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North America, Greenland, Cape Farewell, Attempt to Reach Apostelens Tommelfinger; Ulamertorssuaq

Attempt to reach Apostelens Tommelfinger; Ulamertorssuaq, Moby Dick ascent. Jens Richter and friends returned to South Greenland for another attempt on Apostelens Tommelfinger, which lies above the Lindenows Fjord and of which they had almost reached the top via a new route on the south face in 2003 (AAJ 2005, pp. 238-239). They sent 14 boxes by air freight from Germany, thinking that they would be handled by a courier company. In fact they were sent by normal air freight four weeks in advance. When the team arrived in Greenland, they discovered that three boxes were missing, including all snow and ice equipment. In 2003 they travelled by boat from Nanortalik around to the east coast and then up the Lindenows. This was very expensive, and last year they decided to add to the adventure by travelling over the ice cap from the head of the Tasermiut Fjord, repeating a journey that was probably first made by an Irish expedition in 1971.

In Nanortalik they met the two Dutch climbers, Bekendam and Fickweiler, retuning home after their climbs reported above, and the Dutch kindly lent them some gear. Optimistic that the boxes might catch up with them, and despite Richter not having plastic boots, the German team sailed to the head of the Tasermiut, from where they decided to reach the glacier from the left (Itivdlerssuaq), in order to maximize the time spent load carrying over grass and scrub before reaching the ice.

After two days walk in bad weather they got their first look at the glacier falling from the ice cap; it was steep and crevassed. Deciding that the terrain ahead would prove too difficult for ferrying loads and getting no positive information on their boxes, they decided that 2005 was not the year of the Tommelfinger and called for a boat.

They returned to the relatively popular Ketil area farther down the fjord, where the rest of their group from Dresden was trying to climb a new route on Nalumasortoq.

An Austrian team was just down from an ascent of Moby Dick on Ulamertorssuaq, climbing free as far as the Black Man but using aid above. They’d had four days of more or less good weather. Normally, base camps in South Greenland are characterized by millions of mosquitoes but this year there were almost none. Endless days of rain had seen to that.

During short weather windows Richter’s group attempted Moby Dick as far as the Black Man, fixing five pitches. Three days before they were due to leave, their friends having already abandoned the new route, the weather cleared. They swiftly climbed the face again to the Black Man and slept in hammocks under a cloudless sky, with the temperature around -20° C. Next day they climbed in full Goretex. Conditions were quite icy, so they were unable to enjoy a free ascent, though they did free-climb all pitches graded VIII and below. As darkness fell they arrived at the little bivouac ledge three pitches from the top. Here, they had another cold night but for the only time in their four-week expedition, saw the northern lights. Next day they reached the summit in excellent weather and had a perfect view of the distant Tommelfinger. They rappelled to the base of the route, to be greeted by the next big weather front.

Postscript: The missing boxes eventually made their way back to Germany, arriving two months after the climbers got home. Apparently the contents were considered too dangerous for the Danish post. However, with all the bad weather it was a good decision to abandon the Tommelfinger, and the climbers left equipment in Greenland for a return match.

Lindsay Griffin, Mountain INFO, CLIMB Magazine