Reflecting on memories of Greenland…. I started from the commonplace notion that Greenland in general and maybe Cape Farewell in particular would develop in popularity somewhat like the French and Swiss alps in the 19th and 20th centuries. Camps that were for us hard-won would be reached by easy paths leading to cabins with bunks, running water, and meals provided. Bare mountains, vaguely mapped and bereft of ‘instructions’ would have guidebooks with diagrams, graded routes, and pictures of rock faces streaked with coloured or dashed or dotted lines. Choppers and fast launches to handy helipads or jetties would get the punters in at sea level for long weekends or maybe even daytrips. Some of all this is of course already happening. Summer tours for visitors with guides are on offer (e.g. https://tasermiutgreenland.com/, and https://visitgreenland.com/things-to-do/climbing-mountaineering/ ). Lodges for hikers are now available in some settlements (https://www.expeditiongreenland.com/greenland-accommodation/).
The mighty walls and faces that we took pains to avoid are being climbed. Routes such as described here: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/_print/web08f/newswire-grmovsek-greenland or here: http://www.alpinist.com/doc/web08x/newswire-tasermiut-fjord-tresidder and here: http://www.planetmountain.com/en/photos/new-difficult-rock-climbs-in-greenland/13823?s=1.
That’s all pretty much as it should be, but here’s hoping that the wilderness areas can be left without too many marks of man. Our memories, though, are safe from developments. And what a grand thing those memories are: the recalled pleasures of just being there, and doing all that; the freedom, the adventure, the dangers, and the joys of it. We owe Phil so much for getting us there and getting us out and up into the hills in search of all those good things.
I recently came across a book from 1922 by a Cambridge prof, and here are his words about Cape Farewell as seen from the sea:
‘On the return journey the weather was more favourable and we had a wonderful view of the coastline near the southern extremity of Greenland. On the horizon forty or fifty miles to the north we saw a jagged line of Alpine peaks, some tapering to slender conical points, others having the form of more massive pyramids separated from one another by depressions which seemed to show against a greenish blue band of sky, glimpses of the inland ice; though it may be we were looking along arms of some of the tortuous fjords that cut deep into the coast. The light of the sea contrasted with the deep blue of the mountainous headlands against a pale steely-blue background cut off by an overhanging bank of dark cloud.
Later in the evening the clouds dispersed and the serrated profile of the mountains was sharply outlined against a luminous sky; the ‘golden splendour of the north’ faded into night. The rapidly changing scene produced an impression of sadness and majesty; it was our farewell to a land which in some aspects merits the name given to it more than three hundred years ago – the Land of Desolation; it is a land remarkable for the splendid dignity of its scenery and possessed of a subtle power of inspiring affection tempered by a sense of awe.’ (from ‘A Summer in Greenland’ by A C Seward, CUP, 1922)
I liked that a lot: ‘ the splendid dignity of its scenery and possessed of a subtle power of inspiring affection tempered by a sense of awe.’
It feels great to have been in amongst it all. Thank you Phil, and thank you all the rest of the team. The future will see many more adventures there. Here’s to them and the folks who’ll enjoy them!