American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Kangikitsoq Fjord, Battle Axe (1,852m), South Face; Peak 2,106m, West Face Attempt; Peak 1,776m, South Face Attempt

North America, Greenland, South Greenland, Cape Farewell Region

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Roland Bekendam
  • Climb Year: 2008
  • Publication Year: 2009

On July 14 Dutch climbers Jefta Smit, Sjors Verbrugge, and I arrived in the Tupaassat Valley, situated at the end of the Kangikitsoq Fjord. Our first objective was a direct line on the 1,500m west pillar of Peak 2,106m, which I’d spotted three years earlier from the top of Titan I (AAJ 2006). On closer inspection the main pillar and smaller adjacent pillars proved too smooth to be climbed in our envisioned alpine style. Moreover, their upper thirds were covered by lichen. As an alternative we decided to attempt the only feasible line, well to the right of the main pillar, which had been climbed in 1986 by a French party. [Editor's note: This was the southwest pillar, 1,400m, TD+, Bouquier-Creton-Veronese. The peak was first climbed in 1974 by Cornell and Hurrell via the southeast ridge.] But the 700m-high snow couloir used to access the upper wall had now mostly disappeared, so we decided to keep to low-angled rocks on the right.

I was suffering from flu, and on the day of the climb, July 22, only Jefta and Sjors left our high camp below the face. After climbing 700m, they bivouacked. Next day, in cold clear weather, they continued to a point 100m below the summit, where they were forced to retreat in impending darkness, having left their bivouac gear below. Up to that point the climbing had been on loose rock of 5-6a+, separated by stretches of 3.

On July 30 we walked up the Qinnguadalen Valley to climb the south face of the Battle Axe. An arctic fox visited our camp below the mountain. The animal dragged away any equipment that it could get between its teeth and refused to leave us. I was lying outside in a bivouac bag and was constantly attacked by our little friend. As a result I did not get any sleep and finally fled into the already cramped tent. Next day, after a one and a half hour approach, we started the climb with eight steep pitches (4+ to 6a+), followed by eight on lower-angled slabs of 2 to 4. These led to a series of ledges on which we traversed left, then down, to excellent bivouac spots. We had carried 20 liters of water, but this proved unnecessary as we discovered small water streaks nearby. That day I had felt wasted and was happy to leave the leading to my partners.

On August 1 we climbed three pitches up and left to the crest of a spur (4–5), where a line of chimneys and cracks on the southwest face led, in four more pitches (5–6a), to the summit ridge. After three easy pitches on the ridge, we stood, one at a time, on the pointed summit block. Under a small heap of stones we found a film cartridge with a note from Henri Bouchez, who, with a French expedition, most likely made the first ascent in August 1957. We also found a note from four Scottish climbers who had summited in July 1971 with a St. Andrews University expedition. We already knew of the ascent of the southeast face in 2000 by two American climbers (see AAJ 2001). We too left a note of our ascent. For rappelling we had equipped most belays with one hand-drilled 9 mm stainless steel bolt. We spent the night at our previous bivouac site and completed the descent the next day. We did not linger long in the valley, heading straight down to our fox-free base camp. The name for our 1,000m route was obvious: Arctic Fox. We recommend the climb, which is on sound rock. Apart from the belays we did not use bolts.

A few days later Sjors and I tried to climb Peak 1,776m from the glacier to its south, but a serac barrier blocked passage to the upper glacier basin below the south face. Serac barriers occur on many mountains in this area, making the climbing complicated.

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