Greenland big wall free climbing by British team

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 01/10/2012
Sarqarssuaq Fjord from base camp with the 800m pillar distant left. Olly Sanders
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With expedition grants from the BMC, the Alpine Club, Welsh Sports Association, and Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, Lee Roberts, Dave Rudkin and Olly Sanders completed a new 800m rock route at E5 6b C1 on the northwest coast of Greenland.

Sanders had visited this region, close to Upernavik, before: in 2010 he had made a circumnavigation by sea kayak of the large islands Qaersorssuaq and Nutarmiut, which lie southeast of Upernavik.

During that journey he had stopped off to climb a number of relatively short, new rock routes.

One stop was at the head of the Sarqarssuaq Fjord on the south coast of Qaersorssuaq, where he climbed a six-pitch route named Ford Fiesta at E1 5b.

Sanders had been directed to this fjord by the American-Belgian team that was active in the region at the time, putting up impressive new routes from Bob Shepton's boat Dodo's Delight (all later awarded a Piolet d'Or).

The Belgian Favresse brothers had noted a fine rock pillar on the east side of the fjord, recommending it as an objective to Sanders.

However, on that occasion Sanders felt it rather too ambitious for his team and their available kit, so resolved to return, abandoning the limitations of kayak travel for a pure climbing trip.

With Roberts and Rudkin he was transported to the fjord by local boat and quickly climbed a new six-pitch route on a crag close to base camp, naming it Heroes of Hotness (E3 6a).

Their first serious attempt on the pillar got them above the free climbing crux, and also above the only aid pitch (graded C1), which they feel might go free at around E6, before they bivouacked with minimal gear.

It rained hard and they were forced to make a terrifying retreat, trashing static ropes and making a difficult series of abseils in cold and miserable conditions.

Previous trips to this region had enjoyed stable weather, but this year it was unusually unpredictable. The three later walked to one of the high points on the island, where they got a mobile phone signal and were able to contact Upernavik for a weather forecast.

The report was not promising, but they decided to make another attempt, this time travelling light.

Above their high point lay a loose pitch of E3, after which the climbing improved with great rock and protection on the headwall (E2).

The route was completed in a 12-hour push and named Drowning in a Sea of Light (800m, 20 pitches; E5 6b C1). Apart from the 30m aid section on the fourth pitch, the entire line was climbed free and on-sight, with no bolts or pegs placed.

In the remaining time of very mixed weather, they returned to the first crag and managed to establish another six-pitch route, Palmolive (E1 5b), before calling for an early ride out.

Big wall climbing in this part of Greenland is relatively new. The west side of
Qaersorssuaq island is famous for the giant sea cliff of Sanderson's Hope, a famous navigational headland named in 1587.

It was here that the first big wall route was established on a large sea cliff above the Arctic Circle on Greenland's west coast. In 2000 a three-man team operating from Bob Shepton's yacht put up Arctic First Born (800m, E3 6a A3+).

Shepton, as instigator of technical climbing on this section of Greenland's  coastline, makes a plea that the many remaining pristine walls are climbed without recourse to bolts; several fine and technically very demanding lines have now been climbed without.
 



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Anonymous User
04/10/2012
So how is a route climbed "on-sight" during a second attempt? Sorry, but I call this bs. OS is OS, first try, ground up to the top, no falls, no bails. Probably a great route, but calling such ascents OS is just nonsense plain and simple.
Anonymous User
04/10/2012
So how is a route climbed "on-sight" during a second attempt? Sorry, but I call this bs. OS is OS, first try, ground up to the top, no falls, no bails. Probably a great route, but calling such ascents OS is just nonsense plain and simple.
Robert Rogoz
Anonymous User
07/10/2012
Things are a bit different on big walls than on wee single pitch crags. A lot of free climbing big walls are done by the team aiding/dogging each pitch, toproping it, then redpointing it. Onsighting 19 hard new pitches is damn impressive and deserves a pat on the back rather than begrudgery from the peanut gallery. I suppose technically the article should have read "every pitch on the entire line was climbed free and onsight" but who really cares. Some lads went off, climbed something cool, in very good style and all anyone can do is pedantically dissect the wording of the article in order to call bs.

Anonymous User
08/10/2012
well done lads. What an achievement especially with bad weather. Some people have no idea how demanding it is, mentally and physically to pull of a climb like this in a remote location. Can't wait to see the pics.

SL

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