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Climbing from Stordalens Havn in Cape Farewell Region


Mountains climbed from Hellhole Hollow, in the Land of the Towers




Seven ascents were made around this deep bowl in the western fringe of the Land of the Towers: the grades were 1 PD, 4 AD, and 2 TD. *Asterisk against a name indicates that this person wrote the report.

Diagram showing route taken up Crowsnest (22). Peaks 17-19 were climbed from Sallies Kitchen. Umanangua (28) is described at the foot of this webpage.

22. CROWSNEST - Northeast face (1290m) (60 deg 9` N, 44 deg 37` W). Attempt by J.Cant*, P.Gribbon and N.MacKenzie on 9th July 1975. Grade: AD. First ascent by P.Aldred, D.Brown, J.Cant and R.Sharples* on 12th July 1975. Grade: TD. Time: 16 hours.

Attempt: Crowsnest was the one peak of the "Birdcage Walk" that we had not yet climbed. From the "back-packing col" it presented a face of crack lines; from Sallies Kitchen a slabby broken face: at first sight very straightforward. The attempt on the latter reached a point two hundred feet below the summit. Four pitches of up to mild severe had taken us this far, but the headwall did not yield to gentle probing so we retreated after seeking a view into the Hellhole corrie.

Ascent: The second and ultimately successful attempt was launched in the morning sun at 8 a.m. confident of a short, enjoyable climb on a perfect day. A snow ramp led across slabby walls to the col from which the Hellhole had first been sighted. The east ridge reared directly above, steep and impossibly smooth. Our composure slightly shaken, we scrambled along a terrace across the northeast face in search of a weakness. The terrace faded into a sweep of red granite slabs…

For a moment we faltered, unsure whether to retreat to the col, or to attempt the very steep cracked walls above. The difficulties appeared to be concentrated into the first 200 feet, but we were still learning that the effects of foreshortening could triple the length of a route. Proverbially, we decided to dump our gear and 'have a look'.

John and Alf away first again. Alf leads a flake crack to nowhere. Dougie and I prefer an impressive smorgasborg of technicality to their right. A fifteen foot jamming crack yields to wiry fingers and a shade of faith and friction. An overhung V-groove rears 50 feet above, perfect jamming cracks hiding in the dark recess, RB's gaining superb traction on the gritstone-like rock. Exhilaration heightening as the overhang yields to ape-like swings and great holds. Dougie follows with ample faith, to lead a 9 inch wedging crack, while an abseil rope from John and Alf snakes down to the belay.

The excitement and quality continue unheeded above, a long pitch up thin grooves and laybacks to the 'Fissure Brown' - a perfect chimney, innocuous looking in the extreme, yet a following Brown finds difficulties on that and above. Easy scrambling tempts us leftwards to the ridge, but hopes vanish in vertical knife edge flakes.

It is now our turn to follow the bold leads of Alf and John up the headwall. One pitch suffices, an epitome of good climbing in a 150 foot groove. The summit stands proudly at the far end of the ridge. We pause briefly for summit victuals, and abseil directly onto the lower section of the north-east face. Long hours scrambling down and across to the col, Cant dancing nimbly across the snow with EB's and a peg hammer. We pause only to ransack the food dump made on the col, and stagger heavily laden back to camp at midnight, and a soundless sleep.

Diagram showing peaks above Hellhole Hollow, from left to right: Gormenghast (27). Scorpion (25). Shats (26). Piglet (24). Pooh (23).

23. POOH and 24. PIGLET - East face (Points 1400 and 1200) (60 deg 9` N, 44 deg 38` W). First ascent by P.Aldred and J.Cant* on 17th July 1975. Grade: AD. Time: 6 hours.

It was Dougie's birthday. We had spent two days drying ourselves out after the Gormenghast washout, and Alf and I bounced out into the cold wind and light snow, determined to climb something.

Guarding the entry to the Hellhole was a peak, in fact the highest in the coire, showing a fine three-summit silhouette yet, in the sun, a pile of rubble topping a sheer yellow wall. We made for the wall, hoping for some good climbing before the impending choss. Three excellent pitches led up a slanting ledge breaking the wall. The climbing was severe. The rubble was reached and led hesitantly to the summit. The climbing was dangerous and foul.

A crusting of ice crystals, left from the storm petering out in the east, numbed our fingers as we scrambled round onto Pooh's small neighbour - Piglet. We made a whooping glissade to the first of Dougie's many birthday meals.

25. SCORPION (Point 1340) (60 deg 8` N, 44 deg 39` W). 26. SHATS (1100m) (60 deg 9` N, 44 deg 38` W). First ascents by R.Sharples, D.Brown, J.Cant and P.Aldred* on 11th July 1975. Grades: PD and AD-. Time: 7 hours.

These two tops formed the southerly part of the ridge which formed a barricade to the west of the Hellhole camp. They were done on our first climbing day from the camp. We had decided to climb something close by to give us a good view of what lay ahead.

