Exercise Midnight Sun - Greenland 2008

Tassiusaq Mountaineers - Phase two covering 19th August onwards.

 

26th August:

 

This saw us pack up and be extracted by zodiac back to the bright lights of Tassiousaq base camp, to be be reunited with our fellow pieandbeers and prep for the long trip home.      

 

25th August:

 

A lie in today with us setting out for an attempt on the NE ridge leading up to SH 863, although this is a relatively low height the ridge looked as if it could provide some sustained interest and give a view as to the possibility of ascending SH1135. It also looked very similar to Castle Ridge on the Ben with the Tower Gap thrown in for good measure.


After the now familiar flog through the heather we started to climb; the ridge did indeed keep our interest all the way to the gap providing sustained grade 2 scrambling en route.


At the gap we thought that we would have to get our string out of the bag but Gary found an unlikely looking ledge system that took us down and up the other side. We continued onward over a couple of false summits and emerged on the top in brilliant sunshine with the usual stunning views, the only unwelcome one being a cairn on the top! We did however note an easy ascent route coming across opposite our chosen route, which we imagine would have been the one taken by our cairn builders.
The descent from the summit to the gap was devious but posed no problems the gully leading to the gap, (noted on the ascent), enabled us to avoid much of the technical ground covered on the way up and provided a quick way down, (even quicker if you didn’t take care!).

 

Back at the tents after brews, dinner and war stories, Gary and Olly decided to get up and see the Northern Lights; Joe being from the far north was planning to observe from the comfort of his doss bag. Olly said he would deal with making some soup’ good plan…… at 2315:

 

Gary: Get the brews on Olly.

 

Olly:  Mumble, mumble ok…..

 

Joe: zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

 

Some time later…………..

 

Olly:  Joe…. How do you light these stoves???

 

Joe:   @#/}%£ off!!

 

Olly:   Pleezze

 

The northern lights were almost worth getting up for……….Olly’s soup well………….but he now is fully qualified on stoves.

 

24th August:

 

Departed camp at 0830 leaving an incapacitated Stu to wear ever decreasing circles in and around the tents. We decided to approach the SW ridge of Amaassuaq via an upwards traverse from the camp….this was not good! Step ground, knee high heather, shale and loose rock…However we persevered and made our way sweatily upwards; Ollie tried out a balancing act on a boulder attached to its accompanying slab by slime… and failed, causing a momentary humour failure for him and much amusement for us.

 

We continued upward making good time despite the ground and breasted the ridge by its subsidiary summit at 683m. The main ridge beckoned, from below it looked like the Hornli Ridge on the Matterhorn….it still did; however on closer inspection it seemed that a feasible way could be found.

 

Steady progress was made and we wended our way upwards towards the summit tower in the distance. The character changed as we moved upwards with more snow and the ground steepening; suddenly the sun was switched off and it became considerably colder. When we eventually stood on the crest at 1045m, about 60m from the summit it was Baltic with all clothes on. We went a little higher climbing on loose rock held together by unconsolidated snow and a joint decision was taken to call it a day.

 

The descent to the col was uneventful where we enjoyed some lunching in the sun before continuing our descent which it would be better to draw a veil over, suffice to say the heather, scree and boulders were as unpleasant going down as going up!!

Back at camp we roused Stu from his slumber and an evening of brews and fly killing commenced.

 

Tassiusaq Low CampTeam News 24 August

 

Day 4 in TSQ ALT and as promised, your correspondent “ain’t a goin’ nowhere”.

There would appear to be a bit of an issue with my legs working properly, and combine that with a hand that has swollen to about ½ again its normal size, and doesn’t like pressure being put on it, it could be a trying day.

 

So lets try and list the fun things one can do on the shores of a beautiful Greenlandic bay when bits of your body won’t play ball.

