American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Cape Farewell, Tornarssuk Island, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2006

Tornarssuk Island, various ascents. On July 19 Dan O’Brien, Marylise Dufaux, Carl Pulley, Dave Whit- tingham, and I left the U.K. on a multi-stage journey to Tornarssuk Island, near Cape Farewell. Having previously visited Pamiagdluk Island (AAJ 2005, pp. 244-247), we had the idea to try somewhere new. Tornarssuk is the next island west.

We could find little evidence of exploration and therefore little more than aerial photographs to help us plan. However, on these images we noted a number of interesting-looking shadows. Tornarssuk is linked to the island of Quvernit, which a Swiss- German team visited in 2004 (AAJ 2005, pp. 240-242), and contact with them encouraged us to press ahead. After establishing a base in the Kukasit valley on the western coast, we set out to explore and establish new routes north of Pk. 1,120m. The western and northwestern flanks of Pks. 1,250m, 1,388m, and 1,230m, at the head of the valley, and other smaller faces above a series of lakes appeared to offer potential.

After a rushed journey, the Tourist Office boat landed the team at mid-day on July 21 amidst boulders on the north side of Kukasit Bay. The valley above was fairly barren, with much rock and little greenery. The latter looked very dry after a prolonged spell of wonder-fully dry weather; this was soon to change.

An investigation of the valley to the watershed col north of 1,388m revealed that the approach to most peaks would be generally arduous, with considerable amounts of scree, boulders, and crevassed ice fields. However, we did discover striking objectives such as “Odin’s Tooth,” a massive, steep-sided rock tower southwest of 1,388m (“Valhalla”). The weather then became unsettled, with many days of low cloud. Two major depressions passed through, and strong winds from the second wrecked the base tent. As a result most of our efforts were directed towards mountaineering-style routes and exploring access to various areas.

We made a likely first ascent (Alpine PD) of Tornarssuk (1,230m), by the north ridge and couloir on the east flank; there are some big walls below this summit. Arete B Route was a five- or six- pitch HVS/E1 attempt on the central rib of the north face of 1,020m “Twin Shooter Ridge,” on the southern Kukasit skyline. Having failed by small margins to reach the top of a peak that we called the Pyramid via complicated ground to the west or southeast, we discovered a route around the coast that gained the summit of Pt 1,090m, and from there continued east-northeast to gain the boulder problem top of Pyramid by its southwest spur (PD+). We made two attempts on 1,388m by the northwest spur, with the second terminating on the “Blind Pew” pinnacle after 10 pitches up to VS/HVS; the mountain turned out to be even more complex than it appeared from below. We eventually gained the big domed top of 1,388m from the “back” (F+), by scrambling up its southeast couloir.

Sustained damp conditions, until we left the island on August 11, frustrated further attempts on key projects, so there’s still much to do

David Bone, Karabiner Mountaineering Club, U.K.

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