American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, East Greenland, Schweizerland, Tupilak Region, New Routes

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2004

Schweizerland, Tupilak region, new routes. In July the five-woman team of Justine Curgenven, Di Gilbert, Rosie Golden, Catrin Thomas, and I skied into the 16th September Glacier in Schweizerland to climb alpine routes. Delayed by freight problems and bad weather on route to Tupilak, the team had only nine days at base camp before having to ski out. Luckily they had nine days of perfect weather and managed to climb eight routes in all, six of which they believe to be new.

Three of the team (Curgenven, Golden, and me) started with an attempt on a new route up the south face of Tupilak (2,264m), but found that due to the unusually hot summer that Greenland was experiencing along with the rest of Europe, the approach up the extremely ser- acked glacier below the face was too dangerous. Instead, we opted to climb the very long south ridge of the west peak of Tupilak. We found the rock on the ridge to be incredibly varied, ranging from sections of perfect granite, giving some delightful climbing at around British 5b, to some of loosest rock ever. We finally stopped, after 17 hours climbing, on the Grey Tower below the West Peak, giving the route an overall grade of TD-. The ascent, and descent by the same route, was completed in a round trip of 28 hours from the tent and was felt to be reminiscent of the South Pillar of the Barre des Ecrins (French Alps).

At the same time Gilbert and Thomas were investigating the potential of the previously climbed Pt. 1,720 m (east of base camp next to the Beacon and called Schartenspitze by the 2000 Austrian team), ascending the west arête, a simple, but delightful snow crest at PD.

After a rest day we made a reconnaissance of the northeast face of Pt. 1,760m, one-and-a-half hours south of base camp. Curgenven, Golden, and I climbed the 800m northeast face by a direct line up the center. This route comprised excellent granite flakes and cracks, with 11 pitches up to British 5a. The first 300m of the route was on easy mixed ground, above which lay 500m of excellent rock. We descended the route via the ice couloir climbed by the Austrian pair of Julian Neumayer and Jorg Susnik in 2000, who made the probable first ascent of the adjacent Sonnblick (ca 1,800m). The route took an overall time of 17 hours. We named this peak The Coven, and our route Hubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble, after all the delays with freight and bad weather.

Meanwhile, Gilbert and Thomas spent 24 hours on the 1973 Swiss Route up the 1,100m south (central) pillar of Rodebjerg (2,140m). This previously climbed route is graded D+ (pitches of Severe) and whilst the pair agreed that it is a stunning line, the rock was found to be disappointingly loose. However, they did note the potential for much steeper, 1,000m lines (which might be difficult to protect with natural gear) on the east face of the peak.

After a brief rest Gilbert and Thomas climbed a six-pitch rock route on the south face of Pt. 1,720m (Schartenspitze). This proved an excellent route on sound granite and was named Unfinished Symphony. The overall grade was British HVS and the pair descended the same line, leaving some gear in place.

The full team then had a mass onslaught on the northeast face of The Coven, with Gilbert, Thomas, and I climbing the 800m northeast arête, descending via the Austrian ice couloir, where we left a great deal of abseil tat in place. We graded the route TD- and for this part of the world it was a short day out at just 14+ hours. Meanwhile, Curgenven and Golden climbed a variant start just left of the northeast arête but finished up the same line as Gilbert, Thomas, and myself.

With bad weather creeping in, the team left camp early and skied west to exit the mountains over the Slangen Pass and down via the Tasilak Mountain Hut to the Tasilak Fjord; three long days in all.

We noted the potential for excellent, long, and steep rock routes on the east face Rodebjerg, the south face of The Coven, and a seemingly unexplored peak to the northwest of the Slangen Pass

Sue Savege, U.K.

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