American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North American, Greenland, Cape Farewell Region, Pamiagdluk Island, New Routes on the Baron and Baronet

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

Pamiagdluk Island, new routes on the Baron and Baronet. Ross Cowie and Tim Marsh (UK) with Ronan Browner and Donie O’Sullivan (Ireland) traveled via Nanortalik to Pamiagdluk Island where they set up camp at the now established Baroness Base Camp on the west shore. They first made an ascent of the South Ridge of the Baron, a striking 1,340m spire conspicuous from the Torssukatak Fjord, which like other British parties they believed to be still unclimbed. Cowie with Marsh, climbed a different line to the other pair and although a lower pitch on one of the routes was British E3 6a, it could have easily been avoided and a grade of E1 5b is more accurate for the 600m of climbing. As they triumphantly approached the summit on the afternoon of the 2nd July they were somewhat deflated to discover a big cairn and old rusty peg.

[Ed note: while rock climbing in the Cape Farewell region has certainly come of age in the last decade or so, the area has been visited since the 1950s. In 1956 Claude Kogan’s primarily French expedition to the Kangikitsoq region further north stopped off at Pamiagdluk. They climbed Pt 1,240m, now known as Qaqarssuaq, in the north of the island and christened the impressive double-summited spire, now known as the Baron, Le Grande Aiguille. They made a reconnaissance from the north and it seems the peak was most likely climbed the following year by another French expedition, which summited six new peaks on Pamiagdluk. This team also approached from the north and refer to it, not without reason, as The Dru. It was certainly climbed again from the northeast in 1978 or 1981 by Irish mountaineers, Ray Finlay and Roy Hudson, who found the French cairn. The peak will have a local Greenlandic name, but this has yet to be discovered.]

Working from a camp below the south southwest face, three more routes were added. After some preparation of the lower central section, where ropes were left fixed, the team established two new routes on the 14th July. Browner and O’Sullivan climbed more or less directly up the centre of the face, cutting through a ramp that slants up right across the whole wall at around half-height, and created the 17-pitch Amphibian. This had two crux E5 6a pitches but was sustained, with nine of the pitches being E2 and above. In the meantime Cowie and Marsh had climbed up to the right end of the ramp, then moved up and right into a huge diedre. After a total of 11 pitches they reached the upper South Ridge, where four more easy rope lengths led to the summit. The Red Dihedral had eight pitches of E2 and above with a crux of E3 6a. Both routes suffered from dampness in parts and as the pairs coincided on the summit they were able to make a communal rappel down the middle of the face, arriving back at camp after a 20-hour day. Two days later Cowie and Marsh returned to follow the ramp left across the face to the North Ridge and up this via an easy scramble to the summit. The climbing was not sustained but the middle of the ramp had a section of E4 6b, while a 35m pitch just before the end, led by Marsh, featured thin moves across a slab with negligible gear and a hard thin crack, giving it an overall grade of E6 6b. Gandhi’s Ramp involves 16 pitches to the ridge plus 150m of scrambling. As the two sat on the summit two rather surprised climbers suddenly appeared. Another larger British expedition had arrived on the East Coast, also half expecting to make the first ascent of the Baron. However, the two new climbers were somewhat comforted to hear they were several decades late rather than just minutes.

Meanwhile Browner and O’Sullivan had re-located to below the North West Face of the Baron’s lower western summit, dubbed The Baronet. On the 17th July they climbed the obvious cleft up the centre of the face above the half-way ledge. Reaching the ledge involved six pitches up to E3 6a, while above the terrain involved off width cracks (Friend 6) and a crux wet square cut groove at E4 6a. The 13 pitch route was climbed quickly and the pair were able to return to camp, pack and descend to the fjord the same day. No bolts were carried and only one peg was placed on the entire trip.

Ross Cowie, United Kingdom

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