Caton/Rutherford—Tasermiut Fjord, Greenland
Kate and I arrived home safe and sound yesterday after an amazing trip to Greenland. We had some pretty poor weather. Of the 20 days we had for climbing, only 4 days were really climbable (all the other days were rainy or the rock was wet from previous rain).
We took advantage of the few good weather days when we first arrived to climb the British Route on Nalumasortoq (VI 5.12+ 19 pitches, 600m). We did this route in very light style over 1.5 days with a rough bivy on a ledge near the summit. We onsighted all but the two 5.12 pitches and one really wet 5.10 pitch with the second following (not jumaring). The climbing on this route was amazing, nothing easier than 5.10 and many pitches of steep, burly 5.11 hand cracks and offwidths in high quality stone.
We took a much needed rest day after climbing the British Route and then began reconnaissance of our proposed objective, the 600m West Face of an unclimbed spire behind (up valley from) Nalumasortoq. The weather had changed to clouds and low fog, but we spent a full day hiking up valley and onto the glacier that separates the objective spire from Nalumasortoq. After four hours of hiking from basecamp we made it to within 500m of the base of the spire but a very broken section of glacier and badly deteriorating visibility forced us to retreat to basecamp. It proceeded to rain for the next ten days and we were left to weigh out how to best spend our dwindling days in the fjord since it appeared that challenging glacier conditions and the poor weather were going to rob us of the necessary circumstances to complete our intended unclimbed objective.
We hoped to return to the British Route on Nalumasortoq to do the route in a single day and redpoint all the pitches we didn't onsight. We returned to our advanced base camp near the base of the route after 10 days of tent time in the rain at base camp but found the pitches soaked and a bunch of rockfall brought on by the rain was occurring alarmingly close to the route. We retreated to basecamp and then it began raining again for several more days.
With our time running out we shifted our focus, deciding to put our energy towards climbing the most inspiring and well-known feature in the area, Ulamatorsuaq. We spent two days climbing War and Poetry VI 5.12c 31 pitches, 1000m. The first half of the route is delicate and intricate mostly 5.11 and some 5.12 slab climbing. We onsighted 13 out of the first 15 pitches with the second following (not jugging). When we got to the tiny bivy ledge at the top of pitch 15 the weather began deteriorating, with thick clouds, an icy wind and some rain. We knew this would be our last chance to climb anything before having to go home, so we waited it out and luckily things improved by the following morning after a surprisingly good sleep on a surprisingly terrible ledge (amazing what being utterly exhausted will do). We realized we were going to have to pick up the pace in order to climb the rest of the pitches to the summit and rappel all 31 pitches in a single day. We switched to a combination of free and french-free leading tactics in order to motor through the three 5.12 pitches and a bunch of burly 5.11 offwidths and squeeze chimneys. We also switched to having the second jumaring in order to save time and energy. Much to our dismay, a wind and rain storm hit when we were only four pitches from the summit. Determined to make it to the top we kept moving and luckily the difficulty of the last few pitches was such that they were climbable in the wet and cold conditions. We made it to the summit at around 9:30 at night and spent the whole night rappelling the route in a variety of miserable conditions including wet and windy, dry and windy, calm and pouring. Touching down at the base of the route at around 5:00AM we were exhausted but so thrilled to have been able to climb such an iconic route on a stunning feature.
Two days after we finished War and Poetry, the boat picked us up and we began making the long journey home. Despite the bad weather, I couldn't have dreamed of a better trip. The country of Greenland was fascinating and beautiful, the people we met on our travels were kind and helpful, and the scenery and rock were a climber's dream. Kate and I made a great climbing and travel team and I am already looking forward to doing another trip with her. I would also like to return to the Tasermiut Fjord with more people and more time (and hopefully a better weather forecast) to attempt a route on the feature we had hoped to climb on this trip.