Monday, 28 May 2007

Greenland Part 7

12 May

Time to get back in the powder again...
We skinned back up past our tracks from a few days ago, and headed up the next available line. Still holding perfect powder on pitches up to solid 50˚ we were stopped at 2/3 height by an impassable crevasse. Still, plenty of space to get some more faceshots...

Hiking the steeps:

Guy dodging slots:

Simon in the soft stuff:

13 May

Our last full day on the ice. Unbelievably the weather was still good, though the mornings had been progressively colder (-30C this morning), so time to finish the trip in style. We skinned back up towards Gunnbjorn Fjeld then hung a left aiming for a new peak (pt 3220m) on the ridge between Cone and Pk Osterreich. 3 days previous Oli & I had spotted a couple of potential lines dropping the far side of this onto the Dome/Cone glacier.
A bit of tentative peering over cornices and we located the slope we were after. An icy sideslip in on a 50˚ slope took us back onto some more great spring snow on a wide open face.

Pk Osterreich:

Oli in action:



Looking back at our line:

And that was it. 9 perfect days of skiing, 11 days of perfect weather in a row. No polar bears, only Guy & Steph's snoring disturbing the peace of the Arctic 'night'.
Next day the Twin Otter was back, and we flew back out with fantastic views of the coast and the pack ice, still present for a good few miles off the coast:

Greenland Part 6

10 May

Up and at'em early again today. Guy & Steph went of to repeat our couloir from yesterday, while Oli & I headed for the far corner of the glacier (2.5 hours skinning later...) to have a look at the south face of the west ridge of Deception Dome.

The face is just beyond the right hand skyline:

A tricky bergschrund led to the slope (45-50˚) which was in good spring condition mostly until 100m from the top where the underlying ice started to appear. After bravely (or foolishly?) trying to press on through common sense prevailed and we teetered about swapping from crampons to skis (always a pleisure on hard 50˚ slopes)

Oli trying to thread the eye of the needle through the ice patches:

Once we got going though the skiing was awesome, continuously steep right back down to the 'schrund:

11 May

Another day another peak...

This time we were headed for Pk 3175 and its unclimbed South Face. A stunning skin up through seracs and crevasses landed us at the bottom of the face. Once through the rock bands in the middle of the face the ice started to appear again (funny that!), forcing us to don skis just short of the summit rocks. Once again the ski down was fantastic, great spring snow, an exposed upper section above the rocks, then great powder back down through the seracs.

Pk 3175 on the left of picture: The south face is just beyond the right hand skyline:

Approaching Pk 3175:

Part way up the south face, below the rock bands:

Guy ripping some curves:

Greenland Part 5

The afternoon routine:

Get back from skiing and get the stove going straight away. This will keep cranking for the next couple of hours: melting water for drinks, melting water for dinner, melting water for tomorrows water bottles...

Get everything damp out in the sun for as long as its still warm, inner boots, gloves etc etc. The tent is like a greenhouse (+25C on a good day) so is kept shut to try and conserve heat for later. Eat as much as possible (easier said than done after a few days of dehydrated meals...) and then get sorted for the morning. Generally we've been in the tents by about 8.30pm as the temperature starts to plummet.

Temperatures overnight are dropping down to -30C so inside the sleeping bag with me are inner boots, water bottles, batteries, skins etc etc No need for headtorches to read with, as the sun is still shining on the tent! Everyday it is noticeably higher, and although it does actually set (currently 10.20pm ish) it is bright daylight right through the night.

9 May

Oli and myself set off to climb a couloir on the south side of the ridge we hit yesterday, while Guy and Steph had a rest day. A sweaty climb for an hour and a half saw us back at the shoulder on the ridge, this time preparing for a steeper ski. The couloir gave good spring snow, with steady angles about 45-50˚ and an aesthetic skiing line.
(400m @ 45˚+)

Oli breaking trail:

Good steep spring snow:

Greenland Part 4

8 May

Into the rhythm in the mornings now...wake up at 6.30 am, get the stove on to melt water, and back to bed for 30 mins while it melts/boils. Make a brew, then start melting more snow for breakfast (mmmmm, yummy dehydrated meals....). If we're lucky we'll be out of the tents and on the move just after 8. Temperatures are quite cold at this time, -25C or thereabouts at 7 am, but its the best option timing wise to not end up skinning in the heat of the day, and to be back in camp in time to use the afternoon sun to dry out boots etc.

