1975 UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS GREENLAND EXPEDITION
Climbing from Stordalens Havn in Cape Farewell Region
Introduction - Maps - Climbing History - Personal Account - Mountaineering Report - Mountains to South of Basecamp - Mountains to North of Basecamp - Mountains from Desperation Camp - Mountains from Sallies Kitchen Camp - Mountains from Hellhole Hollow - Mountains from Lost Loch Camp - Mountains on Pamiagdluk and the Islands - Mountains in the Nameless Valley of the Land of the Towers - Archaeology - Botany - Equipment Report - Food Report - Financial Report - Travel Report - Medical Report - Photo Gallery - Thanks and Acknowledgements - Later Visitors to Stordalens Havn
Mountains climbed from Lost Loch Camp
LOST LOCH CAMP
Eight hills were ascended from this camp: grades were 1 F, 3 AD, and 3 D. *Asterisk against a name indicates that this person wrote the report.
Diagram showing routes taken up Matterhorn 'C' (32) and Spirifer (29) from Lost Loch Camp
29. SPIRIFER - South-face ridge (1210m) (60 deg 13` N, 44 deg 31` W). First ascents by D.Gaskell and C.Matheson*, and by P.Gribbon, P.Hunt and N.MacKenzie on 14th July 1975. Grades: D- / AD+. Time: 13 hours.
After an early hassle sorting out who wanted to climb that day, five of us set off along the side of the lochan and up an Alpine-type meadow to the snowfield below our objective. Discussion over the route from the campsite suggested that a direct line on the face seemed possible. We soloed up to a sloping grassy ledge and Dave and I picked out a line from here to another grassy terrace. After watching Dave swinging from an overhanging chimney and chockstone, the other three went off to the left.
I had no choice but to follow Dave, and after some tense moments was up with him. A series of black and loose grooves followed on from this, but by now our own route had trended out left to meet the others on the west ridge. Climbing on this section was only moderate, but the occasional exposed or short severe move slowed us down, and we were unable to unrope. After five pitches we expected to be on the summit, but as we reached the visible highpoint we found that a broken ridge led to a spectacular top of diamond-shaped blocks. Much of this was either slabby or overhanging, but to the right Dave chose a difficult crack followed by a delicate traverse to take a stance beside a block. I scrabbled up after him, and a desperate thrutch on a tight rope was enough to unnerve me so much that I gave up the lead. The others on watching my struggles took a fairly easy line up 50 foot to the left, and were already above me as I paid out the rope to Dave somewhere out of sight. By the sound of Dave's voice somewhere above me I knew he had relished in the difficulty of the last pitch. I jammed up a broad groove with some trepidation, and my fears were justified on seeing the actual summit. A preferable route lay out left, but a runner halfway up a narrow crack in a smooth wall decided which way I would have to go. Already a nervous wreck, the last 30 foot almost finished me off. However, as I lay on the summit, I was cheered by watching the other three experiencing difficulty on this last block. Norman reluctantly split up a tin of pilchards, and then we abseiled down the steep block which had given me all the problems. A mixed gully led down the back of the mountain to a high col, and the descent to this was made unroped. We again roped up when we reached the col, as a bergschrund was yawning several hundred feet below us. Phil and Norman expertly paced down the steep snow while I cautiously picked my way from step to step. Edging down the rock into the bergschrund was the last difficulty, and then we were running and sliding down the last snow slopes and down to the lochan in the dark.
30. THE CANINES - East wall (1060m) (60 deg 13` N, 44 deg 34` W). Main tooth: Grade AD+. First ascent by C.Matheson, N.MacKenzie, D.Gaskell and P.Gribbon* on 17th July 1975. Subsidiary tooth: Grade PD. First ascent by S.Clark, P.Hunt and the above party. Total time: 10 hours.
The Canines were two small pinnacles on the western side of the Lost Loch corrie. They lie between the more prominent peaks of the Fang (Peak 22 of 1971 Expedition) and Phineas (Peak 29 of 1971 Expedition).
