GREENLAND 2002 - DISPATCH 6: Turned Back!!!

Last night we skied 90 minutes to reach the base of the attractive ice pyramid that so dominates the horizon. After swapping skis for crampons we belayed our six person group up a pitch of ice which lead to a rocky couloir and scramble which brought us to the shoulder of the peak at around 9:00 p.m. We broke up into two rope teams until we reached an ice and snow face. The north ridge to our right was the initial goal but the rock was poor and steep up high. Much of the rock here is loose volcanic rock that it is difficult and unreliable.

We worked up the central snow/ice face cramponing one hundred feet higher. We quickly realized that it was steepening and that the ice was really a thin glaze over more loose rock. Snow stakes and ice screws would be pyschological only. We traversed over to the north ridge and reassessed. I decided to take a quick look around the other side to see if the south ridge was doable. We had seen something from that side from the aerial survey photos. I unroped, crossed the face, and regained more loose rock on the opposite side. I gave it a good go, but at one point I found myself riding a descending pile of scree heading for the glacier far below. In Greenland it is not easy to forget how remote you are. The way out is a Twin Otter flight 24-36 hours away at the very earliest, but it is only after someone is able to get back to base camp and the radio in. One rule of thumb is to climb at least one grade below your max ability. Some do this and some do not.

I retreated back to my group that was now cold to the bone. We were disappointed but had no doubt that we made the right decision given the circumstances. Tonight most of the team will ski out to a group of fantastic nunataks out to the southwest. The formations look like dragon teeth puncturing the mantle of ice. At their base are 100 foot wind scoops forged by the powerful katabatic winds. This journey will also give them a chance to survey the southwest side of our pyramid peak. Perhaps there is a anther way up.

James and I will attempt one of the other major summits a hour and a half ski from camp. We should have some more news soon. Talk soon, David Keaton.


GREENLAND 2002 - Niels Holgersen Nunatakker Introduction