American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, North Peary Land, North Peary Land, First Ascents, a Traverse of the Peninsula and Confirmation of the World's Most Northerly Peak

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

North Peary Land, first ascents, a traverse of the peninsula, and confirmation of the world’s most northerly peak. Our nine-person Return To The Top Of The World Expedition landed at Frigg’s Fjord, then traversed the peninsula to the north, going up the Syd Glacier, across the Polkorridoren, and down the Nord Glacier. Along the way five climbers (John Jancik, Joe Sears, Vernon Tejas, Ken Zerbst, and I) made the second ascent of Helvetia Tinde on July 17 via a new route up the east ridge. The ca 1920m summit of Helvetia Tinde was first climbed in 1969 by the British Joint Services Expedition and is the highest peak in the most northerly mountain range on earth, only ca 750 km from the geographic North Pole. We carried the Joint Services British flag to the summit of the highest peak in the Roosevelt Range 32 years after they carried it there. The next day all nine team members (David Baker, Terri Baker, Jancik, Jim McCrain, Jim Schaefer, Sears, Tejas, Zerbst, and myself) made the first ascent of the highest unclimbed peak in the most northerly mountain range on earth.

Our aim, on reaching the north coast, had been to locate and climb the northernmost mountain on earth. During the next five days we recorded altitudes of summits, altitudes of saddles, and GPS readings for 14 peaks. On July 23 four team members (Sears, Tejas, Zerbst, and myself) crossed the sea ice at Sands Fjord to make first ascents of four peaks (Peaks 1,2,3, 4) on Cape Christian IV. The following day David Baker, Jancik, McCrain, and Schaefer made the second ascents of two peaks (Peaks 5 and 6) previously climbed by the 1997 Euro-American Expedition and claimed by them as the most northerly mountains on earth.

On July 25, Sears, Tejas, Zerbst, and I climbed Peak 5 with all but Zerbst continuing across Peak 6 and a small point called Peak 7 to make the first ascents of Peaks 8 and 9. The final peak of that day (Peak 9) was farther north than any other known summit. We continued east along the coast to Cape Morris Jesup, where we were to meet our airplane. There McCrain climbed a small hill and Tejas climbed four other summits to collect measurements. Upon our return to the United States, we submitted our data to several authorities and agencies in Denmark and the United States, asking help to determine what is a peak and what is a sub-peak. With all the peaks on both sides of Sands Fjord lying within the same minute of latitude, this decision led to much debate. The consensus was that Peak 6, at 83°, 36.427' north, is the actual summit of the most northerly mountain.

Six members of this expedition had been together in North Peary Land in 1996 as part of the American Top Of The World Expedition. During that expedition, we had walked across the sea ice to Kaffeklubben Island and then on to Oodaaq Island, considered the northernmost land on earth. In the spring of 2001 we compared readings with staff members at both GEUS and the Danish Polar Centre, and found discrepancies. On the flight to North Peary Land in 2001 we were able to fly over these islands and determine that our 1996 island is a new island. It has been confirmed by the Danish Polar Centre as the new most northerly land on earth. More information at www.2001topoftheworld.com.

Steve Gardiner

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