American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Uummannaq and Upernavik Regions First Ascents

North America, Greenland, West Greenland

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Bob Shepton
  • Climb Year: 2011
  • Publication Year: 2012

Following our successful campaign in 2010, we returned in July 2011, with a strong group mainly of Italian guides, to blitz the Uummannaq and Upernavik regions, adding a number of routes. The group operated from Mariacristina Rapisardi’s super-yacht, Billy Budd. Along with Rapisardi, the main climbers were Luca Argentero, Alberto Bianchi, Marco Frezzato, Michele Maggioni, and Beppe Villa.

The team first visited the Uummannaq area, where on July 6 the climbers put up three new routes on south-facing slabby rock walls on Agpat Island (Umiasugssup Ilua, 70°51'90" N, 51°38'44" W): Closed on Tuesday (250m, French 5b); The First of the Sirocco (250m, 5c); and Beppe, Come Back (150m, 6a).

The following day saw two forays made onto Peak 1,630m on the peninsula of Alfred Wegener Halvo. Neither reached the summit. Argentero and Villa climbed mixed ground on the north face to 1,500m, descending unstable rock (71°09'35" N, 51°59'50" W), while Frezzato, accompanied by Augusto Scirocchi, ascended gentle ground, also reaching ca 1,500m (71°12'00" N, 51°58'70" W). On the 8th Maggioni and Villa climbed 300m up the southeast face of Upernavik O (Upernavik Island in Inukavsait Fjord, 71°16'32" N, 52°21'09" W). This huge formation is also known as the Horn. The pair attempted the slabs left of two British attempts in 2010 and overcame difficulties of 6b/c before rappelling, placing two-bolt anchors on the descent. (One of the British attempts bailed 400m from the top, after 900m of climbing [AAJ 2011 and photo AAJ 2010, p 152]).

The yacht then moved north to the Upernavik region, where on the 11th the group put up two parallel routes on a south-facing cliff above Tasiussaq Fjord on the large island of Nutarmiut(72°37'14" N, 55°32'53" W): You Need Cold Blood (200m, 5c) and, to its right, You Are Connected (200m, 5b). The following day the six climbers went to Qaersorssuaq Island, where a little north of Agparssuit they put up two 250m routes on a southeast-facing rock wall of Kingigtup Ilua (72°41'22" N, 55°53'90" W): Red Sam (6a) and Tic Tac (6a+).

On the 13th, on the sea cliffs on the west coast of Agparssuit at 72°40'17" N, 55°54’66" W, the whole group put up two 350m routes that intersect at two-thirds height: Lost Images (6c) and Dedicated to You (6b+). On the 15th Argentero, Maggioni, and Villa climbed the 450m Little Auk (7a) on Red Wall (72°39'24" N, 55°52'48" W). This route lies on the east face, well right of the 2010 routes, Red Chili Crackers and Seagull’s Garden (AAJ 2011). The following day, farther west along the coast of Qaersorssuaq Island at 72°40'29" N, 55°58'38" W, all the group climbed the right side of the south-facing rounded granite dome of Iterdlagssuaq to produce Isabella (300m, 5c). This route lies well right of the corner system of Old Man’s Benefit (200m, British HVS 5a, Howard-Shepton, 2009), and between this and original route on the face put up in 2006 by Gianni Predan and Mariacristina Rapisardi (200m, British Hard Severe). Members of the team also climbed the first five pitches of Arctic First Born (800m, British E3 5c A3+) on the northwest face of Sanderson’s Hope, the first big wall route on this large slabby sea cliff(and the first on a large sea cliff above the Arctic Circle on Greenland’s west coast). These were climbed “just for interest,” but while making a rappel descent, they placed two bolts to the left of the route.

Finally, on the 18th, Bianchi, Maggioni, and Rapisardi climbed Pic Nic (200m, 6a+) on the lower walls of a southeast-facing sea cliff at 72°45'16" N, 55°56'30" Won Umiasugssuk, an almost-island rising to 620m on the north coast of Qaersorssuaq. The north coast of this almost- island holds the 2010 route Brown Balls.

It is good that this area around Upernavik is at last beginning to realize something of its potential. However, as the instigator of technical climbing on the west coast of Greenland, and especially in the Upernavik area, may I make an appeal that these pristine walls be climbed without recourse to bolts. Completely blank sections on big walls may provoke an exception, but several fine, technically hard lines have been climbed without use of bolts.

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