North America,Greenland, Cape Farwell Region, Tasermiut Fjord, Ulamertorssuaq and Ketil, First Ascents

Publication Year: 2005.

Tasermiut Fjord, Ulamertorssuaq and Ketil, first ascents. Eight young French climbers on their first expedition were in the area from the end of June to early August. Jérôme Masoundabe, Benoît Montfort, Magali Salle and Rémy Sifilio, all from the Pyrenees, climbed Moby Dick on Ulamertorssuaq from the 15th-17th July. They started up the route without sleeping bags or portaledges, reaching the good ledge at the top of pitch 15 on the first day. Next day they gained the narrow ledge at the top of pitch 28, and reached the summit the following morning, rappelling the route from the existing anchors. Their next objective was Nalumasortoq and on the 30th, together with Pierre Labbre, they started up the Original British Route on the southwest face of the Left Pillar (7b+ or 7a and A2). Ropes were fixed to the top of the 8th pitch, then on the 1st August these were re-ascended and a portaledge camp established at the top of pitch 10. On the second they continued up a superb series of jamming cracks and diedres, reached the top and descended to their camp for the night.

The other three members of this party, Frédéric Degoulet, Rémi Sabot, and Francois-Régis Thévenet from Lyon, had more ambitious plans, first tackling a new route up the tapering tower leading to the West Summit (1,830m) of Ulamertorssuaq, right of the characteristic barrelshaped buttress. The first ascent of this pillar took place in 2000 when Canadians, Jia Condon and Rich Prohaska, climbed What’s Bred in the Bone, a 1,100m line with 29 pitches, only two of which required aid (A2+). The rest gave fine free difficulties up to 5.10+, notably in the middle to upper sections where the climb followed a prominent right facing diedre, though some of this was interspersed with poor rock.

The Canadians climbed onto the right side of the pillar having first gained the top of the large hanging serac formation at its base. However two years previously an Icelandic team had tried to avoid the seracs by starting up the first few pitches of L’inesperée on the main face (Daudet/Robert, 1996), then working up right across the intervening depression to reach the pillar. They found serious stonefall in the depression so retreated.

The three French, who took a similar start, appear to have experienced the same problems. At the second portaledge camp stonefall ripped through the fly while they were ensconced one night and they later were lucky to escape a huge volley while jumaring back up to Camp 3. Higher, one of the climbers pulled off a large flake directly above the belayers but fortunately managed to hold on and throw it clear. The trio had started up the wall to the right of L’Inesperée, close to the seracs, moved right on to the snow field at its top, then climbed compact slabby rock just left of the central depression until they could traverse across it and reach the pillar a little below half-height (at approximately pitch 13). From here the wall steepens and the difficulties increased. A series of diedres and a final exposed arête led direct to the summit, keeping left of the Canadian route until eventually joining it at the last belay. Twelve days were spent climbing, with eight nights spent on the wall in a portaledge. The summit was reached late in the day on the 3rd July. Due to the perfect weather throughout, the climb was named Le Temps de L’innocence and gave 29 pitches with difficulties up to 7a+ A1 and C1 (although there is only one aid pitch).

After a suitable rest, which coincided with a period of bad weather, these three moved north to Ketil, a spectacular peak is best known for its big routes on the 1,200m West Face, where they planned to add a third route to the less well-known South Face. They began on the 15th and spent three days fixing the first 350m. A capsule style attempt was then driven back by storm and it wasn’t until the 30th that they were able to jug the ropes and continue with a portaledge for four more days to the summit. Clémence de l’Ogre (1,000m, 22 pitches, of which four required aid: 7a A1 and C1) is the first direct line up the face, climbing more or less up the center where there is a vague prow in the upper section. The Original Route to the summit of Ketil (TD, V and VI) was done as long ago as 1974 by an Austrian party that started up a couloir on the North West Face and eventually traversed around to the upper South Face from where they reached the summit. It was descended one year later by the French team of Agier, Amy, Lemoine and Walter, who climbed the complete South Face at TD+ (VI) with one bivouac, although this is reported to be a devious line connecting ledge systems with paths of least resistance.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO Editor, CLIMB magazine