Video: Solo Bikepacking in Greenland in 'Shapeless Fulfillment'

Jun 12, 2020
by ben haggar  


Have you ever thought of heading to Greenland for a bikepacking trip? Neither had I until a friend told me of an obscure point to point hiking trail beginning at the Greenland icecap and finishing at the coastal town of Sisimiut roughly 200km to the west, that he had just finished. I asked if he thought the trail was ridable on a mountain bike, but he just shrugged his shoulders and continued to tell me about the amazing camping, endless tundra, and the legendary bugs. The seed had been firmly planted and the challenge was set.

I work as a photographer and polar guide and in 2017, I had a contract to sail through Canada’s Northwest Passage working as a polar bear guide and naturalist interpreter, which conveniently finish in the town of Kangerlussuaq in Greenland - the starting point for the Arctic Circle Trail. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk anyone into flying to Greenland to meet up and ride the route with me, so I decided to tackle the route alone.

By September, autumn has a firm grasp on the Arctic with daylight hours reduced by 20 minutes per day and snowstorms more frequent than rain. Despite bright sunshine when I landed in Greenland early in the month, the weather forecast was not promising. A large hurricane was grinding its way across the Atlantic and tracking directly towards my location in central Greenland. The storm was projected to make landfall in 5 days time. Could I finish the route before the storm hit? Would I be able to find shelter? If not, would my ultra-light one person tent be able to withstand the 100+ km/hr wind? Was the trail even ridable at all?

These and many other questions swirled in my head creating knots in my stomach and filling my chest with anxiety as I took the first pedal strokes towards the Greenland icecap and the beginning of the route.

Snowy morning on the Arctic Circle Trail
Snowy morning on the Arctic Circle Trail

Plowing through the sea ice through the North West Passage
Plowing through the sea ice through the North West Passage

Freezing again
Freezing again

Evening light at the end of a 12 hour day on the Arctic Circle Trail
Evening light at the end of a 12 hour day on the Arctic Circle Trail

Cold but beautiful night on the Greenland tundra
Cold but beautiful night on the Greenland tundra

Start of one of the best descents on the route
Start of one of the best descents on the route

Trench foot at its finest
Trench foot at its finest

Waiting out the storm
Waiting out the storm

Tracks on the tundra
Tracks on the tundra

Polar Bear in the Canadian Arctic
Polar Bear in the Canadian Arctic

Fun techy descent on the Arctic Circle Trail
Fun, techy descent on the Arctic Circle Trail

That low Arctic light has a quality like nowhere else on earth. One of the sublime moments on the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland.
That low Arctic light has a quality like nowhere else on earth. One of the sublime moments on the Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland.



