Climbing to the West of Torssukatak Fjord
1975 University of St Andrews South Greenland Expedition: first ascent of Agdlerussakasit, first attempt on Maujit Qaqarssuasia - 1996 British team climbing west of Maujit Qaqarssuasia - 1997 Scottish Torssukatak Spires Expedition: second ascent of Agdlerussakasit, first ascent of Maujit Qaqarssuasia - 2000 British team with Ben Bransby, Matt Dickenson, Ian Parnell and Gareth Parry: first ascent of The Thumbnail - 2000 British Eastern Torssukatak Spires Expedition - 2003 Torssukatak Spires Expedition with Jon Roberts, Dewi Durban, James Mehigan and Richard Sonnerdale: The Cruise Line - 2003 Spanish/Brazilian team with Cecilia Buil and Roberta Nunes: Hidrofilia and first ascent of Maujit Qaqarssuasia east peak - 2007 Polish team with David Kaszlikowski and Eliza Kubarska: Golden Lunacy - 2010 US/Belgian team with Bob Shepton and Dodo's Delight - 2012 Polish team with Alek Barszczewski, Marcin Ksiezak and Jaciek Kuczera: second ascent of Golden Lunacy - 2012 Swiss Torssukatak youth expedition - 2013 US team with Kearney, Scully, Dickey and Brett - 2013 Spanish/Basque team with Andres, Castro, and Escribano - 2014 Belgian pair Siebe Vanhee and Tim de Dobbeleer overland and kayak
2003: Spanish/Brazilian team makes third ascent of Thumbnail cliffs
with Cecilia Buil and Roberta Nunes, they put up the route Hidrofilia, a 31-pitch climb up to 6c+/7a, A2+, having paddled 80 km from Nanortalik in their kayaks. First ascent of the east summit of Maujit Qaqarssuasia from Torssukatak side of the mountain, second actual ascent of the mountain (main summit climbed in 1997). Accompanied by the film-maker Jesus Bosque up to the half-way terrace, and assisted by Gorka Ferro, sea kayak specialist.
Cecilia Buil (left), the Thumbnail cliffs from Pamiagdluk, Roberta Nunes (right)
Overview of the 2003 Spanish Brazilian expedition
Late July 2003 had seen the second ascent of the Thumbnail cliffs by Sonnerdale and Mehigan by their new route 'The Cruiseline' and on the day they arrived back at the foot of the cliffs, they were met by the Spanish climber Cecilia Buil and the Brazilian climber Roberta Nunes, who had paddled to Torssukatak from Nanortalik, accompanied by the video producer Jesus Bosque and the sea-kayak specialist Gorka Ferro. Bosque was to climb with the two women to the halfway ledges, and from there Buil and Nunes would continue to the summit.
On 26th July they had left Nanortalik, taking two days to get to Torssukatak in their sea kayaks, and camping en route. They established a basecamp on the east side of Torssukatak fjord on Pamiagdluk Island on 28th, and Cecilia and Roberta made a first visit to the foot of the Thumbnail cliffs.
In four days of intense climbing, they ascended 820m to the halfway ledges at 6c, A2+ and various pitches of 6b and 6b+. Descent was then made via the snow couloir. They remarked on the tedious presence of insects on the face.
Maujit Qaqarssuasia (the east peak), 1540m, first ascent via new route 'Hidrofilia' on the Thumbnail cliffs, VI, 6c+/7a, A2+, 1620m of climbing, 31 pitches. August 1st-4th and 9th-10th: Buil and Nunes. To see a route map, click here.
Details of the ascent:
August 1st: In the afternoon they made a one by one ascent from the canoes with the equipment, which was kept as light as possible - just sleeping bags, mat, food, and climbing gear (without bolts). They slept about 50m above the sea on a shelf.
August 2nd: They progressed upwards. The three climbers were soaked on the second night by water running down a chimney - along with their climbing gear, sleeping bags, and some of their warm clothing.
August 3rd: They almost reached the halfway ledges.
August 4th: The day dawned overcast and it started to rain lightly. After two pitches they reached the midway ledges. The weather worsened, so they left gear there and descended in 4 hours, to Gorka waiting at the foot of the cliff with the canoes.
They returned to basecamp to rest and recuperate, and Cecilia and Jesus paddled to Augpilagtoq for some supplies.
August 9th: They resumed the climb, accessing the halfway ledges at around 5pm in perfect weather. They bivouaced, but had a restless night anticipating the day ahead.
August 10th: Buil and Nunes woke at 4 in the morning and set off at 5 am - with two small bakpacks, 6 energy bars and 2 sandwiches each, and climbing kit (which included plenty of tapes for abseiling). Now the rock was very good quality, and the weather was good, even hot. They reached the second snowfield with shelf just after midday, after 8 long pitches. There they rested for three quarters of an hour, and ate a sandwich. After two long chimney pitches they reached the foot of the final tower at 4.30 pm. The long final pitches were the most difficult, but also beautiful: 50m very vertical. About 15m below the top, they came to a loose block, which delayed them a little. At 6.30 pm they reached the summit of the mountain (east peak) with maximium difficulty 6c+/7a on the penultimate pitch and final tower.
The view was fantastic, everything was perfect.
They had planned to descend to the halfway shelf that evening, but had huge complications descending the final tower. In the end after 15 abseils they reached the halfway shelf at noon on August 11th. There they rested for two hours. It started to rain. They load carried down to the sea, via the escape/descent couloir. The descent was slow and heavy. With Gorka and the kayaks, and Jesus Bosque, they crossed the fjord to the campsite at Pamiagdluk, extremely tired, but still excited, and celebrated with champagne.
An hour-long video was made and later shown in Spain. The trailer can be seen here.
This was to be the last ascent of the cliffs for four years.
Roberta, who was tragically killed in a road accident in 2006, described her feelings evocatively about reaching the summit and completing the route:
"It was so wonderful to reach a beautiful summit by a new route. It was like touching something timeless and sacred. Cecilia and I exploded with happiness. It was a dream to have done something like this with another woman. The most beautiful detail: only two pitons! No bolts, only trad, with British-style spice. It was a learning experience, where the principal lesson was in the letting go of our own egos and living in the moment."
details of route, reproduced on Polish report in 2012
The Thumbnail sea cliffs of Maujit Qaqarssuasia, seen from Torssukatak Fjord (photo: Siebe van Hee)
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