Diary of an ACT thru-hiker. Day 0.

Kieran joined us in September 2023 on our inaugural Greenland Arctic Circle Trail trek from the ice-sheet to the sea. He kept a written and photographic journal of his adventure, which he has kindly allowed us to share with you.

Kieran standing in front of the Ice sheet and lake

7/9/23 Thursday. Day 0.

Seat 14A on a flight from Copenhagen to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. 

I still can’t believe I’m actually going.  It seems like it’s been so long coming because it has been on my mind for most of the last year. It also seems so remote, but for most of the people on board it’s probably their equivalent of a Ryanair flight from Dublin to Stansted.

It was a bit of a panic yesterday when I saw the amount of stuff I was bringing, and its weight! The pack was 20 kilos when I weighed it checking in, with another 10 kilos in the day pack. Some will be posted to the end of the trail, but most of it will have to be carried.

There has also been a bit of an obsession in our group over food for the last month or so. Dinner and breakfast are sorted, but, with help, we are all deciding our own snacks and lunches. I have a spreadsheet listing all sorts of foods and calculating how many calories per gram weight in each. My Garmin watch calculates my resting calories at about 1600 per day, so over 40,000 calories would give me nearly 2,500 active calories a day.  For the full trip, I was aiming for over 40,000 calories in about 10 kilos so looking for a ratio of 4:1 (calories : grams) or better.  I’ve made that target in calories, but there is almost 11 kilos of food to be carried.

We’re on the final descent into Kangerlussuaq, and I can see the ground just below us. Grey rock, green-brown grasses, grey overcast sky, it looks fairly bleak.  Temperature 3 degrees, light rain, it will be great!

This town used to be a U.S. airbase during the Second World War and the Cold War, and was only handed over to Greenland in 1992 when it was renamed Kangerlussuaq.

The airport is tiny, as to be expected. We got our packs, took a group photo outside under a logo of a polar bear – unfortunately we won’t see any of them here. We walked to the hostel and started to get ourselves organised.  I separated out what I was going to post to Sisimiut, and also took nine days food out of the pack to leave here in the hostel until we get back on Saturday evening.

Later, we had a communal dinner and a trip briefing. Ronan asked what people were worried about.  For me a couple of things: Firstly, at the moment, I probably would be carrying close to 28 kilos, including my camera kit, if I took all my food. That will be down to about 26 kilos when we head off on Sunday.  On top of that I need to bring some portion of the tent and cooking gas.  I know I’ve been training with 23 to 24 kilos, but depending on the terrain, I’m worried that I will struggle with the weight.  I just need to take it easy, particularly over the first day or two.  Besides this, there’s the concern that old injuries will flare up, the state of my feet (particularly when they’re wet), coping when everything is wet and cold, and then of course there is the unknown.

Most of the 2023 ACT team ready to board at Dublin Airport. That’s me, Kieran, at the back in the light green tee and glasses.