Crystal Clear Water & Glacier Cycling – Bikerafting Greenland, A Photo Essay

"Sometimes the nicest campsites come when you least expect it. We had crossed the lake in the photo when, about half way across, I realised my boat was getting a bit soft. Paddling flat out I made it to the shore before my bike disappeared into the water. It turned out a tiny bit of grit had stopped the zip fully sealing and I hadn’t checked carefully enough. Lesson learned! We stopped early that day, as we were a little cold and tired, but we were rewarded with this beautiful sunset." ~ Annie Le Evans

Bikeraft Greenland — UK-Based Alpacka Raft Ambassadors, Annie Le Evans & Huw Oliver, Explore a Vast Icy Landscape by Bike & Packraft

Welcome to the Alpacka Raft ambassador team, Annie Le Evans and Huw Oliver! These two adventurers are based in Scotland, where they teach outdoor education and embark on regular bikepacking and bikerafting adventures throughout the Highlands. This past summer, the duo went to bikeraft Greenland, using our ultralight Caribou packrafts. Enjoy their photo essay, and check out Oliver’s article in the inaugural issue of The Bikepacking Journal, a partnership between Bunyan Velo and Bikepacking.com, to be distributed the first week in October. Check out our Instagram page all week, as we’ll be featuring additional photos from their adventure.

“The trip started inauspiciously. Information on this river was hard to obtain, but we tentatively planned to paddle it from its outflow at the snout of the Isunguata Sermia glacier all the way to the coast. Google Earth showed a braided, flat river, but the when we arrived it was far faster and moodier than we thought. The fine sediment shifted constantly, and large wave trains rose up from the water as we watched, only to disappear 30 seconds later. We kitted up on a cold morning, with early snow falling above us and no more excuses, only to find that the opaque water was either too shallow or too dangerous for us to paddle. Admitting defeat, we slopped, waded, and cursed across a few hundred metres of water and quicksand back to the bank, defeated numb from the water. We went back to the drawing board, not being strangers to a reality that doesn’t quite match with the dream.” ~Huw Oliver
"Sometimes the nicest campsites come when you least expect it. We had crossed the lake in the photo when, about half way across, I realised my boat was getting a bit soft. Paddling flat out I made it to the shore before my bike disappeared into the water. It turned out a tiny bit of grit had stopped the zip fully sealing and I hadn’t checked carefully enough. Lesson learned! We stopped early that day, as we were a little cold and tired, but we were rewarded with this beautiful sunset." ~ Annie Le Evans
“Sometimes the nicest campsites come when you least expect it. We had crossed the lake in the photo when, about half way across, I realized my boat was getting a bit soft. Paddling flat out, I made it to the shore before my bike disappeared into the water. It turned out a tiny bit of grit had stopped the zip fully sealing, and I hadn’t checked carefully enough. Lesson learned! We stopped early that day, as we were a little cold and tired, but we were rewarded with this beautiful sunset.” ~ Annie Le Evans
"We crossed several lakes next to the ice sheet as we returned to Kangerlussuaq to adjust our plans. The water was icy cold, devoid of anything alive and so clear that it faded from turquoise through to green, and then to black as the sides shelved steeply away from the shore – I’ve never seen anything like it. The deep water seemed to drag your eyes towards it, and the mind conjured up any number of mysteries living down there in the depths. Watching our own shadows pass over the lakebed several metres below was surreal and unsettling, so I climbed a cliff above the water to try and capture the range of colours in this photo." ~Huw Oliver
“We crossed several lakes next to the ice sheet as we returned to Kangerlussuaq to adjust our plans. The water was icy cold, devoid of anything alive and so clear that it faded from turquoise through to green, and then to black as the sides shelved steeply away from the shore – I’ve never seen anything like it. The deep water seemed to drag your eyes towards it, and the mind conjured up any number of mysteries living down there in the depths. Watching our own shadows pass over the lakebed several meters below was surreal and unsettling, so I climbed a cliff above the water to try and capture the range of colours in this photo.” ~Huw Oliver
"We made a grand total of 20km in our first three days paddling on the fjord, which is what we had thought would take us one day. The windows of the tides didn’t always correlate with good enough weather and we did a lot of putting on only to shortly have to scramble out as the wind swung around or became too fierce. We spent hour sitting, watching and waiting for conditions to improve. Fortunately on our 4th day we had the wind behind us and raced along with the swell for an exciting, bumpy ride of over 40km." ~Annie Le Evans
“We made a grand total of 20km in our first three days paddling on the fjord, which is what we had thought would take us one day. The windows of the tides didn’t always correlate with good enough weather, and we did a lot of putting on only to shortly have to scramble out as the wind swung around or became too fierce. We spent hour sitting, watching, and waiting for conditions to improve. Fortunately on our fourth day we had the wind behind us and raced along with the swell for an exciting, bumpy ride of over 40km.” ~Annie Le Evans
