1967 UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS WEST GREENLAND EXPEDITION

Climbing on Upernivik Island

 

OTHER ST ANDREWS EXPEDITIONS:

 

Qioqe Peninsula from Upernivik Island with Qioqe on right. Photo: Dave Meldrum

THE 1967 UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS WEST GREENLAND EXPEDITION was led by Dr PWF Gribbon, a Physics lecturer from the University of St Andrews, Scotland. The introduction and mountaineering history:

In June, 1967, after more than a year's planning and organisation, all eight of us sailed from Newcastle to Denmark en route for the mountains of Upernivik Island off the West coast of Greenland. We were members of an expedition designed to encourage adventure travel and sport within the University; our scientific programme was subsidiary to this main aim but was designed to fit in with the interests and qualifications of the members. We were the eighth Greenland expedition by members of the University since the war. Four of these were scientific expeditions organised by the geologist H.I. Drever, while the other three were mainly mountaineering-recreational ones to the Tasermiut fjord region of South-west Greenland, to the Caledonian Alps of the Angmagssalik region of East Greenland in I963, and to the Ikamiut fjord area of Sukkertoppen in West Greenland in 1965.

Apart from myself our present party comprised: Alan North (Aberdeen), Alan Robertson, John Hall, Roger Nisbet, Bill Band, David Meldrum and Wilf Tauber. Drever has called Upernivik Island the most beautiful in Greenland. Greenlanders go there from the surrounding hunting communities to gather berries, fish, and lie in the sun; otherwise it is uninhabited by man. Its mountains rise to nearly 7000 ft. and there are at least seventy-five distinct summits within its roughly circular shape: a high mountain density for an island whose greatest width is about fifteen miles. Narrow steep-sided fjords fringe its north and east shores, while the west and south coasts face open water towards Ubekendt Island and the Nugssuaq peninsula of the mainland.

The mountaineering history of the island must include the neighbouring parts of the mainland, if only to compare the quality of the mountaineering potential in different places. In 1938 Drever accompanied by a Greenlander seal hunter John Zeeb, crossed by kayak from Ubekendt Island to a glacier steeply descending to the north shore from the central snowfields of Upernivik Island, and 'with provisions for two days, an ice-axe, a rope, crampons, ice-piton, camera, compass, aneroid, pocket sextant, primus, a geological hammer and a waterproof sheet to sleep under' they set off on the first crossing of Upernivik Island. Sixteen hours later they had completed their journey to the western coast at the snout of Quvnertussup sermia (see map), the longest, broadest and least crevassed of the western glaciers. At their highest point they saw 'the finest and most beautiful sight, a peak well over 7000 ft., rising from a southerly arm of the glacier from about 3500 ft. It had a clean-cut form, a sharp snow ridge rising on the northern side right from the glacier to a few hundred feet from the top. This ridge had steep snow walls on either side. The evening light gave it a lovely delicate pink and to a little ice on the north-east wall a delicate green. The rugged rock summit relieves the symmetry of the ridge, and though the latter, I think, could be climbed the summit might prove impossible.'

In 1967 the St. Andrews expedition climbed this formidable mountain, the Horns of Upernivik (illustration no. 21) but more of this later. The first recorded ascent was that of 'a beautiful symmetrical pyramid of 6893 ft', Palup Qaqa or Paulus Peak (Pt. 2101 m.) on August 8, 1939 by two St. Andrews students, K. A. Swales and K. A. W. Paterson. In 1950 another St. Andrews expedition returned to carry on the geological work on Ubekendt Island, and the four 'working' mountaineers achieved further ascents: 4 on the north-west corner of Upernivik Island including the highest mountain, Kakortak Napassuliak ( 6900 ft. : (Pt. 2089 m.))

It was ten years later in 1960 that the veteran Italian mountaineer, Piero Ghiglione, aged seventy-seven years, accompanied by a doctor and a guide, came to the Qioqe peninsula to climb its highest summit, which they called Punta Italia, and which at 6580 ft. (Pt. 2310 m.) is possibly the highest peak in West Greenland. The following year, 1961, H.W. Tilman, in Mischief, sailed past the gaunt cliffs towering on either side of lnukavsait and anchoring at the estuary south of Three Fjord Peak they found 'a nice looking peak', which they ascended under cloud and in a penetrating wind. Unfavourable weather turned them to Upernivik Island, and anchoring off the glacier Quvnertussup sermia they followed its moraine on to bare ice and placed a camp in a sheltered hollow on the mountain side. Their chosen mountain (Pt. 1961 m.), south of the glacier gave them 'a fearful trudge ... up an uncommonly dull snow face' until it narrowed to a red rock ridge overlooking the glacier 3000 ft. below.