75 Comments

  • 40 0
 Epic story and beautiful pictures! I'm a bit speechless
  • 2 0
 Cheers!
  • 9 0
 Thanks for sharing your Arctic adventure. I really enjoyed the short film with all of the great wilderness scenery and positive outlook you kept given the sometimes challenging terrain to travel on and weather that was faced. Cheers.
  • 3 0
 Wow! awesome and amazing. Read this trio report in Mountain Life Annual magazine last Fall and thought it was the best of the whole edition. It really took me somewhere else. Overlaying the metamorphosis into animals was neat and the photos were superb. I looked at them and imagined the cold, the wind, and the warmth of food and stove at the shelter after a long day out. I re read the story a few time over winter imagining how tough this trip might have been and how vast the scenery and landscape must have been. Really glad that you shared the film, I got to experience this trip vicariously a little more for a few minutes on a June evening. Hope you are submitting it to the Banff film festival. Looking forward to the next trip report! ????
  • 1 0
 That's cool that you read the article in the ML Annual first and stoked you liked the film! I would have liked to add in a bit more Inuit mythology but unfortunately there's only so much time.
  • 6 1
 ?.For some reason this makes me want to go ona gruelling trip somewhere across something. Lockdown getting to me.
  • 3 0
 This looks brutal and unforgiving, but beautifully inspiring at the same time. And good to see that you didn‘t just fly in there, but approached at a reasonable pace by ship. Thanks for sharing your experience!
  • 1 0
 Thanks! I thought it would be a better mindset to take the long way to Greenland and get a really good feel for the Arctic before heading off solo.
  • 2 0
 Greenland is one of those places where you want people to experience it as it’s so incredible, however the reason it’s so breath taking is because it’s not a popular destination for many people. I have sailed an old sailing yacht from Iceland to Greenland, explores hundreds of miles of Greenlandic fjords, it’s was amazing!
I’d assume this guy had a rifle to use for polar bear protection! We felt exposed enough in our wooden boat, let alone under a piece of canvas!
Epic looking trip!
  • 1 0
 Sounds like you've had a great experience in Greenland already! In central western Greenland there isn't too much danger of polar bears so I didn't bring a rifle or anything as protection. That being said, there was a bear spotted in the area a few days before I started off.
  • 1 0
 @coldsalt: interesting. We also didn’t have a rifle. We felt very exposed when out walking / exploring. We came across two polar bears, both of which didn’t seem very interested in us!
Really cool that you found a trail to ride, over on the East coast the mountains led straight to the icecap and there was next to nothing in terms of settlements, let alone any tracks to walk / ride. Did it look like there were more trails to find on the western coastline?
  • 1 0
 @cliffdog: yes, tons of riding on the west.
  • 1 0
 I can't wait winter to ride high desert area near Los Angeles. They are just rocks and bushes and absolutely not habitable. Somehow I see beauty in brutal mountains which should be threat to my life. I wonder where this feeling is coming from but I think many people share what I mean. Thank you for posting great story.
  • 3 0
 amazing trip and documentation! You inspire me to do something similar in the not too distant future!
  • 1 0
 Awesome! I hope you get out and do it!
  • 4 0
 What an awesome shot of that jumping polar bear! Outstanding adventure.
  • 1 0
 jumping polar bear-awesome. shot of you JUMPING the polar bear-pinkbike legend status.
  • 1 0
 Cheers!
  • 2 0
 Absolutely amazing. Yes, I have thought about bikepacking across Greenland. I doubt I'll get the chance, but I'm very grateful to get a taste of the experience.
  • 1 0
 It's a great trip if you get a chance and there's actually a ton of riding there!
  • 1 0
 What a cool film and journey! Much respect for the mental toughness. Perhaps I could survive the physical challenge of something like this, but I fear my mind would betray me. Thanks for sharing the views and the feelings.
  • 2 0
 Definitely the hardest part was being solo and all the mind games that go on.
  • 3 0
 How did you get those shots? Triggers?
  • 1 0
 Ya, pocket wizard radio triggers and a lot of tries!
  • 1 0
 @coldsalt: How did you secure them to the bars?
  • 2 0
 @brodoyouevenbike: highly technical elastic bands
  • 1 0
 Spectacular! Videos like this one reminds you to appreciate important things in life and care less about the less important ones. Thank you!
  • 1 0
 Cheers!
  • 2 0
 Beautiful but scary at the same time....guess that's why we do things like this. Cheers to you my friend.
  • 1 0
 Thank you!
  • 1 0
 Amazing how little MTB can take you any where but not across water even on a fat bike?
  • 3 1
 Great adventure, thanks for sharing!
  • 1 0
 Thanks, my pleasure!
  • 2 0
 Great vid and pics. What a beautiful country.
  • 1 0
 Cheers, Greenland is definitely special.
  • 2 0
 felicitaciones amigo, mis respetos por tu aventura
  • 2 0
 thanks for sharing this great video
  • 1 0
 Cheers!
  • 1 0
 This is epic, super nice work! Great pictures and video, and bonus points for riding a Chromag Smile
  • 1 0
 Can't beat a steel hardtail for reliability when you're way out there!
  • 1 0
 Awesome trip. A little on the edge. I'd hate to have been caught in the two day storm in the tent.
  • 1 0
 Yes, very lucky to have got to a hut in time. Would have been pretty questionable in the tent.
  • 1 0
 nice one budday! makes me want to hunt for some of my own questionable objectives
  • 1 0
 Thanks Reuben! Questionable objectives are the best as you know from your incredible photo missions!
  • 1 0
 That is a fking huge foot
  • 2 0
 Amazing
  • 1 0
 Really fun story, well done!
  • 1 0
 Thanks!
  • 1 0
 Inspiring, thanks for the video
  • 1 0
 Cheers!
  • 1 0
 Thanks for that. I really appreciated the entire video. Well done!
  • 1 0
 Thanks for watching, I'm glad you enjoyed it!
  • 1 0
 That was brilliant. Well done. Pretty darn epic.
  • 1 0
 Cheers!
  • 1 0
 Great, at least there are no problems with the water supply...
  • 1 0
 Ya, lakes, rivers, swamps everywhere! There's always a bright side to wet feet...
  • 1 0
 This was really really nice! Congrats and tks or sharing with me.
  • 1 0
 Cheers!
  • 1 0
 Well done, beautifully shot, captured the spirit of the trip superbly.
  • 1 0
 Thanks very much!
  • 2 0
 More of this please
  • 1 0
 The tracks in the snow reveal a DHF front, Ardent rear.
  • 1 0
 This was also my bet Wink
  • 1 0
 Nice one!
  • 1 0
 Epic adventure Ben! You've got me perusing maps looking north now...
  • 1 0
 Lots to explore up north! Such amazing spots in early fall.
  • 1 0
 Incredible video. Completely inspiring.
  • 1 0
 Stoked you liked it!
  • 1 0
 time well spend! thank you for sharing your journey with us.
  • 1 0
 My pleasure!
  • 1 0
 Amazing adventure !
  • 2 0
 Cheers!
  • 1 0
 awesome.
  • 4 3
 this guy fucks
  • 1 0
 Nice work Ben!

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