Australian women make first ascents in Liverpool Land

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 17/06/2012
Natasha Sebire approaching summit of Castle Peak. Mt Mighty is the big peak on the continuation ridge behind. Gemma Woldendorp

Far from home, and well above the Arctic Circle, Natasha Sebire and Gemma Woldendorp have made first ascents and paraglider descents in the far north of Liverpool Land, East Greenland.

The two flew to Constable Pynt, then travelled 65km north by dog sleds along frozen sea ice to the start of a glacier leading up to the icecap and Neild Bugt region.

They used skis and pulks to haul 160kg of food and equipment to a base camp at ca 500m.

This area had been visited in April 2007 by the veteran British Greenland explorer Jim Gregson, who with five other team members made eight first ascents up to 770m.

Gregson noted that there were many more unclimbed peaks in this area, some of which would give fine technical climbing. His published report included a photo of an attractive unclimbed rock tower.

For the two weeks in April that they were at base camp, Sebire and Woldendorp experienced fantastic weather and light winds, meaning they were able to make seven first ascents, flying from the summits of four of these peaks.

The ascents ranged from easy walk-ups, through ski traverses, to mixed snow/rock routes.

The biggest peak at the edge of the icecap they dubbed Mt Mighty (1,001m) and climbed it by a largely snow and rock ridge. The final 55° hard névé slope leading to the summit proved somewhat disheartening, as they knew they would be unable to launch from this terrain.

However, they were delighted to find the opposite side far gentler, and were able to make an exhilarating flight, with fine views down on their ascent route.

Castle Peak (744m) was climbed first by a fine mixed ridge, and then for a second time by an easier route, flying from the summit on both occasions.

It was while making the later ascent that they got a good view of the unclimbed rock buttress.

They had presumed technical rock climbing would be out of the question due to the sub zero temperature (their recorded minimum was -28°C and maximum -2°C), but late one day, after the sun had warmed the rock, they donned rock shoes and gave it a go.

The tower turned out to be surprisingly solid, but longer, harder and steeper than they had anticipated. Eventually, they backed off.

At the end of the trip they skied back to Constable Pynt, the journey lasting  seven days. Subjected to the Arctic high pressure system, during their five weeks in Greenland they lost only five days to bad weather.
 



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