Read on to discover our ethos and team-centered approach and for the nitty gritty like flight and visa advice, insurance requirements and kit recommendations.
Use the buttons below to ask questions or if this handbook answers all of your questions you can request a space on the team by completing the booking form and submitting a deposit (bound by our T&Cs). We will then be in touch by phone or email to hopefully approve your place on the team!
Upcoming Expedition Dates
19 to 31 July 2021
Arrive: by 1200 on Day 1 into Kulusuk, Greenland.
Depart: leave any time on Day 13 onwards.
Insurance: ensure you have comprehensive cover.
Docs: send your flight, insurance and passport copy in.
Explore Greenland’s wild and dramatic, glaciated terrain as part of this self-supported, pioneering summer expedition.
After developing and refreshing basic mountaineering and glacier travel skills on the uninhabited Apusiaajik Island, the team will attempt to forge a new traverse through the Schweizerland Alps. Journeying across spectacular glaciers and mountainscapes, they will put their newfound skills into action. At the mercy of melting ice and the weather, the team will embark on a highly exploratory route, adapting route plans and expedition goals to map a new traverse that will seldom be repeated.
Practice your mountaineering skills on the uninhabited Apusiaajik island.
Start your epic journey with a boat journey through pack ice to the shore of a remote fjord.
Trek over the inland glaciers, establish routes though crevasse fields and over mountain passes.
Forage for berries and fish for your dinner.
Start and finish the expedition in a small Inuit fishing community.
Travel insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all expeditions. You should be aware that many standard insurance policies may not cover you adequately for all aspects of a remote expedition and so we strongly recommend that you purchase a suitably designed insurance policy. Secret Compass cannot comment on the suitability of your cover so if you are in any doubt please contact your policy provider and ask them to confirm that you are covered to our minimum standard (below).
Emergency medical repatriation (to home country) including any associated expenses abroad of at least $500,000.
Activities: ensure that any expedition activities are included, these could be trekking, horse riding, rafting, MTB etc.
Geographical region: check the geographical region you are going to and transiting through is insured.
Foreign Ministry advice: check your insurance is not sensitive to any travel warnings issued by your respective foreign ministry. In the UK, many insurers will not insure you when the Foreign Office warns against travel to this area. Foreign Office advice will not necessarily mean we cancel an expedition or do not travel to a particular area. Please check @FCOtravel and Travel Aware.
Dates: make sure the period of cover begins at the departure and ends at the return to your home country, many flights take a day or two and time zones vary. Insurance companies may prejudice your claims due to this.
Pre-existing medical conditions: disclose these to your insurance company and to Secret Compass.
Prior to travel Secret Compass will require the name of your insurance policy provider, their 24-hour emergency contact number and your policy number. For full information on travel insurance and links to suggested companies, please visit our Expedition Travel Insurance page for recommended suppliers.
You need to organise your own international flights. It is advised that you book a flexible flight ticket that can be changed or refunded if the expedition dates are changed or if it is cancelled for any reason. See our online Terms and Conditions.
You need to be at Kulusuk Airport by 1200 on Day 1 and the expedition officially ends after breakfast on Day 13. Most flights stopover in Iceland so please consider your travel itinerary and timings.
Visas are your responsibility, please check the specific requirements for your nationality. At the time of writing, British nationals do not require a tourist visa for Greenland.
You should have a passport valid for the duration of the expedition and your travel dates. Greenland does not require any validity beyond this but Secret Compass recommend a minimum of six months before expiry. Please send a clear, colour copy of your passport to Secret Compass ahead of the expedition and carry photocopies with you on the expedition in a safe place.
Day 1 – Kulusuk Airport
Arrive at Kulusuk airport, transfer to guesthouse for expedition briefing and kit check.
Days 2-4 – Apusiaajik Island
Travel by boat to Apusiaajik Island, just off the coast of Kulusuk. Trek into the interior of the island and establish an expedition basecamp. These three days will be used as a time to check and prepare equipment and systems, to teach and refresh skills for glacier travel, and to gain much needed acclimatisation ahead of the main expedition.
