American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, East Coast, Paul Stern Land, Five First Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2009

Paul Stern Land, five first ascents. In May and June Geoff Bonney, my wife Sandy Gregson, and I visited Paul Stern Land. We have all made numerous trips to Greenland and consider ourselves true veterans of the Arctic, with combined ages of 191 years. We think we are the first climbers to make ascents in Paul Stern Land. [Editor’s note: Germans who reached this area before them recorded one minor summit in a different location.] Delayed by poor weather in Iceland, we eventually landed at a snowed-up Nerlerit Inaat (Constable Pynt) on May 23, to find two groups waiting to fly southwest into the Watkins Bjerge. Next morning a Twin Otter ski-plane took us to the edge of the icecap at N 70°24', W 30°10', where two Germans were waiting for a pick-up after a long ski traverse. Unfortunately, this location left us a long way from the mountains of Paul Stern Land, and we spent three days relaying equipment and moving our camp by pulk to a still-less-than-ideal base camp at N 70°29.540', W 30°05.454', and an altitude of 1,800m. This spot, perfect for aircraft landing, lay directly in the track of strong, cold, catabatic wind off the icecap, and we spent considerable time shoveling snow off the tents, until we had created a working system of protective “dunes” and wind deflectors to prevent being repeatedly buried in drift.

From this Camp Venturi we made the following first ascents: Garnet Dome (2,180m, N 70°31.991', W 29°58.193'), on the same night Peak Emyr (2,465m, N 70°31.024', W 29056.471'), Ararat (2,625m, N 70°30.899', W 29°53.139', the highest peak in the area), Windscoop Beacon (2,085m, N 70°28.505', W 30°11.971'), and Nunatak Georg (2,060m, N 70°24.671', W 30°08.600'). Fierce winds robbed us of the opportunity to reach more summits; I had my face frost-nipped during the return from Ararat. Many good objectives await another visit.

On June 7 the Twin Otter returned to collect us. It also brought my friend Nigel Edwards and five British clients. Over two weeks this group moved camp farther north into an area of fine nunatak peaks, where they made 12 first ascents in better weather than we’d experienced. We flew out to Nerlerit Inaat but were forced to stay there three and a half days, waiting for a flight to Iceland. Climate change is affecting the High Arctic; aircraft operators are stipulating expeditions should plan to arrive earlier in the season and be prepared for higher-altitude dropoff and pick-up points. Recent years have witnessed aircraft being stranded for several days in deep soft snow. On several occasions expensive helicopter assistance has proved necessary, and in one case a Twin Otter had to be sling-lifted out by long-range Chinook. Contingencies such as these, plus rise in fuel prices, are likely to produce a serious hike in the cost of accessing the High Arctic.

Jim Gregson, Alpine Club

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