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.
|Our new route. It was climbed in a 13 hour push with a bivi on the summit and a 6 hour abseil descent. Pitch grades were hard to decide, but there are a few sections of E1/2 climbing in the first half, with most of the route being sustained at VS and HVS. It starts at a shallow right facing flake line 50m left of the heart on Les Temp Sont Durs.|
|Harry on Pitch 3 of Grand Wall, 5.11a, Squamish, British Columbia|
The article is about capturing the deep sense of well being that I get from climbing. It’s elusive. I don’t seek it every time I climb, but it is the thing which makes climbing special for me. Those days spent with friends where you feel a real sense of peace with the world, and that paradoxically, a seemingly stressful hobby can actually produce a very calm result.
A collection of photos from my trip to Greenland this summer. Every time I go on a trip I think I should take a photography course before the next one. I got a few decent photos though, even if they don’t do the place justice!
You can read a report of the trip on UKClimbing.com
So, the real reason I was so keen to climb in Pembroke this Easter, and also keen to get a few quiet days there, was to investigate my pipe dream.
|Oli Grounsell on From a Distance, E7 6b, Point Blank follows the chalk to the top of the photo, and then heads left.|
I feel like I’m always saying “I’ve wanted to climb this for years!” – which is true, but perhaps a sign that I’ve been climbing for a long time now. Routes in Pembroke like Pleasure Dome, Bloody Sunday and Zeppelin were on my horizon for a long time before I climbed them. I’d seen photos of all of them before I saw them in the flesh, and knew they were the classics to aim for at a grade which seemed attainable.
Point Blank is slightly different. I first became aware of the line when I walked past Stennis Ford for the first time a decade ago, before it had been climbed. It’s the first really impressive face you see as you walk west from the carpark, and it was the first really impressive, steep and blank bit of rock I’d ever seen. I was totally struck by the smooth wall. “Cauterised by a laser” is how Tim Emmett puts it, it’s such a striking challenge. I was amazed that it hadn’t been climbed – I never really thought I’d be able to climb it, but I’d never been so struck by a challenge like that.
Dave Pickford made the first ascent in 2009 – leaving From a Distance after its second crux and questing off leftwards into the blank wall. I was surprised that it was “only” E8, not a superhuman grade. It still seemed off the radar, but I slowly got fitter from sport climbing and it turned from a pipe dream into something which only my own indiscipline and motivation could prevent me from doing. After climbing Yukan II last year, and getting close on Body Machine, I decided I should target at least giving Point Blank a good go this year.
My first foray was a brief visit on a cold, but sunny, day in December. I abbed the line and checked the gear and some of the moves. Verdict – It seemed feasible.
|Selfie in Stennis Ford – Point Blank is the face slightly left of the pink rope|
Then over Easter I abbed it again, this time looking more closely at the upper wall, which I’d avoided before on the basis that if I couldn’t climb the first 2 cruxes, what was the point in trying the third? This time I looked closely, I brushed a bit of chalk on some of the harder-to-see holds and worked out a plan. I wasn’t very hopeful, it was covered in poor footholds and sidepulls, it looked a bit unlikely. I decided next go to just try as hard as I could with the sequence I thought would work, and really surprised myself by linking the section from before the last gear to the end of the hard climbing. I was totally elated! It was so unexpected I couldn’t believe it. I had another go and refined the sequence, but this was really starting to feel possible.
|Looking down the wall from the finishing crack of From a Distance|
The following week, after the bank holiday crowds had left, I dropped the rope down it again. Over the weekend it had seen a number of ascents, ground up attempts too. It was well chalked and this helped me to see some other possibilities. I started to work on the lower section, with one particularly hard move, and tried to link from the good rest through to the easy climbing, with limited success. I think I’ve had a better idea for how to shake on this section though, and despite my initial concern, I found a way to clip the good thread at the end of the runout before doing the hard sequence past it.
So the state of play at the moment: I reckon I could get From a Distance done on the next visit – I’m a little undecided about whether to do this and take the safe tick, or to just go all out and go straight for Point Blank. The latter makes sense, but it’s good to have progress markers to motivate you. A few fruitless trips could be frustrating.
|The headwall on Point Blank|
So now, I can’t get the moves out of my head. I’m nailing it every time I visualise it, which is promising, I’m nursing a minor wrist strain at the moment, it remains to be seen if I’ll get a chance to head back before heading for a summer in Squamish, but I’m looking forward to returning.
|Tired but positive|
Here’s a short video of the headwall:
An article I wrote for the University of Nottingham’s Journal this year.