Day 5 to 11 –Schweizerland Alps
After packing up basecamp, you’ll take a boat north up the coast to one of the major calving faces in the region, where the glacier spills into the sea. There are several major glaciers which drain the Schweizerland Alps; prevailing conditions will dictate which one you use as your access point and the start of your journey.
Trekking through the Schweizerland Alps, you’ll be entirely self-supported for the next six days. You will begin with an ascent onto a huge glacier in view of kilometres of calving ice face. Although it’s possible the team will initially use a known route to access the mountains, once there you’ll forge your own, new route through this wild region of alpine meadows, meltwater lakes and huge glaciers. Navigating your way back to the coast for your return boat pick-up. This is a highly exploratory route with acclimatisation options built into the itinerary and team members should be prepared and should be flexible.
Day 12 – Kulusuk
Returning to the coast today, you’ll be collected by boat and will then make your way to the guesthouse in Kulusuk for hot showers, fresh food and an evening of celebration.
Day 13 – Expedition ends
The expedition officially ends after breakfast today with all teammates free to depart or to extend their stay in Greenland.
Note on this Expedition Itinerary
Please remember that this itinerary acts as a framework plan. It provides guidance as to our intentions but will not be followed religiously. This is an adventure and by definition the outcome is uncertain. The leadership team may flex and change the plan depending on numerous frictions encountered en route. An adaptable, team-centred approach is required.
All our expeditions are achievable by people with an active and healthy lifestyle. However, this is an arduous expedition that will test you and at times you may be sore, tired, hungry and possibly wet! You must be prepared physically and mentally for the expedition and for living in basic conditions for the duration.
This expedition is self-supported once the team are dropped off at by boat so you will be carrying all your food and supplies for the duration of the trip, please factor this into your training and mentality and ensure that you train for the expedition and arrive fit and ready to go.
You will be required to be fit enough for the following.
Daily activity: varies but up to approx. eight hours per day.
Walk: up to 20km a day.
Carry: up to 20kg.
Terrain: rough, glaciated terrain at up to 3000m.
Climate: exposed conditions with temps ranging from +15°C to 0°C. Greenland is famous for its strong winds.
Team members should have previous experience of hill-walking and camping and would benefit from multi-day trekking experience carrying all of their equipment and camping out. Those who do not have previous experience of multi-day trekking carrying weight will be asked to commit to training and getting some experience of this prior to departure. Experience of this in winter conditions is an additional bonus. Crampons and ropes will be used on the glacier, however training will be provided so previous experience is desirable but not necessary.
Vaccinations. Please seek advice from your health professional on recommended vaccinations. The NHS Fit For Travel site and Travel Health Pro are both useful.
Dental. It is strongly recommended that you have a dental check up prior to departure. Dental problems far from help are very unpleasant.
The currency in Greenland is the Danish Krone. Take cash with you as there are few ATMs and these are often locked in the evening. This expedition is all-inclusive so you won’t need much money, just for a beer in Kulusuk (the accommodation has an honesty bar) and some souvenirs.
Secret Compass always suggest carrying an emergency fund of $100-$200 in cash.
The following is Secret Compass’s recommended kit list for our expedition to Greenland. You will be required to carry all of your own kit for this expedition along with a share of a technical mountain tent, group food and cooking equipment and the medical and communications pack. Secret Compass will supply tents, stoves, technical equipment (except crampons and helmets) and polar bear deterrents. The food and equipment provided by Secret Compass will weigh approximately 12kg so please factor this into your training and packing.
Greenland can test equipment very thoroughly, so it’s important that your equipment is in good condition when you arrive. If you’re purchasing new equipment, weight should be one of the key factors in your decision-making process as we’ll be carrying all of our equipment for the duration of the expedition.
Secret Compass has arranged team members discounts with Cotswold Outdoor, Nordic Life, Outdoor Hire and Expedition Kit Hire, details of these will be sent through on booking.
