..... GREENLAND ..... ..... EXPEDITION ..... .ORG

Climbing from Stordalens Havn in Cape Farewell Region


by Dr. P.W.F. Gribbon, Expedition Leader




In the summer of 1975 a ten-strong expedition from the University of St Andrews spent nearly twelve weeks in the valleys, mountains and inlets of the southern peninsulas and islands of Greenland.

They climbed and travelled and worked in the scenic splendour of a rugged and indented coastline close to the most southerly extremity of this beautiful island sub-continent. They experienced a remarkably sunny summer amongst the satisfyingly suitable summits. Their expedition met all their anticipated requirements and went far beyond their imagined expectations. Fortune gave them graceful smile and they returned her favours.

This somehow was an expedition, without drama, discomfort, disease, accident, hunger or thirst. It turned out to be a model expedition full with success and achievement : it may be considered as a classic example of a well-run university expedition. Good luck, with a small dash of good organisation, ensured its success. It just sounds too good to be true… so read on…



The aim of the expedition was to penetrate into the mountainous lands that lie to the south of a long valley named Itivdlerssuaq and reach out towards the southern coastline. This deep valley links Tasermiut, or Ketilsfjord, in the west to the inlets radiating out of the Ilua basin in the east. Our plan was to place a basecamp by Stordalens Havn and working westward gain access to these mountains. The mountaineering program was to occupy the major part of the summer activities, but the final period was to be spent on further exploratory work both on foot and by canoe among some lesser hills and on the islands to the east of the basecamp region.

The mountains were chosen from the experience and knowledge gained by the 1971 St Andrews University expedition. They were seen to offer much scope for interesting, high-grade ascents, and to provide adequate opportunities to keep everyone at close to full stretch for a period of more than two months. The area was to the south and adjacent with the boundaries of the mountains visited in 1971. They had been relatively untouched by previous expeditions. Few better regions could have been selected to provide maximum activity inside such a compact area. However in practice it was difficult to gain access into the main mountain massif and our plans had to be modified in the field. This was not disadvantageous, because the experience, capabilities and interests of the expedition members was such that we were able then to operate two independent parties in different valleys within the mountains and hence cover a wider and more varied programme than would otherwise have been possible. One consequence of this modified itinerary was that our prime objectives within the "Land of the Towers" still remain as nearly virgin territory and therefore pose a further challenge to future expeditions.

The members of the expedition (thumbnail photos below names) were:

P.W.F. Gribbon, Ph.D., Lecturer in Physics

J.F. Cant, 4th year Theoretical Physics

N.N. MacKenzie, 4th year Computational Science

S. Clark, 3rd year English

P.I. Hunt, 3rd year Geography

C.D. Matheson, 3rd year Geology

D.J.P. Brown, 2nd year Mathematics

D.J. Gaskell, 2nd year Medical Science

R.M. Sharples, 2nd year Physics

P.A. Aldred, 1st year Science

The expedition was planned initially to have eight members but due to unexpected financial support from a Scottish Trust it was possible to increase the number to ten. This is a worthwhile and yet manageable number and helps to make a varied and flexible team. It was the same size as the St. Andrews parties that had operated in 1969 in the Umanak and in 1971 in the Tasermiut areas.

With regret we lost one of the founder members T. Carnie, who was killed in an avalanche in the Cairngorms early in 1975. There was also certain difficulty in getting our full complement: N. Burrell, 2nd year Science, had to withdraw at the last minute but was replaced by P. Hunt without any loss of cohesion or strength to the party.

Invitations of membership that were extended to H. Sillito, 3rd year Physics; R. Millar, postgraduate Chemistry; and D. Henderson, B.Sc., (of the MacCaulay Soil Research Institute) a St. Andrews graduate and the President of the Corriemulzie Mountaineering Club, could not be accepted due to conditions outside their control.

The expedition was supported by the University of St Andrews. Financial help was given by the University Court, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, the Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, several Scottish Trusts and other local sources.


Group Photo of Expedition (minus web designer who took photo)

(left to right): Dave Gaskell - John Cant - Alf Aldred - Colin Matheson - Ray Sharples - Dougie Brown - Phil Gribbon

(behind): Norman MacKenzie (in green sweater) - Pete Hunt (in white sunhat)


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