"The weather on the fjord was supremely changeable, swinging between gales and calm, rain and sun several times a day. Our rhythm became dictated by the wind and the tide, so that 10pm became a good time to be on the water if it meant making any headway! Often, around sunset the skies would clear, the wind would drop and the white light seemed to shine from everywhere at once. The water became a silent, bright and beautiful place to be. Our destination was the steeper peak away in the middle of the horizon in this photo: still around 70km away, but in the clear air it was easy to be fooled and think it was closer." ~Huw Oliver
“The weather on the fjord was supremely changeable, swinging between gales and calm, rain, and sun several times a day. Our rhythm became dictated by the wind and the tide, so that 10pm became a good time to be on the water if it meant making any headway. Often, around sunset the skies would clear, the wind would drop and the white light seemed to shine from everywhere at once. The water became a silent, bright and beautiful place to be. Our destination was the steeper peak away in the middle of the horizon in this photo: still around 70km away, but in the clear air it was easy to be fooled and think it was closer.” ~Huw Oliver
"At some point we had to cross the fjord, but we were pretty nervous as for several days we had watched the wind whip up big swells far more quickly than we could make the 4km crossing. The evening when we finally went for it, we had been awake from 5am to catch the tide, ridden the swells nearly 40km and then had to jump off the water as the tide swung against us. We watched and waited, the wind dropping but the swell hanging around much longer. Eventually, after much deliberation, we decided to cross, paddling in the gorgeous evening light and making it across about 20min before the wind picked up again so strongly that we had to make another fast exit to camp." ~Annie Le Evans
“At some point we had to cross the fjord, but we were pretty nervous as for several days we had watched the wind whip up big swells far more quickly than we could make the 4km crossing. The evening when we finally went for it, we had been awake from 5a.m. to catch the tide, ridden the swells nearly 40km and then had to jump off the water as the tide swung against us. We watched and waited, the wind dropping but the swell hanging around much longer. Eventually, after much deliberation, we decided to cross, paddling in the gorgeous evening light and making it across about 20 minutes before the wind picked up again so strongly that we had to make another fast exit to camp.” ~Annie Le Evans
"Sometimes you get a view that’s so beautiful its hard to believe its real. We had pushed our bikes on and off all day, with a hard scramble up and around a narrow gorge, a pinch point in the valley we were following. When we finally sweated our way over the cliffs we were greeted by this amazing sight: the valley opened up again and the river, lazy and clear, just screamed out to be paddled. I could have sat and stared at this for a lifetime." ~Annie Le Evans
“Sometimes you get a view that’s so beautiful its hard to believe its real. We had pushed our bikes on and off all day, with a hard scramble up and around a narrow gorge, a pinch point in the valley we were following. When we finally sweated our way over the cliffs we were greeted by this amazing sight: the valley opened up again and the river, lazy, and clear, just screamed out to be paddled. I could have sat and stared at this for a lifetime.” ~Annie Le Evans
"One afternoon we pitched camp early, next to the river in a spot that too nice to march past. We went for a play on the river in the warm afternoon sun, where the river was so clear that I could see plenty of char swimming along over the gravel banks beneath the boat. I was pretty close to this woolly guy before I spotted him, and he spotted me! I stopped paddling, stayed very still and drifted past him, close enough to smell him and to look into his goaty eyes (muskoxen are fairly closely related to mountain goat species) while we had a good look at each other. When I was a couple of metres away he wasn’t sure whether he liked me or not and snorted a few times, then went back to nibbling the grass while I floated away, amazed and very glad to have had a chance to get so close to a muskox in such an unexpectedly unique way." ~Huw Oliver
“One afternoon we pitched camp early, next to the river in a spot that too nice to march past. We went for a play on the river in the warm afternoon sun, where the river was so clear that I could see plenty of char swimming along over the gravel banks beneath the boat. I was pretty close to this woolly guy before I spotted him, and he spotted me! I stopped paddling, stayed very still and drifted past him, close enough to smell him and to look into his goaty eyes (muskoxen are fairly closely related to mountain goat species) while we had a good look at each other. When I was a couple of metres away he wasn’t sure whether he liked me or not and snorted a few times, then went back to nibbling the grass while I floated away, amazed and very glad to have had a chance to get so close to a muskox in such an unexpectedly unique way.” ~Huw Oliver