Baggage and Sleeping
RUCKSACK: 80ltr, all your personal gear needs to fit easily into this pack and have enough room for a tent, food and share of group equipment provided by us.
DRYBAGS: it’s vital that all of your clothing and soft goods can be kept dry. Roll top bags are ideal, made by a number of manufacturers in a range of sizes.
SLEEPING BAG: rated to at least comfort 0C. Down is lighter and more compact than synthetic options but also invest in a waterproof stuff sack. If you know you sleep cold, consider a liner or plan to sleep in your down jacket as well.
FULL LENGTH SLEEPING MAT: inflatable roll mat required as pitching tents on snow. Bring a repair kit.
SLEEPING BAG LINER: for use in the ‘european mountain hut’ style guesthouse in Kulusuk.
BASE LAYER: 2x top and bottom long thermals, merino wool is recommended.
LONG TROUSERS: 1x quick drying trekking trousers.
MID LAYER: 1x fleece or equivalent eg. eg. a thicker merino or powerstretch layer.
LIGHTWEIGHT SOFTSHELL LAYER: (optional but highly recommended). A thin windproof layer for wind protection over base layers.
LIGHTWEIGHT INSULATED JACKET: 1 x to put on over other layers at breaks.
DOWN JACKET: 1x down jacket for evenings in camp and on cold days. This should be an expedition jacket (hood and slightly longer at the back). Avoid superlight ‘around town’ down jackets. Protect it with a dry sack.
WATERPROOF JACKET AND TROUSERS: 1x full set of waterproofs. Gore-tex or equivalent. Must have a hood.
GAITERS: optional but highly recommended to help keep feet dry.
MOUNTAINEERING BOOTS: capable of taking crampons, a flexible B1 rating is suggested. Well-fitting, waterproof and worn in ahead of the expedition. The lines between “B” ratings blur, but something like the La Sportiva Trango S Evo would be ideal.
HIKING SOCKS: 3x hiking socks. Make sure they work with your boots.
WETSUIT BOOTS/WATERPROOF SOCKS AND SANDALS : for river crossings. Look for something with a robust sole to protect feet. Rivers in Greenland are extremely cold so sandals alone will not suffice. Not flip flops.
HUT SLIPPERS: Or indoor shoes to use in the Kulusuk accommodation. These will not be carried on the expedition.
WIDE BRIMMED SUN HAT/CAP: (optional).
WARM HAT: for evenings.
WARM GLOVES: 3x gloves suggested – 1x windproof/softshell, 1x leather mountaineering glove (look for good quality gardening or work gloves) and 1x insulated glove.
ROBUST WATER BOTTLE OR BLADDER: you need to be able to carry at least two litres of water.
SPOON: a long-handled one is suggested for ration packs.
Health and Hygiene
WASHBAG: compact bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradeable soap.
TRAVEL TOWEL/SARONG: (optional).
ANTIBACTERIAL HANDGEL: enough for the entire trip.
MOSQUITO HEADNET: usually mosquitos aren’t common in August but if it has been wet there may be a re-hatch and you’ll be thankful for a headnet in the valleys.
SUNCREAM AND LIPSALVE: Factor 30+.
VASELINE: Keep this handy to help prevent chafing and blisters.
Small First Aid Kit
A team medical kit with a comprehensive primary care provision will be carried (by the leader and shared between teammates). You should also carry your own small first aid kit but consult your expedition leader before using your personal medical supplies.
A WATERPROOF BAG OR TUPPERWARE BOX: keep kit dry and safe.
PAINKILLERS: Ibuprofen and Paracetamol.
COMPEED BLISTER PADS: please note that Compeed produce several similar looking blister packs for corns, etc. Please ensure you purchase the standard/original item.
REHYDRATION SACHETS OR TABLETS.
PIRITON TABLETS: For allergies.
EURAX CREAM: For bites.
