Renland, Shark's Tooth (1,555m), Dance on Tiptoes
North America, Greenland, East Greenland
On April 16 Mikhail Mikhailov and I arrived at Constable Pynt in poor weather after a flight from Reykjavik. The same day we left by snowmobile for Avgo, a summer fishing lodge. It took eight cold hours through the twilight. After a night sleeping on the floor (our Inuit drivers had the bunks), I awoke feeling Id overslept. It’s the same every day at this time of year in Northeast Greenland, because it is nearly always daylight. At 9:30 a.m. we were on our way again, “sailing” the fjord toward Renland over fluffy snow. Only huge blue icebergs protruding above the surface violated the black and white colour scheme.
At 3 p.m., after traveling up the Skillebugt Inlet in the southeastern corner of Renland, we were off-loaded at the end of the Apusinikajik Glacier. We were still 12km from our goal, the Shark’s Tooth, but the Inuits would not take their skidoos farther, fearing crevasses on the snow- covered glacier. In around 20 days, they informed us, the fjord could melt, and we would have to return by helicopter, at more than twice the expense of skidoos.
With a temperature of -20°C, we quickly established base camp, cooked, and ate normally for the first time in two days, and then fell asleep, not forgetting to load our rifle and put it next to us with the pistol and flare gun, ready for a visit from a polar bear. We stored our 15kg of fresh fish and 5kg of fresh musk ox in a box 10m from the tent; the Inuit told us that the bears’ noses are so powerful, they can pick up scent from 20km away.
During subsequent days we tried to explore the area, our first impressions being that the chances of climbing anything were slim: there was too much snow, it was too cold, the humidity was high and producing frequent snowfall, and the winds were strong. Each day, as we tried to establish an advanced base on the Edward Bailey Glacier, fresh snow covered our ski trail.
Finally, on April 29, we received via satellite phone a forecast from our snowmobile provider that the weather would be good from May 1 -6 and deteriorate thereafter. This seemed to be our only chance. Originally I had been attracted by the sheer north wall of the Sharks Tooth, which is split up the center by a good crack system and resembles Pik 4,810m in the Karavshin. However, weight restrictions on the air flights precluded taking a portaledge, and as there are no ledges on this 900m wall for a tent, an ascent would require sitting bivouacs, far too cold a proposition in the spring. So we chose the northwest ridge and didn’t regret it. The ridge received the sun from 2:30 p.m. until 10 p.m., and we adjusted our days accordingly, sleeping until around 10 a.m.
On May 2 we left advanced base (altitude 40m) and ascended the Shark’s Teeth Glacier until below the Tooth at 640m. (The Tooth lies on the ridge separating the Shark’s Teeth Glacier from the Bowling Alley Glacier to the south.) Starting the 300m snow couloir right of the north face at 3 p.m., we paddled up eight pitches of unconsolidated 50° snow to a notch on the crest, where at 9:30 p.m. we erected the tent. Next day I led four-and-a-half pitches. After the first on snow-covered granite, I was able to change into rock shoes, as the temperature was no lower than -5 to -10°C.
On the 4th Misha led another four-and-a-half pitches to a flat point on the ridge where we spent our second night, though not before he had climbed two more pitches up the crest above. We decided to leave bivouac equipment here and travel light next day to the summit.
We were on our way by 10 a.m. Five pitches from 6a to 6c, followed by a gentle sixth pitch, ledto the summit. On the second a few meters required aid (A1), as did a few meters on the fourth (A2). Otherwise we climbed the route free in 15 pitches from the head of the couloir. The altitude was 1,555m; we spent an hour on top soaking up the view before heading back down. We had difficulties with rope jams on the lower rappels but made it back to the tent that night and off the mountain next day.
There are many great peaks in this area, and I have to go back. This trip was spontaneous, and our desires outran our abilities. Our main mistake was going too early. In July and August you do not have to plow deep tracks in the snow, and parties can be delivered to a point not far from our base camp by boat. We named our route Dance on Tiptoes (915m, 1,210m of climbing, VI 6c A2).