American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Northeast Greenland, Gronau Nunatakker Range, First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Gronau Nunatakker Range, first ascents. On July 4 British climbers, Owain Jones, Euan Lawson, Stephen Phillips and John Starbuck, British/American, Will Cross, and myself flew from Reykjavik, Iceland to Constable Point, before continuing on to Gronau Nunatakker (N 69° 28', W 30° 13'), an unmapped and uncharted region, lying 60km north of Gunnbjornsfjeld.

On our first evening, July 7, our group reached the summit of a 2,010m peak. The next evening Owain, John and myself darted up a knife-edge ridge to the summit of a 2,650m beauty. On July 10, after a failed attempt to reach the summit of a peak near to 2,650m on the periphery of Gronau Gletscher, I soloed a 2,800m peak to the west. I climbed the East ridge, zigzagging around bergshrunds and dicey cracks. I reached the summit at 3 a.m., just in time to enjoy the sun’s pale orange color spread across the horizon.

Two days later, our team headed north and placed camp on an upper plateau, setting our eyes on new objectives in the Gronau Nunatakker and Gronlands Styrelsens Gletscher expanses. After several days of heavy winds and blinding snow, which left four feet of fresh powder, Will, myself, Owain, and John emerged from our tents and hiked to a summit of a small hump just south of camp. That same evening the four of us reached the summit of a 2,900m peak to the northeast of camp, traversing several icy patches along its west face, then climbing straight up the south ridge. On July 18 our team made its second and last summit as a group, reaching a domed peak in the far northwest corridor of the plateau.

Will and I decided to break off from the group and climb on our own for the remainder of the expedition. We reached the summits of two beautiful virgins (Hhass Peak and Hans Schou Peak) with a gloriously fulfilling 10-hour ski and climb. After another two days stuck in our tent due to blizzard conditions, Will and I surfaced for a 14-hour, five-summit blitz of peaks (rated Alpine PD+), traversing an entire range in the northeast corridor. Back at camp, I decided to make one more solo endeavor and scaled Schou Deux by front pointing up its south ridge(1,500m, Alpine AD+), before traversing the western face to the summit. On top the wind had died, the air was crisp and I was alone within the vast polar icecap of the Arctic Circle, viewing what no man’s eyes had ever seen before, an untouched and unscathed part of our world.

A day later Will and I managed to ski back with our sleds to the British base camp, just before a Twin Otter arrived to fly us out. The exploration had ended as abruptly as it started and, as usual, I wished I could have stayed behind within the natural world.

Sean Burch, AAC

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