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 (North side of valley)
BASECAMP (Stordalens Havn)
Peaks climbed from basecamp on North 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.
5. SNOW MAIDEN - East ridge ( 1400 m ) (60 deg 12` N, 44 deg 29` W). First ascent by P.Biggar, R.Young, I.Walton and A.Stevenson on 6th August 1971. Second ascent by N.MacKenzie, P.Gribbon, D.Gaskell, D.Brown and R.Sharples* on 2nd August 1975. Grade: PD. Time: 5 hours (from bivouac site).
The Snow Maiden rose to the north of the Angiatarfik-Bolder massif; an inspired name for a snow-dome summit above sheer rock walls, broken only by the last ridge. A late-started, Blockhead-bound party made the ascent direct from the base to the finish in a snow-storm. A short search was made for signs of the first ascent before our return to the bivouac site, punctuated by numerous boulder trundles to probe the abyss, sadly hidden by the mist.
Diagram showing route taken up Snow Maiden (5) and Blockhead (6)
6. BLOCKHEAD - East Ridge (1200 m ) (60 deg 12` N, 44 deg 27`W). First ascent by R.Sharples, N.MacKenzie, P.Gribbon, D.Gaskell and D.Brown* on 3rd August 1975. Grade: AD/D. Time: 8 hours.
This is the attractive symmetrical rock peak that, together with French-top on the right, dominates the wide glaciated valley to the north of Stordalens Havn. After a clear cold night in our magnificent bivouac site, we were finally coaxed out of our frosted sleeping bags at 5.30 am.
After breakfast we cramponned up crisp snow slopes and then scrambled on over alternating slabs, scree and snow until we reached the base of the main steep sections on the east side of the mountain. There we relaxed in the warm sun admiring the breathtaking panorama of peaks and glaciers above the carpet of valley mist.
We had time on our hands and so ignored the easy ridge line to the right. We split and took two more demanding routes (both S-HS ) to the easier rocks near the summit. The climbing was idyllic - hard and steep, yet on firm holds, the weather perfect and no pressure of time. We roped up again for the final steep section, reaching the top and a feast of biscuits and jam at the sensible hour of 12 noon !
Time slipped by before we reluctantly abseiled and scrambled down and round to our bivouac site. Another hour passed as we lay soaking up the sun, before we finally descended to the glacier and threaded our way across to the moraine and then on down the valley to reach basecamp in the warm evening sun.
7. CHOSSER - North east face ( 1300 m ) (60 deg 11` N, 44 deg 33` W). First ascent by P.Aldred, D.Brown, C.Matheson* and R.Sharples on 24th June 1975. Grade: AD. Time: 14 hours.
Chosser was the first peak we climbed, and with Dougie and I having no experience of long routes we thought that we were going to have an easy day. We started off late, and made a snow trek up the initial snowfield. As the angle steepened we came across icy patches, so roped up and started picking up the route.
Most rapid progress was made on the snow and seven slushy pitches took us to the end of climbable snow. To our right was a loose and dominating wall, so our route had to be on the black ridge system above and to the left. I led at the first pitch, not steep but desperately loose. Alf followed by a pitch up a small chimney and from there I went over a small snow patch to the right and then diagonally upwards.
Without any runners I had an attempt on a grassy groove, and after scrabbling up, slid down again. I put in a peg and tape and stepped up over the trouble. Ray hadn't seen me doing this and when he led up over the pitch got a bit worried judging by the language. Alf tried a lead out to the right, but had to reverse back off a steep wall. A messy slope to the left took him into a really broken and loose gully which afforded the only route to the ridge ahead. Two pitches took us to the ridge, which proved spectacularly sharp and had massive walls to the valley in the west.
I led along a snow patch to a perched rock, then up an icy slab to the open snow slope to the summit. From here, in the gathering dusk, I started having my first worries about getting off. Ray and Alf fixed up abseil points and I meekly slid down from each of these, with reassuring safety rope. The snow slope was easier to go down than climb up, and we made fast progress down on a fine moonlit night.