In the same year a Belgian expedition went to the Akuliarusaq peninsula north of Upernivik Island and on an attempt on the North-west ridge of the beautiful symmetrical Snepyramiden, 7330 ft. (Pt. 2236 m.), the leader J. Duchesne and his three companions were killed when carrying supplies to a high camp. A partially successful search was carried out by the Danish Authorities assisted by the members of an Italian expedition bound for the Devil's Thumb at 74 N. and the first ascent of Snepyramiden was made.

Heights expressed by Pt. 2101 m. etc., refer to spot heights marked on the current Danish Geodetic Institute maps, 1:250,000: 70 V. 1 and 2. Any discrepancies between the height in feet and the spot height in metres are due to the former being a measured height in feet obtained by an expedition or from unpublished G.G.U. data.

In 1965 the first large scale expedition to Upernivik Island was undertaken by an eight-man party from the Club Alpino Italiano (Milan section). They established their Base Camp on the south bank of the Sermikavsak glacier, and during July and August climbed extensively in this valley, putting up seventeen first ascents, five of which were considered to be very difficult. This marked the beginning of extensive exploration of the area, mainly by Italians. In 1966 C.A.I. (Tortona section), visited the north-west corner of Qioqe peninsula where a six-man party inter alia re-climbed Ghiglione's Punta Italia and renamed it Cima Ghiglione. In 1967 a party from the C.A.I. (Gavirata section), climbed seven peaks, including the Shark's Fin (Pt. 1694 m.) on the east end of the ridge north of the lake on Upernivik Island, the beautiful Qioqe itself (Pt. 1803 m.), and Pts. 2120 and 1866 m. overlooking Inukavsait. C.A.I. (Como) sent four climbers to climb five peaks in the Pyramidestubben mountains a little further north; and a third Italian party is reported to have visited Alfred Wegener's Halvo. If this rate of exploration is maintained there will soon be few virgin peaks left, but it is my hope in this account of our expedition to encourage more climbers nevertheless to go there because of the beauty, and joy of action, which the island offers.

Bibliography:

Drever, H. I., Crossing of Upernivik Island', The Scotsman, November 2, 1938.

Paterson, K. A. W., 'Ascent of Paulus Peak', S.M.C.J. 22. 212

Drever, H. I., 'Mountaineering in Greenland', S.M.C.J. 24. 285 and Ransley, T. J., 'Climbing in Upernivik Island', ibid. 287.

Slesser, Malcolm, 'My first virgin peak', The Climber, 4.2.

Ghiglione, P., quoted in A.A.J. 13. 250.

Tilman, H .W., Mischief in Greenland (Hollis & Carter, London, 1964). Chapters 7 and 8.

Belgian Expedition to Snepyramiden, quoted in A.A.J. 13. 250.

Italian expedition to Upernivik Island, quoted in A.A.J. 13. 164 ,and personal communication with Guido della Torre. 1966 CAI (Tortona section) Qioqe Peninsula A.J. 72. 129

Account of the 1967 University of St Andrews West Greenland Expedition:

On June 28 we landed at Sondre Strornfjord air-base after a four-hour flight by an S.A.S. D.C. 8 jet from Copenhagen. We sailed northwards on the coastal steamer Umanak in mediocre weather, calling in a cloudy dawn at Holsteinsborg, in evening at Egedesminde, then in amongst fog-shrouded icebergs at Jakobshavn, anchoring off-shore at the coal mining beach settlement of Kudligssat on Disko Island, until at the remote Upernivik town at 73 N. we turned southwards again and after a grey, wind-tossed night anchored in a light drizzle at our vessel's namesaketown, Umanak. Two days later, we sailed under a cloud roof in the general-purpose boat, Sortside bound for our Upernivik Island Base Camp, forty-five miles away. At 1.00 p.m. we entered the south end of Inukavsait, our boat chugging over the calm sea under the roof of mist, but as the mist slowly dispersed we were awestruck and happy at the fantasy of mountain form, of pinnacle and spire, soaring up on all sides.

