North America, South Greenland, Cape Farewell Region, Nalumasortoq, First Free Ascent of the Left Pillar
Nalumasortoq, first free ascent of the left pillar. Timmy O’Neill and I wandered off to the remote fjords of Greenland for big-wall freeclimbing. Arriving in the fishing village of Nanortalik, we checked into the hostel of Neils, our charter guide into the fjord. In the hostel we met three Danish climbers on their return from the Tasermiut Fjord. These climbers were excited about having put up a new route on Nalumasortoq. They told us their route might go free; they also thought the British Route could go free, just 30’ left of their new route.
After a few beers and lots of discussion I dug out some topos collected from the AAJ. The Danes looked through them and before we knew it they had all left the room. Timmy and I looked at each other and asked, “Was it something I said?” Later they returned to the hut with a topo that I had given them. The topo was from a yet-to-be-published article from the AAJ 2003 that I had received from a friend showing that the Danes’s ‘new’ route had in fact been climbed the previous summer by Chris Chitty, Ari Menitove, and Steve Su using no bolts or fixed protection. The Danes, by contrast, had placed many bolts on the same line. Upon this revelation Timmy and I decided that our objective would be to free the British Route (Ander- son-Dring-Dring-Tattersall), first climbed in 1995 at E4 A2 without bolts or pitons for either protection or direct aid (but some bolts used on main belays).
The boat dropped us at base camp for some good fishing and mussel gathering as the rain kept us off the walls. The other sport in camp was hiding from the black flies and mosquitoes capable of carrying a grown man away. We continued during this time to set up high camp three miles up the river valley. Our camp was surrounded by incredible wild flowers and a small arctic fox often visited us. Ten days of bad weather ensued, and it was with low morale that we finally attempted to free the British Route. Our high point was 10 pitches off the deck on wet and dirty rock. We on-sighted all pitches to the high point, but the 11th pitch stymied our progress and we retreated.
Our second attempt, after a few days of rest, took us to the summit of the massif with one hang on the 17th pitch, which I eventually redpointed and rated 5.12+.
On our final attempt, freeclimbing from the ground up, we summited in 16 continuous hours. We climbed in blocks, with the leader climbing every pitch clean while placing protection, and the second jumaring. The lead climber, after fixing a line, hauled a small pack with provisions for the day. The route contained 18 pitches in total, no pitch easier than 5.10 and the hardest being 12+. No bolts were placed, no fixed gear, and the entire route went clean (placing no bolts or pins and with no hangs). We summited in ample time to enjoy the sunset, and while rappelling the route we encountered the aurora borealis dancing across the sky.
We later attempted a new route on the Central Pillar. In total we climbed 10 pitches on it. I then encountered a very difficult face-climbing traverse in which I placed two bolts by hand. This and the time of day turned us back to camp. When we tried to return to the Central Pillar the weather changed for the worst and the remainder of our trip was spent in a tent, leaving me with aspirations of returning during the next season.