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Greenland’s Arctic Loop

Sam Selby talks to Ian McClelland from Turn Wild

Ian McClelland is a Professional Mountain Leader and founder of Turn Wild (turnwild.com), a boutique expedition outfit specialising in safe but challenging treks through some of the most magnificent landscapes on earth. In 2016, Ian made his first trek along Greenland’s Arctic Loop. He plans on returning this year, introducing a small team of explorers to his new favourite wilderness. Sam Selby caught up with him on his return.

Where does Greenland’s Arctic Loop take you? It takes you through an incredible variety of Arctic landscapes. You start in a periglacial environment, trekking for two days through rolling tundra. You walk until you are right up to the edge of Greenland’s ice sheet, and the temperatures just drop. It is the second largest ice body in the world, where stunning glacial rivers carve through ice. On the way back it’s a much dryer, fluvio-glacial landscape, pockmarked with huge lakes. But psychologically? The Loop takes you to the edge. You’re pushing yourself hard — eight to ten hours a day hard hiking. You leave with a real sense of accomplishment.

What does it take to keep the team’s spirit up on the gruelling parts of the hike?Motivation. That’s the key to mental strength. Having something to focus your mind on, something that will make the temporary pain all worthwhile. I tend to think about the food we’ll eat.

What’s the biggest logistical challenge on a trek like this? The biggest technical challenge is getting everyone and everything together — at the same time, in the same place, at the start of the trek. Often the team are flying in from different countries, plus their equipment is coming from another half a dozen other places. But I’ve learned that preparation is key, with enough notice everything tends to run smoothly.

What was your most unforgettable moment on the trek? The night I saw the Northern Lights, without a doubt. I’d seen them before during treks in Norway and Alaska, but this time it was something completely otherworldly. I’d been pretty sick — I’d picked up a bug in the town before we set out — and I woke up in the middle of the night with the canvas of my tent literally glowing. I was convinced there was a fire. Outside, the sheer intensity of the lights blew me away. I remember very clearly thinking, this is why I do what I do.

There are still places left on Turn Wild’s Greenland Arctic Loop Trek 2017, an eight-day trip leaving on August 19th which will include five days of guided trekking with Ian McClelland. Contact ian@turnwild.com for more information, or go to turnwild.com/greenland.