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GREENLAND

expedition handbook

DATES: 06 Aug18 Aug 2017 COST: £2699

This Handbook contains everything you need to know about this Secret Compass epic expedition to Greenland.

Read on to discover our ethos and team-centred approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations. Use the buttons below to ask questions or to apply for this team or, once approved, to secure your spot on the team with a Booking Form and a £400 deposit.

Key facts

  • Arrive: by 1200 on 6 August 2017 into Kulusuk, Greenland.
  • Depart: leave any time on 18 August 2017 onwards.
  • Insurance: ensure you have comprehensive cover.
  • Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
  • Balance due: 90 days before departure on 6 May 2017.
  • Find FAQ and Testimonials online.

Aim

Trek through the dramatic, glaciated terrain of Eastern Greenland on a self-supported expedition to complete the first ascent of an unnamed peak.

Summary

Wild-camping in the pristine wilderness of Apusiaajik Island and the Schweizerland Alps, this committing expedition will aim to traverse glaciers and alpine valleys in search of unclimbed, unnamed trekking peaks. There are a huge selection of itinerary options to choose from so this exploratory expedition will remain flexible but challenging.

Highlights

  • Highly exploratory route through the Schweizerland Alps.
  • Aim to summit an unnamed, unclimbed trekking peak.
  • Expedition shakedown on Apusiaajik Island.
  • Discover summer in wildest Greenland.

Insurance

Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).

  • Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
  • Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
  • Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to and transiting through is insured.
  • Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and Travel Aware.
  • Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country, many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.

Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit our Expedition Travel Insurance page for recommended suppliers.

Flights

You need to organise your own international flights. We have a unique partnership with Student Universe (a specialist division of the Flight Centre Travel Group and no, you don’t have to be a student to use them). The dedicated Secret Compass team understand us, our destinations and use global buying power to save you money and offer security along with a 24-hour assistance helpline. Fill in a free, no-obligation Flight Request Form here or call (UK) 0844 560 9799 for assistance in booking international flights.

It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.

You need to be at Kulusuk Airport by 1200 on 6 August 2017 and the expedition officially ends after breakfast on 18 August 2017. Most flights stopover in Iceland so please consider your travel itinerary and timings.

Visas

Visas are your responsibility, please check the specific requirements for your nationality. British nationals do not require a tourist visa for Greenland.

Passports

You should have a passport valid for the duration of the expedition and your travel dates. Greenland does not require any validity beyond this but Secret Compass recommend a minimum of six months before expiry. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.

Day 1: Aug 6 – Kulusuk Airport

Arrive at Kulusuk airport, transfer to guesthouse for expedition briefing and kit check.

Days 2-4: Aug 7 to 9 – Apusiaajik Island

Travel by boat to Apusiaajik Island, just off the coast of Kulusuk. Trek into the interior of the island and establish an expedition basecamp. These three days will be used as a time to check and prepare equipment and systems, to teach and refresh skills for glacier travel, and to gain much needed acclimatisation ahead of the main expedition.

Day 5: Aug 10 – Karale

After packing up basecamp, you’ll take a boat north up the coast of Greenland to Karale, where the glacier spills into the sea. This is the access point the team will use to trek into the Schweizerland Alps.

Days 6 to 11: Aug 11 to 16 – Schweizerland Alps

Trekking through the Schweizerland Alps, you’ll be entirely self-supported for the next six days. This is a wild region of alpine meadows, meltwater lakes and huge glaciers as well as several unnamed, unclimbed peaks. To get to the summit of at least one of these is the aim of the expedition. The decision on which non-technical peaks will be attempted will depend on ground conditions at the time of the expedition. This is a highly exploratory route with acclimatisation options built into the itinerary and team members should be prepared and should be flexible.

Day 12: Aug 17 – Kulusuk

Returning to the coast today, you’ll be collected by boat and will then make your way to the guesthouse in Kulusuk for hot showers, fresh food and an evening of celebration.

Day 13: Aug 18 – Expedition ends

The expedition officially ends after breakfast today with all teammates free to depart or to extend their stay in Greenland.

Note on this expedition itinerary

Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but will not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team may flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions encountered en route. An adaptable, team-centred approach is required.

Fitness

All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration.

This expedition is self-supported once the team are dropped off at Karale glacier so you will be carrying all your food and supplies for the duration of the trip, please factor this into your training and mentality and ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go.

You will be required to be fit enough for the following.

  • Grade: this is a 360° degree expedition.
  • Daily activity: varies but up to approx. eight hours per day.
  • Walk: up to 20km a day.
  • Carry: up to 20kg.
  • Terrain: rough, glaciated terrain at up to 3000m.
  • Climate: exposed conditions with temps ranging from +15°C to 0°C. Greenland is famous for its strong winds.

