The team picking bilberries on our final descent back to the Fjord
© Tony Stone
British Tasermiut Fjord Expedition
14 July - 16 August 2008
When we arrived in basecamp below the imposing towers of the Tininnertuup group and the awesome sweep of walls of
the Hermelnbjerg, only a handful of routes existed on the rock faces above us. Apart from an outstanding Irish
expedition in 1971 that had climbed all the major summits of the area, the few previous expeditions had all suffered
prolonged spells of unpredictable weather and required big-wall tactics and some aid on their routes. Typically each
expedition had managed one route per trip, and had taken many days to achieve this. We fully expected the story of
our expedition to be similar. The first two days of our trip stuck to the planned script, with thick fog and drizzle
greeting our arrival at the head of the Tasermiut fjord. From then on, however, things took an entirely different
direction. In the four weeks we had at basecamp we had just three days when the weather was too bad to climb, and
were very pleased to take advantage of the weather by making fast ascents of seven new routes and two repeats.
James Vybiral approaching the top
of Head In The Clouds
© Tony Stone
First off, Tony Stone, Ruben Gutzat and James Vybiral climbed a route on the unclimbed east face of Tininnertuup III.
Climbing in mist for most of the way, the trio climbed a lot of moderate slabby ground before adding two steeper
pitches of about HVS to gain the summit ridge to give Head in the Clouds
(HVS, 2 technical pitches, alpine AD,
650m). Next up Dan Mcmanus and I set off to try the fine-looking east face of Tininnertuup II. Thinking that this
would probably require big-wall tactics, we set off alpine style "just for a look" because hauling would be so
obviously grim on the moderate ground characterising the lower section of the wall. Where the wall steepened we were
pleasantly surprised to find pitch after pitch of sustained climbing on superb quality granite. Around 14 hours after
setting out, and after about 700m of free climbing up to E5 6a, we reached the spectacular summit for a brew and a
rest in the twilight before descending the Irish route back to camp. Several mosquito ridden days later we christened
our route Piriton Pillar
after the copious amounts of anti-histamine we were consuming. On the same day Tom Spreyer
and Ged Desforges tried the superb-looking front prow on the east face of Tininnertuup III but were disappointed to
find poor quality rock and mud choked cracks. The pair descended from a few hundred metres up.
Dan Mcmanus on the crux pitch of Piriton Pillar
© Es Tresidder
Ruben Gutzat half-way up Rapakivi Road
© Tony Stone
As we arrived back in basecamp at dawn after Piriton Pillar, we found Tony and Ruben packing to try Rapakivi Road
(5.11, A2, 1000m seven days for the first ascent) on the superb-looking east face of Tininnertuup IV. 25 hours later,
after a short rest through the hours of twilight, the pair reached the pointed summit having freed every pitch
on-sight. They climbed a variation recommended to them by Tony Whitehouse, who was trying the route, to avoid a roof
aided on the first ascent. An abseil descent brought them back to camp where Ruben claimed it was his first trad route.
They were both raving about the quality of the route, with a crux pitch of hard E3 and a lot of sustained climbing at
a slightly easier standard. There was a definite buzz building at basecamp now!
Despondent at the quality of rock they had found on Tininnertuup III and after our stories of perfect rock on
Tininnertuup II, Tom and Ged spied out a line to the left of Piriton Pillar. They were able to link features that from
the ground looked improbable, and, as we had, found superb climbing on every pitch. Tired and thinking the route was
in the bag, they were instead met with an intricate and technical wall pitch followed by a fierce off-width to gain
the summit. The pair returned to basecamp more enthusiastic about the climbing possibilities of the area having bagged
the first ascent of Scorpion Grooves (E3 5c, 700m).
Dan Mcmanus topping out on Ramblin' Man
Tininnertuup II, III, IV & V (R - L) lie behind.
