American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Lemon Mountains, Various First Ascents

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

Lemon Mountains, Various First Ascents. The British Lemon Mountains Expedition 2000 was an exploratory climbing expedition to part of Greenland’s east coast. Together with a visit to the area in 1999, our plan was to explore the beautiful Lemons and climb as many routes as possible. Percy Lemon first spotted the Lemons during his survey with Gino Watkins as part of the Trans-Arctic Air Route Expedition in 1930-33. Despite the interest of eight groups since then, perhaps most famously Chris Bonington’s visits in 1991 and 1993, only ten peaks had been climbed on the Hedgehog and Chisel glaciers when we first visited in 1999. We hoped to explore these glaciers much more thoroughly. I’m pleased to say that between the two trips, we climbed 50 new routes, including 32 first ascents up to TD+.

What made our visits to the Lemons so enjoyable is that the rock is of particularly good quality for the Arctic. Solid granitic gneiss, pointing virtually straight up, has endowed the area with jagged peaks and steep, clean-looking faces. Added to this, a soft intrusion running throughout the Lemons has left many deep, ice-filled slots and chimneys.

During our 1999 visit, we climbed around the Hedgehog Glacier (just south of The Cathedral, the highest mountain in the region). This year, however, we concentrated our energies on the Chisel and Sarah glaciers, where we had seen some exciting-looking peaks from the previous year’s climbs. Despite our best intentions, there are still plenty of unclimbed peaks in the Lemons. For an idea of the variety of climbing there, following are some examples of the routes we climbed.

The Citadel was one of our favorite mixed routes and one of the peaks we spotted in 1999; its striking profile towers above the surrounding mountains. An easy snow ramp led onto a rather scary looking east ridge, but it turned out to be eight pitches of S and VS. The summit ridge, a 50-degree snow crest in rock boots, was less pleasant.

The best ice we found was on the Steeple, where we followed a single fault line up the entire east face of the mountain. Tucked away near the bottom of the route were two icefalls of Scottish V, cut deep into a buttress; then, as we climbed the snow gully, the cover thinned to a perfect runnel of grade III ice.

We enjoyed plenty of rock climbing in the Lemons, with the lovely Greenland summer weather finding us in rock boots and thermals, soaking up the sun on south-facing slabs and corners. With so many towers, spires, and faces, there are plenty of both extreme and classic lines waiting to be climbed.

Finally, amongst the rock spires, we found a few opportunities for ski mountaineering, such as Bidvest Peak and Icon Peak, both with panoramic views over Kangerdlugssuaq Fjord and the Greenland Icecap.

Notes: both the Steeple and the Citadel were attempted by Bonington’s expedition in 1993, and Icon Peak was first climbed by Brailey’s expedition in 1998. Reports from both our expeditions can be found at

Richard Pash, United Kingdom

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