American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, West Coast, Scotland the Brave and Aussie Peak, First Ascents, and Arctic First Born, New Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Scotland the Brave and Aussie Peak, First Ascents, and Arctic First Born, New Route. An expedition entitled “Greenland 2000: Tilman in a New Millennium” sailed from Scotland to the west coast of Greenland and climbed two peaks and a big wall from the boat, in the Tilman tradition. Dodo’s Delight, a westerly 33-foot sailing sloop, was sailed across the Atlantic and halfway up the west coast by one crew, the hard climbers flying out later to sail farther north to try the big wall.

On the preliminary passage up the west coast of Greenland, we put into the 12-mile-long scenic fjord of Kangerdluarssuargssuaq (66° 13' N, 53° 39' W) on the west side of Paornaqussuit Qavat, and anchored at the far end. Over a three-day period, Bob Shepton, Laurie Haynes, and Steve Holland climbed Pt. 1510 and Pt. 1230 from the boat anchored below. These were non-technical mountaineering peaks, but the first one in particular involved a long slog over difficult terrain and some rock scrambling. We looked carefully for cairns or sardine tins on the summits but found none, and we believe that they were first ascents. We named them “Scotland the Brave” and “Aussie Peak,” respectively (Laurie and Steve were Australians), but how you translate that into Inuit remains to be seen!

We believe the main achievement of the expedition was the first ascent of the north wall of Sanderson’s Hope (72° 43' N, 56° 04' W), that famous navigational headland named by John Davis on his third voyage in 1587 as he took his offing for Baffin in search of the Northwest Passage. We had put up two new ice routes on the flanks of this wall in 1998, but the 1045-meter big rock wall of compact sweeping granite remained inviolate.

The team of Graham Austick, Paolo Paglino, and Alberto Zuchetti, with Bob Shepton and Angelika Hiesel in support, took six days over a 14-day period to climb the north wall from the boat—literally, as we had to start the climb by nosing the boat up to the cliff while our tallest member stepped off the rail at the bow onto the wall to gain a ledge system above. We then rigged pallets suspended above the waterline on bolts for the climbers to throw the gear and jump onto from the boat, but these were destroyed by big swells, and we had to back the dinghy against the wall for the lads to grasp the trailing ropes and jump onto the wall. The climb was completed using siege tactics; the climbers returned to the boat each evening. This was just as well, since the weather in Greenland was poor this summer, requiring us to sometimes wait two or three days for the weather to clear and the rock to dry. Indeed, on the final day, they had to force the route in snow and ice conditions, squeezing through a small hole in the by-now dark night at the top to emerge at 11 p.m. We called the climb Arctic First Born (E3 5C A3+), the first-born route on a wall in an area of unclimbed walls above the Arctic Circle.

The passage sailing south afterward, to winter the boat, was not without incident, what with ice and the dark September nights, though the climbers did seem to leave the boat with some alacrity at the end!

Reverend Bob Shepton, United Kingdom

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