It took time to locate our projected camp site, but at last by a roaring stream that descended from the lake by a wide valley (see map), we went ashore and unloaded our forty-two assorted crates of food and equipment, our boats and luxuries. We had landed at a stony, tundra-blanketed knoll, and as the first tents were pitched we knew that it was to be a Base Camp of unrivalled excellence. Off-shore, strange icebergs drifted slowly on the tide, and fragmented and rolled on the green sea while the guillemots dived and whispered excitedly to each other.

We began to carry our supplies inland, working out the best route along the river bank, which crumbled underfoot as we staggered under the pack loads, and then out into the soft grassy tussocks, where the lingering sweetness of crushed heath filled our nostrils. After we had carried a minimum of supplies to the outlet of the lake, we turned to flex our muscles on the nearest peaks: by July 6, two days after our arrival, two separate parties had climbed two peaks and within six days we had climbed two more. On the first, Compos (5500 ft.), Robertson and Band climbed mixed snow and scree to a gap in the mountain chain, west of the lake, and following a shattered ridge for 600ft. reached the summit in seven hours. With a later start the Base Camp group of Tauber, Nisbet, Meldrum and myself scrambled westward up a boulder-strewn hillside, crossed a snow gully to gain a ridge, and after 2000 ft. of scrambling reached the spectacular pinnacle block of Groyling, 4440 ft. (Pt. 1350 m.) in four and a half hours. No great difficulties were involved in these Grade II climbs, but we felt more at home in the land we were to live in for the next seven weeks.

We were now ready for some greater challenge, and this was to come in the protracted ascents of Artar, 5415 ft., and Elit, 4955 ft. (Pt. 1520 m.) on July 8-9. The ascent of Artar was made on the attempt to find a packable route up a steep glacier descending towards the lake, from the northern end of the mountain chain. On July 8 Band and Nisbet had cramponed up a long snow gully which we were to use eventually as our packing route, and lost in wonder at the dawn glory of the high snowfields glistening in the sun they had moved northwards, exploring each snow col in turn, until beguiled by a deceptively easy gully they had turned downhill to be involved in a protracted descent of steep ice giving them a twenty-four hour day. It was a fine effort, but not content with this Band had joined Robertson and Hall to explore the northern glacier on July 9, and since the last ice flows had melted from the lake, they were able to use one of the canoes and the rubber boat with outboard motor to take them five miles along the lake. They followed the lateral moraines until forced on to a long icy slope partly-snow covered and with hidden crevasses, which led up to a snow dome at over 5000 ft. A short section of narrow ridge ran east to its highest point, Artar, but the time and djfficulties that would have been involved to move along the continuous row of gendarmes, would have been so great that they turned and descended down the steep scree slope leading towards the glacier and lake. The coldest hours of the night were spent, huddled in their duvet jackets, just below the summit.

At the same time on July 9 Meldrum, Tauber and I set out to climb up the complex intricacies of the South wall of Elit, a mountain rising behind the camp along the sea shore until forced up by the smooth cliffs dropping into the fjord, and threaded our way through ledges covered with yellow cinque-foil, and then up unstable scree to seek shelter from the heat of the sun. We eventually reached an enormous gully, narrow and deeply recessed with walls falling 800 ft. We had to go up, with cunning evasions of the stepped walls blocking the arete: first by a narrow chimney well away from the gully; then by traversing a ledge above a rotten scoop. Tauber led a pair of exposed cracks, jammed with stones: we were now within 500 ft. of the main ridge and on the true arete. In front an eroded black dyke blocked the arete, rising 60ft. above fallen boulders, but we scrambled easily up its cracks into the mellow sunlight, and saw that our main problems were over.

