North America, Greenland, East Coast, Ski Traverse from Knud Rasmussens Land, Through the Watkins Mountains and Gronau Nunatakker, to Paul Stern Land; Various First Ascents, New Routes and Repeats

Publication Year: 2009.

Ski traverse from Knud Rasmussens Land, through the Watkins Mountains and Gronau Nunatakker, to Paul Stern Land; various first ascents, new routes, and repeats. During April and May Dominik Rind and I made six first ascents in the Gronau Nunatakker and Knud Rasmussens ranges and also became the first to descend the four highest mountains north of the Arctic Circle on skis. To do this we skied 321km across inland ice, and as we were self-contained for our five-and-a-half-week adventure, during which we saw no other person, the starting weight of each of our pulks was more than 100kg.

We flew south from Constable Pynt by helicopter onto the icecap at N 69°30', W 28°00' and from there reached the first mountains of Knud Rasmussens Land in a few days. We made three first ascents: Vollmondspitze (Full Moon Peak, N 69°17.7', W 28°47.3'; 2,793m, northwest ridge and west flank, PD+); Peak Leni (N 69°16.2', W 29°08.6'; 2,554m, southwest flank and northwest ridge, AD+); Geodom Pyramide (N 69°13.2', W 29°09.7; 2,823m, northwest ridge, D-). We also climbed the highest mountain in Knud Rasmussens Land, unnamed Peak 3,073m (N 69°13.0', W 29°31.1; south flank, F), and believe this to be a second ascent. All were ice climbs of mostly 40°, with occasional passages of 60°, and one section of UIAA II rock/mixed. Names are provisional, and all readings were made with GPS.

We continued south and reached the Watkins Mountains on the 14th day of our expedition. We climbed the three highest summits with relative ease: Gunnbjorns Fjeld (3,694m), Dome (3,683m), and Cone (3,669m). These were mostly PD (40° ice) but long, strenuous climbs. Frequently we had to climb hard blue ice, which is unusual at this altitude in Greenland,

and may be due to an extraordinarily warm summer in 2007.

Climbing Paul Emile Victor (3,609m)—Greenland’s fourth highest—was one of the expedition highlights. We chose a new route from the west, starting from the Dome/Cone base camp by climbing over Deception Dome (3,526m, PD+). Massive seracs, a huge labyrinth through towering ice, and a steep face made it a challenging climb, and we were rewarded by breathtaking views over the entire Watkins Mountains. We descended southwest along an exposed 5km ridge, which we named Jubilaumsgrad (Jubilation Ridge, 3,520m), after a famous ridge in the Wetterstein. Leaving the crest and traversing to the base of PEV’s west face proved to be the crux, with ice in poor condition and up to 60° (D-). We reached the summit via the west flank (AD-). On our way back across Jubilation Ridge, the weather deteriorated, and within an hour a severe storm broke. We were hardly able to see each other, and it was a battle to return to the tent. Climbing the Arctics fourth highest had taken us 28 hours.

We now left the area and continued our journey, to the Gronau Nunatakker, where we completed three first ascents of prominent peaks: Pilotsbjerg (N 69°26.2', W 30°13.0'; 2,805m, north flank, PD), Woerthseespitze (N 69°28.7' W 30°18.2'; 2,762m, east ridge, AD), and Kirchl (Chapel, N 69°28.5', W 30°15.4'; 2,772m, west ridge, F).

We finally reached Paul Stern Land, where we placed the first cairn on what we named Tiger Nunatak (N 70°24.8', W 30°07.3', 2,048m). However, although steep and rocky from the east, it was a gentle walk from our position on the icecap and hardly merits being called a first ascent.

We were now at our pre-arranged pick-up point, but were unable to fly for another week due to bad weather. We were down to emergency rations before the skies finally cleared and a Twin Otter was able to airlift us to Constable Pynt.

Georg Csak, Deutscher Alpenverein