Félag Fjallaleiðsögumanna á Íslandi

Association of Icelandic Mountain Guides

Samstarf milli Íslands og Grænlands

Iceland - Greenland cooperation

“After two hours of driving on a dirt road, we access the ice sheet from Point 660. What strikes us is the vastness of the landscape. We are surrounded by ice from three sides as far as the eye can see. We realize that during thses two days of scouting, we’ll only scratch the surface. It’s clear, however, that there is plenty of terrain for teaching glacier guiding courses.”

Greenland, opposite to what the name suggests, is home to the second largest ice sheet in the world. It spans 1.710.000 square kilometers or roughly 80% of Greenland’s land mass. One would think it’s a great location for glacier guiding, right? This is what the vocational guiding school Campus Kujalleq (CAK) must have thought as well when they decided to work towards adding glacier guiding to their curriculum. Currently there are few glacier guiding operations in Greenland and there is only little involvement of local guides. This is something that might change in the future.

In September 2023, Campus Kujalleq invited four instructors from AIMG and upper-secondary guiding school Framhaldsskólinn í Austur-Skaftafellssýslu (FAS) to a scouting mission in Kangerlussuaq with the aim to establish a cooperation and to start developing glacier guiding courses according to AIMG standards in Greenland. On this scouting trip, the FAS and AIMG instructors worked together with the CAK teachers to establish the Jökla 0 and Jökla 1 courses.

On the scouting trip, the first two days were spent close to Kangerlussuaq to find potential locations nearby to teach basic mountaineering skills for the Jökla 0. Several cliffs and man-made structures were located that are perfect to develop student’s skills for ascending and descending ropes, climbing movement etc., all with the advantage of being able making use of the school’s infrastructure. After exploring the local environment, plans were made to go further afield and check out Point 660, the access point to the ice sheet. We loaded up the van and drove the longest road in Greenland. After 36km or 1h driving we set up camp close to Point 660 from where we checked out the surrounding glaciers. On day one, we had a fresh dusting of snow, and the sun crust was already starting to disappear. The access from Point 660 was very straightforward and it led to a flat area from where one could easily walk to one of the nearby crevasse fields. Together with the local teachers we checked out one of the crevasse fields. Together with the local teachers we checked out one of the crevasse fields and we found some interesting terrain for basic and more advanced guiding, great crevasses for top-rope ice climbing and moulins. Tired, but happy about the day we spent the night in tents next to the glacier. In the morning we set off towards Russell glacier to see if it would be easier to access some interesting terrain.
There were some beautiful canyons and large crevasse fields that would make for some variation in the terrain for the courses. The access, however, could be more challenging if there is a lot of meltwater runoff.

The final two days were spent writing a curriculum for the CAK and preparing a presentation for the students to inform them about the AIMG courses. The presentation was well received, and the students were asking lots of questions. After a surprise dinner prepared by the teachers, we left the next day to Nuuk to fly back to Reykjavik from there.

We are looking back at a successful scouting mission in Greenland and we would like to thank everyone involved in this cooperation and at the same time we are looking forward to the first AIMG courses in Greenland. If all goes well, we expect to start teaching the first Jökla 1 courses next summer and within 3-5 years new glacier guiding companies could be operating according to AIMG standards in Greenland.

Special thanks go out to Barbara Olga Hild. One of the goals of her PhD studies in Arctic Guides Safety Education is to establish a connection between guiding schools in the Arctic. The cooperation between CAK and FAS is therefore a direct result of the project. You can find more information about her studies on the following website: arcticguideeducation.com