The evening shadows were creeping over the mountains across the fjord, and we rushed ahead so careless in our haste that a dislodged stone hit Tauber's unprotected head. It had taken nine hours to reach the main ridge at 3000 ft., but we found ourselves still well below even the false summits of the ridge and also we were faced by a narrow gap across our path, formed by the great gullies on either side cutting back into the ridge. We jumped across and then toiled very mechanically along the winding ridge, until, we halted on a flat promontory overlooking the lake, where we established ourselves comfortably to enjoy the midnight sun during dinner time. With a wee dram and cigar we celebrated the darkest minute of the night at 12.30 a.m. with the sun still five diameters above the jagged horizon. We were in minor ecstasy: the calm sea with a wind ruffle off the island, the rocks mellow and golden, the quiet hills all around, and far below the two tents in the shadows by the lake. We ate and then slept in our bags into the washed-out light of the morning. Shortly after midday we stood on a 40 ft pile of blocks, the summit pillar of Elit, with below us the two lakes, blue-green, and the snow-seared flanks of the north face of the ridge. We went on, aiming for the main summit at the east end, over the interminable slates, getting slower and slower as time went by, until below a rubble-slope leading to the snow rib under the final pinnacle we halted, weak with hunger and general unfitness, and decided to go home. Two hours later we were at sea level, having by good fortune chosen the only simple way down through the cliff fringe of our mountain, and in a haze of burning crowberry twigs we ate all we had and watched the icebergs drifting by, before taking the final two and a half hour walk through the debris-laden ledges back to Base Camp. Our ascent of Elit had taken thirty-five hours.

On July 12, we cleared Base Camp and took up residence at the lake camp depot. A day later we gained the Banet col at 4895 ft. and a party dug in and pitched their tents. Our laden caravan had toiled the treadmill course up 2000 ft. of snow, avoiding the numerous runnels, watching a snow slide slither down to obliterate our hard-won footsteps, so that after two hours we had gained the desolate gap in a chill breeze with snowflakes falling. There was nowhere to live so we constructed a platform on the hillside, and shovelled out a niche for the tents in a snow bank. By July 15, everyone was camping there.

Sunday, July 16, was our lucky day: we snatched the ascent of a fine little alpine peak which we called Chowm (5500 ft. Grade III, time four hours). In the face of the approaching storm the climb started desultorily above the kitchen with weak sunshine filtering through a high haze, and we followed the broken rocks by the eastern cliff edge until forced by the icy sweep of a gully head to move up a snow crest on to a rolling snow field leading to the foot of the peak. I led up over the bridged bergschrund and chopped ice on a mushy snow rib to gain red rocks at a belay point, to which North followed, inserting additional steps where the snow rib had disintegrated on my passage. From the ridge, we were able to admire the superb exposure of the overhanging cliff facing the lake. A difficult chimney finished by a move into a kneeling position on a moss patch, threaded with strange lichens. North posed on a block jutting into space to produce a gripping Meldrum photograph for tall tales in his old age. We roped for the final five pitches: a hand traverse, a slab, a wall to cling on at its edge, a crack, and a crawl to the topmost tip. We retraced our tracks, abseiling down the snow slope, and returned to the col for paraffin-flavoured chicken stew, and burnt custard with bilberries, while a grey cloud base hovered above and misty patches clung to the summits. The bad weather was on its way.

Next day, July 17, the temperature fell and we had sleet followed by snow which piled on the tent walls so that they sagged and started to leak. There was little point in remaining there, eating up the food supplies we had so laboriously carried up, so shortly after midnight four of us left for base, stumbling down beside the fixed ropes coated with fresh snow, and within two hours we were standing drinking hot sweet tea on our home ground. The following evening the others retreated leaving the tents to drift up under fresh snow. In retrospect the enforced three-day rest at base did us all good. It had come at the right time after two weeks of strenuous effort, and when the weather cleared we were refreshed, fit and keen to take the maximum advantage of the ten days of perfect climbing weather that were to follow.

On July 21 we regained the col, to find the tents immersed by snow, with poles snapped and flysheets ripped, and had to spend hours digging them out. However, next day the prominent rock finger, a Muztagh Tower of impregnability that dominated our minds and ambitions, was tackled by its easiest route, a concavely sweeping North-west ridge, and in a twelve-hour day a succession of Grade III-IV rock pitches in magnificent situations was followed to the minute summit block of Excalibur, 5650ft. (1720 m.). The party returned by the same route, very pleased to have accomplished its long-waited ascent.

