North America, Greenland, East Coast, Knud Rasmussen Land, Sortebrae Mountains, First Ascents

Publication Year: 2007.

Knud Rasmussen Land, Sortebrae Mountains, first ascents. On May 27, 2006, a Twin Otter ski-plane transferred my group from Isafjordur in Iceland to N 69° 05.016', W 27° 38.879' on a tributary glacier feeding into the main Borggraven system. These glaciers lie east and northeast of the Ejnar Mikkelsens Fjeld and Borgtinderne massifs, ca 90km east of Gunnbjornsfjeld and the Watkins Bjerge.

On departure, the plane lifted out another British group, led by Rosie Goolden, which over the previous 20 days had made a number of ascents close to the fringe of the inland ice. My own group comprised Geoff Bonney, Julian Davey, Kate Keohane, Sandy Gregson (all U.K.), Bill Cunningham (U.S.), and I as leader. With a pick-up proposed for June 16, we had 20 days for exploration and climbing.

During the first four days we skied to a number of cols to spy out the terrain and also made two first ascents: Triangle Peak (2,340m, N 69° 07', W 27° 31') and Surprise Peak (2,405m, N 69° 04', W 27° 34'), the surprise being a deep crevasse hindering our passage to the gendarmed and corniced final crest.

On June 1 we transferred to a new campsite, downstream at the junction with a more easterly branch glacier. This promised access to other peaks, although it was obvious that dangerous icefalls, which we were unwilling to risk, protected some of the higher mountains. We skied up Devil’s Dome (2,151m) to inspect approach routes, and in subsequent outings made first ascents of Stegosaurus 4 (2,285m, N 69° 03', W 27° 32'), Nipple (2,189m, N 69°01', W 27° 33'), Snow Castle (ca 2,105m, N 69° 04', W 27° 32') and Stegosaurus 7 (The Fin, 2,276m, N 69° 03', W 27° 32'). These climbs were predominantly on snow and steep ice, with sections of narrow, exposed arête. All rock encountered was fairly rotten basalt.

We also turned around on a few other attempts because of poor snow or storms. (The weather was more fickle than on any of my previous 10 Arctic expeditions.) Meanwhile Julian and Kate explored on ski a little farther west. The area holds impressive unclimbed peaks, but there will be considerable risk involved in reaching some of the summits.

Jim Gregson, Alpine Club