American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Greenland, Staunings Alps, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
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  • Publication Year: 1997

Staunings Alps, Various Ascents. Expedition members Colwyn Jones (leader), John Bickerdike, Ian Angell, Brian Shackleton, Gordon and Susan MacKenzie, Jonathon Preston and Stephen Reid were fortunate to be landed by a ski-equipped Twin Otter on Col Major (2040 m) in the heart of the Staunings Alps. This gave them relatively easy access to a number of unclimbed peaks that appear to have been ignored by previous expeditions. On the evening of their arrival, July 7, all members of the team made the first ascent of Susan’s Peak (PD, 2238 m), a southerly outlier of Shirley’s Peak, in an hour or so from base camp.

The following day, Jones, Bickerdike, Preston and Reid made a concerted assault on a superb ridge of three major peaks and several minor tops that form the tail end of the southwest ridge of Dansketinde. This ridge was named the Dodoerryggen (Dead Eagle Ridge) for its appearance as viewed from base camp. Jones and Bickerdike climbed the east-facing couloir (Jones- Bickerdike Couloir) direct to the summit of the northernmost peak, which they called Aliertinde (AD, 2580 m). Meanwhile, Preston and Reid climbed the same peak via its northeast ridge (AD), which they gained from a prominent col (which they named Col Wyn), having first climbed a small but significant rock peak to the north of the col (they called this Jaalspids, PD+, ca. 2100 m). They arrived on the summit of Aliertinde whilst the others where still in situ and all descended via the northeast ridge. Meanwhile three other members of the team failed on the northwest ridge of Lambeth due to dangerous snow conditions.

Bad weather stopped play for the next two days, though on July 26 Bickerdike and Angell traversed the ridge from Susan’s Peak to Shirley’s Peak (PD) whilst a reconnoiter of the route to Gully Gletscher Glacier to the west showed that it would be impassable to skiers towing pulkas. On the 27th, better weather saw Preston, Reid, Jones and Bickerdike return to the fray in the Dodoerryggen. Both teams followed a broad east-facing couloir (Reid-Preston Couloir) to a notch between the central and southernmost peaks. Here Preston and Reid opted for the formidable looking but straight-forward central peak via its southwest ridge (D, 2532 m) where they were disappointed to find a cairn on the lower of its twin summits. It was later discovered that a Norwegian team had previously climbed the peak in May this year via the Jones-Bickerdike Couloir and its northeast ridge, naming it Tarnet (The Tower). Meanwhile, Jones and Bickerdike succeeded on the southernmost peak, which proved harder than it looked and which they christened Annesketinde (D, 2460 m). They then went on to repeat Tarnet. On the same day Angell, Shackleton and the MacKenzies climbed Dansketinde (the highest peak in the Staunings at 2930 meters) by the original route (D+) from the col to the east. Susan MacKenzie seems likely to have made the first female ascent of this mountain.

On July 28, Preston and Reid left base camp at 4 a.m. for the beginning of an arduous 24 hours. They crossed Col Wyn and descended to the unnamed glacier beyond. At the head of this they climbed a 400-meter couloir (Preston-Reid Couloir, III/IV) to a heavily corniced col overlooking the Vikingbrae Glacier and at the foot of the unclimbed northwest ridge. Initially this ridge went relatively easily on snow, ice and mixed ground, but then was followed by 14 rock pitches (several of IV/V)) of a complex nature to overcome a series of enormous gendarmes. A similar distance on snow and mixed ground was covered before the summit was reached at 1 a.m., by this time in a blizzard. They were relieved to be able to follow the footsteps of the previous day’s ascent and arrived back at base at 4 a.m. The climb was graded TD+ for overall seriousness.

On July 30, Angell and Shackleton repeated the northwest ridge (at least D+ in the prevailing conditions) on the Hornspids (2860 m) (probably the fourth ascent), whilst Jones and Bickerdike made the first ascent of the south ridge of the same peak. They climbed a prominent couloir, Pearly Gates Gullyn, leading from the upper glacier basin to a breche between two shattered pinnacles, the right hand pinnacle being on the south ridge proper. From the breche a shattered gully led to the ridge and the rock improved. Ten pitches on perfect granite followed, two of VI; one of these, considered the crux, was an icicle-choked chimney. The route was described as committing and graded TD+ overall. Both parties met on the summit and descended via the northwest ridge.

Meanwhile, the Mackenzies attempted an unnamed and possibly unclimbed snow peak to the north of the Hornspids but were thwarted by a very large bergschrund. They then repeated Shirley’s Peak via the original route from the north (PD).

On July 31, Bickerdike, Shackleton, Preston and Reid climbed Lambeth (ca. 2500 m) via its rocky northeast ridge (PD). This mountain has had at least three previous ascents but it is not entirely clear whether this enjoyable route had been climbed before. On the descent, Reid and Shackleton made a detour to climb the most prominent gendarme on the ridge (Point Jilly). The route up Lambeth was repeated by the MacKenzies the following day. The same evening, Jones, Bickerdike and the indefatigable Preston repeated the original route on Dansketinde, arriving on the summit in time to enjoy magnificent views provided by the midnight sun.

On August 1, worsening weather and snow conditions prompted a descent to the Beserkerbrae Glacier with a view to climbing at a lower altitude. In the event, the journey to Mestersvig took an arduous eight days and no further climbing was attempted.

This highly successful and enjoyable expedition was kindly sponsored by the Mount Everest Foundation, the BMC and the SMT.

Stephen Reid, Scottish Mountaineering Club

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