ANY MEDICATION YOU NORMALLY USE: find out the generic/chemical name for your medication in case you need to source more in-country. Please also check that your medication is legal in your destination. You MUST make Secret Compass aware of any medical conditions before you travel.
TREKKING POLES: essential for navigating rough terrain and river crossings with heavy packs.
HEAD TORCH AND SPARE BATTERIES: Petzl Tikka heard torch or equivalent.
SUNGLASSES: with UV-filter lenses.
PENKNIFE: don’t pack in your hand luggage.
GAFFA TAPE: for emergency repairs to your kit, you can take some off the roll and wrap it around something else in your kit.
LIGHTERS: 2x good quality lighters for starting stoves and burning toilet roll.
EMERGENCY SURVIVAL BAG: a small, lightweight emergency bag.
HELMET: lightweight, mountaineering helmet.
CRAMPONS: compatible with your boots. Must have anti-balling plates.
Secret Compass organises expeditions, not sightseeing tours. Our expeditions are team-centred, flexible and dynamic. Teams are managed on the ground by Secret Compass staff: industry-leading professionals and guides of the highest calibre. They put the structure in place for your team to have an incredible experience while achieving your expedition’s aims. Our people are as passionate as you are about achieving the extraordinary in the world’s wildest places. Secret Compass teams often go to places that others don’t. This makes our expeditions truly different, taking you beneath the skin and beyond the headlines of the world’s most remote reaches. Inspired by history’s great explorers and challenges, you’ll be set ambitious goals and will overcome similar hardships to those experienced on the audacious journeys of the past.
Remember this is not an organised tour. It is an adventure. More often than not expeditions don’t run smoothly! The nature of the areas we operate in mean that we will encounter a number of challenges that we expect everyone to meet and relish. Friction and hurdles are all part and parcel of an arduous expedition and also to our success as a team. These make the journey more interesting and are often the best and most amusing parts when looking back. Each expedition is thoroughly reviewed on its return and team members will have the opportunity to provide feedback which helps to inform planning for future expeditions.
Local Partners and Bureaucracy
Our teammates can only achieve the extraordinary with the help of people in the communities we travel through. NGO and aid workers, guides, fixers and interpreters all work extremely hard and are generous in their hospitality to us and our teams: visitors in their land. They are crucial to our success. Please remember and respect that their perspectives and concepts of time, environmental responsibility and customer service might differ to yours. Occasionally there is no established protocol for outside visitors which means we encounter local power struggles or disagreements. Our leaders have years of experience in delicate negotiations like these and conversational chess – especially through an interpreter – and these interchanges are often memorable parts of any expedition.
Infrastructure and Natural Events
The areas we travel to often especially remote. Transport infrastructure can be ageing, inadequate or non-existent. Flooded roads, collapsed bridges, fallen trees and vehicle break-downs are all par for the course. Our teams thrive on overcoming challenges like these – be prepared to get stuck in and push occasionally! Natural phenomena like desert sand storms, early monsoons, landslides across key routes, winter coming early, gale force winds and driving snow can all make for a more interesting time on the expedition.
In some areas our teams explore, we rely on local food sources. This can often be outstanding (but can also be very average) and we always make the best out of the resources available. In other cases, we will supply filling and high-calorie dehydrated expedition foods (ration packs)
Part of a Team
Secret Compass fosters a team mentality across all its expeditions and projects. Like all teams you will have a leader who will give direction to your progress. Crucial to your team’s success – especially when the going gets tough – is the attitude of the teammates working together to achieve the aim. You really are part of a team, not a cosseted guest on a tour. We ask teammates to muck in and help out any aspect of the expedition, from fetching water and helping to prepare and cook food, to carrying some group kit and equipment if required. The working language of all teams is English.
You need a robust, spirited and can-do attitude to cope with demanding days and rough camping in rugged and wild places. You’ll cover good daily distances (generally carrying your own kit and equipment), eating expedition foods or relying on local food sources. These elements combine to create the unique character of each expedition. On expedition, challenges, frictions and changes to plans are inevitable. Teammates should meet and relish these as an integral part of any arduous expedition and its ultimate success. Such things make the journey more interesting and are often most memorable parts when looking back.
