Shark's Teeth and Fox Jaws in East Greenland

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 22/10/2014
The northeast face of the Shark's Tooth. The Swiss-Italian team followed the prominent corner system directly below the summit. Matteo Della Bordella
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A strong Swiss-Italian trio has climbed a major, big wall, free route on the Shark's Tooth in southeast Renland, while further south in the Fox Jaw Cirque a British team put up four new rock routes.

The Shark's Tooth first came onto the radar after photos of this impressive granite tower were published by veteran Arctic pioneer Dick Griffiths, who in 2007 led an army of West Lancashire Scouts on an exploratory expedition to Renland.

Griffiths captured photos of several impressive spires, one of which sported a huge vertical granite wall, which he estimated, almost correctly as it happens, to be around 1,000m high.

First to take up the challenge was the Dutch big wall team of Martin Fickweiler and Gerke Hoekstra, but on arrival in 2009, they were unable to access the Shark's Teeth Glacier due to impassible rivers.

In 2011 the wall attracted the attention of the accomplished Russians Mikhailov and Alexander Ruchkin, who arrived in mid April so they could travel by skidoo across sea ice.

They had no portaledge and immediately saw the wall had few possible bivouac sites.

With sea level temperatures down to -20°C, the pair opted for a faster, lighter ascent of the northwest ridge.

They completed this 900m climb, which they named Dance on Tiptoes, at 6c A2 50°, so making the first ascent of the summit.

This year Matteo Della Bordella (Italian), Christian Ledergerber and Silvan Schüpbach (both Swiss) opted to climb in August, and used kayaks to make a multi-day autonomous approach.

They rather quickly realized that a few days' practice of basic paddle strokes on a lake at home was no preparation for a passage of Scoresby Sund - the longest and one of the deepest fjords in the world - from the airstrip at Constable Pynt. 

The three found the sight of the Shark's Tooth's northeast wall inspiring, strengthening their resolve to climb it without aid.

Remarkably, they took only three days to reach the summit, on the second night enjoying a spectacular portaledge bivouac in the middle of the face.

They completed the route, The Great Shark Hunt (900m, 7b+) in 25 pitches, all on-sight, and then descended the Russian route. Nothing remains on the wall except two bolts, one of which was used for hanging the portaledge.

In contrast, the Fox Jaw Cirque, much further south, has seen plenty of traffic over the years, mostly due to an attractive rock climbing potential and ease of access.

It is an array of spires lying immediately south of the Trillingerne peaks, and not far from the head of the Tasiilaq Fjord. One hundred kilometres to the south, the village of Tasillaq is conveniently situated close to the commercial airport of Kulusuk.

The first known ascent in the cirque took place in 1998, when Americans Dave Briggs and Mike Libecki climbed a formation they dubbed The Molar by a 465m route at 5.10 A2+.

They named the cirque because the spires looked like a row of teeth on the jawbone of an Arctic Fox, the same species that also ate most of their food.

Supported by the BMC and MEF, Cath Alldred, Sion Brocklehurst, Rob Durran, Pat Ingram and Simon Smith spent five weeks in this area, during which time there was no more than two days of rain.

This remarkable weather allowed them to climb five routes, four of which were new. In addition they attempted five more new lines and one established route.

Attention concentrated on the smallest and most westerly tower, Baby Molar (a.k.a Milk Tooth Spire, 1,100m), where on the south face the team put up Days of Miracle and Wonder (seven pitches, E2 5c), The Long Distance Call (seven pitches, E4 5c), and Back Alley Dentistry (five pitches, HXS 5b/c). They also repeated the seven pitch, 2007 American-Canadian route, Tooth Fairy (5.8).

In the middle of the group they established Rampant on the Left Rabbit Ear (nine pitches, E4 6a).

They tried additional lines on Baby Molar, as well as on the Molar and Cavity Ridge, but were shut down, mostly due to meeting hard and unprotectable, or very poorly protected, granite.

They also made three attempts to repeat the 2007 American-Canadian line Beers in Paradise on the Incisor, the high point being the top of pitch 10 on this 12-pitch route.

On one occasion they were unable to find the line above, while on another Smith fell when he dislodged a block while placing gear, breaking his heel.

Good summer weather and warm temperatures in the fjords of Greenland have the downside of encouraging large numbers of rampant, over-sized mosquitoes, but the Cirque and massive walls of neighbouring Trillingerne and Storebror still hold much potential.
 



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