 

1. Go for a pee in the middle of the night. Hmmm, that was easy. It’s the only bloomin’ time I have needed to pee before getting up time whilst in remote tent. ‘brufin is kind of working, but legs have pretty much locked. Takes me 20 mins to free legs from sleeping bag (being extra careful not to wake Eager Leader) and get my bum out of the tent. Its another 5 mins before I have worked out how to get vertical and made it an acceptable distance from the tent. That was close! Note to self – no drinking pm for a bit.

 

2. Get up. Nearly as bad as 1, except of course I now know what really hurts, and have worked out I can use my feet to move my legs when the leg muscles won’t have it (try it, it works!). So down to 10 mins to get bum out of tent, and fortunately do the differently challenged spider on drugs impersonation whilst getting vertical on the side of the tents where the other 3 can’t see me. A small triumph!

 

3. Stay upright as long as possible.  This is definitely an important one as getting up from the ground is not elegant and hurts a lot. Up from sitting is just the same except grief reduced by the percentage of fully vertical the sitting position to be vacated provides. Still not pretty though! The trick here is to avoid anything that means not standing. Unfortunately, moving about at the moment brings with it the inherent risk of falling on my arse as one or many of my ineffectual muscles decide to quit at an inconvenient moment, like when trying to move across rough ground – good job I’m on a rocky campsite then! Decide to go for the Honorary Colonel look and adopt a trekking pole as a walking stick which seems to help.

 

4. Not going on today’s trek. Face it, it just ain’t happening. Despite being up before the Scottish Mountain Goat and our token young person, my inability to move from tent to brew area (nearly 15 feet!) without lurching in new and unexpected directions  and adding the odd “Ohh Gosh” when some inconvenient tuft turns my right knee in any direction apart from dead straight, lead our Eager Leader to the same conclusion as me, getting up any sort of hill just wasn’t going to happen. In fact, I had better start thinking about going to bed now, as it was only 14 hours before I might need to be back in my sleeping bag. Whole team decides it is best if I stay and “look after things” at our completely deserted campsite (less me now), and to just briefly mention on the 08:00 call that my knee was “a bit stiff” in case nearly removing John Griff’s thumb had proved insufficient for Matt the Medic’s wanna-be surgeons blood lust and he came looking for a leg or two to bag! Wave good bye to the three amigos, wish them good luck and settle down to do “stuff” all day.

 

5. Sort Compo. Not the first thing that springs to most peoples mind, but put yourself in my shoes, it just isn’t going to be a thriller today. Starts well, we decided to only take the edible and useful bits from our allocation so no boxes, no screech etc and all in one dry bag. However, just as I was starting to organise our veritable feast selection on the convenient table height and size rock right next to the tents, the issue of what to do with it all once sorted arose. Hmmm, no small poly bags, no boxes, it would have to be all back into the dry bag then – pretty much a pointless exercise so I’ll stop that now. Still that killed 10 minutes – well it’s hard moving a big heavy dry bag when using a stick and your legs won’t play properly!

 

6. Walking around in circles. Now this is a winner! Fresh air, exercise, and therapeutic for the old legs at the same time. I can hear Matt’s voice in the back of my head saying, keep moving to help with the circulation and swelling – all very worthy, but you need to remember I am on a wind-swept shoreline here and I can’t face trying to lie down yet, so in the interests of keeping warm and practising my Honorary Colonel walk this one has real potential to be “top thing to do of the day”! Now where to walk? A careful circumnavigation of the tents (mind the guy ropes!), with a little twist of the “around the table rock” variety should do it, Yep worked well. Intersperse that with the odd trip to the stream for water for brews (liquid in), and trip to other side of stream B for liquid out and that’s pretty much the physio programme sorted.

 

7. Taking a Dump. Now, I don’t intend to go into this in much detail I am sure you will be pleased to know, suffice to say that it did take up a considerable percentage of the day, and triangular rock 1 proved unfit for purpose given my new found physical limitations. Still nice to have something constructive to do!

 

So I think that will do for now – how much more can a chap pack into a whole day, especially when a bit of “walking around in circles” is inserted whenever things are getting a bit dull. More tomorrow.