There really is no typical expedition member, though everyone needs to be fit, healthy and ready to take on the expedition’s aim by the time of departure. Participants range from 21 to 65+ in age and come from all over the world. Backgrounds include contract workers and engineers, IT specialists and students, teachers and literature lovers, journalists and keen photographers and so many more. What bonds our pioneering teams is their shared spirit of adventure and their sense of humour and positive outlook. A good teammate looks on the bright side when the 4×4 breaks down, the rain comes early and when a meal is distinctly pedestrian. Our teammates help each other, look out for each, encourage each other and help each other when needed. Our teams have done us proud in working together to achieve their common goal: the aim of the expedition. If this sounds like you, you’ve come to the right expedition company.
Secret Compass is an expedition company not a tour company. Expeditions contain inherent risk. This is part of the appeal for teammates. We do not make expeditions safe as, by definition, that is impossible. We construct and implement a three-staged risk management approach to reduce risk to what we perceive as a tolerable level.
We conduct a thorough risk assessment of potential hazards and threats that may be encountered on the expedition and provide recommendations to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring/ severity if it does occur.
As part of our expedition plan, we detail actions to be taken to implement and resource the recommendations of the risk assessment. This includes a detailed medical and communications plan.
The expedition leader is responsible for dynamic risk management on the expedition itself.
Key risks encountered on this specific expedition include altitude, glacier travel and accidents (slips, trips or falls) or medical emergencies whilst trekking in a remote environment. If you would like to see the full Risk Assessment for this expedition, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Incident Management and Medical
As part of the safety plan, Secret Compass has a full incident and emergency plan for medical and other emergencies. This will be discussed in full at the arrival brief, so everyone is aware what action will be taken. In summary, incidences are usually managed on the ground by the expedition leader in the first instance with remote support from Secret Compass’s 24 hour Operations Room before evacuation to the nearest appropriate medical centre.
It is your responsibility to understand the risks associated with adventure travel in remote areas. You also must understand that medical evacuation will take an extended period of time (potentially up to two days) and will require wilderness extraction techniques and long carries by stretcher. In-country search and rescue and emergency services are very basic or non-existent and the expedition will rely on internal resources for medical evacuation. By joining this expedition, you accept the risks associated with the venture. If you require any more information on specific risk management for this expedition, or would like to speak to us about our medical planning prior to the trip, please get in touch.
Read team Testimonials or watch this short video featuring expedition teammates (filmed on location in Ethiopia) for an insight into life on expedition.
Greenland is officially part of Denmark although Greenlandic language and culture remains strong. The east coast of Greenland, the location of the expedition, remains a pristine wilderness and we expect team members to respect the environment and operate a ‘leave no trace’ mentality. Everything except human waste will be carried out and toilet sites will be carefully chosen – toilet roll itself will be burned.
This expedition will cover a variety of terrain from boulder-strewn beaches and hillsides, rolling meadows and alpine ridges to glaciated valleys and high peaks. You should be prepared for river crossings and camping above the snow line. Previous team mates found one of the hardest aspects of the trip to be carrying packs over the rough terrain.
Eastern Greenland’s summer is characterised by long periods of stable weather, brought about by large high-pressure systems that establish themselves over the ice cap. During the day temperatures can become very warm, and may reach up to 15°C. On a clear night temperatures fall rapidly and a ground frost may form. Average temperatures for July and August are about 5-6°C. Periodically, a low pressure system travelling up from the North Atlantic passes through the area, bringing low cloud and rain which usually lasts for around four days.
The expedition starts in Kulusuk where you will be met by your expedition leader and local hosts. From Kulusuk, motor boats will be used to access Apusiaajik Island and the expedition. The rest of the expedition will be on foot carrying all supplies needed for the expedition.
