me warm when those summer nights dipped down close to 0 degrees. As pack weight is so important on through-hikes like this, every extra gram can make all the difference and that’s why the Kite and Pamir 750 were vitally important for me on this trip. They are both incredibly tough and durable and perfect for the elements I was diving  into, but also relatively low in weight and pack-size considering the quality of the materials used. 
 
The landscape out on the ACT is pure magic! I remember countless times thinking “This is not real!” Scenes would present themselves that looked like something straight out of a fairytale—I couldn’t believe it. Lakes dominate for much of the hike, making fresh drinking water something you never have to worry about running out of. One difficult thing about visiting during summer and the midnight sun, though, is the unlimited hours of light and always being tempted to be doing something. No darkness essentially means unlimited possibility for adventuring to the point of exhaustion. I sometimes found it tough to achieve a balance of getting enough sleep, and getting enough adventure.

I knew it was summer in Greenland, but I was under the assumption that Greenland was just cold…always! If I’d arrived a few days earlier than I had, however, it would’ve been a much different story. I later learned from hikers I met on the trail that it had been snowing for the previous three days and everyone was in lockdown waiting to start the hike once the weather cleared. During the summer, nothing can be certain in Greenland except death, taxes and millions of ravenous mosquitoes set out to make your life a misery. Every exposed bit of skin was being attacked by what seemed like an infinite swarm of mosquitoes. Out came my mosquito head net, which basically became a permanent fixture for the trip (I even brushed my teeth inside of it).  
 

Most mornings on the trail would start off pretty slowly as I took some time to take in the landscape around me to appreciate where I was and what I was doing. Being the middle of summer above the Arctic Circle, the sun would already be high in the sky by 6 am when I usually rose, radiating a comforting warmth. 

The first few days seemed to blend into one another. Lakes upon lakes upon even more lakes. The hiking was generally pretty easy going but the long distances, combined with the (too!) heavy pack, made for a pretty tough time. With an aching body, I began a recovery ritual. Each morning after waking, each evening before sleeping, and every long break I took from hiking, I would strip off and jump straight into an icy cold lake and treat my aching muscles to some much-needed cold water therapy. 
 
Some of the lakes and rivers on the ACT are teeming salmon and Arctic char. About 3 days into my hike, I came to a river crossing that I’d heard was full of fish where I hit the jackpot with massive salmon everywhere! Although it seemed like it would be as cliche and easy as shooting fish in a barrel, it was the exact opposite. I cast different lures out in front of the fish, behind them, even directly onto them, upstream, downstream and every combination possible, but they were not even the slightest bit interested. Eventually my luck changed and I caught 3 massive salmon in quick succession. I cooked and ate one immediately (so fresh!!), gave one to some very appreciative hikers staying in the hut nearby, and took one with me for the following day. Other than fish, it’s possible to forage for mussels, mushrooms, various berries, as well as some other lesser known local plants and herb delicacies. It’s also not uncommon to spot musk ok, reindeer, arctic hare, arctic fox and various bird species out on the trail, making it a wildlife photographer’s dream!