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planetFear - Articles - Greenland: New Route on Thumbnail

Greenland: New Route on Thumbnail

Article by Brian McAlinden
Friday 14th September 2007

On August 14th 2007, Polish alpinists David Kashlikowski and Eliza Kubarska completed a new route on the granite walls of Maujit Qaqarssuasia (also known as the 'Thumbnail') which is situated in the Torssakutak fjord area at the very tip of South Greenland. Below is Davidís report on the route.

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Summary: Golden Lunacy, Max difficulties: UIAA VIII+ (F7a+). 2 km long, of which 1500m was on vertical wall.

Mt Qaqarssuasia (Thumbnail) supposedly the highest sea cliff on the planet with the line of Golden Lunacy. Photo David Kaszlikowski - verticalvision.pl

The Thumbnail wall is 1500m high and rises straight out of the Torssakutak fjord - no beach, no landing zone. Generally considered to be the tallest sea cliff in the world it is only reachable by boat. Despite the fact that our team was rather small, 2 people, we decided to travel through the fjords by kayak as we felt that in this way we were still able to explore the cliffs but also have an adventure. Travelling this way we would also have to conquer the fear of falling into the water, as capsizing in this area, especially with so small a team, could mean hypothermia & death within minutes due to the extremely cold temperatures.

The 2km approach to the wall. Photo David Kaszlikowski - verticalvision.pl

After travelling deep into the fjord, we set up base camp on Pamialluk island with around 2 kmís of water splitting the island from the cliff. Unlike other teams that have scaled the wall, we worked alone without support from the mainland. The first problem we faced was finding a place where we could safely leave the kayaks and easily return to after sending the route. Once found, it was then necessary to traverse back to the chosen line of climb.

Starting onto the Thumbnail from the Kayaks. Photo David Kaszlikowski - verticalvision.pl

After climbing the first 600 m, it turned out that in order to climb past the spectacular overhangs, aid climbing was necessary. Our goal was to free climb, not aid, so we made the decision to abseilback down two pitches, abandoning a wonderful 7a pitch. We abseiled down to a ledge looking for other possibilities, finally climbing past the roofs a bit to the left. We were pretty lucky with bivouacs on the wall, each night by pure luck we'd find some sort of a ledge.

Three days on the wall later we reached a big terrace/ledge that split the mountain in two. The same day the weather went bad and after spending the night under a big boulder in the storm, we decided to retreat back to base camp. After traversing trough a system of ledges towards easier terrain, and descending on ďvertical grassĒ, we found ourselves in a snow-couloir.

From here the rest of the descent was pretty dramatic with constant rain showers, steep snow, crevasses 10 meters wide & finally a river thundering underneath the snow. Walking through the narrow snow passages in light approach shoes, with a hook or hammer instead of ice-axes totally psyched us out. We knew that if one of us slipped the rope wouldn't do much good. Our greatest fear was to fall into a crevasse with the river running underneath.

Escape from the coulouir with abseils between waterfalls and steep rock walls.. Photo David Kaszlikowski - verticalvision.pl

We hadn't taken crampons or ice-axes as we didn't want to carry them on the wall and because the couloir looked easy in good weather. Now with the weather turning for the worse all of this changed completely. Descending onwards we finally reached a gap in the snow thatís stood over a 20 metre high wall. Standing here we had wet vertical walls on either side of us with the below river soaking everything except the wedged boulder we where standing on. We're cold, our sleeves are wet and our feet are freezing.

We prepare to abseil and I can already see that we are headed for another similar platform. If I don't find something to abseil from there, we'll be trapped. We can't climb back up with the water coming down at us and it may happen that we won't be able to abseil at all. We take a minute to try to warm up, and then I go down, praying that the rope doesn't slide off the slippery rock as it would certainly mean I'd drown under the waterfall. Thankfully it doesn't slip but I still land in a stream of water anyhow. Suddenly my hauling bag turns me upside now, I catch the first rock sticking out of the water and pull myself towards the air. Thank God I didn't tie a prusic - wet it would have surely stuck and then...

Group of unclimbed towers in Torssukatak fjord. Photo David Kaszlikowski - verticalvision.pl

After a 6 hour descent we reach the kayaks but we still cannot paddle to the other side as the storm has begun for good and the waves would probably tip us over. Another night in the rain. We sit on ropes and with plastic bags wrapped over our heads we simply wait out the storm. The morning sees the weather calm down and after 20 minutes of paddling we're back inside our tent.

After retreating back to base camp, it rained for 6 days without stop. After that wet period we managed to get back on the wall again. We climb back up the tricky couloir one more time (this time faster due to a fixed rope) to the previously reached high point. After a bivouac, we continuously climbed to the top during a 10 1/2 hr continuous push.

Luxury food on the top with lightweight spoon Photo David Kaszlikowski - verticalvision.pl

The climbing was beautiful solid granite with some 6c+ pitches. Some of the most interesting parts where wet offwidths done by Eliza that where very difficult. The last pitch to the peak was a 60 meter tower(6c+) that presented us with an amazing view. Unfortunately, just after we stood on the summit clouds started pulling over our head and in a little while we couldn't see further then 100 meters. Into the night we continued abseiling with our luck holding as the rope didn't jam once and we continually found wedged blocks that we could use as anchors meaning we didn't use a single hook nor bolt in the top part of the wall.

The top part of Golden Lunacy probably (but not necessarily) has common passages with Cecillia Buils' (Spain) and Robera Nunez's (Brasil) route, Hidrofilia. The two ladies were the first to lay foot on the summit in 2003. We, David and Eliza, are the second team to stand on the main peak of M. Qaqarssuasia. On the whole wall (more than 1,5 km wide) there are just 4 routes, (including Golden Lunacy). The other two lead till the end of the steep cliff Thumbnail, not reaching the summit.

Style: The route was sent using a few fixed ropes (at the bottom, to traverse to the kayaks). Then the whole route without fixed ropes nor portaledge. Trad protection with the minimum number of bolts (5 bolts on the entire route; 3 for belay stances & bag hauling, 2 on pitches - 1 for protection while passing a loose boulder, and 1 in smooth rock where traditional protection wasnít possible.

Difficulties: 7a+ max, one pitch flashed (because of bolting to detour loose boulder), all other pitches Onsight. Some pitches climbed free solo. The whole route is on excellent quality granite.

David & Eliza witht he thumbnail in the background. Photo David Kaszlikowski - verticalvision.pl

Area: What we found in the fiords is undoubtedly one of the best granite areas in the world. Unfortunately after sending the route the weather was very bad with storms and constant rain, but we still found some unclimbed areas while kayaking. The walls were 700 - 900 meters high. This was one of my most beautiful expeditions, everyday we passed icebergs, also meeting very hospitable Greenlandic people at Appilattoq village. We watched the Aurora Borealis, picked berrys by the handfull and Eliza learned to paddle. We definitely aim to return to these wall.

Golden Lunacy is the second new mulitpitch for Eliza and David. In March they redpointed Subiendo El Arcoiris (RP, 8a, 300 m, in Basaseachic National Park) and opened a new route Arte de Malaria (7b+ 300m, in Huasteca canyons, Nuevo Leon)) in the Mexico mountains.

Greenland Expedition, called oficially Hannah Greenland Expedition was supported by: Hannah, Tendon, Polish Alpinist Association and National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Related:

Greenland 2001 Ecpedition Report>>
Greenland Travelguide>>
Greenland Climbing & Bouldering Photo Gallery>>
Over the Great Ice Cap of Greenland by Helen Turton>>

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