Climbing from Tasermiut Fjord







John Shade (photo: Ian Walton)


Bob Mutch (photo: Ian Walton)


Mike Jacob (photo: Ian Walton)


Chris Greensmith (photo: Ian Walton)


Pete Biggar (photo: Ian Walton)


Andrew Stevenson (photo: Ian Walton)


Richard Young (photo: Ian Walton)


Ian Walton (photo courtesy of Ian Walton)


Tony Shaw (photo: Ian Walton)


Phil Gribbon (leader) (photo: Ian Walton)














A University of St. Andrews party returned after an eleven-year interval to the mountainous shores of Tasermiut Fjord, where the 1960 St Andrews Expedition had climbed. In six weeks a total of 34 peaks were climbed, 32 of which were first ascents, and our canoes logged over 200 miles under poor conditions. Our party was composed of John Shade, Bob Mutch, Mike Jacob, Chris Greensmith, Pete Biggar, Andrew Stevenson, Richard Young, Ian Walton, Tony Shaw and Phil Gribbon (myself) as leader. We flew from Glasgow via Iceland to Narsarssuaq and went by the weekly coastal boat to Nanortalik. Three weeks of waiting for our shipped equipment and food were spent in perfect weather.

It was mid-July before Base Camp was placed near Taserssuaq Lake on the east shore of Tasermiut. Once supplies had been ferried up the lake, one party slogged through the birch scrub of Qinguadalen and the other party went eastward towards Ilua Sound. Mixed rock and ice peaks with up to 5000 feet of ascent were climbed in the brief fine spells, but being benighted in storms of driving rain and sleet under low cloud were frequent and unpleasant experiences.

At the halfway stage we regrouped for new objectives south of the lake, a low-level party climbing on glaciated summits and a high party on spectacular rock spires. In mid-August a five-day storm plastered all the ridges and walls with fresh snow above 2500 feet; with the best peaks out of condition there was a brilliant spell of clear sunny days and crisp still nights under the glow of the aurora.

Two of the more memorable days were the ascent of Middle Teepee and the traverse of the Madman's Tower: the first involved 900 feet of up to Grade V (UIAA) followed by a chill benightment and a dawn descent, abseiling down a gully that had become a watercourse of rain and gravel sludge; there was some intricate route-finding in exposed situations and a descent down an unknown gully in gathering darkness in the first squalls of an approaching deluge. Both took more than 24 hours. The gradings for the mountains climbed were 7 Is, 16 IIs, 9 IIIs and 2 IVs. We returned to Scotland by the same route on 1st September.

Philip Gribbon



In 2005 Dutch climber Roland Bekendam arrived mid July in the Tupassat Valley at the end of the Kangikitsoq Fjord with Jefta Smit and Sjors Verbrugge. All three climbers then walked up the Qinnguadalen Valley for an attempt on the South Face of Battle Axe (1,852m). This prominent rock peak, which may have another name but was called the Battle Axe by the Anglo-American expedition that climbed it in 2000, was first ascended as long ago as 1957 by a French expedition that achieved many climbs in this region.

On the 1st August the trio climbed three pitches up left to the crest of a spur (4-5), where a line of chimneys and cracks on the South West Face led, in a further four pitches (5-6a), to the summit ridge. Three more easy pitches along the crest led to the pointed summit block. Here, the three discovered a small film cartridge under a pile of stones. Inside was a note from Henri Bouchez from the 1957 French team, and another from four Scottish climbers from a St. Andrews University expedition, who had summited the peak in July 1971.

Book and website of the 1971 Expedition

A book about this 1971 Expedition has been published, and there is also a website which is fascinating and well worth visiting.




(The black and white photos below are all taken/provided by Ian Walton)


(Expedition at Basecamp - left to right: John Shade, Andrew Stevenson, Phil Gribbon - leader, Pete Biggar, Chris Greensmith

Tony Shaw, Richard Young, Bob Mutch, Ian Walton)


(Ice floes, taken from stern of MV Taterak en route from Narsarssuaq to Nanortalik)


(Moving supplies at basecamp, Charmoz B behind)


(Camp 2 looking up Quinguadalen)


(Bergshrund on approach to Splendisk)


(Ian on summit of Splendisk - Spontaneous and Frenchtop behind)


(Looking southwest from Splendisk - down Torssukatak fjord -

the Stordalens basecamp of the 1975 expedition was just to right of climber where the fjord bends right)


(Crevasse on Splendisk upper glacier)


(Richard and Pete on the summit of Snow Maiden - the Anvil behind

was first ascended by Gaskell, Gribbon, MacKenzie and Matheson, July 1975)


(Summit approach on Frenchtop)


(To south from Frenchtop, looking down Torssukatak fjord -

1975 expedition basecamp at Stordalens Havn just out of view to right of fjord -

High Rising centre ground from which The Thumbnail and sea cliffs come into full view)


(Brownie, viewed from Frenchtop)


(Drying out at Camp 2A)


(Quinguadalen from Camp 2A)


(Tasermiut Fjord Camp with Pingasuit)




(Charmoz B from Flounder)


(View to the east from Flounder, looking to Anvil and Snow Maiden)


(Approach to Plowsnod summit)


(Ian, Tony and Richard on Plowsnod summit - Imaka [aka: Ulamersortorssuaq] behind)


(The inscribed boulder at the 1960 St Andrews expedition basecamp)


(View of Imaka, [aka: Ulamersortorssuaq] from the 1960 St Andrews Expedition basecamp)


(A view from basecamp)





On 24th September 2011, the 40th anniversary of the 1971 St Andrews Greenland Expedition was celebrated at the Raeburn Hut near Laggan, with all the expedition members attending. Three had travelled from Canada, and one from California. The party gathered on Friday, and on the Saturday a couple of local hills were ascended. The party cooked themselves a sumptious meal, and a slide show revived memories. The expedition Owl, carved out of a concrete block in Nanortalik by Richard Young, was also in attendance.


Book and website of the 1971 Expedition

A book about this 1971 Expedition has been published, and there is also a website which is fascinating and well worth visiting.




Website by Susannah Clark

e-mail: thecommunity (at) gmail (dot) com