American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Rensland, Grundtvigskirchen (1,977m), East Face, Eventyr, Milne Land, Pt. 1,295m, North Pillar

North America, Greenland, East Coast

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Lindsay Griffin
  • Climb Year: 2010
  • Publication Year: 2011

An Italian-Swiss team comprising Simon Gietl, Daniel Kopp, Roger Schali, and photographer/climber Thomas Ulrich made the first ascent of the spectacular east face of Grundtvigskirchen, a huge granite wall rising 1,325m from a point not far above the south coast of Renland.

After flying to the airstrip at Constable Point, and crossing Scoresby Sund by Zodiac inflatables, the team established base camp just 50m above the sea. Across the waters of the Ofjord to the south lies the large island of Milne Land. Gielt (Italian) and Schali (Swiss) first crossed Ofjord to a fine granite pillar rising to a 1,295m summit on Milne Lands north coast, more or less directly opposite Grundtvigskirchen. After introductory scrambling the pair started on the upper 850m granite pillar at 6 p.m. They climbed 15 pitches and then took a rest for one-and-a-half hours before climbing the remaining 15 pitches to the top. The ascent took only 15 hours and was easily protected with natural gear. Difficulties were around 6b. They found no evidence of previous passage, not on the pillar nor at its summit.

All four climbers then spent more than a week working their line on Grundtvigskirchen, using a portaledge camp at ca 750m to make a semi-capsule ascent of this superb wall. In a total of 40 pitches, 39 were climbed onsight or redpointed, with difficulties up to 7a+. Although bolts were placed for main belays, only natural gear was used between stances. They reached the summit on August 6 after two days of non-stop climbing (forced by a predicted spell of bad weather). They named the route Eventyr, which means Fairy Tale in Danish.

In 1998 the east face of Grundtvigskirchen was the target for Bengt Flygel Nilsfors, Magnar Osnes, Odd Roar Wiik (all from Norway), and the Swede Micke Sundberg. Heavy rockfall and ice fall forced them to abandon the climb, but Nilsfors, Sundberg, and Wiik returned in 1999 with Patrik Fransson from Sweden to make the first ascent of the south ridge. They accessed the peak by first taking a charter flight to Milne Land and then kayaking across the Ofjord. The ridge, which begins 500m above the fjord and rises almost 1,500m to the summit, gave more than 30 pitches of magnificent roped climbing on superb granite up to 5.11a.

Naming peaks in Greenland has long been a tricky affair, and Grundtvigskirchen has been particularly difficult. The AAJ Online contains two reports on place names in Greenland, including a climbing history of Grundtvigskirchen. One was written by me and the other by geologist and Greenland expert Tony Higgins.

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