American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Northeast Greenland, Shackletons Bjerg Area, Goodenoughs Land, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1999

Shackletons Bjerg Area, Goodenoughs Land, Various Ascents. Attracted by the existence of many virgin peaks in an area reputed to have long periods of stable fine weather, I went for a fifth visit to Greenland, joining 13 others: Nigel Edwards, Nicola Gibbs, John Burton, Diane Burton, Alan Law, Matt Sutcliffe, David Jehan, Stephanie McDearmaid, Keith Partridge, Andrea Partridge, Steven Ripley, Paul Walker, and Sandy Gregson.

On July 17, we flew from Iceland into the airstrip at Constable Point (Nerlerit Inaat), where we met Paul Walker and all our previously freighted gear. The next day, Paul flew his final Tangent group of 14 members to an area on the edge of the icecap (2060m, N 72° 54' 44", W 29° 11' 39") in two groups at the site of the lone Nigel Edwards (see above). We had aerial photographs for this area, but no published map is available. Earlier research indicated visits by a 1953 expedition, plus the visit by the British group of which Edwards was a part.

In the course of four or five days, 17 summits were reached by team members. These included a continuous traverse of the ridges linking Venus (2390m), Uranus (2450m), and Pluto (2460m); four summits on Simons Island Peak (main top: 2410m) on the very edge of the Inland Ice; Trio (2400m), and Peeping Peak (2450m); Middle Peak (2310m), End Peak (2320m), and Wart Peak (2310m). Most of these ascents were on mixed ground with poor- quality rock. We opted to climb during the night-time hours—in a true “midnight sun” latitude—to try to find better snow conditions.

On July 25 we packed up for a move over to the foot of Shackletons Bjerg for a new camp at ca. 1840 meters. This trek, taking over eight hours, moved us about 16 kilometers east from our drop-off point.

In the late evening of July 26, Sandy and I skied up to the snow shoulder at the foot of the southwest ridge of Shackletons Bjerg and climbed and photographed our way along the very attractive and increasingly exposed arête to the summit. While we were on this fine summit, most of our friends were observing us from another top across the glacier. After climbing back down the arête, we enjoyed a very rapid ski back to camp. On July 27, the others went to repeat our climb on Shackletons Bjerg in equally pleasant midnight sunshine, while Sandy and I made a ski ascent and descent of Pulk Peak (2325m) from where we could watch their tiny figures on the skyline ridge.

In the evening of July 28, six of the team moved off to the southeast to make a third camp at the head of the Passage Glacier. Sandy and I skied up the glacier below Shackletons Bjerg to climb to the summit of an attractive mountain we called Echo Pond Peak (2530m) after the sound effects we experienced in an enclosed meltwater bay ringed by low cliffs at the bottom of its west ridge. During the night of July 29, the remaining eight of us packed up and followed the tracks the others had made over the 15 kilometers to camp above the Passage Glacier (2080m) at N 72° 49' 59", W 28° 29' 47". There were a number of good-looking peaks accessible from this camp.

Over the next few nights, in various combinations of rope-teams, a further 20 summits were reached. Among the best climbs were the Orions Belt traverse, linking the three peaks of Nevis (2275m), Link Peak (2290m), and Snow Queen (2420m) over a mix of fine airy rock and snow arêtes (this was climbed by most expedition members on successive nights), plus the traverse of the five Molars (highest: 2285m) on Toothed Ridge by Sandy and myself.

On August 4, a group of seven from Derby Mountain Rescue Team (England) made a rendezvous with our camp, as they were to share in our fly-out arrangement. This group had operated in an area to the east of Shackletons Bjerg, making a number of first ascents, includ-ing a new route on that peak.

Early on August 5, a helicopter buzzed into our camp to ferry us to an area of quasi-level tundra by the head of Kjerulfs Fjord, where a wheeled Twin Otter chartered from Air Iceland could land (the ski-plane not being available to us on this date). The Twin Otter came in to make an amazingly short landing on the bumpy unprepared tundra, and transferred us in batches out eastward to the airstrip at Mestersvig. From there, we left by charter flight back to Iceland, rounding off another successful trip. Of the 40 summits reached, 20 were first ascents.

James Gregson, Alpine Club

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