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Grmovseks in Greenland: More Big, Free Routes

Andrej and Tanja Grmovsek below the west face of Ulamertorssuaq with the line of War and Peace marked. [Photo] Andrej Grmovsek

The British parties climbing from the Hermelndal at the head of the Tasermiut Fjord in South Greenland (read the August 25, 2008 NewsWire) were not the only climbers to visit this fine area of partially explored rock walls this summer.

Slovenians Andrej and Tanja Grmovsek also put up new routes in the area after first visiting the more famous granite formations of Ulamertorssuaq and Nalumasortoq a little further south.

The pair was dropped off at the usual point in the fjord below these walls by the same boat taking the British team further north. For a warm-up they decided to climb the German-Danish route, Mosquito Attack (6b [5.10d] A0, 320m, Korner-Redder, 2000) on Little Ulamertorssuaq (aka Pyramid), the smaller, ca. 440m summit just left of Ulamertorssuaq. The west face, on which the route lies, was wet, and the climbing found to be far from perfect, with vegetated cracks and numerous bolts. But worse, the Slovenians were disappointed to find the route ends more than 100m below the summit, and felt it more of an attempt than a route. A Norwegian team that repeated the line in 2005 found the grading inconsistent and felt the ethics of the first ascensionists, who placed several bolts right next to perfect cracks, dubious to say the least.

The sun dried the faces and on July 22 the Grmovseks set off on War and Peace (5.12c, 1000m, 31 pitches, Bechtel-Betchel-Lilygren-Mallamo-Model-Piana-Skinner, 1998), a controversial all-free climb on the west face of Ulamertorssuaq–controversial because, in the main, it follows the line of the 1983 Geneva Diedre (6b [5.10d] A4, 1000m, Dalphin-Piola-Probst-Wietliesbach). Like its neighbor Moby Dick, War and Peace/Geneva Diedre is one of the best routes above the Tasermiut fjord, offering superb and quite difficult free climbing.

After 22 pitches, and with night approaching, the Slovenians decided to take a long rest on a good ledge. A beautiful day ended with short but very windy night, then continued with an icy, cloudy morning. Setting off cold at 3 a.m., the two climbed to the summit in improving weather. Andrej managed to climb the whole route free and onsight. War and Poetry was climbed free by the American team, who descended to base camp while working the route. Andrej’s free ascent is most likely the first by a single person.

Andrej Grmovsek during a one-day free ascent of the British Route on the Left Pillar of the south-southwest face of Nalumasortoq. [Photo] Tanja Grmovsek

With most of the obvious lines on Ulamertorssuaq now climbed, Grmovsek feels that the next step is to make alpine-style free ascents of the existing routes; one-push ascents from a two-member team with all pitches climbed free by either one or both members.

After a few days rest to repair the damaged skin on their hands, the two climbed a new route on the south face of Ketil Pyramid (ca. 1600m), a relatively small spire a kilometer southwest of Ketil’s main summit. The route follows a rising leftward line up the south face, and gave fine, enjoyable climbing. In the final section Grmoland (VII+ [5.11a/b], 370m of climbing, Grmovsek-Grmovsek, 2008) appears to cross and then climb close to the last part of the South Pillar (5.10b), first climbed by a Swiss team in the early 1980s (not confirmed but believed to be the Dalphin-Piola team in 1984).

The pair now wanted to have a long rest but received a forecast that suggested the weather might hold for only one more day, July 29. At first light on that date they stepped from the ground onto the initial pitch of the British Route on the south-southwest face of Nalumasortoq (2045m). This route, the first on the main pillars of Nalu, was climbed at British E4 and A2 in 1995 by Anderson, Dring, Dring and Tattersall. The second ascent, which proved to be the first one-day ascent of any route on the pillars, was made in 2002, and the line was climbed free in 2003 by Nathen Martin and Timmy O’Neill at 5.12+.

Right from the start the Slovenians were accompanied by light drizzle but the rock on Nalu is so steep that it remained more or less dry. They climbed fast in worsening weather, but just as they reached the crux cracks near the top of the route, the rain stopped. After ten hours climbing and nineteen pitches of the face the pair reached the top of the wall. Andrej had climbed every pitch free and onsight.

The central pillar on the east face of Tinninertuup III above the Hermelndal, showing the line of Nalunaq (VII/VII+ [5.10d/11a], 900m, Grmovsek-Grmovsek, 2008). [Photo] Andrej Grmovsek

After a few days’ rest they hitchhiked a lift with a local miner (who had come to collect other climbers based in that area), persuading him to take them to the British base camp further up the fjord. A quick inspection of the Hermelndal (unnamed on the map but called this by the Irish expedition that first ascended peaks in the region) revealed that the British team had left perhaps only one major line untouched: the central pillar on the east face of Tininnertuup III. The rock on the pillar wasn’t perfect throughout (it had repulsed a British attempt) but the Slovenian pair completed the line, Nalunaq, in a day at VII/VII+ (5.10d/11a). The surprise was the height of the pillar–very much longer than it appeared from the ground. In the end they climbed 1250m of rock to complete the 900m pillar to the summit, and then descended the unpleasant loose gully between Tininnertuup III and II back to the valley, all on August 3.

The weather, which had been fine for so long, now turned nasty for several days (the Grmovseks got their good rest at last). But just before leaving the area, on August 10, the sun reappeared and the two climbed up the middle of the central pillar on the east face of Tininnertuup II. This face had already received four British routes but the Grmovseks added Flying Viking (VIII [5.11d/12a], 850m but 1200m of climbing, Grmovsek-Grmovsek, 2008). In the lower section they climbed ten pitches to a big ledge, above which the difficulties began and twelve more pitches led to the summit. They overcame perfect cracks in granite comparable to the best on offer in the Mont Blanc Massif. As with all their new routes they used only removable protection, leaving the lines as adventurous as they were for the first ascensionists.

The pair feels the area to be a perfect rock climbing paradise, the only downside being those infernal mosquitoes.

Source: Andrej Grmovsek