American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, East Coast, Central Staunings Alps, Various First Ascents

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  • Publication Year: 2008

Central Staunings Alps, various first ascents. Laubie Laubscher, Mark Litterick, Ken Moore, Stephen O'Sullivan, Heike Puchan-Whitworth, Brian Shackleton, Brian Whitworth, and I comprised the Scottish Mountaineering Club expedition to Scoresby Land in North East Greenland National Park. We departed the U.K. on April 29 and were flown by a ski-equipped Twin Otter from a very warm Akureyri in Iceland on the 30th. Traveling via Constable Point to collect fuel and freight, we arrived at base camp early that afternoon, making an exciting landing on the huge Lang Glacier (Stor Gletscher on some maps) at 1,390m (N 71°59'43", W 24°48'44.2"). The nose wheel and skid buried themselves in the soft snow, so we disembarked from a jaunty- angled fuselage and were handed shovels for the excavation needed to free the plane.

On May 1 we climbed our first new peaks; Drumglas Beag (2,060m) via the north face from the Lang Glacier at AD+, and the main peak of Drumglas (2,330m, N 71°58'41.5", W 24°52'49.5") via the north ridge at AD and descent of the west ridge. Snow and low cloud restricted activity from the 2nd to the 4th, but during this period four members did a 12-hour ski tour to dump half the food and fuel at Crescent Col, which they could reach avoiding avalanche-prone slopes. This cache was strategically placed for the return ski journey to the coast.

On the 5th we climbed a consolation peak close to camp on the west side of Lang Glacier, at F+, naming it Mollytinde (1,670m, N 71°59'21.1", W 24°50'47"). Next day we made ascents of Cordulaspitze, (2,430m, N71°58'41.9", W 24°54'28.1"), via the north face (AD) and east ridge from the Wuss Glacier, and of Jobjerg (2,330m, N 71°59'0.3", W 24°55'17.1") via its southwest ridge at AD. This crest is the continuation of Cordulaspitze's north ridge. We also climbed Juliasbjerge (2,058m, N 71°59'35.8", W 24°55'16.6") via its south ridge, approaching up a couloir on the west flank.

On the 7th we climbed Puchwhitstinde (2,339m, N 72°00'38.8", W 24°45'39.1") and Hasentinde (2,376m, N 72°01'24.5", W 24°47'08.4"), on the east side of the Lang glacier. We reached the col between the peaks, then climbed the north flank of Puchwhitstinde and the south ridge—Igel (Hedgehog) ridge—of Hasentinde. The following day a party repeated Puchwhitstinde, this time via the newly explored O'Sullivan-Moore Glacier and a couloir on the south face (Snowbunting Couloir, AD). That same day the dominant, shapely Margretabjerge (2,430m, N 71°58'34.7", W 24°50'58.0") was climbed by two different routes: the southeast flank and southwest ridge at PD and the southeast-facing Presidential Couloir (AD with an exciting exit) from the previously unnamed Witches' Cauldron Glacier.

On the 10th we crossed Crescent Col and relocated base camp in the upper reaches of the Gully Glacier, which lies in the real heart of the Staunings Alps. On our way we climbed Skartinde, to the east of Crescent Col. We ascended this 2,400m peak via the easy northwest flank (F). We believe the peak was first climbed in 1996 by a Norwegian expedition, but we think our ascent may have been only the second. The following day we climbed Himmelstinde (Heaven's Peak, 2,492m, N 72°04'51.8", W 25°05'22.5") via the south ridge (AD) and the col between it and adjacent Archangel Peak. On the 12th we retraced our steps to the col and made the first ascent of 2,558m Archangel (N 72°04'31.5", W 25°05'23.5"), following the east ridge at D+. We descended onto the glacier to the west; finding it very crevassed, we named it Devil's Own Glacier, and were forced to re-ascend to the summit and go back down our ascent route. That same day members of the expedition climbed Cold Shoulder (2,450m) by the west ridge (PD). This point lies on the west ridge of C.F. Knoxtinde. We also climbed the shapely Hjorne- spids (2,870m) by a new route, the 600m Laubscher-Litterick Gully on the southwest flank at a grade of D. We believe this to be the sixth overall ascent and fourth independent route on the peak.

Farther east we climbed An Caisteal (2,614m, N 72°03'31.9", W 24°59'52.6") by a face and gully on the east flank, then up north ridge at a grade of D/TD-. We climbed two other peaks on May 15th: Crescentinde (2,455m, N 72°03'38.0", W 24°57' 15.0") via the northeast face at PD, and Ebensbjerg (2,510m, N 72°03'34.9", W 24°58'05.8") by its northeast face at AD. We think our route on Crescentinde is probably new, though the peak may have been climbed by the 1996 Norwegian team. Three members also made the probable third ascent of Skartinde, repeating the route of May 10.

On the 16th we moved our base camp to a stunning location at the top of Col Major and next day climbed the only true rock routes of the trip: the already established south ridge (British Mild VS) on Ian's Peak (2,607m, N 72°07'13.3", W 24°55'01.3") and a new variant to the ridge that we named Accessory Rib (British VS 4c). Our ascent of the original route on the south ridge is most likely the second, the first dating from 1960.

Moving down enormous Bersaerkerbrae Glacier on the 20th, we made the first ascent of Skotsketinde (Scotland's Peak (1,775m, N 72°07'36.6", W 24°45'20.4"), via the east ridge at PD+, and a summit noted on the map as Panoramic Peak. We climbed the latter, the most shapely of the surrounding peaks, via an avalanche-prone couloir on the southeast flank and the shattered south ridge to the summit pinnacles (PD+). We found a cairn on the lower pinnacle and constructed another on the higher. Altimeters showed 1,988m, considerably higher than given on the map. The following day we skied down the glacier and made a safe exit from the snout. On the 22nd and 23rd we continued skiing to the coastal plain and over sea ice to the gravel airstrip at Mestersvig, where we were collected on the 25th. Apart from snow and poor visibility from the 2nd to 4th and again on the ski out from the Bersaerkerbrae, the weather was sunny and cold. Superficial frostbite was diagnosed in three members of the team. However, the expedition was very successful, climbing 16 new peaks and naming four new glaciers. All coordinates are GPS readings.

Of note is that three of our five MSR stoves did not work properly with Jet A1 fuel. These were the Whisperlite 600, a Whisperlite International, and a Dragonfly and cannot be recommended with this fuel, despite our carrying a full complement of different jets. Fortunately, two older MSR GSK II stoves worked very well. The expedition gratefully acknowledges the financial support received from the Mount Everest Foundation, the Gino Watkins Trust, The Mountaineering Council of Scotland, and SportScotland.

Colwyn Jones, Scottish Mountaineering Club

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