Previous experience

Team members would benefit from multi-day trekking experience carrying all of their equipment and camping out, experience of this in winter conditions is a bonus. Crampons and ropes will be used on the glacier, however training will be provided so previous experience is desirable but not necessary.

Medical

Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful.

Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.

Money

The currency in Greenland is the Danish Krone. Take cash with you as there are few ATMs and these are often locked in the evening. This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money, just for a beer in Kulusuk (the accommodation has an honesty bar) and some souvenirs.

Communications

Home to You. Secret Compass will have an Ops Room manned in the UK throughout your expedition. If your family need to get in touch with you due to an EMERGENCY your family can call the Ops Room on +44 (0) 207 096 8428. The Ops Room will ensure the message gets to the expedition within 24 hours. Unfortunately we are unable to pass routine messages between your family members and you.

You to Home. Secret Compass will have SatPhones for emergency use only and these cannot be used for personal messages home unless in extremis. Please reassure your family that we have their contact details (NOK information provided on your Booking Form) and no news is good news!

Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in Kulusuk although you are unlikely to get signal whilst on the expedition.

The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for the 2017 expedition to Greenland. You will be required to carry all of your own kit for this expedition along with a share of a technical mountain tent, group food and cooking equipment and the medical and communications pack. Secret Compass will supply tents, stoves, technical equipment (except crampons and helmets) and polar bear deterrents. The food and equipment provided by Secret Compass will weigh approximately 12kg so please factor this into your training and packing.

Secret Compass has arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.

Baggage and sleeping

  • RUCKSACK: 80ltr, all your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack and have enough room for a tent, food and share of group equipment provided by us.
  • WATERPROOF RUCKSACK LINER: sealable ‘canoe’ or ‘dry’ bags made by Podsac or Ortlieb. You need a large one to line your rucksack.
  • SLEEPING BAG: rated to at least comfort 0C. Down is lighter and more compact than synthetic options but also invest in a waterproof stuff sack. If you know you sleep cold, consider a liner or plan to sleep in your down jacket as well.
  • FULL LENGTH SLEEPING MAT: inflatable roll mat required as pitching tents on snow. Bring a repair kit.
  • SLEEPING BAG LINER: for use in the ‘european mountain hut’ style guesthouse in Kulusuk.

Clothing

  • BASE LAYER: 2x top and bottom long thermals, merino wool is recommended.
  • LONG TROUSERS: 1x quick drying trekking trousers.
  • MID LAYER: 1x fleece or equivalent eg. synthetic insulated jacket, merino layer.
  • SOFTSHELL LAYER: (optional but highly recommended). A windproof layer for wind protection over base layers.
  • DOWN JACKET: 1x down jacket for evenings and summits. This should be an expedition jacket (hood and slightly longer at the back). Avoid superlight ‘around town’ down jackets. Protect it with a dry sack.
  • WATERPROOF JACKET AND TROUSERS: 1x full set of waterproofs. Gore-tex or equivalent.
  • GAITERS: (optional).
  • MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: capable of taking crampons, B1 rating is suggested. Well-fitting, waterproof and worn in ahead of the expedition.
  • HIKING SOCKS: 3x hiking socks. Make sure they work with your boots.
  • SANDALS: for use around camp. Not flip-flops.
  • HUT SLIPPERS: Or indoor shoes to use in the Kulusuk accommodation. These will not be carried on the expedition.
  • WIDE BRIMMED SUN HAT/CAP: (optional).
  • WARM HAT: for evenings and summit day.
  • WARM GLOVES: 3x gloves suggested – 1x windproof/softshell, 1x leather mountaineering glove (look for good quality gardening or work gloves) and 1x insulated glove.
  • UNDERWEAR.

Eating

  • ROBUST WATER BOTTLE OR BLADDER: you need to be able to carry at least two litres of water.
  • MUG.
  • SPOON: a long-handled one is suggested for ration packs.

Health and hygiene

  • WASHBAG: compact bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradeable soap.
  • TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG: (pptional).
  • WET WIPES.
  • ANTIBACTERIAL HANDGEL: enough for the entire trip.
  • INSECT REPELLENT.
  • MOSQUITO HEADNET: usually mosquitos aren’t common in August but if it has been wet there may be a re-hatch and you’ll be thankful for a headnet in the valleys.
  • SUNCREAM AND LIPSALVE: Factor 30+.
  • VASELINE: Keep this handy to help prevent chafing and blisters.

Small first aid kit

A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried.

  • A WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: keep kit dry and safe.
  • PAINKILLERS: Ibuprofen and Paracetamol.
  • ZING OXIDE TAPE AND SMALL SCISSORS.
  • MELOLIN DRESSING PADS x4.
  • 2 x CREPE BANDAGE.
  • COMPEED BLISTER PADS: please note that Compeed produce several similar looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard/original item.
  • DIARRHOEA TABLETS: Imodium.
  • DIORALYTE SACHETS: or similar rehydration packs.
  • ANTISEPTIC WIPES.
  • ANTISEPTIC CREAM.
  • PIRITON TABLETS: For allergies.
  • EURAX CREAM: For bites.

ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You MUST make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel.

Other

  • TREKKING POLES: essential for navigating rough terrain and river crossings with heavy packs.
  • WATCH.
  • HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka heard torch or equivalent.
  • SUNGLASSES: with UV-filter lenses.
  • PENKNIFE: don’t pack in your hand luggage.
  • GAFFA TAPE: for emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit.
  • LIGHTERS: 2x good quality lighters for starting stoves and burning toilet roll.
  • EMERGENCY SURVIVAL BAG: a small, lightweight emergency bag.
  • HELMET: lightweight, mountaineering helmet.
  • CRAMPONS: 12 point mountaineering crampons which are compatible with and fit your boots. Must have anti-balling plates.

Our approach

Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.

Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Frictions are often found with:

Local partners and bureaucracy

Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.

Infrastructure and natural events

The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.

Food

In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)

Part of a team

Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.

Teammate mentality

You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.

Typical teammates

There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.

Risk management

Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.

  1. Risk assessment.
    We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
  2. Safety plan.
    As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
  3. Delivery.
    The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.

Incident management and medical

As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has developed a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies on each expedition. This will be briefed in full at the arrival brief, so that everyone is aware what action will be taken.

Informed consent

It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time, potentially multiple days. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.

Testimonials

Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.

 

Cultural

Greenland is officially part of Denmark although Greenlandic language and culture remains strong. The east coast of Greenland, the location of the expedition, remains a pristine wilderness and we expect team members to respect the environment and operate a ‘leave no trace’ mentality. Everything except human waste will be carried out and toilet sites will be carefully chosen – toilet roll itself will be burned.

Terrain

This expedition will cover a variety of terrain from rolling meadows and alpine ridges to glaciated valleys and high peaks. You should be prepared for river crossings and camping above the snow line.

Weather

Eastern Greenland’s summer is characterised by long periods of stable weather, brought about by large high-pressure systems that establish themselves over the ice cap. During the day temperatures can become very warm, and may reach up to 15°C. On a clear night temperatures fall rapidly and a ground frost may form. Average temperatures for July and August are about 5-6°C. Periodically, a low pressure system travelling up from the North Atlantic passes through the area, bringing low cloud and rain which usually lasts for around four days.

Transport

The expedition starts in Kulusuk where you will be met by your expedition leader and local hosts. From Kulusuk, motor boats will be used to access Apusiaajik Island and Karale for the start of the expedition. The rest of the expedition will be on foot carrying all supplies needed for the expedition.

Accommodation

In Kulusuk, you’ll stay in guesthouse lodges – these are modelled on the alpine mountain huts you may find in Europe. Rooms are on a twin or bunk basis with shared bathrooms. Please bring a pair of ‘hut slippers’ or indoor shoes for the lodges. Throughout the expedition, you’ll camp in technical mountain tents shared between two. These are provided by Secret Compass. Due to the weight of equipment carried on the expedition, solo tents are not available in this instance.

Food

In towns, the team will eat well in local restaurants whilst dehydrated expedition rations will be used on the mountain – these are high-calorie and very tasty. Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be discussed with Secret Compass in advance. It is recommended that you bring a favourite snack or cereal bar for each expedition day as a morale boost.

Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.

I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?

Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying. The food situation is outlined in the Practicalities tab.

I’ve never used crampons before. Can I come?

Yes, as long as you fulfil the fitness requirements, have an adventurous spirit and are willing to work as a team. Training will be given in glacier movement using crampons and ropes but previous experience is always useful.

Will there be polar bears?

Although sightings are rare, there are polar bears in Greenland and the team should be vigilant. The team will be carrying trip wires and flares as polar bear deterrents. Your experienced Secret Compass leader will provide advice and training during the expedition briefing.

Can I arrive a day late?

As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to Apusiaajik Island where the acclimatisation will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.

Will there be telephone signal?

There will only be telephone signal in Kulusuk – please check your roaming charges as calls from this region of the world can be very expensive.

Can I charge electricals?

Once the expedition phase begins, there will be no access to mains power. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration. When packing, please consider the weight of electronic devices (and all your other kit) and whether it is all essential for this expedition.

Can I leave a bag anywhere?

You will be able to leave a small bag in Kulusuk with items you won’t need for the trek. Space is very limited in the guesthouses so please be considerate. In addition, many flights to Greenland have very restrictive luggage allowances and there have been occasions where even if excess baggage is paid for, the airline can refuse to carry it due to loading limits.

Do you provide further advice?

You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.

The Journal

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