West Greenland - Day 6
The next morning it was time to cross the lake. I walked the first few kilometers to get an idea of how difficult it would be to walk around the lake versus paddling it. There definitely would be some risk involved in paddling, as there were icebergs that could flip and there would be no place to get out until I reached the other shore. However, walking along the lake also turned out pretty tough and dangerous. There were only loose rocks and the terrain was very hilly. I decided that crossing the ~5 km by boat would be safer than walking 25 km over boulder fields.
Finally I reached a place where I could safely reach the water's edge, so I decided to give it a shot. I inflated my boat and started paddling among the icebergs. It was really really amazing to have the entire lake for myself. After getting out of the cluster of icebergs drifted against the shore I entered open water. The large glacier was visible and there were huge icebergs all around, which I admired from a safe distance.
There were all kinds of icebergs, not only ranging in size but also in color. As I really wanted to avoid losing my maps or GPS in the water I didn't precisely track how far I travelled. After 2 hours I was pretty confident I had paddled far enough to exit the lake. It took some meandering around icebergs, but I eventually found a way out. This boat ride had definitely been one of the most beautiful things I had ever done.
Next, I would have to cross a mountain plateau for about 15 km. As it was relatively flat and several kilometers wide it was difficult to navigate. The fact that the glaciers, lakes and rivers didn't match those on the map anymore also didn't help. After about half a kilometer I realized I had left the lake a bit too soon and now would have to walk ~5 km more than necessary. As I was closer to the glaciers than intended this also meant I would likely need to cross a few extra rivers. I hoped they would be small enough to cross by foot or packraft.
Several times I had to backtrack because my way was blocked by some large river. One time I even used my packraft to cross a river that I later had to cross again because my way was blocked by a second larger river. This landscape seemed like it had previously been covered by ice as well, as there were only piles of dry rocks and rivers without any green. The lakes on the plateau were especially difficult to navigate around, as it was hard to predict where the rivers running in and out of them would be and where they would lead to. More than once, I walked around one side of a lake, only to have to go back and try the other side because there was a large river blocking my way. All lakes and river had changed significantly since my paper map was made, and the map in my GPS wasn't more accurate. As there wasn't much to navigate by in this grey and hilly desert, I simply plotted a course with my compass and tried to follow it as best as I could.
Pretty tired I arrived at yet another large river. It seemed on the large side but still crossable by foot. It flowed a bit too fast to comfortably try with my packraft, especially because there were some rapids a few hundred meters down stream. Avoiding it would take at least an hour of walking, several smaller river crossing, and one crossing by packraft, so I decided to carefully try it. Upto the middle of the river it went fine but then it suddenly got quite a bit deeper and the current picked up. Although I am always very careful during such crossing, I was a bit caught of guard by finding myself waist deep in melt water in a current I had trouble standing upright in. I quickly walked back in the direction I had came from. Because I was tired and annoyed by all the backtracking I definitely had taken too much risk here. Of course it had been sunny the entire day but now the weather was also taking a turn for the worse. I found myself in wet pants in high wind and with rain approaching.
I quickly pitched my tent and gathered enough water for the night. Then I lay down in my sleeping bag and made dinner, while trying to dry my pants. It started raining hard shortly after. Despite using my compass, maps, and GPS, this terrain had been really difficult to navigate through, not so much because I didn't know which coordinates I was at or which direction I was going, but because there were unexpected rivers and lakes everywhere. Most hills were also high enough to be a burden to climb and block the horizon, but low enough not to be shown on the map. I hoped the next day would be better.