In the middle of July my wife Tanja and I were dropped off below the famous walls of Ulamertorssuaq and Nalumatorsoq. We had shared the boat with a British expedition traveling to the head of the fjord, where we would later join them. We survived scary sailing past numerous icebergs and flows, which blocked the fjord for many days during the month.
For a warm-up we decided on Mosquito Attack (320m, 6b A0, Korner-Redder, 2000) on Little Ulamertorssuaq (Pyramid), the smaller, ca 1,440m summit just left of Ulamertorssuaq. The west face, on which the route lies, was wet, and the climbing far from perfect, with vegetated cracks and numerous bolts. But worse, we were disappointed to find the route ends more than 100m below the summit; it felt more of an attempt than a route. A Norwegian team that repeated the line in 2005 found the grading inconsistent and felt the ethics of the first ascensionists, who placed several bolts next to perfect cracks, dubious to say the least.
On July 22 we started up War and Poetry on the west face of Ulamertorssuaq. Like its neighbor Moby Dick, this is one of the best routes above the Tasermiut Fjord, offering superb difficult free-climbing. After 22 pitches, with night approaching, we took a long rest on a good ledge. A beautiful day ended with a short but windy night, which continued with an icy, cloudy morning. Setting off cold at 3 a.m., we climbed to the summit in improving weather. I managed to climb the whole route on-sight, free, at UIAA IX-, most likely the first time this has been done by a single person (previous free ascents are believed to have been team-free). With most of the obvious lines on Ulamertorssuaq now climbed, I feel that the next step is to make alpine-style free ascents of existing routes: one-push ascents by a two-member team with all pitches climbed free by either one or both members.
On the 26th, after a few days rest to repair damaged skin on our hands, we climbed a new route on the south face of Ketil Pyramid, the relatively small spire 1km southwest of Ketil’s main summit. Our route, named Grmoland (370m of climbing, UIAA VII+), follows a rising leftward line up the face and gives enjoyable climbing. On the final section it takes similar ground to the last part of the South Pillar, climbed by Swiss in the early 1980s [Editor’s note: not confirmed but believed to be the Dalphin-Piola team in 1984].
We felt like a long rest but received a forecast that suggested the weather might hold for only one more day, the 29th. At first light on that date we started up the British Route on the south-southwest face of Nalumasortoq. This route, the first on the main pillars of Nalu, was climbed in 1995 at British E4 and A2 by Anderson, Dring, Dring, and Tattersall. The second ascent, the first one-day ascent of any route on the pillars, was made in 2002, and the line was climbed team-free in 2002, after a few attempts, by Nathan Martin and Timmy O’Neill at 5.12+.
From the start we were accompanied by light drizzle, but the rock on Nalu is so steep that it remained more or less dry. We climbed fast in worsening weather, but as we reached the crux cracks near the top the rain stopped. After 10 hours climbing and 19 pitches we reached the top of the wall, and again I’d climbed every pitch on-sight, free.
After a few days’ rest we hitched a lift with a local miner (who had come to collect Polish climbers), persuading him to take us to the British base camp at the head of the fjord. A quick inspection of the Hermelndal revealed that the British team had left perhaps only one major line un-touched: the central pillar on the east face of Tininnertuup III. The rock on the pillar wasn’t perfect throughout (it had repulsed a British attempt), but we completed the line Nalunaq (VII/VII+) in a day. The surprise was the height of the pillar—much longer than it appeared from the ground. We climbed 1,250m of rock (23 pitches) to complete the 900m pillar, and from the summit descended the unpleasant loose gully between Tininnertuups III and II back to the valley, all on August 3.
After more than two weeks of mostly fine weather, it finally turned nasty for four days, allowing us a long-awaited rest. On August 10 the sun reappeared and we climbed the middle of the central pillar on the east face of Tininnertuup II. This face had received four British routes, but we added Flying Viking (850m, but 1,200m of climbing, VIII). The first 10 pitches led to a big ledge, above which the difficulties began. Twelve more pitches, in perfect cracks and on granite comparable with the best in the Mont Blanc Massif, led to the summit. On all our new routes we used only removable protection, leaving the lines as adventurous as they were for us. South Greenland in fine weather is a perfect rock-climbing paradise, the only downside being those infernal mosquitoes.