Meanwhile, Band, Meldrum, Nisbet and I set out on a forty-hour trip to climb a massive mountain of much character, Stentor. This peak, the highest part of the ridge east of the lake, we had failed to reach after the ascent of Elit. We took the two canoes, one going to the northeast end of the lake, and the other hugging the coast-line under the immaculate white slab sheet of Qaersorssuaq until driven ashore by growling pack ice pushing up on to the beach. After four hours the two parties were united on the North ridge, and we scrambled and climbed up into the glow cast by the setting sun, until at 11.30 p.m. we dumped our food and sleeping bags and carried on to the problematical North face. Our first attempt to gain the snow slope led on to snow slush lying on ice, so we retreated and back-tracked down ledges to launch ourselves across the bergschrund. Up and up we went, doggedly plodding at a rate of 1000 ft. an hour, until below the cornice bare ice appeared, and since our crampons were at the col, a trail of splintered, friable steps had to be chopped to gain a horrid wall of slates and mud. During our climb an unbroken cloud sea had silently covered the fjord and the only sounds we heard were our own breathing, the crunch of a kicked snow step, and the occasional thunderous roar of an iceberg breaking unseen under the cloud. At the first sunlight long shadows crept across the motionless, burnished cloud sea. It was bitterly cold and we were soon off over black towers, down a cracked airy slab, and up the final ice pitch to the summit of Stentor, 5960 ft. (Pt. I803 m.). It was 6 a.m. We sat quietly seeking shelter from the inescapable, knife-thrust of . wind straight from the lnland Ice, and then vaguely traced our ascent route, tumbling down the soft snow to the warm rocks at the bivouac site which we had left a long twelve hours before. We prolonged our dinner interminably since it was too hot to get into our bags until 3 p.m. We awoke at sunset and descended towards the canoes in the sharp air of night, pausing for a spectacular, sulphurous boulder roll which foamed into the calm lake. The return canoe trips were unforgettable, the lake unruffled and mirroring every detail of the sleeping hills, while on the fjord lay the ephemeral mist, punctuated by looming icebergs, with a circle of sun playing hide-and-seek above the calm sea. Our Arctic mountain days were living up to their reputation.

The same evening saw the Base Camp party toiling up to the col and moving on across the white snowfields towards an unknown camp site in the centre of the island. At 8 a.m. on July 24 at 3940 ft. we had reached a sandy patch by a flowing pool, sheltered behind a moraine and under steep rock walls that reflected the warmth of the sun this was Camp Centrale, on the north bank of Quvnertussup sermia and where we were to live on-and-off for the remainder of our stay on the island.

Across the snowfield the towers of the mountain chain held their individual characters: we were getting also to know them at close quarters. On July 24th a high peak, Excelsior, 6340 ft. (Pt. 1919 m.) was climbed by the col party, one of whom added to his reputation for uphill speed by racing from the snowfields to the summit ridge in half an hour, and on the same day an unsuccessful attempt was made to climb the North face of Whaleback by steep ice overlain with powder snow.

On July 27, after first having climbed by snow gully and rock ridge to the strongly-formed Phyllostop, 5580 ft., Grade III, the col party of North, Robertson, Hall and Tauber returned to make a second and a successful attempt on Whaleback, 5780 ft., Grade III. They climbed it by the 45 snow rib which led to the tiny summit, perched over a fearsome South wall, and returned to the rigours of the col camp.

During the same few days, the Camp Centrale party had been exploring north up an unknown glacier, which had been marked on our old small scale maps as a mountain ridge. On July 25, Band, Nisbet and I in an eighteen-hour day climbed the triple-topped tower of Triboda, Grade III-IV, going up its East ridge in sweltering sunshine and retreating down its gentle, but greasy, slabs in chill unseeing drizzle. We had carried stones in a rucksack up the final pinnacle to make a cairn on its small top at about 6ooo ft. our altimeter was not functioning correctly at this stage so that our measured mountain altitudes became uncertain. On July 27, the four of us ascended a striking leaning-pillared summit, Gnomon, c. 6000 ft., Grade IV, on the east end of the long ridge north of Quvnertussup sermia. On continuing westward along the ridge we climbed Merdor, c. 6000 ft., Grade III, before succumbing to a lethargic state, induced by the sight of the great hammer-headed gendarme blocking the ridge to the west and also by the pleasure of sitting in the sun on a niche while the late afternoon light glinted off the ice-speckled western sea.

