1975 UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS GREENLAND EXPEDITION
Climbing from Stordalens Havn in Cape Farewell Region
Introduction - Maps - Climbing History - Personal Account - Mountaineering Report - Mountains to South of Basecamp - Mountains to North of Basecamp - Mountains from Desperation Camp - Mountains from Sallies Kitchen Camp - Mountains from Hellhole Hollow - Mountains from Lost Loch Camp - Mountains on Pamiagdluk and the Islands - Mountains in the Nameless Valley of the Land of the Towers - Archaeology - Botany - Equipment Report - Food Report - Financial Report - Travel Report - Medical Report - Photo Gallery - Thanks and Acknowledgements - Later Visitors to Stordalens Havn
Mountains climbed from Basecamp (South side of valley)
BASECAMP (Stordalens Havn)
Peaks climbed from basecamp on South side of Big Valley (Itivdlerssuaq)
Six mountains were climbed in sorties from the basecamp area: their grades were 3 PD, 2 AD/D, and 1 TD. *Asterisk against a name indicates that this person wrote the report.
1. INEVITABLE - North Ridge (1020 m) (60 deg 7´ N, 44 deg 24´ W). First ascent by D.Brown* and N.MacKenzie on 21st June 1975. Grade: PD. Time: 12 hours.
For our first climbing day of the expedition we chose what seemed to be a straightforward ascent - the rocky but gently rising ridge south of basecamp. We set off late and moved at a leisurely pace over the vegetated boulder-fields and loose scree to reach the ridge and increasingly spectacular viewpoints. Easy scrambling took us to the first top - and the disappointment of finding a cairn! It had been left by an earlier French party. This hill is not listed as a separate expedition ascent. Undaunted, however, we scrambled down and then up the ridge.
Two huge precarious pinnacles, perched over a 2000 ft drop into the corrie, were conquered after a delicate traverse, and we stopped for photographs before climbing on to our first virgin summit. We lingered long in the warm sun enjoying the views, and built a cairn amid vigorous discussion over a suitable name.
We finally decided that it was inevitable that we should disagree, wrote a message, and reluctantly descended. We retraced our steps, finding the route trickier on the descent, and finally stumbled, leg-weary, into camp at 9 pm. This day gave us a good introduction to the problems of mountaineering in Greenland - long days, loose rock, soft snow and tricky descent routes. It was an ideal practice run for the harder things to come.
Diagram showing route taken up Inevitable (1) and Crossoak Road (2)
2. CROSSOAK ROAD - North Couloir/Buttress (1070 m) (60 deg 7` N, 44 deg 24` W). First ascent by J.Cant*, P.Gribbon, P.Hunt and N.MacKenzie on 3rd July 1975. Grade: PD. Time: 6 hours.
This hill was done as a reward for three days reconnaissance and back-packing. It was the first hill for the rear guard. Two routes were done; a snow gully splitting off the top from Inevitable (1); and the buttress on its right. Both were scrambles. Jam and biscuits were eaten on the top with fine views up the valley. A glissade brought us down the gully for tea.
John Cant at Basecamp with Ivory Tower in top left corner, and Ben Trilleachan behind his head.
3. IVORY TOWER - North face/ridge (1090 m.) (60 deg 9` N, 44 deg 31` W). First attempt by D.Brown, J.Cant*, R.Sharples on 26th July 1975. First ascent by D.Brown, J.Cant*, D.Gaskell and R.Sharples on 28th July 1975. Grade: TD. Time : 20 hours.
Guarding the south flank of the Great Valley are four towers : bastions of ridges running up to the 5000 feet plus peaks of Andy's Rucsac and Birdseye View. Small in comparison, these towers nevertheless catch the eye first, presenting sheer rock walls shooting straight from the valley floor. The first, a clean-cut fin sprouting from a buttress of loose rock; the second a shapely sea of slabs; the third, small yet possibly the hardest; the fourth, sheer, complex, the last before Sallies Kitchen.
