American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, East Coast, Gronau Nunatakker, First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2007

Gronau Nunatakker, first ascents. In August three undergraduates from Oxford University, Chris Abbott, Ben Spencer, and I, flew by ski-equipped plane to a glacier in the Gronau Nunatakker Range and made first ascents in largely unexplored territory. Traveling on skis and pulling sledges, we crossed 90km of terrain in the region separating the main Greenland Icecap from the Watkins Mountains. Since the range has not been mapped, we navigated using GPS, compass, and aerial photographs taken in the 1970s.

Crossing 30m-wide crevasses, experiencing 24 hours of daylight, and absorbing the otherworldly beauty of the hostile landscape made the trip worthwhile in itself. But we did not forget our primary objective, and three- and-a-half weeks of snow and ice climbing resulted in 12 first ascents graded between F and AD.

The first climb, a prominent snow-and-basalt pyramid we named Mt. Currahee, proved to be the most demanding ascent of the trip, involving steep ice, an impromptu bivouac just below the summit, and an extremely difficult bergschrund. We deemed the 28-hour climb a perfect introduction to Arctic mountaineering. We made other notable ascents in an unexplored range just west of the huge Christian IV Glacier. We named this range the Oxford Nunatakker and climbed six of the seven peaks, small nunataks, at F and PD.

We experienced a variety of weather patterns on the icecap, with high pressure systems giving way to clinging fog and even rain, as the temperature rose to +7°C. Toward the end of the trip, as the Arctic summer began to draw to a close, heavy snowfall produced several tent- bound days and much lower temperatures. The thermometer dropped below -20°C during our last few days, and strong winds forced us to abandon one exposed climb.

After 13 months of planning, preparation, training, and, above all, fund-raising, we agreed that the expedition had been everything we had dreamed of and more. It certainly spawned plans for the future.

The following table gives GPS locations of our camps as we skied through the area, and previously virgin mountains (with grades) we climbed.

NAME

DATE

NORTH

WEST

ALTITUDE



Camp 1 (Drop-off point)

08/06/06

69°35'58"

29°49'37"

2,103m



Mt. Currahee (AD)

08/08/06

69°35'33"

29°55'01"

2,612m



Camp 2

08/10/06

69°36'23"

29°32'03"

2,609m



Abbottsbjerg (ski ascent)

08/11/06

69°36'09"

29°38'38"’

2,609m



Camp 3

08/11/06

69°35'10"

29°24'14"

2,556m



Mt. Brasenose (F)

08/12/06

69°33’27"

29°17'48"

2,562m



Byrnesfjeld (F)

08/12/06

69°34'25"

29°17'33"

2,628m



Helenasbjerg (F)

08/12/06

69°34'32"

29°14'46"

2,603m



Camp 4

08/12/06

69°33'59"

29°18'42"

2,490m



Camp 5

08/13/06

69°30'45"

29°15'01"

2,382m



Hannahsbjerg (F)

08/13/06

69°30'55"

29°14'08"

2,520m



Schwerdtfegersbjerg (PD)

08/14/06

69°30'09"

29° 11 ’04"

2,479m



Qureshisbjerg (F)

08/15/06

69°30'26"

29°15'55"

2,517m



Camp 6

08/16/06

69°27'33"

28°50'01"

2,215m



Charlottesbjerg (F)

08/19/06

69°26'55"

28°51'15"

2,444m



Camp 7

08/19/06

69°24'19"

28°40'11"

2,522m



Elizabethsbjerg (F)

08/20/06

69°19'54"

28°30'08"

2,602m



Camp 8

08/20/06

69°19'25"

28°30'20"

2,465m



Camp 9

08/21/06

69°12'39"

28°22'47"

2,019m



Mt. Ward (PD)

08/22/06

69°12'34"

28°27'44"

2,550m



Camp 10

08/23/06

69°09'08"

28°24'50"

1,913m



Sarah’s Spur (F)

08/25/06

69°08'13"

28°26'12"

1,975m



Hauke Engel, U.K.

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