Upernivik Island: Nisbet and Band on descent from Merdor. Photo: Dave Meldrum

On the golden night of July 28, the last supplies were carried up from the dump, and everyone, bowed beneath their cumbersome loads, transferred to Camp Centrale. Two parties went out on July 30. The 'hard' party of Robertson, Tauber, Nisbet and Meldrum took the big mountain, the Great White Tower, by its South ridge, Grade III, to make the second ascent of this beautiful peak in a sixteen-hour day. The 'lazy' party of North, Hall, Band and myself followed the West ridge above Camp Centrale, and after many interesting gendarmes reached the sweeping snow summit of Spume, c. 6000 ft., Grade IV, in seven hours, before going north down a narrow snow ridge until forced to abseil off the West face. We were now waiting for our tour de force: the ascent of the Horns of Upernivik. We had made a circuit round this mountain looking for the easiest route of attack and had been brought back to a contemplative assessment of the North-east ridge, well described by Drever in 1938.

North Face of the Horns of Upernivik with NE Ridge on left and Morendi in right background. Photo: Dave Meldrum

At 11 p.m. on August 1st we all started for it, except Hall who had returned to Base Camp with sunburn exposure. We gained the ridge by 500ft. of crisp cramponing, and stopped to watch the sun slide behind the top of Snepyramiden which blazoned itself in a radiant white-hot tip. Then moving up ice, we reached and roped up to cross the bergschrund. Snow, ice, and iced rock followed in quick succession and then we were engrossed in narrow rock ribs, shattered walls, aiming for a cloven pillar astride the ridge and just under the final 400 ft. of impressive verticality. Here we halted in hot sun to eat, and see whether we could force a route onwards. North took the lead moving into an ice-choked chimney, 200ft. below the notch separating the twin summits and then Robertson led a quite severe crack-and-traverse to reach the notch. The way was open, and we capitalised on this success to link all the ropes together and caterpillar up aiming for the easier West summit: in order, North, Robertson, Tauber, Band, Meldrum, Nisbet and I, the anchor man, who took six hours from arrival at the pillar to the tiny summit. There were some fine pitches on the last 200 ft. : an airy traverse, a V-groove, an overhanging severe crack; it was all delightful. We sat and dreamed into the distant horizons, glimpsing the far-flung fjords, all the peaks just a la Slesser. We voted that our West Horn was six inches higher than the unclimbed East horn, a decision based more on sentiment than conviction. It was the fourth highest summit on the island, height over 6250 ft., Grade IV- V, time 15 and three-quarter hours. The climbing order was reversed for the descent, and when I reached the notch it was time to put on all my clothes, especially since there were seven people to abseil down the shadowed walls of the north cliff. At last I reached North, ensconced under an overhang to avoid stone falls, and although the rope slid neatly through the abseil loop, 150 ft. above, it did not reach us but jammed irretrievably somewhere on the face. Furiously we hacked it in two and continued our cold retreat. In the evening light we retraced our route, abseiling whenever possible, feeling sleepy rather than tired, until after twenty-seven hours we stood again on the snow-fields, full of joie de vivre and madness, which was marked by a flight of ice axes seeking out an errant helmet skittering across the glacier crust.

Once more we sensed time in our lives as we planned a final flexible programme. We returned to Base Camp and split into two independent parties. The climbers, North, Robertson, Nisbet and Tauber, restocked and revitalised, having crossed the island via Camp Centrale and the high gap between Triboda and the Great White Tower, were driven by bad weather to camp in the cramped shelter of a vast boulder, which one night moved above them with hideous grindings. They climbed the ridge north of Qungulertussup sermia but retreated under driving mist and high winds: on their return journey on August 10 they climbed the rock tower adjacent to Triboda; it was a neat Grade III peak, Trinculo, c. 6ooo ft. On August 11 they ascended Scorpio, c. 6070 ft., Grade IV, a fine conical rock peak, north of Spume, and on August 13 North and Tauber clinched the Horns of Upernivik by ascending the South face of the East Horn. They gained the good quality rock of the South face by a snow tongue, and by a series of ledges, separated by severe strenuous cracks, gained the South pillar leading to the final block of the East Horn, Grade V, time eight and a half hours. In the first snow of the coming winter they descended by the north-east ridge, and retrieved the rope abandoned on the descent from the West Horn, total time eighteen hours.

