Hiking the Arctic Circle Trail

By Peter Elia on September 12, 2017

When I first mentioned to friends and family that I was going to hike the 103-mile Arctic Circle Trail (ACT) in Greenland, carrying all my survival goods with me and no opportunity to resupply over a nine-day period and filming the experience as video diary, friends and family were either curious, puzzled and one friend considered that I was going through a mid-life crisis.

I was really excited about the opportunity to hike in a country that felt like a mystery to me and nervous. This type of hiking experience was a significant step up in comparison to cozy hiking weekends away in England’s green and pleasant land, where the only dangers are arriving after the coffee shops have closed and not having a pot of tea with jam scones after a leisurely hike.

The idea behind making the film was to show a regular guy (like me) embarking on a journey which some people may assume was only for the experts to try but once completed isn’t particularly daunting after all. You don’t need to be a survival expert to hike the ACT; you just need a little courage. You need to say YES in life.

Of course, you have to be physically fit and have some hiking experience. Equipment and food preparation, packing light, and smelling like an old pair of socks from time to time are the order of the day. I found Cicerone’s book on Greenland’s Arctic Circle Trail was an interesting and helpful read for planning ahead. However, a shift in mindset will be what is needed to tip you over the edge and really get you started in taking on any next level adventure.

The most difficult challenge for me was carrying a 20-kg backpack at the start of my journey and trying to locate a variety of objects within my labyrinth of a backpack which felt almost as big as me. The inevitable good news was that my backpack would gradually become lighter as I ate through the sachets of porridge, snack bars, and “add hot water” dinners. I know it doesn’t sound very gourmet but what you experience in return is the opportunity to hike in a Greenlandic wilderness. There you will find over one hundred crystal blue coloured lakes to quench your thirst or swim in, stunning mountain backdrops while hiking in unspoilt back country chasing the midnight sun.

There are small huts dotted sparingly along the ACT which are the only signs of any infrastructure along the trail. I planned to camp with my camping buddy, but I accidentally left our tent poles behind in Greenland’s Main Airport in Kangerlussuaq, which meant we couldn’t use the tent. I didn’t realise my mistake until shortly before pitching up on the first night with the nearest hut 10 km away. I broke the news to my camping buddy, and I can’t repeat what she said. We slept outside under the stars, and two days later, luck would have it, we found an abandoned tent which gave us the option to camp or use huts but I do prefer camping as I love the feeling of being close to the outside elements.

For nine days straight, I didn’t take out my wallet to pay for anything, and I only used my mobile phone to film my video diary as there was no other viable purpose for it. When you hike the ACT, you can say goodbye to the modern world, and the only method of transport is your feet. For tens of thousands of years, human beings have been getting around on foot, and that’s probably why I had such a special feeling hiking in Greenland. I felt connected to what humans are built to do and before you think I have gone completely mad, I would just like to add that office work has only been around to the masses since the Industrial Revolution and it is no surprise it comes with such health issues as back problems and RSI and most likely because our species wasn’t built for such endeavors. I would say that the human body was built to walk long distances and to carry heavy loads.

This hike changed my life because now I want to discover more hidden gems on our planet. Hiking in the ACT has started something special for me. I set up an Instagram page called ‘The Man Who Hiked the World’ in April 2016 and in August I began to publish my photos and videos, and the response was unexpectedly huge. There was a fascination with ACT from my followers and other Instagrammers that now I have the largest following on Instagram for any hiking page in Europe, and it’s largely down to my adventures in Greenland.

The result of this experience is that I really want to encourage people to get outside and explore. By following in the footsteps of our ancestors, I believe people can relax and become themselves when they reconnect with nature. In addition, there are also undoubted health benefits to hiking in the great outdoors, a chance to new people, capture the spirit of life, laugh, and spend joyful moments never to be forgotten.

Contributed by Peter Elia

Greenland, Europe


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