Gringo’s blog

Mike Jaques
Tue 2 Aug 2022 19:56

65:52.3N 35:28.5W

Captain’s log – star date; no idea!

We have now reached the point where it’s fair to say we have all lost track of time, and that not a single one of us could tell you what date it is. Only by looking at my watch can I confirm that it is Tuesday 2nd Aug, and that we are two weeks into our adventure.

The last two days have been the first days where we have managed to get ashore for some proper mountain time, and for me personally, it has been mind-blowing!

Upon arrival at our anchorage at the North Western tip of Sermiligaq Fjord in the early evening, Olly & Chris decided to go for a little leg stretch, which as you can probably predict, turned into a 5 hour stomp up the glacier, until they reached they reached a crevasse field and decided it might be time to head home for dinner rather than spend the night on the mountain.

Whilst the boys were out for their ‘stroll’ the rest of us took the time to organise our gear ready for the following day, with the plan that Olly & Chris would be on boat duty (i.e. staying ashore), Mike and Alastair would pair up for an adventure, and Tim & myself would choose ours.

With our idea for the following day in mind, we hit the sack early ready for a good nights sleep. The following morning, having filled ourselves up with porridge and coffee, we jumped in the zodiac and headed ashore to begin our adventures.

From that moment on, I can safely say that the 12 hours that followed were incredible. I really wish that I could convey the experience with you, but I know that I will never be able to do it justice. Tim had spotted a really nice looking ridge line that gradually arched around and then stepped up towards a suitable postcard-looking summit, which looked like a good day out, at the same time as being achievable. One thing that I should probably point out at this stage, is that Tim is a professional mountain goat, and I have never done any Alpine climbing in my life!

The first 6 hours was spent getting to the summit, which involved approx one hour walking up the glacier and getting to the base of the ridge, which then slowly got steeper and narrower until we got to approx. 1,000m of elevation. At this point we put our harnesses on and talked through the coming sections which would involve some crampon work on the snow patches, along with some short climbs as we got to some technical looking steps. Tim’s harness had all of the technical accessories on it, which to me might have well been a bunch of kitchen utensils, as I’d never used any of them before 😉. I on the other hand had the rifle strapped to my back, so I felt pretty safe from the threat of polar bear attacks, although that meant that the majority of the time, it was pointing straight up Tim’s backside as he was climbing up above me! There was one point however where the rifle got me completely stuck as the barrel got wedged in a crack on the rock face as I was trying to climb up and over a tricky ledge, where it also prevented me from looking upwards with my helmet on to see which way I had to move to get it clear. That particular moment felt death-defying to me, so I was very relieved to get clear and away, with nothing other than a few scratches to my arms + Chris’s gun (sorry Chris!).

As we got higher, the route ahead of us became clearer, and we had a good idea of how we needed to tackle it to get to the top, because from the boat, it’s hard to get a perspective of size / difficulty until you actually get there, so we didn’t really know if we’d get to a point which was beyond me, and we’d be forced to turn around.

During the ridge section on the way up, we had a great view of Mike and Alastair who had headed off on an epic 9 hour glacier trek, which involved heading up the glacier next to Umiak, and continuing  to the head of the glacier which was at approx. 800m, before joining a descending glacier to the north, which would then bring them back in an arc, to finish slightly further up the fjord where Olly or Chris would pick them up. From our vantage point, they looked like tiny dots in the landscape, giving a true scale of how big these glacier / surroundings really are!


Anyway, from the summit at 1460m, Tim suggested that we descend down our mountain by making a loop, which looked interesting and involved coming down the glacier before ending up down at the finish. It also looked nice and quick as we were only carrying one sandwich each and a bag of mixed nuts. Before setting off again, we made contact via VHF with Olly & Chris on Umiak to let them know how we were getting and what time we might be expected back. We also took the opportunity to contact Mike & Alastair, as we could still see them coming back along their northern glacier having negotiated their way up and over the head of their first glacier. We relayed a messaged back to Umiak from them, saying their eta would be about an hour and a half. This would later be joked about over dinner, as it actually took twice as long due to it being rather more technical / difficult than planned with a couple of slips & falls (with battle scars to prove it).

