North America, Greenland, Staunings Alps

Publication Year: 1961.

Staunings Alps, East Greenland. Sir John Hunt kindly invited me to join his expedition to Greenland this summer. The expedition was sponsored by the National Association of Mixed Clubs and Girls’ Clubs in conjunction with the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award System. The object was to explore and climb in the Staunings Alps in Scoresby Land on the northeast coast of Greenland between 21st July and 31st August. Our party consisted of a senior group of mountaineers and scientists and a junior group of 21 boys who were all at work and not at school or university. It was considered that, apart from its value to science and geography, the expedition would be of significant value in the service of youth.

We flew by chartered plane from Iceland to Mesters Vig, where the Danes have a small lead mine, and from here we set out in groups about our various tasks. Much of our travel was done by boat, dodging through pack-ice and icebergs, to make our way up into the fjords to the very foot of the glaciers coming down from the mountains we planned to climb. During the weeks that followed we walked for several hundred miles and climbed many thousands of feet. There were no Sherpas here to help us carry our gear and so our packs were always too near to the 80-pound mark to be comfortable!

When the time came to return, we had a fair list of achievements to our credit: First ascents were made of thirteen peaks in the central and south Staunings. On a further peak a party of four of us was forced to turn back when a big cornice broke, resulting in a very narrow escape for Sir John Hunt and Alan Blackshaw. One of the first ascents was a particularly fine climb of the second highest peak in the range, Hjørne, 9449 feet, by Dr. Malcolm Slesser and Ian McNaught-Davies, supported by Sir John Hunt and John Jackson. The summit pair traversed the mountain by its west and south ridges, and this involved a climb of 28 hours on exceedingly difficult rock. We also traveled and explored extensively on the glaciers. This included a first crossing of the central Staunings from west to east via the Bersaerker and Gully Glaciers and the exploration of the hitherto unvisited south Staunings, where some long glacier journeys were undertaken and five of the first ascents mentioned above were made. An extensive programme of glaciology was carried out and the ornithologists studied the Arctic Tern and other bird life. Finally, during the last ten days of the expedition, George Lowe and I took Lady Hunt and her daughter, Miss Susan Hunt, with four of the boys on a 200-mile journey to Syd Kap, with the idea of visiting a summer colony of Eskimos who come there each year to hunt whales. We were disappointed, however, for they had decided not to use the base for hunting this year. The polar bears had beaten us to it, and all we found were the damaged huts where the Eskimos had lived in previous years! But the journey had not been in vain, for the Schuchert valley, through which we passed, is said to be one of the most beautiful in Greenland during the arctic autumn, for already, at the end of August, summer in the Arctic was at an end.

The other members of the senior group were Roderick Cameron, Dr. David Jones, J. C. G. Sugden, Tom Weir, Dr. Iain Smart, David Roach and Francis Gwatkin.

H. R. A. Streather, Alpine Club