© Es Tresidder
Dan and I next turned our attention to the vast west pillar of the Hermelnbjerg, where the only existing route was a
Norwegian big wall route climbing the prominent chimney in the left-hand side of the face. Our route focussed on
finding a way through a spectacular feature we dubbed "The Eye", a huge circular section of very steep corners and
arÍtes a third of the way up the wall. Our first attempt ground to a halt near the top of The Eye, after a fall for
me and the realisation that the way we had planned to exit The Eye was too bold. On our second attempt, on the 27th
July, aided by the knowledge of the ground, we were quicker and able to break up the leading to allow Dan to start
what we assumed to be the crux fresh and fully psyched. A hidden hold saw him pull through the roof at the top of
The Eye, and we set to work on unknown ground above. After 18 hours and around 1000m of climbing, we gained a key
bivi ledge that we had spied from the ground where we were able to melt snow, eat and get a few hours sleep huddled
under our one sleeping bag. The following day brought four cold pitches up corners and chimneys to the sunny summit
ridge, from where we scrambled to the west summit of the Hermelnbjerg to complete Ramblin' Man
(E5 6b, 1200m).
The descent was made more interesting by the retreat of a glacier that had previously allowed an easy walk from the
col below the peak back to basecamp, meaning we had to abseil four pitches before gaining scree leading back to camp.
Es Tresidder on one of the many perfect corners of Ramblin' Man
© Dan Mcmanus
Back in camp James and Ruben were preparing to add another route, the Anglo-Bavarian Direct (E1, 650m) to
Tininnertuup III. This route crossed Head in the clouds, and had better climbing higher up, but worse lower down.
Indeed, the upper section was where they had intended to go the first time around, but they were unable to find it
in the mist. For any repeat ascensionists they would recommend the first half of Head in the clouds combined with the
top half of the Anglo-Bavarian direct.
Ged Desforge & Tom Spreyer on pitch 3 of War Cry
© Tony Stone
With everyone realising that Tininnertuup II had the best rock, two teams set off on the 31st July to add more routes
to this fine pillar while Dan and I enjoyed the show through binoculars from basecamp. Tony, Ged and Tom climbed a
superb line of corners and cracks they had spied from their previous route. At the crux Tony found desperate bridging
on smooth granite and an intermittent crack offering spaced gear and holds. Ged described it as the most impressive
lead he had ever seen and the normally mild mannered Tony was moved to bellow a volley of celebratory expletives
(heard from basecamp!) as he pulled through the final overhang to easier ground. War Cry
(E5 6a, 700m) gave a
further few hundred metres of superb climbing to the summit, where the trio met James and Ruben, fresh from adding
their own route to the right of Piriton Pillar. Rapidly learning a thing or two about trad climbing, Ruben had swung
leads with James up surprisingly bold corners and cracks in the centre of a fine face to produce another
at E2 and 700m.
Ruben Gutzat on the North-East Ridge
© Tony Stone
Conscious that the most spectacular summit in the area, the main summit of the Hermelnbjerg, had probably not been
visited since the 1971 Irish expedition, Dan and I set off to try and add a new route to the mountain, up the west
ridge of the main summit. To gain the col we climbed four pitches up to HVS that would previously have been walking
up snow (close to where we abseiled on the descent from Ramblin' Man). We were then able to scramble to the lowest
point on the ridge connecting the west summit to the main summit. Here we found evidence of previous attempts, and
shortly afterwards the reason for their failure: a long section of very narrow horizontal ridge that appeared to be
made of gravel mixed with wheatabix, it was possible to make progress a cheval but the rock vibrated as you moved and
the whole experience was uniquely terrifying. Content with our previous efforts on this mountain, we abseiled back
the way we had come and advised Tony and Ruben, who were also interested in the summit, that they would be better to
try to repeat the 1971 North-East Ridge
(alpine TD). After a three day spell of bad weather they set
about doing this, stylishly repeating the 1971 route on the last possible day before our scheduled boat pick up from
the fjord. They reported exceptional and spectacular climbing up to E1 on the ridge, and climbed approximately 1500m
to the summit in a day from basecamp, bivying at the col on the way down.
The British (with one Bavarian guest!) Tasermiut Fjord Expedition would like to thank the following people for their
generous support of the expedition: The MEF, The BMC, The Gino Watkins Memorial Trust, Podsacs, Rab, Mountain
Equipment, DMM, Mammut ropes, Lyon Equipment, Metolius, Soreen, Duerr's jam, Jordans, Tunnocks, Sacla and
The Fabulous Bakin' Boys.
19 August 2008