American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Ulamertorssuaq, Quadrophania

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1996

Ulamertorssuaq, Quadrophania. Our team (Paolo Cavagnetto, Manlio Motto and Vecenzo Ravaschietto from Italy, and me, Michel Piola, from Switzerland) took a train from Geneva to Luxembourg, a flight from there to Rejkiavik, Iceland, a boat to Massansuak, a helicopter flight to Nanortalik (where we bought basecamp materials), before finally navigating to base-camp in the Tasermiut Fjord area of Greenland in a small Zodiac boat. We had come to try a new route in the heart of the south face of Suikarsuak. This was the third time I had visited the area; in 1983, I had climbed the Diedre de Genevois with Christian Dalphin, Jean Probst, and Bernard Wietlisbach on the same formation, and in 1984, I had completed a new route on Ketil, the Directisime, with Dalphin and Nicholas Schenkel. The face of our present objective had been climbed by two different routes besides Diedre des Genevois, which climbs the big central dihedral: the 1977 Voie Originale, through the big dihedral on the left and, in 1994, Moby Dick, which ascended the pillar just on the right. Despite bad weather (strong winds, considerable precipitation, and only two consecutive days of good weather in one month), after a good month of pregnancy in basecamp we became the proud fathers of Quadrophenia, a new-born that measured as follows: 1000 meters, ED (sup) 6c A4 on extremely steep sharp granite. After an initial exposed free climbing section (6b/c) on the lower part of the face, the overhanging central part was a delicate progression up very compact rock. Some delicate A4 pitches, with lots of hooking, gave us lots of problems before we got to our first camp on portaledges, which we installed at the base of the Shield. From there, we followed a singe crack for 350 meters, climbing seven continuous pitches that ranged from thin crack to off-width. Although at first it had looked quite improbable, it became an extremely beautiful line.

A bad storm, with strong winds, cold and snow, surprised us five pitches from the summit. Manlio and I joined the Diedre de Genevois 40 meters below the top (a section of the wall that I'd already climbed in 1983), but then were forced to retreat to our bivy at the base of the face. Paolo and Vicenzo left toward the summit and gained the 1983 route at the end of the day. They then descended to the portaledges and spent the night there. In the middle of the night they found themselves hanging in the void after the wind shredded their portaledges to pieces.

We encountered very good rock all along, with very good free and aid climbing. All the belays were equipped for rappelling. We placed 64 bolts, 25 in between pitches and the rest in belays. We kindly ask future parties not to add any new bolts to our route, even if it should eventually be free climbed.

An important notice for those not used to expeditions in this area: The risk of bad weather is continuous, mosquitoes in basecamp are quite miserable, and the area is completely isolated. Don't get hurt. In certain cases the ice pack closes the access to the fjord, making return impossible.

Michel Piola, Club Alpin Suisse

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