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North America, Greenland, Watkins Mountains, Gunnbjornsfjeld, Ascents

Gunnbjornsfjeld, Ascents. I took a group of (mostly) senior citizens to climb Gunnbjornsfjeld, the highest peak on Greenland, and in the Arctic. This was my third guided ascent of the peak. We flew out of Iceland and landed on the ice of Greenland on May 3, and on May 4 established our base camp on the glacier below the peak at 7,500 feet. After a couple of days of acclimatization outings, we established Camp I at 9,500 feet on May 7 and returned to base. The next day we skied up to occupy Camp I, and were shocked to see tracks of a single canid, presumably an Arctic wolf, intersecting our track, following it quite a ways up, then angling up and over a broad glacial pass above 10,000 feet, continuing out of sight toward very rugged and remote terrain. Its tracks showed that it screeched to a halt as it came upon our tracks, being just as surprised as we were with the encounter. This is a high, sterile region, with nothing to eat or drink, but the wolf nonetheless avoided our exposed supplies at Camp I.

On May 9, after five hours of climbing, we reached the summit of Gunnbjornsfjeld. On the summit team were Bob Gries, at 67 the oldest person ever to reach this summit, Jon and Ginny Lindseth, both 62 (Ginny being the oldest woman to summit), George Shaw, 50, assistant leader Mark Tucker, and I. Remaining in Camp I in support was Ron Bell, 65. On May 11, we flew back to Iceland.

Skip Horner