About the Author, Aurélie Wolff: “Hi everyone! I’m Aurélie, 35, from France. Living and working in the city, I try to escape in the forests and the mountains as often as I can! I most often hike alone but I enjoy sharing my practice with others. Greenland was my very first through-hike but I’m already planning new ones for 2019. You can find me on Instagram @aureliew1505.”
Then life got in the way. I got diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, which left me exhausted and crippled with pain most of the time. I also got to deal with depression, grief and deeply unsettling childhood memories.
Fast forward to 2018. After ending a four-year relationship, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself and finally bit the bullet. I bought the plane tickets on a whim one April evening, feeling both exhilarated and panicky while pressing the confirm button on the AirGreenland website.
At the time, I was a complete beginner: I had never spent a night outside, didn’t know how to pitch a tent or use a stove. I soon realised I had only four months to prepare and get myself ready for the challenge ahead. Evenings were spent reading blogs about the Arctic Circle Trail, researching gear, and weekends hiking and building some physical and mental strength.
Completing the ACT has given me an intense boost of confidence. I feel like I am now equipped to tackle any challenge life has in store for me.
And most importantly, it helped me to learn to appreciate my body again, after it failed me for so many years.
If you do decide to hike the Arctic Circle Trail too, here a few snippets of information you might find useful!
What is the Arctic Circle Trail?
The ACT is a trekking route that fits neatly into one of the largest ice-free areas of West Greenland, lying approximately 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. The trail stretches 165kms (103 miles) between Kangerlussuaq and Sisimiut, and walkers generally take from 7 to 10 days to complete the walk.
The hike in itself is fairly easy, with no major technical difficulties other than bearing the weight of the pack or dealing with the weather.
Some people have compared the ACT landscapes to those found in the Scottish Highlands. Expect a barren landscape, covered with low shrubs, lots of boggy areas, hundreds of lakes and vistas that stretch as far as the eye can see.
How do I get there?Access to the ACT is relatively easy: the trailhead starts immediately from the international airport at Kangerlussuaq. To reach Kangerlussuaq, you need to get yourself to Copenhagen in Denmark first as there is no direct flight from the USA or elsewhere in Europe.
When to go?
The peak-hiking season for this part of Greenland is from late-June to mid-September. During this time, temperatures will average from 0°C (32°F) degrees at night to 15°C (60°F) during the day.
If you choose to hike early in the season, you should be prepared for very cold and deep river crossings. Then, as the days get warmer, it’s mosquitoes’ season. From mid-August, though, the first frosty nights will get rid of most of them. The nights will be longer and colder too. The tundra will start to showcase the first colours of autumn and the very first northern lights might be seen.
I chose to hike in the second half of August, hoping for easier river crossings and a glimpse of the first auroras.
Maps & NavigationPaddy Dillon’s guide (published by Cicerone) is a must-read to prepare the ACT. I also took it with me on the trail and it’s been an invaluable source of information. I bought the detailed maps but ended not using them at all.
What shall I take?The main challenge is to pack as light as possible for the hike to be enjoyable while making sure you have enough gear to be comfortable for 10 days in variable conditions.
Speaking of nights, these can be downright chilly! Do bring a warm sleeping bag and a good insulated mat.
Waterproof socks and gaiters are also a very good idea. You will encounter lots of boggy areas and even Gore-Tex shoes won’t resist long. Sandals (Crocs are the best) and trekking poles are a must to cross the rivers safely.
A personal locator beacon or a satellite messenger (I had a Garmin InReach Mini) is a given if you hike alone. Remember there is no cell phone reception on the trail and you might walk long hours or even a few days completely alone.
Finally, I recommend subscribing to the “Arctic Circle Trail” group on Facebook where past and future hikers exchange precious tips and information.
You can also reach me via the comments below if you have any questions regarding the ACT!