An interesting mixed route was taken up to the first or subsidiary tooth: it began with steep slabs liberally laced with equally steep greenery, then involved rock noses, snowfields, scree, boulders, and finally ledge-hopping up the rib to the top. Lunch was served, after which the more ambitious party continued northwards along the ridge to inspect the abrupt main tooth. This survey gave four good pitches ending in an airy traverse (S) down onto an equally exposed slab that ran up to the final VS mantelshelf. This party abseiled off the other side to return and join the other members for the descent to camp. Further details are given in the personal account section of this report.
Diagram showing route taken up The Anvil (31) which had first been attempted four years before by the 1971 Expedition
31. THE ANVIL - Southwest wall and North slope (Point 1520) (60 deg 13` N, 44 deg 30` W). First attempt by P.Biggar, R.Mutch, I.Walton, R.Young and A.Stevenson on 12th August 1971. First ascent by D.Gaskell, N.MacKenzie, P.Gribbon* and C.Matheson on 18th July 1975. Grade: D. Time: 21 hours.
This elaborately structured mountain was protected by 3000 ft walls and buttresses rising above the glaciers. Its highest point was a huge anvil-shaped block perched on the largest of the three pinnacles sprouting from its south ridge. It is one of the major peaks in the mountain barrier stretching from Tasermiut to Ilua: it was difficult of access and ascent. It had been attempted unsuccessfully by the north ridge (Peak 25 -1971) by the 1971 St Andrews expedition.
It was ascended by a cunning and serpentine route that crossed the headslopes of the Lost Loch cirque and used the simplest of the numerous steep gullies to climb up to the western spur that fed on to the mountainous rim of the basin. From there the party gained the concave ice slope running up to the final rocks. Combined tactics were used to hoist members onto the anvil block. On descent they were forced to bivouac above the glacier. This was one of the most satisfying ascents made by the Lost Loch team. A more personal account has been provided elsewhere in this report.
Lost Loch Camp with Matterhorn 'C' on left and Spirifer on right. The route up Matterhorn 'C' followed the snow gully and then up the north ridge at the back of the mountain. The south face offers the prospect of a sustained route for a future visitor, and another new line of ascent could be provided by the east ridge.
32. MATTERHORN 'C' - North ridge (1280m) (60 deg 14` N, 44 deg 32` W). First ascent by S.Clark*, C.Matheson, D.Gaskell, P.Gribbon and N.MacKenzie on 21st July 1975. Grade: AD-. Time: 18 hours.
From the advance camp at Sallies Kitchen we had obtained a good view up the long tiresome valley that led to the solitude of the Lost Loch camp. Rising steeply at the far end was a classically-shaped peak that bore a strong resemblance to the better-known Matterhorn in Switzerland. I shall never forget watching it from Sallies Kitchen one evening, when a brezze was dispersing the mist around and below us in the Big Valley, and low clouds drifted ceaselessly in the dusk. Darkness fell slowly on this distant peak, and I was filled with the desire to ascend such a shapely mountain.
A fortnight later we were well-established at our high camp, cut off from the rest of the world, nestled in a lonely arena of mighty peaks. This was for some of us the most intensive part of the expedition, here in a world of our own, falling glaciers, the roaring river, blue skies and solitude. This Matterhorn did not turn out to be a particularly difficult hill, but from the outset it was a top I particularly wanted to stand on.
Some time after 4 a.m. we rose and set off in the half-light that preceded the sun's rise over the mountains; the first hour is always rather dreary and hard to recollect before the morning really breaks, the warmth of the day overtakes you, and you step out of a world of shadows into the sun-glaring rock and snow. It was a slow ascent, for we wasted much time deciding on a route. First we made for the southwest ridge, then skirted round beneath the south face. This face appears to be of sustained difficulty, and would almost certainly mean at least one bivouac, but it should surrender a fine climb to a future party.