Six hours later, having descended from the summit along the ridge line to the opposite side, a couple of sections of down-climbing, a 30ft abseil down a vertical section, and climbing down a couloirs with crampons and axes, we crossed the glacier before following the direct route of the water run-off down the last part of the mountain until reaching our starting point at the glacier next to the boat with very sore feet, legs and rumbling tummies.

Arriving back on Umiak where the smell of food could be smelt from the shore, and the heating stove lit, we settled into a feast all together, where we laughed at each others tales of adventure and slip ups along the way.

Needless to say we all slept incredibly well, falling asleep with a feeling of exhausted contentment and a smile on our faces.

Mike and Alastair’s adventure was tougher going than they expected, and with their sore bodies, put themselves forward to stay on boat duty the next day. With the state of Tim & myself, we were also hoping to be on boat duty, so this now opened up a possibility of a day out as a group of four with Olly & Chris who wanted to head out and conquer the peak that eluded them on their little ‘stroll’ on the first evening. This would only be possible as a foursome because of the need to all tie together across the crevasse field in case anyone fell, as it would be much easier to pull somebody out with three people rather than one.

So into day two of our adventuring, the four of us set of (two of us with sore legs & feet), and headed up the glacier again, heading to a peak to the south. The route up involved a long glacier walk, joining a second glacier which we tied together for with our crampons and helmets, with Chris leading the way, and Tim securing the rear, it was Olly and myself feeling nice and secure in the middle of the chain. Keeping the tension on the line, Chris sniffed his way through the crevasse field with ease, ad got us safely to a resting point at the top of the glacier where we rested for food and drinks.

The weather here has been much warmer here than I ever could have imagined, and we have been sweating buckets even climbing in t-shirts and light hiking trousers! Water isn’t too much of an issue, as there is plenty of crystal clear glacier water that we can top up our bottles with!

Back to our mountain, and we had one last steep snowy section that Chris lead us up with axes and crampons until we reached a rock face maybe 100m or so from the summit. This meant resetting the rope system, and for Tim to lead the way with his array of kitchen utensils to allow us to all follow him up, and ultimately to the summit at 1250m.

The route down from the summit was different, and involved a scramble down loose rock and descending soft snow until we reached the crevasse field again, where re roped up and were again connected in our line of four with Chris leading the way.  The mountain at this point decided to show us who was in charge, and one by one, each of us lost a leg / lower body into a crevasse. The only exception to this was Olly, who ironically is our heaviest adventurer, and we have been calling Lard-ass. As you can imagine, Olly had a wonderful time laughing at our expense, which was fully deserved!!!

After another epic 9 hour day out, we arrived safely back at Umiak where Mike and Alastair greeted us with a warm stove, nice dinner and a glass or two of red wine, where we shared our adventure and mishaps.

This blog seems to be going to forever, so I must apologise, but I don’t know if I can make it much shorter, as there is so much of this experience that I want to share.

This trip has been an amazing experience so far, with an amazing group of guys, who are all getting along so well, and have such a huge amount of experience in these polar regions.

We are now on the move again, as it looks like the ice has opened a gateway to the North (judging by the latest ice chart), so Mike discussed a plan to move 50 miles North towards an area called Tugtilik, which is the area that was the original focal point of this expedition. We are currently motor sailing 12 miles offshore having navigated our way out through what I can only describe as a floating art gallery of icebergs.

The coastline here is savage, and looks like layers of sharks teeth. Olly just started counting peaks, but gave up after 76, as he would have had to keep counting well into the hundreds!

If you have made it this far, it only leaves me to say thanks for reading. I hope you get sense of how incredible our adventure is over here in Greenland, and I must warn you that we all have a ridiculous number of photos to share with you soon!!!!

There would have been some truly incredible pics, but the drone sadly fell from the heavens into the frozen waters last week


Onwards & upwards, Gringo xxx