American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Roosevelt Fjeld, Johannes V. Jensen Land, Akuliarusinguaq Peninsula and Sanderson's Hope, Tilman-Style

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Akuliarusinguaq Peninsula and Sanderson’s Hope, Tilman-Style. Reverend Bob Shepton (Skipper and leader), Brian Newham (Mate), Danuska Rycerz, Steve Marshall and Annie Wilson left Britain on June 18 and sailed to the west coast of Greenland in a 33-foot sailing boat, Dodo’s Delight. The aim of the expedition was to ascend (preferably unclimbed) mountains from the boat as Eric Tilman had done in the past. The Atlantic crossing (Castlebay to Nuuk), a testing introduction to two of the climbers who had never sailed before, included two gales, a storm off Cape Farewell, winds that reached 55-60 knots, and a 90° knockdown in which we were picked up and projected down a steep fronted wave just as conditions were beginning to moderate. We suffered some damage to the hull, but were able to proceed to Nuuk, where the boat was lifted out at the Boat Club from July 4-16 for repairs to the hull. On July 24-25, we moved up to Akuliarusinguaq Peninsula (71°N 52°W), where we made a quick recce of the southern end via Nugatsiauptunua Fjord. We then moved around to the northern end via Ingia Fjord and anchored close in at the side of the Puartldarsivik Inlet, where the glacial river disgorges in an alluvial fan. It was big, desolate, deserted, glacially shattered country, with peaks that were arguably bigger, though not as high, as those on the east coast.

The boat acted as Base Camp; for some more remote peaks an Advanced Base was established up the glacial river glens. The routes on Sandersorfs Hope were climbed directly from the boat (the only way of reaching them). Ten summits on Akuliarusinguaq were climbed, five or possibly six of which were over 2000 meters, and one on Qeqertarssuaq to the south.

Among other ascents in the Akuliarusinguaq Peninsula, on July 31, Danuska and Bob climbed “The Old Man” (ca. 1800m). Some “discussion” was had at the top regarding whether it was justifiable to climb the final 100-meter rock stack on such loose rock. Different philosophies ensued from old (bold and foolish) and young (wanting to live longer). After suitable Polish protestations, the dear lady, in typically kind fashion, then found a line that might go—

and proceeded to lead all five pitches to the top! The ascent and descent took 31 hours of continuous effort. There wasn’t any darkness, but it still was too much for an old man.

To our knowledge, five of the ascents were firsts, including the highest in the area—the four in the north and Sorte Pyramide on Qeqertarssuaq. We discovered afterward that an Italian expedition had visited the southern part of the peninsula in 1969, and had previously climbed the peaks there. So our ascents in the southern part represent second ascents and the first British, and three of the peaks were in fact climbed by new routes: Pt. 2060 by its west ridge, and Pts. 1941 and 1990 (the one just to the north) by their northeast ridges. Also, it was the first time the summits on the high northwest plateau, including the Italians’ subsidiary peak (which we had not bothered to count), had been ascended on skis. And of course this was the first time any of these mountains had been climbed from a sailing boat.

Two new snow and ice routes were established on the big headland of Sanderson’s Hope. These were the first two routes, we believe (apart from walking to the top by an easy way), to be put on this famous navigational landmark named by John Davis on his 1587 voyage as he took his offing from Greenland to try and discover the Northwest Passage.

We hope we did enough to honor the memory of that extraordinary character and exceptional explorer Bill Tilman. This was, after all, the 21st anniversary of his sad loss at sea.

Names and heights in mountain areas are taken from Saga maps.

Reverend Bob Shepton, United Kingdom

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