|A recently developed crag. Robin leading a great E1|
|At the top of our new route, “The Grymt Slut from Sheffield” – Translates as the grim/awesome finish…|
|Rape (a type of snuff) at Hallinden|
|A relatively new crag, Jonas following an E1 crackline.|
|The steep wall at Hallinden, home of Afterburner (a classic E3)|
|Having a wash near the hut.|
|Lowering off a route at Hallinden. Pretty steep, but this one was only about HVS!|
|Granite Bitten, about E3 5c, Swedish 6+|
I was lucky enough to have a week of sunshine! On rainy days, or if your skin needs a rest, there is lots of sightseeing to be done in Bohuslan. You could also take a trip down to Gothenburg, or even Oslo for the day. Canoeing is probably pretty fun around the peninsulars too.
|Fun in the Sun|
Sometimes it’s hard to measure your own progress in anything. As a teacher I’m aware that I’m getting better at my job, but it usually takes someone else to point out to me the things that I’m doing to help that. After a while things become instinctive, and you don’t really notice the things that you do out of habit.
It’s similar with my climbing. In the last few years I’ve tried hard to recalibrate my self-perception. I decided that in order to progress as a climber I had to see myself as a work in progress, and apply the same principles from my pedagogy to my climbing that I would if I were giving feedback to a pupil. I had to view myself as an athlete, and work hard to maintain the things I was already doing well while all the time thinking about what minor changes should I make to do them better. The minor part is important – I see my pupils making progress in the classroom all the time, but I also see them getting disheartened if they can’t access a problem immediately. The minor changes are themselves a motivates, making micro adjustments to what you’re doing gives you a constant stream of achievable goals, and while measuring your progress might be hard (especially for me in the limestone off season) it’s easy to at least see you achieving something.
Last summer I put a winter of reasonable if slightly disjointed training to good use. I threw myself at a range of different routes, I onsighted quite a few E4s, and a couple of E5s. I succeeded in breaking the spell that the grade had, but not completely. I was terrified setting off on Resurrection at the Cromlech. I’d psyched myself up to try Right Wall, which was unfortunately wet. The change of focus was hard, although Resurrection should be easier, and safer, I’d always been nervous of attempting it. I climbed very cautiously, I spent a long time on the route and got the onsight, but I was a mess of lactate by the top. A confident approach and I’d have flown up it.
I ticked through routes at the Cornice – losing a bit of focus in the process. The point of the Cornice was to get fit to try Body Machine again. Throwing laps on some of the easier routes would have been ideal, but I got sucked into redpoint projects, with some success. I made quick redpoint of a bunch of routes I’d once considered hard. Cosmopolitan, Bored of the Lies and Cordless Madness (second go – although I grabbed the chain at the top, I couldn’t face doing it again.) A return to Body Machine saw me feeling strong on the moves, doing the crux statically and consistently, and still getting my arse kicked on the top section. Eventually I got ill just at the point where success was near, it had to be put off for another year.
|Yukan II at Nesscliffe|
After accepting temporary defeat again from Body Machine my mind turned to what I should focus on for 2015. I realised I hadn’t really be focussed on the goals I wanted. I had a very successful summer, but there were a few long term objectives in the back of my mind that were beginning to feel more possible. I redpointed Yukan II (E6/7 6b) at Nesscliffe in August, the gains in strength from a visit in June were massive, and I realised that I could aim higher if I wanted. I went home disappointed at not having investigated Gathering Sun in the upper quarry, or brushing one of the big E5/6 routes to try for a flash.
There were two routes that surfaced from the depths that had always fascinated me. Master’s Edge at Millstone and Point Blank in Stennis Ford. I went to investigate ME in October, and after a couple of sessions did it clean on toprope, only to not yet find an opportunity to return in the dry to finish the job. Point Blank had been simmering for years – this is probably the one line which has inspired me more than any other. I remember seeing the face on my first visit to Range East in 2005. It’s such an obvious feature, and I wondered why it hadn’t been climbed, perhaps it was just too hard? I could pick out the line that I’d follow on the face, although I never looked any closer to see if it was possible. It turned out it wasn’t too hard as Dave Pickford made the first ascent, and it’s seen a slew of ground up ascents since. At the time it was certainly hard enough to be off my radar, but when he made the FA and gave it a grade of E8 my first thought was that it didn’t seem totally ridiculous, not as high a grade as I expected anyway.
|Salmon Left Hand at Bamford|
I made a point of telling people my plan – that I was going to spend the winter training with this route in mind. I felt that if I shared it then I’d be committed – I’d feel stupid if I didn’t at least make a good go of getting it done. As it stands I think I’m making progress towards this goal. The sort of fitness that might see me up Body Machine would also get me up this, and a brief foray on an ascender in December confirmed my suspicions, that it’s a feasible objective for me. Whether I can pull the whole thing together remains to be seen, but I’m pretty motivated, and having looked at the route more closely now it feels within reach. Here’s hoping for some good weather at Easter.