There’s part of me that’s reluctant to post this, as it was a lot of fun to research the area before our trip in the summer. However, I thought it would be useful for the climbing community to have the information recorded here. Hopefully it can help teams to locate possible first ascents and to improve on the style of previous ascents.
Information was gathered from the Alpine Club library in London, Tony and Sarah Whitehouse, numerous blogs and reports and finally from a collection of topos and other information kept in Nanortalik by Niels Jepsen. Niels also helped us to organise boat transfers and shipping and provided a point of contact in Greenland in case of emergency.
One issue I encountered in Greenland was that the lack of information about routes made choosing ascent tactics very difficult. With a detailed topo and pitch grades you can estimate times and decide whether you will need to take multiple days, whether you’re going to need aid gear, whether to carry bolts and pitons and so on. I had never really appreciated just how much information a guidebook gives you in these terms. Even knowing how to approach the routes is tricky.
|The main peaks in the Fjord using the climbing community’s names.|
The logistics of climbing any of the routes with a vague topo or no pitch grades meant that it was very difficult to pick a good objective for a repeat. It’s also useful to have an indication of whether bolts will need to be replaced, as carrying a makes a big difference over a one day attempt. As I found when drawing the topo for our new route, getting all of this information into a topo is very hard on a long route!
I share this database so that if you’re visiting the area you can glean some useful information from it. If you’ve been to the area you can add comments to the sheet to update and I will add these in when I can. If there’s information mentioned in it which you can’t find then let me know.
A side note to this is that I was shocked at the number of bolts in Tasermiut. It’s not like there are sport routes, but it is the norm to bolt belays and add bolts to runouts on pitches. We clipped plenty of these, many of them were necessary to make the climbing feasible. I felt troubled by this all the same. It seemed like many of these adventures wouldn’t be possible without some of the bolts, but that the act of new routing in itself is seen to justify littering this beautiful landscape. While this is a wild and unusual place to visit that impact is minimal, but it can only grow. We were lucky to not need to place any bolts on our new route. Natural belays were always available and we were able to descend a neighbouring route. I’d ideally like it to stay that way. Leaving our route bolt free makes for a more committing ascent and the simple fact is that they aren’t necessary on this line, given the chance to descend nearby. I was doubly glad that we didn’t need to place any bolts as in retrospect the bolts we took were not suitable. They would have served our own needs, but rusted quickly and potentially not been of use to future parties. If I were to go again I would take a drill and 12mm bolts, the only responsible thing is to place equipment which will last – the other teams present appeared to have better bolts than us in this regard.
We travel to these places because they are wild. I, along with other members of my team, felt a sense of guilt at even being there. Basecamp is littered with small paths, there is cave stuffed with useful bits of wood, chairs, fishing rods and even a table. Each of these impacts on their own is small, but the bigger picture is that if we aren’t conscious of what the limit should be then we lose some of the reason for going. At the bottom of Ulamertorsuaq there was a surprising amount of detritus, old carabiners, an old water canteen, a broken trekking pole, long lengths of tat. It’s true that recovering something dropped from the face is a difficult task. I can hope that these objects were simply newly uncovered remnants from the past and that other teams remove some detritus in their turn too.
It’s unfortunate in mountaineering and climbing that the old mantra of “Leave nothing but footprints” is so hard to follow. In order to carry out our task safely some bolts do need to be placed, if only for descents. I think we should be troubled by that still. We need to recognise that everything we have to abandon on a hill is litter and limit it to what is necessary and what is durable. I’m certainly not innocent – we had to abandon tat, some nuts and cams on routes while we were out there.