American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, East Coast, Dronning Louise Land, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 2008

Dronning Louise Land, various ascents. Gerwyn Lloyd, Tim Radford, and I, members of a North Wales-based mountain rescue team, visited the most northerly significant mountain range in Arctic East Greenland, an area known as Dronning Louise Land. Only two other expeditions had visited this region: a combined British Forces expedition, which traveled south through the area in 1953 for surveying, and a Tangent-organized team, which visited the western sector in 2000. We planned to visit the southeast, an area named The Fairytale Peaks by the 1953 expedition (so called because they did not reach it and said anything they recorded about it would be a fairy tale).

From Constable Point we flew north, refueling at Daneborg. We had requested the Twin Otter to land at N 75°57'59.23", W 25°8' 16.30", but after much circling the pilot told us he could not land, due to extensive blue ice and crevasse fields. He flew northwest, looking for a safe landing site, finally dropping us on the edge of the ice cap at N 76° 11 '24.55", W 26°32'49.73", over 50km from our intended landing point. We estimated it would take us five or six days to reach our original destination, and as our pick-up point was well to the north, we decided it was unfeasible to visit the Fairytales and reluctantly changed our plans, deciding to follow the edge of the ice cap north to our intended pick-up point at N 76°28'8.64", W 26°11'36.48". The majority of peaks we passed along the way would still be unclimbed.

We had a secondary aim: Southwest Dronning Louise Land had been identified as a potentially good site for meteorite collection. Theoretically, any meteorite should be visible as a rock that was distinct from the other specimens in the debris field. Unfortunately and somewhat surprisingly, the geology was so diverse that every rock appeared distinct from every other, and this part of our scientific program was not successful. However, we tried to take a small rock sample from each peak visited, and these were later analyzed.

Arriving on May 13, we made eight camps on our ski journey, being flown out of the area on June 8. The sun never dipped less than 40° above the horizon, but sleep never seemed to be a problem. In total we skied ca 80km and ascended 19 peaks, of which 15 were first ascents. The changes to our intended route meant that the last part of the journey was through an area which had been visited by the 2000 Tangent Expedition, and a few of the peaks had already been climbed.

On May 15 we made the first ascent of Penderyn (2,143m, N 76°13'28.44", W 26°38'21.68"), naming it after a single malt Welsh whiskey. From our Camp 3 at 1,912m we made five first ascents: on the 19th Copa Rhosyn (2,067m, N 76°15'19.10", W 26°21 ’06.63") and Y Lliwedd (2,052m N 76°15'35.23", W 26°20'03.55"); on the 21st Cornucopia (1,996m, N 76°15'51.53", W 26°22'29.03"), Foel Fras (1,917m, N 76°16’30.00", W 26°24'33.72"), and Carnedd Môr Ladron (Pirate Peak, 2,049m N 76°15'40.32", W 26°22'35.51"). Farther north on the 23rd we made the first ascent of Bryn Poeth (2,084m, N 76°20'59.28", W 26°20'48.18") via snow slopes of about Scottish II and a splendid snow ridge. The name means “warm hill" in Welsh and reflected the temperatures on the day. On the 24th we made the second ascent of Softice (1,833m, N 76°19'52.65", W 26°19'53.72), a peak first climbed by the 2000 expedition, and on the following day the first ascent of Yr Esgair (The Staircase, 2,002m, N 76°17'55.08", W 26°32'58.38"), named for the shape of its east ridge, the upper section of which comprised fantastic evenly spaced slabs. After we moved north to Camp 5 on the 27th, overnight gale force winds eased during the following afternoon and allowed an ascent of the nearest peak, a flat- topped pyramid named Dickens Bjerg, (2,241m, N 76°23'41.30", W 26o21'09.11"). Ours was the second ascent. On the 31st the plan was to climb a peak near to our Camp 6 and then head for the pick-up point. We split up to make the second ascent of Falkonner Klippen (2,088m N 76°26'55.76", W 26°19'51.40") by two routes: one by a rotten, broken rock ridge and the second by a more direct line up an ice couloir. This peak was first identified by the 1953 team.

During our ski to Camp 7, we passed a tempting ridge on a small peak. Next day we attempted it. The ridge was easy to attain but soon reared up into a steep section, possibly Scottish III. Above a level section a sharp ridge led to a pleasant rock scramble and the summit. A rappel from a double Abalakov and a dodgy ice screw saw us back on safe ground: a fantastic route. We named the formation DB Ridge (1,941m, N 76°27'03.65", W 26°15'28.16"). The same day we made the first ascent of Dinky Do (1,904m N 76°27'17.04", W 26°07'48.66") and on June 2 In-Pin (1,980m N 76°26'21.96", W 26°16'38.58"). We also climbed Aonach Mor (1,941m N 76°26'08.16", W 26°12'43.86") on the 2nd, a second ascent. On the 3rd we moved our camp just over 1km to join an expedition led by Nigel Edwards, which was to be collected by the same Twin Otter. Due to mechanical failure and then poor weather, we couldn't be picked up immediately and in the meantime made first ascents of Carnedd y Genod (1,974m, N 76°27'16.62", W 26°04'59.22") and Mynydd Glaslyn (1,893m, N 76°28'10.32”, W 26°00'58.14"), both on the 3rd, and Pod (N 76°29', W 26° 16'; coordinates are approximate due to GPS failure) and Golden Dome (1,954m, N 76°27'19.74", W 26°07'0.36") on the 4th.

Southwest Dronning Louise Land is a beautiful part of the world. The mountain vistas rival any other, and with the serenity of the Arctic, they provide a magical and unique setting.

Russ Hore, U.K.

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