American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, East Greenland, North Lemon Mountains, First Ascent of The Spear and Others

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

North Lemon Mountains, first ascent of The Spear and others. As our drop-off point was not a suitable base for climbing in the Lemon Mountains, Geoff Cohen and I left for the Frederiks-borg Glacier 19 miles away. Two days’ of travel were needed to reach an Advanced Base on this glacier. We wanted to explore the North Lemon Mountains, a never previously visited group to the northwest of the main Lemon Mountains and separated from them by the Courtauld Glacier. Four hours and three kilometres further on from Advanced Base we again set up camp on ashallow col and decided to climb the mountain immediately south. This was a long ridge linking a number of peaks running northeast to southwest and marked 2,010m on the Danish Map. Starting at 4 a.m. we climbed snow to a col on this ridge southwest of the first peak. We then turned west and traversed the ridge. This was snowy at first but then became a complex series of rocky pinnacles. We climbed unroped for speed, crossing some towers and turning others, until eventually gaining a snowy summit that appeared to be the top. A long way beyond was yet another summit, which appeared to be roughly the same height. We stopped at this point, uncertain as to whether the distant summit was higher. Further study a few days later from our next summit gave no better indication. We named our mountain Switchback due to the many undulations on its ridge. The route then had to be reversed and we arrived back at our camp 20 hours after leaving. Our climb along the ridge to the central summit, carried out on the 19th July, had been three kilometers in length and Alpine TD—with pitches of III and one of IV. The mountain’s southwest summit appears to be about the same height, but is still unclimbed. It appears more easily approachable from the Courtauld Glacier. The far northeast summit (closest to the Frederiksborg glacier) is also unclimbed.

A few days of bad weather gave a welcome rest, after which, on the 24th, we climbed a huge whale-like mountain to the north of our col. The terrain was easy and reminiscent of the Cairngorm plateau in a very snowy winter. We christened our peak Humpback (ca 2,400m) and awarded the 650m route up its southeast flank a grade of PD.

After this we returned to advanced base and on the 26th skied to the glacier on the far side of Humpback, camping at ca 1,100m. Here, we were surrounded by unclimbed peaks but further movement had to be on foot. There were two outstanding peaks in this region. The Shield (our name) had a big snowy north face, and was presumably the one shown as 2,600m on the map. Much closer but more impressive was The Spear (also ca 2,600m). We spent the next two days establishing a camp at the foot of The Spear’s North Face. After a rest day we started the route the following evening, climbing the left side of a steep glaciated slope to reach mixed ground. From this point the rest of the route was pitched. The climbing was never hard, but it was sustained with few resting places, so the overall fatigue factor was out of proportion to the difficulty. Most of the belays were on good rock. After 17 pitches of mixed terrain we reached a good ledge on the left-hand ridge and took a 10-minute break. The mountain now became steeper and rockier. Towers barred the ridge ahead, so we traversed back onto the face

After 12 hours on the go, we traversed the forepeak’s snowy right face to a col, then turning the corniced crest above, reached the twin summit pinnacles around midday.

Cloudy wreaths threatened a change in the weather, so we began our descent, down-climbing to the ledge where we had made a 10-minute break on the way up. Although we had no bivouac gear (but a stove) we rested here for one-and-a-half hours and melted snow to rehydrate. The cold soon spurred us into renewed action and with rappelling not really feasible, due to lack of suitable anchors for our rappel cord and the constant possibility of rope jam, we down-climbed all the way, staggering into our camp on the glacier 34 hours after setting off. Our 1,300m route on the northeast face, completed on the 29th July, was graded TD.

Dave Wilkinson, Alpine Climbing Group

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