The first attempt at Tower Number One was a half-hearted affair, started in the late hours of a fog-ridden morning, and finished amongst the rubble of the east side of the buttress supporting the tower. Access and retreat was by a snow gully running up the col south of the tower.
3 o'clock heralded attempt number two. The great crack-fault in the north face of the buttress was quickly climbed and by 9 am we were on the ridge, frustrated below an unexpected sheer wall of rock, barring progress. As Dave started to count his pegs, Ray led off to the right on a traverse line circumnavigating the obstruction.
Three hard pitches followed - a vertical wall, edged across on minute holds; a slanting ledge of loose blocks that heeled into space at the least touch; and a strenuous V crack. Scrambling led to the main tower. "Impossible", was the first rope's verdict : Ray fell asleep and I reclined behind Dave's camera as the second rope took over. Dave led two pitches from below. He appeared to be climbing smooth black walls and pegging cracks. Unfortunately he seemed to be making progress, so Ray was awoken and we followed.
The first pitch (V) was classic - perfect overhangs and jamming cracks, leading to a big ledge. Ray's boots by this time had lost the vital foremost inch of rubber and he could not trust them on the very small holds presented by the next crux pitch. I led on from an overhang crack onto wrinkles on a steep wall. Balance up, no handholds. Grab for a crack and tenuous pull up onto a ledge. Where to go ? Round left, over the void the overhang above was broken by a line of small flakes. It looked too committing - were the flakes loose? Dave had done it .... so ... . Whew!
The summit arrived after a few short problems, but the howling gale and the late hour pushed us down, dithering between the various possible descents. We shot down, fleeing before the night, met up with our first attempt and completed the traverse into the gulley in torchlight.
Diagram showing route taken up Ivory Tower (3) and Ben Trilleachan (4). Agdlerussakist (47) rises above them and was climbed later from Nameless Valley in the Land of the Towers.
4. BEN TRILLEACHAN - South and North ridges (880 m) (60 deg 9` N, 44 deg 32` W). First attempt by R.Sharples, C.Matheson, D.Gaskell and P.Aldred* on 21st June 1975. First ascent by South ridge by D.Gaskell and P.Aldred* on 6th August 1975. Grade: AD+ . Time: 10 hours. Second ascent by North ridge by J.Cant, and P.Aldred* on 17th August 1975. Grade: D Time: 8 hours.
This peak is one of the subsidiary spurs from the complicated structure of Agdlerussakasit. It is about two miles up the main valley from base camp and on the south side. It is characterised by being ringed with crackless holdless slabs.
The first ascent was done much later on during the expedition. It took the same approach but the snowfield had completely disappeared. On a ledge at our previous high point we roped up and donned our P.A.'s which proved virtually essential for the climbing ahead. We started diagonally across a blank slab on pure friction climbing for 250 feet which luckily had a crack, albeit a hairline one, in the middle for a peg belay. We continued up broken crack systems interspersed with steep friction climbing to the col.
A few hundred feet of broken climbing brought us to a vertical holdless wall; a good excuse for a lunch stop. Half a dozen shaky pegs were needed in the overhanging crack. This was followed by a couple of pitches of steep climbing and brought a strenuous end to a delicate climb. On our return one abseil was followed by a 3-point contact (backside and feet) descent down the slabs and brought us back to the valley.
The second ascent up the north ridge had been talked about for a long time as offering a superb 1000 metre line up the mountain but it was semi-dismissed as being impossible due to the ring of steep slabs round the bottom.
Thus it was very half-heartedly that John and I set off on the last climbing day of the expedition to have a look at it ! The slabs yielded relatively easily to the frictional properties of the P.A. even though we occasionally had to climb without belays. It was higher up where the ridge steepened and became more broken that the difficulties arose but even these were passed reasonably quickly. So it was with great surprise and happiness we found ourselves on the summit only 4½ hours after starting up the ridge. We descended by the south ridge as before.