Our climbing days were numbered. During this time, the canoeists Hall, Meldrum, Band and I splashed over open sea to visit the St. Andrews geological expedition on Ubekendt Island. As the canoes crunched on the sand at Igdlorssuit, the children and dogs crowded expectantly around and then escorted us to the little green hut given to St. Andrews by the Carnegie Trust. There was no-one at home but by searching the coast-line we found the geologists' camp. To the skirl of pipes in the dusk, we advanced across the black sands by the grey sea. The greetings were classically formal. 'Dr. Drever, I presume ? '. 'I knew you'd say that! Have a drink ? ' Replete with baked beans, we left and followed a white rabbit across the barren hillsides back to the hut. When we eventually set out it was for an eventful voyage back to the snout of Quvnertussup sermia on Upernivik Island: on the oily sea, the icebergs broke with the effect of a depth charge, and a watchful whale boiled up the water at our bow before surfacing ten yards off our stern. It makes your hair stand on end....

On August 12th, high up on the glacier near Camp Centrale the scientists stumbled upon a hidden crevasse suitable for their work. With snow spicules rustling across the frozen surface and sifting into their sensitive electrical equipment, they went underground to work in a snow cave dug with tin plate and ice pick. Strong winds whipped the spindrift from the white ridges and the temperature fell sharply so that the work could only continue when both the scientist and his instruments were smuggled together in the warm depths of a sleeping bag. On August 16th North, Robertson, Hall and Tauber left Camp Centrale and then at the shore waited for a slackening of wind and wave. When they finally set out they were pitched into a chill head-wind, drenched in spray, and unable to land without further risk to the already damaged canoes. On August 18th scientists returning to Base Camp found them sleeping contentedly under a drapery of wet clothes after an epic twenty-four hour voyage round the north shore of the island.

We knew this was the end of the climbing season. We were foiled from our final objective, Qioqe, whose clean walls and sigmoidal ridge were now shrouded under the mantle of powder snow heralding another long winter night. We resigned ourselves to a few days of idleness; eating and sleeping, reading and writing, hunting and fishing. One starlit night as the moon shone through the mist wraiths on the high hills we heard the throb of engines and the crack of rifle shots as the police boat returned to take us away. We still had days of travel ahead, to watch strange faces in distant places. None the less we were doomed, since our timeless world was about to become a memory. The expedition was over.

LIST OF CLIMBS

(All climbs are first ascents except for (15) which was climbed by Slesser and Ransley on August 25, 1950). Ref. Date of No. Peak2 Ascent Names of Climbers

(1) Groyling - July 6th - 4440 ft - Tauber, Nisbet, Meldrum, Gribbon

(2) Compos - July 6th - 5550 ft - Robertson, Band

(3) Elit - July 10th - 4955 ft - Meldrum, Tauber, Gribbon

(4) Artar (almost completed) - July 9th - 5415 ft - Robertson, Band, Hall

(5) Chowm - July 16th - 5550 ft - Band, Gribbon, Meldrum, North

(6) Excalibur - July 22nd - 5650 ft - Tauber, Robertson, Hall, North

(7) Stentor - July 22nd - 5690 ft - Band, Nisbet, Meldrum, Gribbon

(8) Excelsior - July 24th 6340 ft - Tauber, Robertson, North, Hall

(9) Triboda - July 25th - c. 6000 ft - Gribbon, Nisbet, Band

(10) Phyllostop - July 27th - 5580 ft - North, Robertson, Hall, Tauber

(11) Whale back - July 27th - 5780 ft - North, Robertson, Hall, Tauber

(12) Gnomon - July 27th - c. 6000 ft - Gribbon, Band, Meldrum, Nisbet

(13) Merdor - July 27th - c. 6000 ft - Gribbon, Nisbet, Band, Meldrum

(14) Spume - July 30th - c. 6000 ft - Gribbon, Band, Hall, North

(15) Great White Tower - July 30th - 6900 ft - Robertson, Tauber, Meldrum, Nisbet

(16) West Horn of Upernivik - August 2nd - c. 6250 ft - North, Robertson, Tauber, Band, Meldrum, Nisbet, Gribbon

(17) Trinculo - August 10th - c. 6000 ft - North, Nisbet, Robertson, Tauber

(18) Scorpio - August 11th - c. 6070 ft - Robertson, Tauber, Nisbet, North

(19) East Horn of Upernivik - August 13th - c. 6250 ft - North, Tauber

Notes: See map below for numerical references.

All names subject to approval by Danish authorities.

 

 

 

 

 

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