Alpine Club antics in remote East Greenland mountains

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 30/05/2014
Geoff Bonney and Sandy Gregson on their way to the summit of Kuldefjeld. Jim Gregson
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Supported by a grant from the Alpine Club Climbing Fund (which is sponsored by First Ascent) a seven-member, primarily British expedition has recently returned from making first ascents, ski ascents, descents and traverses in a remote part of Greenland's North Liverpool Land.

This area had been partially explored in April 2007 by a six-member British team including Jim and Sandy Gregson.

Inspired by their report and photos, Australians Natashe Sabire and Gemma Woldendorp also climbed and paraglided in the area in 2012, making a short film, Resounding Silence, which became a finalist at the 2013 Banff Film Festival.

This film rekindled the Gregson's desires to return, so at the end of April, with Geoff Bonney, Peter Chadwick  and Michael Smith (all UK), Alexandre Buisse (France) and Tony Hoare (Canada), they arrived at East Greenland's Constable Pynt airport.

Using Tangent Expeditions infrastructure, the team moved north via snowmobiles for ca 80km to reach their destination on the North Liverpool Land icecap, where at an altitude of 535m they established base camp.

On route, the sighting of a polar bear and two well-grown cubs was a salutary reminder of why they were carrying firearms, flares and pepper sprays.

The weather was generally good throughout but temperatures were much lower than at the same time of year in 2007, with greater winter or recent storm snow cover resulting in more avalanche risk. Many slides and debris fans were seen.

The team split into three groups. Greenland first timers Chadwick and Smith were more interested in seeing as much of the region as possible and whizzed around on Nordic skis, climbing a number of peaks, several of which were first ascents.

Buisse and Hoare embarked on a mixture of climbs, ski ascents and descents, with Buisse using a sturdy knee brace, having ruptured a ligament when caught in an avalanche above Courmayeur just a few weeks before the expedition.

These two pro photographers climbed the Marmotte Ridge of Mt Hulya I (830m) at PD+ and 3pm Attack Nunatak (528m): the latter should have been Noon Attack Nunatak, but the team was a little late leaving camp.

They also tried to traverse the Seven Dwarfs via the 60° north face of Snow White Col, but gave up as the rock was too poor.

The granite and gneiss in this area is generally compact but contains a fair share of loose material. The most impressive wall - the Tower of Silence - lies at the west end of the Seven Dwarfs and was attempted by the Australian women.

Bonney and the Gregsons, who have much experience of climbing together in the Arctic, completed the northwest spur (dubbed Charlotte Road) of Kuldefjeld (980m), which gave a fine 450m ascent at PD+/AD-. Older mountaineers with aspirations will be pleased to note that Bonney is 75.

The Gregsons also made the first ascent of Varmtind (Warm Peak, 750m) and all three repeated several previously climbed mountains, before returning to base camp as sea-level fjords began to fill with immersion fog.

Freezing fog enveloped the area for three days, and then a cold north wind blasted camp with drifting spindrift to produce full whiteout conditions.

Fortunately, it relented in time for them to pack and make a pulk haul across the icecap to rendezvous with the snowmobiles for their return to Constable Pynt.

There is a wealth of striking unclimbed, unnamed peaks, and new lines, still waiting to be done in this part of Liverpool Land and the Gregsons find the possibility of another expedition a very tempting idea.

The Alpine Club Climbing Fund, which is supported by First Ascent, can provide grants to AC members of expeditions that have an exploratory element or are attempting a new or unique project.

This year the fund has been oversubscribed, confirming that the AC is now supporting many adventurous and exciting trips to the Greater Ranges with meaningful grants.
 



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