American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, East Greenland, Northern Linbergh Mountains, First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Northern Lindbergh Mountains, first ascents. On June 22 British climbers, John Booth, Brian Combs, Richard Denison, Ian Jones, Dominic Matters, and I departed Akureyri airport, Iceland, in a reserve Twin Otter, the normal plane at that time being “stuck in Greenland.” We refuelled at Isafjordur, then flew directly to Greenland, reaching the limit of the pack ice in approximately one hour and landing after a further 20 minutes. On reaching the Kronborg Glacier, we had turned inland and flew approximately northwest over Gunnbjorns Fjeld and the Kong Christian IV glacier to land at 69° 07'N, 31°02'W on the previously un-named Lanchester Glacier. Weather conditions were perfect and our equipment dump had been located by the pilots prior to landing. About 20-30 cm of snow (now consolidated) had fallen in the three weeks since its deposit.

We spent the first one-and-a-half days establishing base camp, then embarked on our first ascent. This first peak was climbed by all six members (on two ropes) as a day ascent from base. In the following three days, we first split into threes, then pairs, to make five further ascents, missing one day due to bad weather. On the fifth day after our arrival we split into two groups of three and went exploratory ski-touring on adjoining glaciers. The group making the northern tour explored two glaciers and made one ascent, whilst those on the southwestern tour visited the western rim of the Southern Lindbergh Plateau and made four ascents (including a second ascent). On returning to base, a group of three made a further day ascent.

After another rest day due to poor weather we set off in two groups (four and two) on four-day exploratory ski-tours to the west. During this period we made a total of 12 ascents, mainly in pairs. These included a number of nunataks on the edge of the icecap. On one summit we found a survey pin drilled into loose rock. This is believed to have been placed in 1934 by Martin Lindsay’s team during the leveling of “The Monarch” (a.k.a. Gunnbjorns Fjeld). After two further rest days due to poor weather we set off on the last of our four-day ski-tours in two groups of three. These took us to the east and southeast, where we made three further ascents. The final attempt at a day ascent from base camp was aborted due to poor weather, and the team was collected by Twin Otter after 23 days on the glacier.

Although most peaks involved some ski-mountaineering, all climbing was done on foot, using crampons as appropriate. Plans to utilize traction-kites for glacier travel were hampered initially by lack of wind, and subsequently by our abilities at kite flying and skiing in lace-up boots. Both improved toward the end of the trip.

Weather conditions were typically excellent with only four days of bad weather out of 23. Recorded temperatures ranged from +10°C to -16°C, though wind-chill could bring this down to -30°C. There was very little wind during the first half of the trip, but it became much stronger during the second half.

The team also had a well-defined environmental strategy. Snow was melted using solar ovens wherever possible, reducing the fuel usage to less than 20 liters of SBP/Coleman fuel. All solid waste was contained and removed from Greenland. Food and packaging waste was taken to Isafjordur for domestic disposal, with all solid human waste repatriated to the U.K. We believe we were the first expedition to repatriate all its human waste.

In summary, this was a highly successful expedition, during which extensive exploration was made of an area ca 1300 square kilometers. A total of 28 peaks were climbed, including 25 first ascents and subsidiary summits. The terrain was largely on snow and ice, with the poor quality rock avoided wherever possible. Route grades ranged between Alpine F and AD. Snow conditions varied considerably in the region, though generally improved closer to the icecap (hard ice in places). Around base camp most snow slopes consisted of a three-centimeter crust overlying 20-30 cm of powder, which in turn lay on a firm base. When moving in boots or crampons, the top crust broke about 75 percent of the time, so glacier travel was made entirely on ski, using pulks to transport food, fuel, and equipment. Significant first ascent and new route potential remains in the Northern Lindberghs, particularly at the unexplored northern end of the nunataks.

Jonathan White, United Kingdom

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