We finally ascended by a fairly steep gully separating this hill from Spirifer, to arrive on a flat snowfield at the top, From here we looked up at the southeast ridge which offers an interesting and airy route to the next-comers. We found a more straightforward ascent round the back of the mountain up a north ridge which was on average of V.Diff standard.
on the north ridge
We climbed 6 or 7 pitches which brought us to the astonishing summit of this fine mountain. The final pitch was made from a flat ledge some feet lower and 30 yards short of a razor-edge leading up to a pin-point summit. There were no difficulties, but not all of us were inclined to stand 'no hands' on this very exposed pinnacle. There was scarcely room for one foot, and the cairn was duly raised on the flat ledge below the summit with the mountain falling thousands of feet in all directions. The Matterhorn 'C' was climbed! We abseiled down the rock, and descended the snow gully cautiously, because the snow was still soft after the heat of the day. By 10.30 p.m. we were back to camp and it was dark again.
The pinpoint summit of the Matterhorn 'C' which drops sheer beyond towards Lost Loch Camp. In the background, to the left of the summit, is the corrie where Sallies Kitchen was located. Along the bottom runs the Big Valley (Itivdlerssuaq).
33. RA WALLIES (The Falsies) - East face (1250m) (60 deg 12` N, 44 deg 35` W). First ascent by D.Gaskell, P.Gribbon, P.Hunt* and N.MacKenzie on 24th July 1975. Grade: D. Time: 13 hours.
This is the ungainly broken mountain that lies between Baretop and The Molars (Peak 20 climbed by 1971 Expedition). It was climbed from the east by a route comprising a variety of slab ledges, snow gullies, scree ramps and an impressive rock wall immediately below the summit.
From the 'Shangri-La' camp (Lost Loch) we set out at 10 a.m. through willow scrub and moraine then under slabs to a snow ramp which led to a grassy ledge which was the only obvious route to the gully and ledge system beyond. The traverse of this ledge towards the south gave two roped pitches of no great difficulty. The rope here provided protection in the wet, slippery conditions from a possible nasty run-out. The traverse of this ledge led to a water-washed gully. By this time, the low grey cloud had given way to rain, and overtrousers and cagoules were put on in the worsening conditions. A wet rock pitch was climbed bearing up to the wet snow gully. Route finding became difficult in poor visibility amongst broken rock. A zig-zag route was threaded upwards above the snow via a system of ledges and scree ramps. There then followed a rock pitch over easy-angled, but wet, rock before lunch was eaten amongst the scree. Then up left to a black lichen-covered granite boss right of a large gully. Norman led the first pitch steeply up right of a bulge and onto a small ledge and they called me through to lead onwards.
I climbed gingerly, seeking the large holds amongst the treacherous greasy lichen. Hands were wet and cold and sharp, granite crystals chafed my fingers. Then, I was falling and somersaulting! A foothold spike had sheared off completely. I fell vertically for 15 feet before somersaulting and sliding over the rough granite. My rucksack slipped off my shoulders and dangled from my wrist. Fortunately it caught around a sling and krab which I carried from my neck and so was prevented from falling further. I then realised that I was no longer falling. Norman had held my fall. On a tight rope, I scrambled back up to his belay stance and surveyed the damage and my predicament. I was dazed, grazed and bruised but fortunately suffered no serious injury. While my wounds were tended we realised the seriousness of the situation. The fall had occurred some 500 ft below the summit but a retreat down the ascent route from this position would be extremely arduous. It was therefore decided to climb on and descend to the west. With me between the two tight ropes, we continued.
A short descent into the bog gully gave access to the final difficulties - a steep rock wall to the right of two large pinnacles. Dave led up a steep crack line, obviously relishing the cold, wet rock. It started to snow. Six runners were placed and hence we, his audience, knew that this pitch would be VS at least. To varying extents, we were in turn hauled up this nasty pitch which was made much worse by the weather. The difficulties were now over. We walked to the summit.
Our descent route in the mist followed the easier-angled western slopes down to snow, then south over seemingly endless moraine, before traversing into the neighbouring valley to reach Shangri-La as the night darkened.
On the left is the route taken up Ra Wallies (33). Fang (22 climbed by the 1971 Expedition) dominates the centreground. The route up the Canines (30) can be seen on the right, with Phineas (29 also climbed by the 1971 Expedition) off to the right. The 1971 University of St Andrews Expedition approached these mountains from the other side.
