Sermersoq Island, New Routes and Repeat Ascents

North America, South Greenland, Cape Farewell Region
Climb Year: N/A. Publication Year: 2004.

In August 2003 a six-member British party comprising: Kate Boobyer, Derek and Sarah Fuller, Derek’s parents Brian and Sue Fuller, and Flenry Lickorish, climbed a total of 23 peaks on Sermersoq, the island immediately north of Nanortalik in South Greenland. Nine of these peaks were previously virgin and a number of new routes were added to formerly climbed mountains.

Considering its ease of access, Sermersoq has a surprisingly limited mountaineering history, most parties having continued further east from Nanortalik to attempt bigger things. The island’s climbing potential was first explored in 1957 by a small British party, which among other peaks climbed The Needle, the most prominent Aiguille seen from Nanortalik. In 1971 Phil Gribbon, a frequent visitor to Greenland, led an expedition from St. Andrews University, Scotland. The main objective was exploratory mountaineering in the Tasermiut Fjord, but while waiting (for three weeks) for the ship carrying the equipment to arrive in Nanortalik, the team climbed many of the easier peaks in the southern part of the island. However, they did not touch the main group of granite spires to the north.

A two-man British team climbed five moderate peaks in this northern group during 1977 and one of the team, Mike Banks, returned again 16 years later in 1993. This was the first serious attempt to climb peaks in the north, and 12 summits were successfully ascended by Banks’s mature four-man team. Seven of these peaks were first ascents. However, one notable failure took place on Svatakkerne (Danish for Saw Tooth), at 1,276m the highest peak on Sermersoq and situated in the northwest. The unfinished route was completed two years later by Paul Marshall and leremy Lee (east-southeast ridge, then south face to west ridge at TD, VI+). No other climbing teams appear to have visited the island until 2002, when the French climbed a hard new route on The Needle (recorded elsewhere in this Journal).

The 2003 party’s new route achievements include: Geneva Peak (ca 900m), fourth and fifth ascents via north ridge (V) and southeast face (VI+); Savtakkerene North Peak (ca 1,100m), first ascent via north ridge (IV+); Fullersoq (1,010m), first ascent via the north ridge (easy); Mount Doom (1,080m), first ascent via south ridge; Misty Mountain (1,120m), first ascent via the south ridge (III); Otley Peak (980m), first ascent via the east ridge (III); Sapangarssuaq (1,050m), first ascent via southeast ridge (III+); Akuliatitsoq (960m), first ascent via the east ridge; Boulder Peak (ca 900m), first ascent via the west ridge; Neyland Peak (ca 1,100m), first ascent via the south ridge; Kent Peak (ca 1,000m), second ascent via the north ridge. There were also many repeats of existing routes including the Original Route (north face) on the Needle (V with one aid point; fourth ascent of the peak) and the Original 1995 Route on Savtakkerne, where a probable variant was made to the final pitch at the same standard (VI/VI+). There were also several failed attempts due to poor weather, notably on the north ridge of 1,060m Half Dome, which is probably the finest remaining unclimbed peak on the island.

Sue Fuller, U.K.