Angiartarfik massif seen from 'Hanne' approaching Stordalens
8. ANGIARTARFIK (Andyarethick) - West glacier (Point 1845 m) (60 deg 11` N, 44 deg 30` W). First ascent by R.Sharples, D.Brown, C.Matheson and P.Aldred* on 1st July 1975. Grade: AD+ . Time: 19 hours.
This peak with its steep granite walls dominated the whole area near base camp from where it looked impregnable. 4 am saw four of us on the glacier above Corrie camp, that ran behind the mountain. The air was cold, the sun was still hidden behind the mountain, and the snow crisp and firm, perfect conditions.
Further up, the snow became softer with only a thin icy cover which wouldn't hold anyone's weight. So we made for a ridge to the right of a steep snow slope, we roped up in pairs and started up the ridge. After one pitch we realised that this was far too hard, involving hard mixed rock and ice climbing. We retreated to the foot of the snow slope and started wading up : this was really shattering. On crossing the bergshrund Colin and I, who were by this time ahead still roped but moving together, discovered the snow was now hard and firm, just perfect for front-pointing.
We rocketed on : about 1,000 feet up we saw two tiny figures just crossing the bergshrund; another 1,000 feet higher we slowed down considerably, puffing and panting, calves aching. We reached the rock just as the sun came onto us. The others caught up and we gained the ridge leading to the summit. The views were superb - the base camp could easily be picked out more than one mile below us.
Retreat proved an epic battle through knee-deep soft wet snow. All roped together we descended on 450 feet of rope. We reached the glacier as the sun slowly died away, and with it went our energy, which was replaced by tiredness and hunger. We re-roped for the glacier and staggered through the snow with only one thought in our minds - camp, with its food and sleep. Snow bridges which had been safe before now collapsed, our morning tracks were hard to follow. Luckily no one fell further than chest level into the crevasses although all of us went in at least once.
Later on, this route became impossible, because the snow melted away revealing hard ice and impassable crevasses furrowing the snow slope.
Diagram showing routes taken up Chosser (7), Angiartarfik (8), and the first ascent of Bolder (9)
9. BOLDER - East face (1690 m ) (60 deg 12` N, 44 deg 31` W). First ascent by P.Aldred, R.Sharples, D.Brown and C.Matheson*, on 3rd July 1975.
We had looked across from Chosser to a nearby peak whose summit appeared to be a huge boulder, while from our campsite it was a dominating and awesome series of red walls and steep couloirs. Our examination from Angiartarfik showed that a fine Alpine route could be made up one of the ridges.
At 4 o'clock on a dull morning we headed up onto the familiar glacier, though some of our earlier tracks across snow-bridges looked unreliable. We quickly gained height on a sweeping gully and snowfield system, and as our 450 ft string laboured in soft wet snow, the sky rapidly cleared and the sun came out at full intensity. A short pitch up a series of flakes took us to a ledge where we left "unnecessary" gear, foolishly including our helmets in that class.
I traversed across snow, ice and wet rock and belayed poorly under the ridge to our left. Alf led upwards in a steep groove, and at the end of 150 ft was peering down a massive drop to the corrie below. I followed up to him, and finding the exposure overpowering went across a holdless slab away from edge. The arete faded out from here, so we decided to pick out a route up a 70 deg wall. Alf took an impressive but fairly easy route to a belay under some overlaps.
Our route from here was contained in a crack system leading from the right edge of the main overlapping slab. Carefully I tested a hold, slotted in a runner then promptly fell off complete with my handhold. Having righted myself again, I led up over the difficulties in better style, and then followed the crack into a wide chimney. This had a well grooved left wall, and at the end of my run-out was to the left of a large gently sloping slab. Dougie and Ray were nowhere in sight, but Alf crossed the slab and went up some rough quartz crystals to a micaceous ledge underneath a red bulge. Being slightly unnerved from my earlier experience, I was scared to go on directly upwards, but instead traversed out to the left and up some easy chockstones. Alf led on from here to reach the main summit ridge.We now had a close view of the boulder balanced on its narrow plinth. A couple of easy pitches took us to its overhanging base, and Alf decided against committing himself to the only obvious route.
