High Tundra Beach
Our circadian cycles declare it is time to wake up: Day 2 of our glacier trek is here. The Sun has been flying around the horizon like a butterfly while we were asleep, sometimes hiding behind a tall peak here and there. We carefully disarm the blank and thankfully unfired cartridges on the bear fence, eat breakfast, and quickly lift camp.
We continue down our glacial, U-shaped valley and get closer and closer to where the terminal moraine used to be – now marked by a lake, dammed by a high wall of rocky debris left behind. We climb over the dam and an expansive ocean view greets us.
We stand on the south end of a long sea shore, along one side of a narrow bay. The bay is fenced by tall mountains to the East, across from where we stand. We can see a distant connection to bigger fjords towards the Northeast. To the North, we can see the terminus of a large glacier – our entry point to the glaciar system we will travel through. The ocean is scattered with small icebergs. Many are stranded by the low tide into a giant sculpture garden.
As the tide recedes, it reveals a beach. A sandy beach? No, it’s glacier flour instead, and it sucks us in as if it wanted to keep us and preserve us the way permafrost has recently delivered a perfect Siberian mammoth to us.
Snow cornices decorate the beach. Moss and lichen grace the shore rocks. High tundra and ocean are smashed together into one layer. From the point of view of a Coloradan, this landscape has compressed a 14,000 feet multi-million-year uplift in Colorado into an ecological pancake – from sea to summit in 10 feet – Tim Macartney-Snape’s journey would have been much easier here.
We bid good bye to one of our team members. An earlier mishap with her knee was aggravated by our hike through technical and icy terrain. We signal our position by spreading a colorful tent fly over the rocks and wait for Guilo’s boat to show up. The boat finally arrives; Magda and Matt wade through the quicksand beach. The boat departs and we soon lose sight of it as it returns to the open fjords.
We hike along the shore towards our entry glacier. The tide is still receding, and large, fast streams form on the vacated sea floor. Intriguingly, they flow parallel to the shore and they really feel like rivers. So much out here looks and feels different. Coastal clouds over high tundra; cornices on the beach; rivers in the sea. When the cold latitudes were new to the world, Edgar Allan Poe and Jules Verne described them in fantastical terms… which turn out to match the experience of Greenland accurately. I love this otherworldly place.