Climbing to the west of Torssukatak Fjord
1975 University of St Andrews South Greenland Expedition: first ascent of Agdlerussakasit, first attempt on Maujit Qaqarssuasia - 1996 British team climbing west of Maujit Qaqarssuasia - 1997 Scottish Torssukatak Spires Expedition: second ascent of Agdlerussakasit, first ascent of Maujit Qaqarssuasia - 2000 British team with Ben Bransby, Matt Dickenson, Ian Parnell and Gareth Parry: first ascent of The Thumbnail - 2000 British Eastern Torssukatak Spires Expedition - 2003 Torssukatak Spires Expedition with Jon Roberts, Dewi Durban, James Mehigan and Richard Sonnerdale: The Cruise Line - 2003 Spanish/Brazilian team with Cecilia Buil and Roberta Nunes: Hidrofilia and first ascent of Maujit Qaqarssuasia east peak - 2007 Polish team with David Kaszlikowski and Eliza Kubarska: Golden Lunacy - 2010 US/Belgian team with Bob Shepton and Dodo's Delight - 2012 Polish team with Alek Barszczewski, Marcin Ksiezak and Jaciek Kuczera: second ascent of Golden Lunacy - 2012 Swiss Torssukatak youth expedition - 2013 US team with Kearney, Scully, Dickey and Brett - 2013 Spanish/Basque team with Andres, Castro, and Escribano - 2014 Belgian pair Siebe Vanhee and Tim de Dobbeleer overland and kayak
2000: British team first ascent of The Thumbnail
with Ben Bransby, Matt Dickinson, Ian Parnell and Gareth Parry. Matt Dickinson had spotted The Thumbnail in 1999 on a guiding trip. 'Thumbnail 2000' was organised and the trip took place in July and August. A 31-pitch all-free direct route (E6 6b 5.12c) was climbed. This was the first route up The Thumbnail (the team did not ascend the highest mountain summit of Maujit Qaqarssuasia). Also on the expedition were Matthew Bransby and Sandy Ogilvie.
Gaz Parry on the original British Route on The Thumbnail in 2000 (photo courtesy of Gaz Parry)
Overview of the 2000 ascent of The Thumbnail
The members of the expedition were Ben Bransby, Matt Dickinson, Ian Parnell, Gareth Parry, Matthew Bransby and Sandy Ogilvie.
The first four of them would attempt to climb The Thumbnail, which is the steepest part of the face of sea-cliffs plummeting down to Torssukatak Fjord from the Maujit-Agdlerussakasit massif, and to this day remains the most challenging route climbed on this face.
They flew from Luton to Keflavik, and then on to Narssarssuaq, from where they travelled by helicopter to Nanortalik, and then chartered a fishing boat. A 4-hour boat journey brought them into Torssukatak Fjord, beneath the sea-cliffs of Maujit Qaqarssuasia, and they made a basecamp on Pamiagdluk Island, directly opposite their objective: The Thumbnail.
From the outset, the expedition hoped to make a completely free ascent, not using drilled protection or belays. They succeeded in this, with climbing up to E6 6b.
On 29th July, they began their first attempt. Good ledges at 200-250m were reached for their first bivouac on the face. However, the weather became windy and rainy, and next morning - with the wall cascading water - they retreated to Pamiagdluk, with a 30-foot Killer Whale circling their dinghy on the crossing.
On 31st July the wall was drying out sufficiently for them to make their second attempt. The early stages went well and were in fact slightly easier than they had expected, but nevertheless really enjoyable. Then came the 13th pitch.
Ian Parnell described how things proceeded well until a huge loose flake 80 feet up the pitch, which was only attached at the top to the mountain. Having overcome it nervously, the flake was loosed and crashed down the cliff. As darkness fell, he rappelled down.
The next morning (August 1st) they completed that pitch, which turned out to be the crux of the climb. They encountered further tricky ground above that, to the overhangs just below the halfway ledges. They made it to the ledges as it got dark.
On August 2nd, they attacked the steep upper tower, setting out fixed ropes for a summit push the next day. Ian and Matt fixed 4 pitches, with in places a dearth of protection. Ben and Gaz (Gareth Parry) fixed 3 more pitches, with some (untypical) poor rock in sections.
On August 3rd the summit push was delayed by rain.
They made a 6 a.m. start on August 4th, and reached the top of the fixed ropes in 3 hours. Next came the climb's steepest pitch, led by Matt with dramatic laybacking. Beyond that, 4 or 5 pitches led to the summit - a narrow ridge with incredible views. Matthew and Sandy had climbed a small hill across the fjord above basecamp, and could see them, able to join in the celebrations by radio. The four on The Thumbnail spent an hour on the summit ridge, setting off down at 5.30 p.m.
Sixteen abseils returned the climbers to the halfway system of ledges. Tragically, the next morning they learnt by radio of the death of Ben's father, Matthew, in an abseiling accident across the fjord.
For an account of the whole expedition, you can read the expedition report (in pdf form). It also includes a detailed diagram of all the pitches on the route.
The original British Route on 'The Thumbnail' (courtesy of Gaz Parry)
First ascent of 'The Thumbnail' - top of the climb (photo courtesy of Gaz Parry)
The Thumbnail, Maujit Qaqarssuasia (photo courtesy of Gaz Parry)
Climbing potential: recommendations
The report describes 'immense potential' and a 'paradise of opportunities' for big wall routes. The right-hand upper wall of The Thumbnail offers potential for aid technicalities.
View down Torssukatak Fjord (photo: Susannah Clark)
View of the Torssukatak sea-cliffs (photo: Susannah Clark) Right-hand peak is Agdlerussakasit
View of the Maujit Qaqarssuasia sea-cliffs from across the fjord (photo: Siebe van Hee)
Website by Susannah Clark
e-mail: thecommunity (at) gmail (dot) com