"The freshwater river that we followed from the coast into the interior was absolutely full of char, and I smelled an easy way to top up my food intake! Although it was small and for the most part shallow, the riverbed would drop away into deep holes that were crying out to have a lure dropped into them. Using a crappy kid’s fishing rod and a cheap spinner, the bites came thick and fast, and before long a couple of decent fish would be ready for dinner. The colours of their flanks and belly were gorgeous in the evening sunlight, but more importantly they were absolutely delicious after a couple of minutes poaching in the pan. Unfortunately Annie is allergic to fish, but that meant all the more for me! In the mornings, a nice bowl of the wild blueberries that were just turning ripe provided our other natural source of food. Both the fishing and the berry picking were a way into the landscape, to feel immersed in it." ~Huw Oliver
“The freshwater river that we followed from the coast into the interior was absolutely full of char, and I smelled an easy way to top up my food intake! Although it was small and for the most part shallow, the riverbed would drop away into deep holes that were crying out to have a lure dropped into them. Using a crappy kid’s fishing rod and a cheap spinner, the bites came thick and fast, and before long a couple of decent fish would be ready for dinner. The colours of their flanks and belly were gorgeous in the evening sunlight, but more importantly they were absolutely delicious after a couple of minutes poaching in the pan. Unfortunately Annie is allergic to fish, but that meant all the more for me! In the mornings, a nice bowl of the wild blueberries that were just turning ripe provided our other natural source of food. Both the fishing and the berry picking were a way into the landscape, to feel immersed in it.” ~Huw Oliver
"Paddling this river was such a delight, fast and smooth but not scary. It wound through the landscape, past hunters in their camp drying caribou meat, past the huge scree slopes flowing down from the mountains and past sandy scrubland all the way until it met a large azure lake, Tassersuaq. Travelling in such an efficient, smooth way was a total pleasure." ~Annie Le Evans
“Paddling this river was such a delight, fast and smooth but not scary. It wound through the landscape, past hunters in their camp drying caribou meat, past the huge scree slopes flowing down from the mountains and past sandy scrubland all the way until it met a large azure lake, Tassersuaq. Travelling in such an efficient, smooth way was a total pleasure.” ~Annie Le Evans
"Once we had linked together the various valleys, a last fjord crossing lay between us and a shower and non-dehydrated food. Even at the end, the scale of the rocks and the water was awe-inspiring — rocks that are among the oldest on Earth are found in south west Greenland, and the ice has uncovered their colours and textures. Unfortunately there was still plenty of hard work to be done, as the large-scale tidal eddies meant that, despite the tide being on the ebb and therefore theoretically helping us, it was in fact eddying round from the main fjord channel, and flowing at several knots in the opposite direction to the one we expected! This anomaly was a couple of kilometres in length, so once again we had no choice but to paddle until we found a break in the cliffs, climb out and eat some blueberries until forward travel looked a little more likely." ~Huw Oliver
“Once we had linked together the various valleys, a last fjord crossing lay between us and a shower and non-dehydrated food. Even at the end, the scale of the rocks and the water was awe-inspiring — rocks that are among the oldest on Earth are found in southwest Greenland, and the ice has uncovered their colours and textures. Unfortunately there was still plenty of hard work to be done, as the large-scale tidal eddies meant that, despite the tide being on the ebb and therefore theoretically helping us, it was in fact eddying round from the main fjord channel, and flowing at several knots in the opposite direction to the one we expected! This anomaly was a couple of kilometres in length, so once again we had no choice but to paddle until we found a break in the cliffs, climb out, and eat some blueberries until forward travel looked a little more likely.” ~Huw Oliver
"We ended our route at the very industrial feeling Sondre Stromfjord harbour. Lined by rocks that were graffitied during the time of the American army base and filled with heavy rotting machines and looming carcasses of old vessels, the scene matched the mood of the low clouds and drizzle. We stepped back onto land and into reality, next to a guy unloading sacks of whale meat from his small green boat, and just in time for the hungry cameras of a Danish tour group that had just arrived." ~Annie Le Evans
“We ended our route at the very industrial feeling Sondre Stromfjord harbour. Lined by rocks that were graffitied during the time of the American army base and filled with heavy rotting machines and looming carcasses of old vessels, the scene matched the mood of the low clouds and drizzle. We stepped back onto land and into reality, next to a guy unloading sacks of whale meat from his small green boat, and just in time for the hungry cameras of a Danish tour group that had just arrived.” ~Annie Le Evans