American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, South Greenland, Cape Farewell Region, Prins Christian Sund, Igdlorssuit Havn Tower, New Routes and First Free Ascents on the West Face

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

Prins Christian Sund, Igdlorssuit Havn Tower, new routes and first free ascents on the west face. An eight-man team comprising some of the best rock climbers in Britain visited the western end of Prins Christian Sund in the Cape Farewell region of South Greenland. Two of the team, Miles Gibson and Steve McClure, completed a new 23-pitch route on the west face of Igdlorssuit Havn Tower (1,160m), an excellent 900m line that the pair graded E7 6c and named Twenty-one.

The route takes the most obvious feature on the face, an impressive, left-facing, central corner system, which was climbed ground-up, using nothing but natural gear and approximately 450m of fixed rope. Unfortunately, closer inspection revealed the 400m corner to be guarded by around 250m of compact slabby rock and the pair had two attempts to find a line through the slabs. On the second they discovered a series of cracks leading left through unprotected slabs and arêtes to gain the base of the corner in 13 pitches. Rope was fixed to this point, above which the climbers progressed in capsule style using a portaledge. A wet roof high on the route proved particularly troublesome, with McClure reporting it to feel like F8b under the conditions. This was pitch 21, climbed after four attempts. Above, much easier ground led to the top.

The 800m-high seaward face of the granite tower was first climbed by a five-man Croat- ian-Slovenian team in 1996 via a line further right. They named their 24-pitch route Ujarak (6c A3), after the boat that eventually picked them up at the end of a long 12-day wait, when their prearranged lift failed to materialize. This line was free climbed by four other members of the British team: Nick Boden, Tom Briggs, Adrian Jebb, and Rob Mirfon. The ninth pitch, rated A3, was first aided and then top-roped at E7 6b, whereas the A1 bolt ladder above eventually succumbed at E7c+. Ropes were fixed to the top of pitch 12, after which the remaining ground was climbed on-sight over one-and-a-half days with an intervening bivouac. Natural protection and existing in-situ gear were used throughout. On the 1996 ascent 12 pitches had involved the use of aid but the route now goes completely free at E7 6c.

In 2001 Max Dutson and Dave Lucas, from Matt Heason’s British expedition to the same area, added Wonderful World to the face, giving 23 pitches to E4 6a and C1/C2. Heason’s brother, Ben, was also part of last summer’s team and repeated the line with Simon Moore. The pair free climbed the entire route on-sight over two days, notably the excellent corner of pitch 15 at E6 6b. At the top, a new four-pitch variant, dubbed The Turning Point, was created with one pitch of E5 and another of E6. Much of this was climbed at night with the top reached at 2 a.m.

Several shorter routes on the cliffs nearer to base camp were also climbed at grades up to E7 and Heason also soloed Cryptic Crossword (E3 5c), but Twenty-one and the free version of Ujarak are, almost certainly, the hardest major free rock climbs in Greenland to date. (Editor’s note: E7 6c translates to approximately 5.13+.)

Lindsay Griffin, High Mountain INFO

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