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North America, Greenland, West Greenland, Akuliarusinguaq Peninsula, First Ascents and Bylot Island (Baffin), Traverses and First Ascents

Akuliarusinguaq Peninsula, first ascents and Bylot Island (Baffin), traverses and first ascents. After our successful first ascent of the North Wall of Sanderson’s Hope in 2000, we wintered the boat in Aasiaat, West Greenland, and the crew for 2001 assembled there in early July for another Tilman- type expedition. We sailed (or rather motored as there was no wind) to the Akuliarusinguaq Peninsula (72° N) for our first objectives: some remote unclimbed 2000m summits near the ice cap. These were located further inland from the region we explored during 1998.

After an exacting walk-in carrying skis, climbing, and camping gear, we reached the main approach glacier on the third day. We skinned up this on our skis to establish a high camp. This was now new territory and I cannot begin to describe the feeling of knowing you are somewhere nobody has ever been before in the whole history of God’s good earth. Over the next two days we made the first ascents on ski of six 2000+m summits and one at 1885m. The descent down the glacier and back to the boat only took two days as this time we found a better way round the snout of the glacier.

Next, it was round to the Upernavik area (73° 45'N) where Mat Goodyear and Andy Prosser put up two new rock climbs in this area of huge potential. Both were climbed from the boat. Warm Up (300 meters, British HVS 5a) lay on Kingigtoq Cliff and Out of Retirement (400 meters, VS 4c) was at Sarqarssuaq. The Old Man had joined them and was stretched on one pitch of 4b/c after all these years of retirement from serious climbing. At Upernavik Mat and Andy flew home and Polly Murray, the first Scotswoman to climb Everest, and Tash Wright flew out.

We made our way toward Bylot Island (north of Baffin) sailing and motoring well north to get over the top of the Middle Pack, a field of pack ice that stays stubbornly in the middle of Baffin Bay for most of the summer. We were eventually stopped by pack ice ca 50 km short of Bylot Island. After two days drifting and waiting we finally managed to get round this by going first southeast, then west. We anchored off Bylot Island before being beset in the bay by pack ice next morning. We finally made our way northward to the Cape Liverpool area where Tilman had started his traverse in 1963.

From here Peter Maxwell and I repeated H.W. Tilman and Bruce Reid’s north-south traverse on skis. It still took us 10 days, as the bigger glacial streams were difficult to cross especially with our “sleds” (really glorified toboggans). In the process we made the first ascent of eight unclimbed peaks, some on skis, some climbing. These were not technically difficult ascents, but the continual crevasse systems in this glacial land were a menace. The women had started off earlier and made an alternative north-south traverse—the Murray-Wright traverse—touching Tilman’s route at one point for a few kilometers when reaching their intended initial glacier proved impossible. They made a longer and faster traverse, mainly skating on their telemark skis. Unfortunately, having taken too little food with them, they were not able to climb any peaks and nearly starved waiting two days on the beach at the end. We were all collected by boat, the remaining crew having brought it round to Pond Inlet for us.

We then sailed back to Upernavik for some more crew changes, made our way down the west coast of Greenland to Paamiut, and then back to Scotland across a stormy Atlantic.

Bob Shepton, United Kingdom