American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Scottish Expedition to South Greenland

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1976

Scottish Expedition to South Greenland. A University of St. Andrews party visited the mountains between Tasermiut and Ilua fjords at 60° N. During a period of eight weeks a total of 45 peaks were either climbed or attempted, 40 first ascents were made, and our canoes logged over 200 miles in pack ice conditions. Our party was composed of John Cant, Norman MacKenzie, Richard Henderson, Peter Hunt, Colin Matheson, Douglas Brown, Ray Sharpies, Peter Aldred and me as leader. We flew from Glasgow via Iceland to Narsarssuaq and went by the weekly coastal boat to Nanortalik. We chartered a boat to our Base Camp by Stordalens Havn at the eastern end of a big transverse valley that links the two fjords. Our main objective was to enter the “Land of the Towers” south of the valley, but it was only at the sixth and the most westerly of the glaciers that our access was finally made through the mountain rampart. One group operated there and climbed some of the high-grade towers by stylish and demanding routes, while the other group climbed from a hidden loch, ringed by attractive peaks, north of the valley and intermingled with the mountains visited by the 1971 St. Andrews expedition (A.A.J., 1972. 18:1, p. 156). At the halfway stage we regrouped for new objectives in the side valleys close to Base Camp, while for the final efforts we placed another party by canoe amongst the most easterly of the smooth and sheer pinnacles of the “Land of the Towers,” while another canoe party voyaged east to climb on the islands of Pamiagdluk and Quvernit. Weather conditions were excellent throughout the summer: most climbs were done on windless and sunny days and bivouacs were seldom contemplated by the parties abseiling down in the night gloom. Two mountains may illustrate the nature of the routes: Angiartarfik (1845 meters or 6053 feet; Grade III), a complex massive peak above Base Camp, was ascended by front-pointing in crampons up 2300 feet of frozen high-angled snow and then descended on the same slope in soft thawing slush: this, the easiest route on the peak, became impracticable by mid-July when the snow melted off to expose a crevassed slope of green ice; Twin Pillars of Pamiagdluk (1373 meters or 4505 feet; Grade V), a welded pair of abrupt pinnacles comprising the highest peak on this island, was climbed in a three-day sortie by traversing on to its steep slabby east wall and following a thin 300-metre line to the summit crest. The gradings for the mountains climbed were 5-Is, 15-IIs, 12-IIIs, 6-IVs, 6-Vs. We returned to Scotland at the end of August by the same route after a twelve-week stay. There were no accidents, illness, hunger, thirst, discomfort and drama; good fortune with a small dash of efficient organisation made this one of the most successful of our University expeditions to Greenland.

Philip Gribbon, Scottish Mountaineering Club

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