American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Kromprins Frederik Bjerge, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Kronprins Frederik Bjerge, Various Ascents. The Tangent British East Greenland Expedition 1996 visited the Kronprins Frederik Bjerge, using a base camp at N.67°11'56” W.35°06’30”. From there and several other camps a total of 55 first ascents were made, ranging from simple ski-ups to complex mixed climbs. The first seven members listed below were in the field continuously from July 22 through to August 31: Paul H Walker, Lucy Walker, Jim Gregson (AC), Sandy Gregson, Mike Fletcher (AC), AnneMarie Nuttall (AC), Dr. Toby Richards. From July 22 to August 13 they were joined by Ralph Atkinson, Humphrey Deman, Steve Girt, Steve Houghton, Mark Thrush, Craig Cook, Paul Endersby. From August 13 to August 31 they were joined by Tom Keely, Andrew Robertson, Harriette Purchas, Martin Lodge, Edward Watson.

The vast open-sky expanse of Greenland’s internal icecap presents no barrier to penetratingly cold winds blowing from north and west. Numerous mountain ranges lie between this ice and the east coast, offering opportunities for exploration to the determined. The Kronprins Frederik Bjerge range stretches southwest to northeast through latitudes N.67° and 68° and has been approachcd by only a few expeditions, so it was not too difficult to choose an area where any ascents would be firsts.

On this trip we used several hand-held GPS receivers, allowing us to fix our positions with some accuracy—particularly useful on those peaks we climbed which did not appear on our maps!

On July 22, we established our base camp on an elevated saddle at 2550 meters, giving a much higher starting point than we had in 1991 or 1994. It also proved to be a lot colder, with nighttime temperatures dropping to 20°C and many days kept below freezing by winds. On July 26, our fifth day, several of us climbed two very fine peaks, one at 2750 meters and the other at 2800 meters, five kilometers from the tents in two rope teams.

On July 31, Paul and I, together with Lucy and Sandy, attempted an interesting-looking peak some kilometers away to the southeast. The ascent took us along a ridge with huge cornices poised over a steep south face to a 2720-meter summit. On August 4 we skied to a favorable location just below a good peak at W.35°20', our most westerly camp. The next morning we climbed the peak on our doorstep by its northeast ridge, which gave some good rope-lengths on steep ice to its small summit at 2780 meters. From here we surveyed other possibilities reachable from our new camp, selecting some mountains which would give good ascents on skis. In the ensuing days we skied to and climbed two peaks on the very fringe of the icecap and another at 2975 meters to the southwest, from where we could look to the lofty summits near Mount Forel.

By good fortune, from August 13 on we were blessed with fine weather which endured for the next two weeks. A number of enjoyable days of ski mountaineering from base gained us more excellent first ascents before we split again into smaller groups to explore independently. One team went southwest to look at some peaks absent from our maps. Another group set out to the east. Finally, Paul and Lucy, Sandy and I followed out to an easterly position at W.34°48’ where we established a camp on a very wide glacier ringed by superb beckoning peaks.

On August 16 we climbed a fine corniced ridge on a wonderful isolated mountain, Anniversary Peak (2440 m). During the next day, we made more first ascents by traversing a ridge connecting three interesting peaks on the south side of the glacier. While we were thus engaged our friends in another group had made new climbs of their own, then moved to join us at our camp.

Over the course of the expedition Sandy and I, mostly in the company of Paul and Lucy, made 20 first ascents and repeated several others. On August 31, we flew south over the jagged tops of Greenland’s icy mountains toward home.

James Gregson, Alpine Club

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