American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Schweizerland, Tupilak, New Route and Other First Ascents

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

Tupilak, new route and other first ascents. Previously unreported was a productive expedition to Schweizerland in July-August 2000 by Alexander Fidi, Julian Neumayer, Matthias Leitner, Wolfgang Schöls, Jörg Susnik (all Austrians), and Richard Jewell from the U.K. Neumayer and Susnik skied via the Knud Rasmussen into the 16th September Glacier from the head of the fjord but the rest of us flew by helicopter, taking virtually all the food and gear.

From a base camp on the north bank of the glacier to the south of Tupilak, Leitner, Schöls, Jewell and myself moved our equipment up the lower 700m of glacial ice (60° maximum and a 70m rock wall) to reach the foot of the steep rock wall forming the South face of the mountain’s 2,264m West Summit. Directly below the wall we established our Advanced Base. Our plan was to make a capsule style ascent of a route up the middle of the South Face between the 1997 German Route, Nordlicht, which more or less follows the South West Ridge, and the 1999 British Route, Big Air. Our proposed line had been attempted by the Germans in 1997, but they turned back after one pitch.

We set off up this first pitch, astonished to Find not only a bolt next to a perfect crack, but also that the difficulty was more like F6b+ (5.10d) rather than the 7b (5.12a) quoted by the Germans. After a slightly easier pitch above, we had to resort to some difficult aid climbing with two pitches up to A3. Over three days we fixed ropes to the top of the seventh pitch and then, deciding that the ground above looked somewhat easier, elected to abandon our plan to use the portaledge and go lightweight to the top. We rested, and on the 31st July set out at 4.00am.

Above our previous high point there was free climbing to 5.10 and a couple of short aid sections at A2+. After 16 pitches we were on the summit, where we found a cairn and a plastic tube containing a message from the four Swiss from Lucerne, who made the first ascent in 1968 via the East Ridge. This contradicts the German report, which stated there was no trace of a previous ascent, and we can only assume the 1997 party did not go to the highest point. With a storm moving in, we located and rappelled Nordlicht, dismayed to find not only two bolts per stance but also many protection bolts next to perfect cracks. High winds made our descent difficult and the occasion was not helped by witnessing one of our tents being blown away (we were later able to rescue it and sleeping bags from a crevasse). We christened our route Pitter- aq (650m, 5.10d A3) and placed only three, double-bolt anchors.

We also completed other new routes. War and Peace (170m, 5.10c) by Jewell and Leitner, and Serenity Crack (170m; 5.10a) by myself and Schöls, both climbed on the 29th July, follow cracks in the wall west of our Advanced Base leading up to the lower part of Tupilak’s South West Ridge. From the top we moved left a short distance and rappelled the Nordlicht bolts. Prior to this Neumayer and Susnik made a repeat of the 1973 Swiss Route on the Central Pillar of Rodebjerg (1,100m, D+, 5.5) and on the 26th climbed Grün is die Hoffnung on the Wall of Waiting. This is the 500m wall at the end of the long southerly spur descending from Tupilak and the route was graded 510b. The same pair also twice attempted a fine line on the South Face of Pt 1,700m, later christened Schartenspitze, which lies west of the prominent Beacon. This face was already home to the 1999 Italian route, Sedna (F6c and A2). Neumayer and Susnik climbed six pitches up the wall but were forced to retreat on both occasions by bad weather. Later, on the 5th August, Jewell and myself climbed a three-pitch direct start and fixed two ropes. Three days later we returned and climbed a further eight pitches to the top. Holiday on Ice lies wholly to the right of Sedna, is 480m in height and graded 5.1 la. It gives perfect crackclimbing on excellent rock. We left no gear on the route but there are some bolt anchors between the third and sixth stances originating from the earlier attempts.

On 2nd August Neumayer and Susnik traveled up the glacier east of Tupilak to The Red Wall, a 2070m summit with an immaculate 500-700m south face of red gneiss climbed by three 1999 British routes. The pair added a fourth, Black Nose (ca 500m, 5.10a), to the right side of the wall. Three days later, with Schöls, they climbed the North East Couloir and East ridge of Sonnblick (1,800m), to make what may well be the first ascent of this mountain. The climb, named Der Weg ins Licht, was 900m with a maximum angle of 60° and some short sections of 5.4.

The team then skied out to the Tasilaq Hut, but on the way climbed two new routes. The first ascent of the south pillar of Rytterknaegten (2,020m) was made by myself and Jewell on the 17th August. The pillar was 500m high with difficulties up to 5.10d (no bolts or pitons used), though unfortunately we were not able to pursue a direct line, forced by unclimbable yellow rock onto the left flank. From the top of the pillar we rappelled 60m to reach the south ridge, then followed this to the summit. We then descended the long northwest ridge. We christened our new route Jackpot and estimate from the route book on the summit that Rytterknaegten has received well over 20 ascents. The day after our climb Leitner and Schöls climbed the smallest and most westerly tooth in the Fox Glacier Cirque. Their 350m direct line to the summit of the 1,100m Milk Tooth was christened Gute Zeiten, Schlechte Zeiten, and had eight pitches with maximum difficulties of 5.8.

Alex Fidi, Austrian Alpine Club

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