As Sarah Garlick put it, “The dream was to gather a small team of friends and head somewhere unspoiled and far away… and to climb. I chose Greenland for a variety of reasons, but most of them came down to the simple allure of wildness. I knew I could find adventure there.” For almost three weeks during late July and August, Dave Nettle, Jim Surette, Sarah, and I explored, climbed, and discovered.
We started our trip on Pamiagdluk Island, reached after a three-and-a-half hour boat ride through the Torssukatat Fjord from Nanortalik—the village where most climbing expeditions launch. We landed on a small beach below the prominent northwest face of the Baroness. Our primary goal was to climb the center of the wall: the large, mostly orange granite face, topped by dark gray corner and crack systems. In 2001 a group of Brits climbed four routes on the right side of this face. After quickly establishing camp, we carried climbing gear to a small meadow at the base of the wall and stared in awe of the project ahead. Our hopes dimmed slightly when we found most of the face running with water.
The next morning we gave the face a good attempt but found our proposed line would require much bolting and likely a substantial bit of aid climbing. This was not the style for which we were prepared. While exploring, Dave and I eyed a line on the sunny Campsite Hill (1,340m) opposite the Baroness. The following day, while Sarah and Jim searched for other potential lines on the Baroness, Dave and I linked corner and crack systems to make a new route: South Face Direct (450m, seven pitches, 5.10-). On the summit we had a great vantage of the Baroness. It was this perspective we needed, and we were able to piece together a possible line up the left side of the face leading to the highest point of the Baroness massif. After an adventurous descent back to camp, we shared the news with Jim and Sarah.
The next morning we set off with renewed enthusiasm. Dave and I launched upward, establishing our route almost as far as two roof sections in an area we dubbed the “gray bands” due to intrusions that promised harder route finding and exciting climbing. The following day Jim and Sarah took over, finding a delicate way where crack systems petered out. Jim pulled around a corner on thin gear to find a hidden splitter finger crack and exclaimed “It’s gonna go!” After a few more great pitches, and with daylight waning, Sarah and Jim stopped one pitch shy of the ridge. Early the next day Dave and I set out eagerly and fired the line to the top, summiting the Baroness in a wind storm. We named our route Blue Whale (600m, V 5.11), after our trusty base camp tent that saw us through storms and bugs.
Satisfied with our ascents and eager for new terrain, we headed to Tasermiut Fjord. The 1,000m walls of Nalumasortoq, Ulamertorssuaq, and Ketil were a strong draw. Unfortunately stormy days covered peak tops with snow, soaking the crack systems with meltwater for days. Our final week in Greenland was spent mostly reading and hanging out in our base camp tent. When the rain let up, the fog would roll in and re-soak the walls. However, on the last day we rallied for an ascent of Ketil Pyramid, a fine peak, but dwarfed by the surrounding walls. We climbed the South (Swiss) Pillar (5.10) in nine pitches, enjoying a beautiful summit day.