34. THE PRUNE - West route (990m) (60 deg 12` N, 44 deg 32` W). First ascent by P.Hunt* on 21st July 1975. Grade: F+. Time: 6 hours.
This is the nearest and easiest top immediately east of the Shangri-La (Lost Loch) camp. From the lake it looks like a separate summit on its own but it is in fact only a minor top en route to Bolder (35 and 9). It provided 800 ft of cramponing up hard and steep snow and an interesting scramble up its prismatic rock cap.
The stream was crossed easily and a route taken up the boulders. The scree and boulders tended to be wet and slippery and in constant shadow from the sun, but provided access to an obvious snow gully. It was still only 7 a.m. and the snow being in shadow was excellent for front-pointing. The gully opened into the large snowfield which gradually steepened onto the walls of the summit cap. The easiest access to the summit was taken via a loose crack which gave scrambling of Diff standard but without any great exposure. There was then a short easy walk to the top.
On the summit a cairn was built balancing over the precipitous east wall above the seracs of the glacier some thousand feet below. The morning was then spent bathing in the hot sun of a cloudless day before descending in softening snow for lunch.
Diagram showing route taken up past The Prune (34) and Wee Bolder (35) to Bolder (9) on the 2nd ascent of this mountain from the Lost Loch Camp. Bolder had been climbed three weeks earlier from the other side (see report on peaks climbed to north of Basecamp).
9. BOLDER - North-east ridge (1690m) via 35. WEE BOLDER - West ridge (1620m) (60 deg 12`N, 44 deg 30`W). Second ascent by P.Gribbon, N.Mackenzie, and C.Matheson* on 26th July 1975. Grade: D (AD for Wee Bolder). Time: 20 hours.
Bolder was climbed again by a small party with the dubious benefit of a guide who had been on the first successful ascent from the other side. The northwest ridge offered a totally different aspect of the mountain, and the thought of viewing out familiar peaks was appealing. We waded the river on a chill morning, but very soon we were past the swirling mists and the high wisps of clouds promised a good day. Easy snow and rock took us up beyond the Prune (34) and the sunrise over the Anvil silhouetted the long ridge ahead. When we came up to the pinnacles an avoiding route down to the glacier on the right seemed possible, but eventually we decided to traverse them. Difficulties started immediately with an abseil down a smooth slab, and then a series of dangerous unroped moves along a ledge system. The north-facing 'snow slope' turned out to be sheet ice, so after a few steps I retreated and looked to the rocky walls to my right. A delicate finger traverse took me to a severe move up a bulge and crack, but the difficulty was just limited to a short stretch. Norman and Phil followed but traversed out on the right. A messy ledge took us up to a narrow split in the ridge. I took off my rucksack and somehow squeezed through, belaying shortly afterwards due to huge rope drag. We moved down left, then up easy but icy rocks to a sheltered ledge in the sunshine. Having five men's food between three we ate sumptuously, then carried on in a more leisurely pace to another gap in the ridge. We roped up again for safety, then moved across to a broken wall which was again easy scrambling. Crampons were donned once more, and we went up under a blazing sun to the minor summit, a sort of Wee Bolder.
The ridge to the main top, which I had described as 'a mere walk', proved to be a long, airy and roped scramble, but what looked like bad steps were easier than expected. Phil and Norman argued for the right to second the boulder pitch, and I watched Phil pull-up from the familiar overhang. We didn't stay long to admire the view, but abseiled off and linked up as a fast-moving rope of three. I was anxious to get back before dark, but Phil and Norman showed signs of wear (!). We ate another big meal then, slightly rejuvenated, traced back our original route. As we set up the abseils over the difficulties we watched a splendid sunset to the west, with the moon rising over Prins Christians Sund. We traversed round in near darkness, and approached the smooth slabs as the moon shone through the clouds, and the aurora flickered overhead. I picked my way up the shadows on the slab, then brought up the other two. Wrapped in duvets we ate up our remaining pancakes, then crunched rapidly down the snow slopes towards a welcoming light. (Click HERE for another account of this climb in Phil Gribbon's Personal Report on the Expedition.)