North America, Greenland, East Coast, Milne Land, Circumnavigation; Hergenlitop, Sleeping Giant

Publication Year: 2007.

Milne Land, circumnavigation; Hergenlitop, Sleeping Giant.

During August Dan Jones, Ben Lawes, and I circumnavigated Milne Land and explored this part of Scoresby Sund, the largest fjord system in the world. At N 71° the fjord is covered with ice for much of the year, and due to the remoteness and difficult, expensive access, little climbing has been done.

We flew to Constable Point and collected our previously shipped kayaks from Ittoqqortoormiit, close to the settlement of Scoresby Sund. The supply boat reaches this area only once a year, if it can penetrate the ice. We chartered a boat for about £850 and after a five-hour journey were dropped off at the southeast corner of Milne Land. Campsites on this side of the island are sparse and small.

We set off west with about 24 days food, fuel, the normal camping kit, and climbing gear. It was tight in the boat. The island is ca 300km in circumference, and we would have to paddle back to Scoresby Sund. Our trip was unsupported, and we had no means of outside contact bar the EPIRB, which at best is hit and miss. The weather was excellent after the first three days and toward the end, when it got cold and the fjord began to fill with ice. Paddling conditions were generally good, with only a couple of windy days and a fair bit of ice off the western shore.

As we paddled around the western end of the island we spotted a peak called Hergenlitop, which had a steep south face and fairly easy access from the sea. We picked a line up the center of the face and climbed it in seven 55m pitches of difficult rock, followed by four pitches of easier terrain to the summit. The rock was good most of the way, our main problem being harassment by peregrines. We named the climb Sleeping Giant (300m, British XS) and climbed many excellent pitches of British 5a/5b. There is room for harder lines. As we continued along the north coast we saw fantastic granite peaks soaring above the sea and holding vast potential for exploration. However, we had limited food and a long way to go, so we had to push on.

It took six days to paddle from Milne Land to Ittoqqortoormiit, where we arrived with only one day’s food left and having run out of fuel a week previously. The journey was 500km,and we encountered just three other people. We didn’t encounter any live polar bears, which are common to this region, but did find evidence of them having been shot. We thank the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for its assistance.

Olly Sanders, U.K.