The ridge was gained from the snow via an easy rib. Once on top the going was easier than expected and we were able to scramble over a large boulder field until 50 foot below the summit when the rock became solid and steep. Good holds and hand jams brought us to the summit of Scorpion.

On retracing our steps we realised that we had plenty of time in hand so we decided to climb one of the pinnacles further along the ridge in the north.

'Won't need much gear…' 'This'll be enough…' said John taking a rope and two slings. We scrambled up the boulders towards the top until we were stopped only about 80 foot short where the rock suddenly became vertical. John led off as daring as ever but soon started to show signs that it was hard and that he wanted runners. He belayed on a ledge and Ray finished up the final layback crack to the summit of Shats. It was a large flake of rock with a very painful edge to sit upon. We reversed back down again and retreated back to camp.

27. GORMENGHAST - North ridge (1320m) (60 deg 8` N, 44 deg 40` W). First attempt (unsuccessful) on 14th / 15th July 1975 by R.Sharples, J.Cant, P.Aldred and D.Brown*.

We left Hellhole camp late in the afternoon, planning to bivouac beneath this prominent sharp peak which dominates the valley to the south. In order to reach the mountain we had to repeat our ascent of Scorpion and then descend to the col at about 3500 ft, which we did in about two and a half hours. The weather was deteriorating, however, as we settled down uneasily in our open-air bivouac spaces. As expected the rain soon arrived and after a miserable wet night huddled under various inadequate boulders, we trudged back over Scorpion and down to the warmth of our sleeping bags.

Second attempt (successful) on 18th July 1975 by the same group. Grade: TD-. Time: 18 hours.

We set off at 5 a.m. on a clear cold morning and moved quickly over the crisp snow. The long toil over Scorpion's endless boulderfields was made less tedious by magnificent views of distant peaks glinting in the early morning sun, and we reached our previous bivouac site on the west side of the mountain by 7.30 a.m. A thin covering of wind-blown snow had crystallised on the rocks, but this began to clear in the warm sun.

The west side of the peak consists of a jagged comb-like ridge, and we traversed beneath its pinnacles in four easy but loose pitches. We then crossed over and climbed down a steep chimney to a rising terrace which we followed round until it petered out in the middle of the north-east face. The final four or five hundred feet were steep and promised some superb climbing. John and Alf led off, their route crossing a series of small overhangs via excellent cracks and grooves, before a delicate traverse followed by a steep chimney crack took them in three pitches (all S) to a ledge about 100 foot from the summit. When Ray and I reached the ledge we found them sitting cheerily eating lunch as if they had already reached the top! But they were eagerly anticipating the challenge ahead. The situation was unbelievable - below us a yawning compelling drop of 3000 ft to the brilliant blue lochan and, above, a series of large imposing overhangs.

Eventually Alf led off and, sometimes suspended in spectacular situations, slowly forced his way over the obstacles using four pegs for aid, to an easier chimney which he followed to the summit ridge (VS and A1). Meanwhile, Ray became impatient and decided to skirt the overhangs on an awkward undercut traverse to the right. After many hesitations and retreats for more gear, he finally moved unsteadily round the corner on a shaky peg and scrabbled out of sight. The rope paid out slowly until the reassuring tug and shout came. I began confidently, unprepared for the rigours to come. The shaky peg proved to be decidedly loose and as I edged apprehensively round the corner, I realised what had hampered Ray's normally elegant style - more overhangs and no holds! I scuffed and heaved clumsily on, glad to be held from above, and finally emerged exhausted on the ridge (VS and A1). We traversed, often "au cheval" and joined the others on a spectacular summit. After some acrobatic photography, we set off down - using three superb abseils to the terrace. We retraced our steps, and caught a fine sunset from the upper slope of Scorpion. Looking back towards our peak and beyond out to sea there was the magnificent sight of a full moon above the eerie fog-filled fjords. This day gave us all particular satisfaction - the fine weather, the challenge of the climbing, and success on a peak that had haunted us all since our first glimpse.

28. UMANANGUA (1380m) (60 deg 7` N, 44 deg 37` W). First ascent by J.Cant, R.Sharples*, and D.Brown on 21st July 1975. Grade: AD+. Time: 10 hours.

The impressive rock structure of Umanangua had given us much food for thought since our first arrival in the Hellhole Hollow. Opinion remained divided as to the merits of a bivouac at the foot of the North Buttress or a two-day attempt from the camp. A reconnaissance by Brown and Sharples, however, of the complex west ridge revealed a terrace system leading high up the face.

With Pete Aldred unfit through a shoulder injury, it was a slow threesome cramponing up the snow slopes in the early hours. A few introductory pitches gained access to our line, which could then be soloed to within three pitches of the summit ridge.

On the far side lay the elusive Land of the Towers… the slender brown pinnacles of Maujit Quaquassuassia, a dark brooding Ogre, the horrific red granite walls on the south face of Agdlerussakasit, and a turquoise blue lake set amidst sparkling snow. A few tedious pitches led to a fine summit, where we lay feasting on Mars Bars and spangles and absorbing the view.

(For route taken up Umanangua (28), see diagram at top of this webpage.)



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