In Kulusuk, you’ll stay in guesthouse lodges – these are modelled on the alpine mountain huts you may find in Europe. Rooms are on a twin or bunk basis with shared bathrooms. Please bring a pair of ‘hut slippers’ or indoor shoes for the lodges. Throughout the expedition, you’ll camp in technical mountain tents shared between two. These are provided by Secret Compass. Due to the weight of equipment carried on the expedition, solo tents are not available in this instance.
In towns, the team will eat well in local restaurants whilst dehydrated expedition rations will be used on the mountain – these are high-calorie and very tasty. Dietary requirements can usually be catered for but should be discussed with Secret Compass in advance. It is recommended that you bring a favourite snack or cereal bar for each expedition day as a morale boost.
Secret Compass staff will be carrying at least two methods of communication, usually a Satellite Phone and a DeLorme two-way communication device. These will be used for regular updates to head office and for emergencies.
Unfortunately, routine communication between team members and family/friends is not possible – please reassure them that no news is good news! If there is an emergency and someone needs to contact a team member, they can contact Secret Compass’s Operations Room on +44207 096 8428 who will endeavour to pass a message on within 24hours.
Cell Phone. Your mobile roaming will work in Kulusuk although you are unlikely to get signal whilst on the expedition.
Here are some frequently asked questions that are specific to this expedition. Read our general FAQ too for questions such as ‘how do I join an expedition’ and more. Can’t find your answer? Contact SCHQ.
I’m a vegetarian. Can I join?
Teammates with dietary requirements are welcome to apply for this expedition and should state their specific requirements when applying.
I’ve never used crampons before. Can I come?
Yes, as long as you fulfil the fitness requirements, have an adventurous spirit and are willing to work as a team. Training will be given in glacier movement using crampons and ropes but previous experience is always useful. You’ll need to bring crampons and compatible boots with you, see the kit list for more details.
Will there be polar bears?
Although sightings are rare, there are polar bears in Greenland and the team should be vigilant. The team will be carrying trip wires and flares as polar bear deterrents and depending on team numbers may set up overnight bear watches. Your experienced Secret Compass leader will provide advice and training during the expedition briefing.
Can I arrive a day late?
As the plan outlines, there is a chain of transport to get teammates to Apusiaajik Island where the acclimatisation will commence, so start and end dates are not flexible.
Will there be telephone signal?
There will only be telephone signal in Kulusuk – please check your roaming charges as calls from this region of the world can be very expensive.
Can I charge electricals?
Once the expedition phase begins, there will be no access to mains power. Please ensure that you are self-sufficient in terms of charging your appliances by bringing things like spare batteries, lightweight solar panels or power packs to avoid frustration. When packing, please consider the weight of electronic devices (and all your other kit) and whether it is all essential for this expedition.
Can I leave a bag anywhere?
You will be able to leave a small bag in Kulusuk with items you won’t need for the trek. Space is very limited in the guesthouses so please be considerate, and be aware that items are left at your own risk and will not be stored in a dedicated locked left luggage like you might expect at a hotel. In addition, many flights to Greenland have very restrictive luggage allowances and there have been occasions where even if excess baggage is paid for, the airline can refuse to carry it due to loading limits.
How to I transfer to/from/between airports in Reykjavik?
Most international flights arrive into Keflavik International Airport (50 km from Reykjavik), whereas your flight to Greenland will leave from Reykjavik Domestic Airport (on the edge of the city). Reykjavik Excursions and Grayline bus companies both offer bus transfers from and to Keflavik Airport to bus terminals in Reykjavik city centre. From there you can transfer on by bus or taxi to your hotel if staying overnight, or if your international flight times allow, to Reykjavik Domestic Airport. For an extra cost both companies will include the onward transfer from their terminal to your hotel or to the domestic airport by shuttle bus.
Do you provide further advice?
You might find our Get Ready section useful, with further advice about fitness, flights, travel insurance, visas and our approach to risk management.
How can I join this team?
If you feel that the Handbook answers all your questions, you can request a space on the team by completing the booking form and submitting a deposit.