I crawled round an exposed ledge and noticed that a crack split the overhang, leading up to a large flake. Alf seemed determined to lead up to the top, so fighting rope-drag he laybacked up into space with a good runner on the flake, the last 30 ft were no problem, and he appeared above me on the summit. I followed the same route by a series of pulls up the left edge of the red bulge. The summit proved to be a spectacular viewpoint, nearby views of Angiatarfik and what was later to be "Shangri-La" camp, as well as the straight trench of Prins Christians Sund cutting towards the east.
Five full 150 ft abseils took us straight down to the snow gully, and another floundering abseil through this took us to the rest of our equipment. A short abseil in crampons to the main snowfield resulted in a terrible tangle which cost us an extra half hour. We roped up as a single 450 ft line and slipped easily down to the glaciers below. By now it was very dark and the final glacier crossing was unnerving to the full. This was the last of the main peaks round the corrie, so we headed off for base to meet the others.
Diagram showing route taken up past The Prune (34) and Wee Bolder (35) to Bolder (9) on the 2nd ascent of this mountain from the Lost Loch Camp. Bolder had been climbed three weeks earlier from the other side (see above).
9. BOLDER - North-east ridge (1690m) via 35. WEE BOLDER (1620m) (60 deg 12`N, 44 deg 30`W). Second ascent by P.Gribbon, N.Mackenzie, and C.Matheson* on 26th July 1975. Grade: D (AD). Time: 20 hours.
Bolder was climbed again by a small party with the dubious benefit of a guide who had been on the first successful ascent from the other side. The northwest ridge offered a totally different aspect of the mountain, and the thought of viewing out familiar peaks was appealing. We waded the river on a chill morning, but very soon we were past the swirling mists and the high wisps of clouds promised a good day. Easy snow and rock took us up beyond the Prune (34) and the sunrise over the Anvil silhouetted the long ridge ahead. When we came up to the pinnacles an avoiding route down to the glacier on the right seemed possible, but eventually we decided to traverse them. Difficulties started immediately with an abseil down a smooth slab, and then a series of dangerous unroped moves along a ledge system. The north-facing 'snow slope' turned out to be sheet ice, so after a few steps I retreated and looked to the rocky walls to my right. A delicate finger traverse took me to a severe move up a bulge and crack, but the difficulty was just limited to a short stretch. Norman and Phil followed but traversed out on the right. A messy ledge took us up to a narrow split in the ridge. I took off my rucksack and somehow squeezed through, belaying shortly afterwards due to huge rope drag. We moved down left, then up easy but icy rocks to a sheltered ledge in the sunshine. Having five men's food between three we ate sumptuously, then carried on in a more leisurely pace to another gap in the ridge. We roped up again for safety, then moved across to a broken wall which was again easy scrambling. Crampons were donned once more, and we went up under a blazing sun to the minor summit, a sort of Wee Bolder.
The ridge to the main top, which I had described as 'a mere walk', proved to be a long, airy and roped scramble, but what looked like bad steps were easier than expected. Phil and Norman argued for the right to second the boulder pitch, and I watched Phil pull-up from the familiar overhang. We didn't stay long to admire the view, but abseiled off and linked up as a fast-moving rope of three. I was anxious to get back before dark, but Phil and Norman showed signs of wear (!). We ate another big meal then, slightly rejuvenated, traced back our original route. As we set up the abseils over the difficulties we watched a splendid sunset to the west, with the moon rising over Prins Christians Sund. We traversed round in near darkness, and approached the smooth slabs as the moon shone through the clouds, and the aurora flickered overhead. I picked my way up the shadows on the slab, then brought up the other two. Wrapped in duvets we ate up our remaining pancakes, then crunched rapidly down the snow slopes towards a welcoming light. (Click HERE for another account of this climb in Phil Gribbon's Personal Report on the Expedition.) (This second ascent is also included in the Mountaineering Report on climbs from the Lost Loch but is placed here too for comparison.)