British team climb new routes on Greenland's west coast rock walls

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 05/10/2015
Climbing on Starter Walls. Supplied by Bob Shepton
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Supported with an expedition grant from the BMC, a four-man team from the UK, travelling aboard Bob Shepton's yacht Dodo's Delight, has made a number of interesting exploratory rock climbs on the west coast of Greenland.

Dodo's Delight has spent the last four years in the Arctic, and Shepton's goal this summer was to sail it back to Scotland with a crew of British climbers who could pick off new routes as the boat journeyed south down the west Greenland coast.

Dodo's Delight has formed the "basecamp" for many trips to Greenland's west coast, though the most famous are those that took place in 2010 and 2014, when his crew were the "Wild Bunch"; Ben Ditto, Nico and Olivier Favresse, and Sean Villanueva.

In 2010 their exploratory climbs, particularly of the 850m Impossible Wall, completed over 10 days in fine style, gained the entire team a Piolet d'Or.

This summer Shepton's crew were the "Mild Bunch", as the skipper affectionately dubbed them. A team of "non-professionals", Rob Beddow, Patrick Deacon, Trystan Lowe, and Mark McKellar, showed that there is still huge potential for new routes on the west coast for the "holiday climber".

The group first visited Evighedsfjord (Eternity Fjord) where a problem was discovered that would effect the rest of the trip.

Although it was full summer, the mountains were still in winter mode, with snow down to sea level.

According to one local in the area "this year in Greenland winter has lasted longer than in the previous 47".

Unfortunately, the team had only brought rock climbing gear and were therefore limited to walls they could reach without too much of a snowy approach, or having to negotiate glaciated terrain.

Another result of the late winter was that there was still much thawing snow above rock walls, making them wet.

Evighedsfjord is home to Mt Atter (2,190m), the highest mountain on Greenland's west coast and first climbed back in 1956 by Lady Denise Evans, wife of the late Sir Charles Evans of Everest and Kangchenjunga fame.

The area is also an old stamping ground of HW Tilman (who made the first ascent of Agssaussat, the highest mountain on the south side of the fjord). Shepton had dubbed his trip the "Tilman 2015 Sail and Climb Expedition" as a tribute to the great British mountaineer and sailor.

Deacon and Lowe opened their new route tally after discovering Sangmissoq Buttress, where they climbed The Rocky Road to New York (100m, E1 5a).

The boat then moved south to Hamborgerland, where none of the rock walls were previously thought to have been climbed.

Here, the four climbers discovered the Starter Walls, which were largely dry, and on which they put up six new routes from single pitch to 155m, and VS to E3.

After this they moved south to Maniitsoq Island and a smaller island off its southwest corner called Kin of Sal (a strangely English name on Danish maps: in Greenlandic it is the Big Heart, and is also known as the Shark's Fin).

Here, they climbed their best routes; two big bold lines on the steep wall of the main tower. Midnight Sun and Dusk till Dawn were both 280m in length and E4 6a.

On the shorter west-facing wall of the second summit they also climbed Rotten Rabbit (100m, E1 5b) and The Invisible Werewolf (100m, E3 6a), finding the best rock they would encounter on the trip.

Another move south took them to the region of Nuuk, where Beddow and Deacon made the first traverse of a long rocky ridge that crossed the summit of Nakaigajutoq (1,180m).

The pair completed this in a long day - 25 hours boat to boat to be precise - and at a grade of TD.

The final venue was the region around Kap Desolation, where a fine slabby face was discovered and two new routes established: The Lost World (170m, E1 5b) and McKellar's Pilates Masterclass (110m, HVS/E1 5a).

They then set sail for what would be Shepton's 15th Atlantic crossing, to celebrate the year of his 80th birthday.  


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