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Fox Jaw Cirque, Six First Ascents

Fox Jaw Cirque, six first ascents. In mid-June, Josh Beckner, Darcy Deutcher, Kadin Panagoulis, Jed Porter, Annie Trujillo, and I stepped off a boat and schlepped seven miles into the Fox Jaw Cirque in the Tasiilaq Fjord Area. First reports of climbing in this cirque stem from 1998, when Dave Briggs and Mike Libecki climbed a 360m gem on a formation dubbed the Molar. Dave and Mike bestowed the name “Fox Jaw" on the jagged granite cirque, after comparing it to the toothy jaw-line of a fox skeleton that they found during the approach. We took it as a totem of luck when we stumbled upon the same fox jaw during our hike to the area.

And what luck we had. It's possible that we had the best weather of any alpine climbing area in the world during our six-week stay: only seven days of lazy drizzle disrupted the continuous sunny weather. We climbed six new routes—five in the cirque and one on a peak to the east, which we named Ganesh. To say the least, the climbing was marvelous—thin granite cracks with generous face holds kept the climbing moderate. There was much less loose rock than one might expect in an alpine environment. In fact, the climbing could be considered alpine-lite: the pleasure of alpine climbing with half the danger. The low elevation, pleasant temperatures, mega-daylight, splitter weather, and solid rock constantly put smiles on our faces.

A typical climbing day looked like this: We’d awake at 4 a.m., stuff some sort of Danish cereal into our mouths, slog up the moraine for two hours, hop onto the glacier for a bit, pick a line on one of the dozen or so buttresses, and start climbing. The height of the walls constantly surprised us—routes that we imagined would be eight pitches turned out to be 12 or so. Because of this the larger climbs often took two efforts. We’d get up part way and realize we didn’t have the food/water/guts to complete it, so we’d come down and try again in a couple of days. We didn’t place any bolts; the only gear we left was for rappel anchors.

Non-climbing days were spent hiking around the valleys, scrambling up non-technical peaks, racking, and preparing, or reading a book from our extensive library. The food available in Greenland, it should be said, wasn’t ideal. We arrived a week before the first Danish re-supply boat of the season. Much of our food was expired “salami” and cheese that, while it didn't give much intestinal crisis, was fairly hard to choke down without a grimace and a gag.

At the end of our trip we were very happy to meet Jessica Lundin and Erin Whorton, a climbing duo from the U.S. We only overlapped for a couple of days, but it was great to share each others’ psyche, and try to overwhelm them with stories and beta. Spending time with them also reminded us of how weird we had gotten. Our trip was enriched with the camaraderie of each other’s company, the stunning setting, and the interaction with local Inuit and Danes. We thank the National Outdoor Leadership School for their generous support. If you would like more information on climbing in the Fox Jaw, contact me at nathanfurman@yahoo.com.

Summary of first ascents: Tooth Fairy (III 5.8, 7 pitches, 330m) on Milk Tooth Spire (Baby Molar); Natural Mystic (V 5.10+, 17 pitches, 900m) on Snaggletooth; Naeterqaabin-Jeb- bananee (IV 5.10,13 pitches, 550m) on Left Rabbit Ear; Beers in Paradise (V 5.10++, A0 pendulum, 14 pitches, 600m) on the Incisor (shares four pitches with the Libecki Route); Southeast Buttress (III 5.9, 7 pitches, 330m); on Milk Tooth Spire (Baby Molar); Ganesh (III 5.8, mixed snow and ice, 7 pitches, 330m).

Nathan Furman, AAC