North America, Greenland, East Coast, Southern Liverpool Land, Coastal Exploration, Raffles and Rathbone Islands, Various Ascents

Publication Year: 2009.

Southern Liverpool Land, coastal exploration, Raffles and Rathbone islands, various ascents. Simon Burke and I flew to Constable Pynt and helicoptered to Ittoqqortoormiut, arriving on August 8. In 2006 I circumnavigated Milne Land and left kayaks stored with local outfitters, Nannu Travel. This time we aimed to leave the sheltered area of Scorsbysund and head out into the more exposed coastal waters, moving north to paddle and climb along the east coast of southern Liverpool Land. We left on the 10th, carrying 20 days food, tents, climbing gear, and a pump-action shotgun. The swell increased, and on the second day we landed on a pebble beach. Next morning I woke to a slight breeze; in 10 minutes the tent was flattened by gale force winds. We moved to a more sheltered site and, later, dozing in the tent, were awakened by a polar bear and her cubs ripping into the bell end to get at our food. I chased them away with the gun, but they returned twice, stealing a hatch cover from one of the kayaks, prompting a 4 a.m. chase across the beach. The wind dropped next day, and we could leave, determined either to find hunters’ cabins in which to spend the night or to camp on an island, which we presumed would be safe from bears. It had been a frightening experience.

Rounding the last headland, we found a group of less exposed islands and spent 10 days exploring this area. We spent four days on Raffles Island (Agpalik, high point 550m). A reconnaissance showed promising lines on a series of buttresses and a stunning ridge that appeared to encircle the island. We climbed a line on the largest buttress but stopped one pitch below the point where the angled eased, rappeling into a snow gully to the left. Although the granite looked good at first, it turned out to be very loose and the climbing generally poor. We called our incomplete line Obscured by Clouds (250m, six pitches, British XS 5a).

We then attempted the stunning ridge. We climbed the first buttress in two long pitches, and then completed half the ridge (with several rappels) until stopped by steep, loose rock. The route up the first buttress we called A Ridge Too Far, and due to the poor protection and rock quality again gave it a British XS grade (100m, 4c). While the climbing had been poor, the views were superb.

We also spent time farther north on Rathbone Island (Ingmikertikajik), where a big mountaineering day took us to the highest point (435m). This may be the first ascent of the mountain, which required scrambling in the upper section. Surprisingly, we had more encounters with bears. So much for our theory: both bears must have swam 10km to reach us.

Our farthest point north was Cape Hoeg (Kap Hoegh or Ukaleqarteq), after which we returned to Ittoqqortoormiut. The weather was changing, and we paddled the exposed coastline from Raffles to Scorsbysund entrance in a single push. This took two days and proved a good decision, as we then had five days of bad weather, with 160km winds and snow. Locals had never seen similar weather at this time of year. It was touch and go on the helicopter ride to Constable Pynt. We spent 18 days in the boats and carried only an EPIRB. We did not take a satellite phone, as we felt this would detract from the experience. We thank the Sports Council for Wales for financial support.

Olly Sanders, U.K.

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