Today we headed up to ski a line I'd spotted en route to GBF, picking a way through some rather sizable crevasses and squeezing between serac bands. This gave a fantastic descent in perfect powder with pitches up to 45˚.

Guy drops a knee:

Greenland part 3

Picking up from part 2 We reached the summit in perfect conditions, blue skies and barely a breath of wind. View is just breathtaking, a perfect panorama of this part of Greenland, mountains and glaciers as far as the eye can see, and a hint of the icecap in the distance.

Guy, Oli, Steph and I skied from the summit down the SW ridge, making what we believe is only the 2nd full descent of GBF, with Steph making the 1st female descent.
The ridge, although not to steep (45˚ max.), gave very variable snow in an exposed position (cliffs to the left, big seracs on W face to the right), alternating ice and hard-pack, with crust, and a few turns in perfect deep soft snow...

A long slide down the glacier gave us time to spy future lines on the way back to BC.

May 6

Still adjusting to the 24 hour daylight (sun still shining at 10pm currently). Although it is constantly light there are large daily temperature changes (~ -30 at night to +5 during the day). After a late start today we turned back at the bottom of the S face of pk 2793 as it was way too hot and the snow was getting dangerously soft.

Approaching Pk 2793:

May 7

An early start today (6.30am wake-up). Back over to Pk 2793 and up the S face/SW ridge. 500m of booting in crusty snow saw us on the summit (unclimbed possibly?).
An hour of waiting for the snow to soften and we skied back down the line of ascent, first in crust on the ridge, then better spring on the face itself. (500m @ 45-50˚)

Summit ridge:

On the South Face:

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Greenland Part 2

May 5

Following our rigorous regime of coffee, cakes and beer in Akureyri, we decided to acclimatise with a blast up Gunnbjorn Fjeld (GBF).

At 3673m GBF is the highest peak North of the Arctic circle, and is often referred to as the '8th summit'. Despite its modest height, its northerly position and the sheer remotness of the location make it a fair challenge. So far GBF had only received 1 complete ski descent at the hands of 2 Norwegian skiers.

GBF from basecamp, massively foreshortened, the summit some 1500m above us:

The skin up to GBF is actually mostly a long boring plod up a low angle glacier, albeit in exceptional surroundings. The last 350m of the SW ridge giving some interest.

Views of the summit ridge:

And finally on the summit in perfect conditions:

to be continued...

Greenland Part 1

4 May 2007

3 days of waiting in Akureyri in N. Iceland for bad weather in Greenland to clear... Coffee and a cake costs £10, large beer is about £7, this isn't a cheap stay!...
Finally we get the nod, and we're off.

On the Twin Otter. Yes that is a 200 litre drum of aviation fuel strapped in front of us, makes the EU '200ml of fluid' regulations seem a bit silly really:

Inbound, just after the coast:

Arrival at Gunnbjorn Fjeld base camp, 2200m, and just short of 69 degrees North:

Base Camp:

to be continued...

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Greenland summary

I'm now back in France after a successful expedition in Greenland. In the company of Guy & Oli Willett and Steph Lightfoot we spent 10 days in the Watkins Mountains in near-perfect weather, having waited 4 days in Iceland for bad weather to clear from the area.
The delay was worth the wait as the storm had deposited a good couple of feet of fresh snow with little or no wind, creating perfect conditions for us on arrival. Although temperatures were cold (down to - 30C ), we enjoyed clear blue skies and very light winds for the whole trip.
The team made the 2nd complete ski descent of Gunnbjorn Fjeld, at 3673m the highest peak in the Arctic and often referred to as the "8th Summit", but the most interesting skiing was to be found in the surrounding peaks, with 8 first descents being made on a mix of faces, ridges and couloirs up to 50ยบ. Day by day accounts with pictures will follow shortly, and keep your eyes out for a Ridestyle Productions film of the trip, out this autumn at a mountain film festival near you.