American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Northeast Greenland, Western Staunnings Alps, Various Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1999

Western Staunings Alps, Various Activity. Team members Colwyn Jones (Joint Expedition Coordinator), Stephen Reid (Joint Expedition Coordinator), John Bickerdike, Brian Shackleton, Jonathan Preston, Colin Read, John Peden, and Chris Ravey left Glasgow May 2. The expedition was landed by ski-equipped Twin Otter on the Sefstroms Glacier (1210m) in the Western Staunings Alps on May 6. The landing was two days later than planned due to bad weather affecting visibility on the proposed landing site.

On May 7, Jones, Bickerdike, Reid and Preston attempted the northernmost of two unclimbed ca. 2700-meter peaks (mentioned on p. 83 of Donald Bennet’s guide, Staunings Alps. West Col: 1972) between Attilaborgen and Trinity via the left-hand of two obvious couloirs on the east flank of the mountain. A ridge was gained, but further climbing was thwarted by a mixture of hard blue ice, loose rock and general exhaustion. During the ascent and descent, exploration and observation were made of the glacier features giving access to this face. They named several of these features. The main glacier was called the “Essemmceebrae Glacier” while the northerly branch was called the “McKenzie Glacier.” A view was obtained into the intriguing “Inner Sanctum,” a glacier basin between Trinity and the Helmspids flanked by rock pillars and guarded by vast crevasses that extended completely across the entrance.

Meanwhile, Shackleton, Read, Peden and Ravey attempted an unclimbed snow peak, one of two unclimbed mountains lying in the area between Sussex, Magog and Cantabrigia on the Cantabrae. Access was via a couloir left of a hanging glacier on the northwest face. This led to a snow ridge where Shackleton and Read turned back. Ravey and Peden carried on and reached the summit via a short but difficult rock slab (V) in the early hours of the morning. The peak has been named “Hecla” (2400m) and graded PD.

On May 9, Reid, Preston, Bickerdike and Jones climbed the highest of four unclimbed peaks (the northerly of the two marked on Bennet’s map) on the dividing ridge between the Upper Sefstroms and Grantabrae glaciers. The ascent was made by linking a series of couloirs and ice fields with occasional mixed climbing on the southwest face. This led to a short easy rock section and a spectacular summit block. The peak was called “Tillyrie” (2415m) and the route graded AD.

Meanwhile, Peden, Ravey, Shackleton and Read made the first ascent of the unclimbed rock spire south of Emmanuel (pictured in Bennet, illustration 5). This peak is particularly spectacular when viewed from the Upper Sefstroms, where it is seen to have a large hole or “window” directly through it just below the summit. The spire was gained via a long couloir on the southwest face between it and Emmanuel; seven pitches of rock (up to IV) led to the top. The peak was named “Tupilaq” (2450m) and the route graded TD. This team did not return to Base Camp until 11 a.m. the following morning, having summited at 1 a.m. During the descent, Brian Shackleton sustained a minor facial injury when a loose block was dislodged by an abseil rope. This was treated successfully by Colwyn Jones.

On May 10, Bickerdike and Reid made the first ascent of a small but prominent unclimbed southerly outlier of Kapelle. The route was via an easy couloir and snow fields to its east and the peak was called “Rabsontinde” (F, 1640m).

On May 11, Preston, Reid, Bickerdike and Jones climbed the second highest of the four unclimbed peaks (the southerly of the two marked on Bennet’s map) on the dividing ridge between the Upper Sefstroms and Grantabrae glaciers via a broad couloir (which they named the Coltart Couloir) lying between the mountain and the headwall of the Sefstroms Glacier. This led to a snow ridge, and a short rock pitch (V) led to the summit. The peak was named “Coltart” (2395m) and graded PD+.

May 13 dawned clearer and Peden and Ravey tackled an unclimbed snow peak southeast of “Coltart.” This was climbed via the Coltart Couloir and a snow ridge. The slightly higher rickety rock spire to the west was not attempted. Descent was via the south ridge and the Sefstroms Glacier Headwall. This peak of 2350 meters has been named “Seanearbheinn.” It was graded PD+.

At the same time, Read and Shackleton attempted a group of three rock spires lying to the northwest of Tillyrie via a couloir on the southwest face. Intense cold and ice-glazed rock forced a retreat just short of the summit. Meanwhile, Preston, Bickerdike and Reid made a reconnaissance of the unclimbed south face of Sussex, a spectacular 800-meter-plus sheer rock wall. This would make a superb target for a future expedition.

By the evening the weather was worsening and a storm put paid to all further climbing aspirations. On May 15 we began an arduous and difficult journey back to Mesters Vig, which was reached at 1:30 a.m. on the 21st. The party was flown to Iceland the same day.

Stephen Reid, United Kingdom

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