Round the World – Atlantic Day 5

Round the World – Atlantic Day 5

Narsarsuaq, Greenland to Kulusuk, Greenland

You know the drill by now; wake up, check weather. Things were looking…not as good as expected. There was a localised bubble of high ceilings (6,000ft) around Narsarsuaq. The ice cap east rose to much higher than this, and to the west the cloud dropped down to sea level just a few miles away. With wires crossing the fiords at various heights downstream, punching along fiords low level in the clouds seemed like a poor choice. This turn of events was doubtless caused by our hubris in making a non-refundable hotel reservation!

Up the east coast of Greenland to Kulusuk

We elected to take off and see how things looked. The hotel provided a great breakfast, and at the now fully-staffed airport we got some great advice on suggested routes, likely weather conditions, and things not to do (such as flight into the wires). We launched downhill, towards the fiord, and circled west of the airport as we gained height, climbing through large gaps in the overcast layers. At 12,000ft our luck ran out and the only way up was through the cloud. The outside temperature by now was -18c, at the lower limit of where icing is usually found, so we elected to test the waters and found that we didn’t pick up any appreciable ice on the climb to 14,500ft, and clear air.

Having made it through to the top, things looked good for getting to Kulusuk. We turned east across the ice cap, and as we flew breaks in the cloud layer started to appear and offer tantalising glimpses of the glaciers and mountains below. As we approached the east coast and turned to the north, the clouds almost entirely disappeared, and we enjoyed the spectacular views of the icy landscape with the ice cap spilling down through the mountains to the sea, and significant sea ice remaining along the shore.

We descended towards Kulusuk from the west, ducking under a few low lying clouds. The approach to the gravel runway brought us north of the large hills on the island, with a great look over the small village of Kulusuk (population approximately 267). We parked up next to a German-registered Beechcraft Bonanza, which had apparently flown in the day before on a trip from Austria to tour Greenland. As we unloaded, the hotel owner arrived in his van, pulling right up to the aircraft and then running us directly to the hotel. It was mostly full of heli-skiers, who were finding challenges getting to and from the slopes as the sea ice had broken up much earlier than usual.

Before dinner we took a walk into Kulusuk village, and met the two pilots of the Bonanza at the airport. They were from Austria, and took at least one long flight a year to explore Europe and beyond. They had flown through the UK, Iceland, and now to Greenland; all VFR! Their plan was to cross to the west coast of Greenland, although the weather wasn’t looking promising. They’d intended to fly to Narsarsuaq that day but hadn’t liked the look of the weather we’d found our way out of; a good call when flying VFR.

That evening we spent a while planning the flight to Iceland the next day, with conditions looking ideal. Mike spent a long time on the phone with British Airways, trying to use his points to book our hotel; however, they apparently had a policy that they need at least 72 hours notice to make a booking. A rather pointless restriction, seemingly only there to make it harder to redeem the points and save BA money. We gave up on them, and finished off the bookings ourselves before turning in. Outside, the sun still shone, with precious few hours of darkness this far north.

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