 

Tassiusaq Team News 23 August

 

Day 3 in TSQ ALT and the weather doesn’t look that good. Snow on all the surrounding slopes and all a bit “dreeight” according to our tame Scottish Mountain Goat.

The big idea for today is to head to the 2 peaks at the end of the valley and get up either the 826m peak if the weather looks shaky or if it looks good, the 1315m, to its North.

Part 1 of the plan involved a 7km walk in to the base of the slopes over the same hummocky / swampy / holey / generally very irritating ground I mentioned before, i.e. straight up the valley. However, our determined foursome made reasonable time on the walk in and arrived at a feature that couldn’t really be picked out from either the map or the ground. This was a small hill / mound in front of the main features which looked as if a very deep ravine with waterfalls and smooth sides disappeared into. However, as our gallant assailants crested this unusual feature, they were amazed to find what looked like the Mk1 “Valley that Time Forgot”. Geography teachers would have been positively orgasmic looking at the wealth of features that appeared to be straight out of the textbook, and even those of us with a less technical interest in rock formations were struck by the sheer rawness of this hidden coll with an “Angel Falls” style waterfall crashing off of the saddle between the 2 main features. All very moving.

 

PeakBut what of the quest for a peak I hear you ask? Well, the weather was kind of holding, although we had had a brief flurry of snow, probably “in cloud” precipitation, and so given that and what we could see route / access wise, we decided to go for the 826m option.

This was hard enough – picking our way through quite considerable rock-falls / glacier debris and working our way up lines of scree and obvious gullies. The snow was lying thicker as we ascended, about 3” in places, all new and fresh, no real ice so we pressed on.

 

As we worked our way up various “easier” routes, our token young person and your correspondent, built a series of small cairns at key points of the route up. We weren’t going to have many options re the way down! Eventually, we came to the top of the feature and after 2 false “We’re there’s!”, got to the highest point. The weather had completely cleared, and we found ourselves on the highpoint of our chosen mountain in glorious sunshine. To say that the view was spectacular just doesn’t do it justice. Our Eager Leader reckoned it was better than the view from the top of the Materhorn. There were 2 ferocious looking glaciers coming off of the next mountain along, and a view not only of our very own Evighedsfjorden, but also of the Fjord that comes out near Maniitsoq heading south. To use a very overused phrase – awesome, but it really was.

 

LunchSo after a “stop at the top” for a spot of lunch, our by now seasoned summiteers started the descent from what was today’s Mount Gary (a name not an instruction by the way!).

Descending has never been your correspondent’s favourite part of being in mountains, and today was proving to be no exception. After several somewhat unnecessary and harsh (but possibly accurate) observations that my decent style was “not exactly balletic” or “like a mountain antelope, with arthritis, aids and vertigo”, yours truly did come a bit unstuck.

 

Whilst easing myself down the entrance to a scree filled gully that did actually offer the best way down, and 2 other of the team members had already negotiated, either my boot slipped or the foothold just gave way, and I had a rather dramatic and very painful descent, considerably faster than planned.

 

I was upside down at least twice (after the 2nd time you stop counting!), moved about 15’ down and 20’ along, and it would appear that someone hurled about 3 hod loads of bricks of various sizes at me, scoring a considerable number of hits – a crime which our token Scottish Mountain goat vigorously denies, but as he was the only person behind me……………

 

Once the rattle of moving rocks had stopped I could hear comments being made like “Oooh flip” – pretty much what was being said in my head I can assure you! Fortunately, some innate instinct had got my hands to protect my head, and so although my left hand, left leg and right knee had taken a battering, it was all mainly grazes and bruises really, and a function eliminating rip in the backside of my trousers.

 

It was then a bit of a focussed descent down to where I could be given some ‘brufen to help head off the inflammation, and then a very long slow tab back to TSQ Low. Just to cheer me up on the way back, (or maybe something to do with their breeding patterns) we did notice that the Arctic Char (a large salmon like fish, mottled grey on top, red underneath) had arrived, and had made it up some of the tributaries to our main through valley stream. Unfortunately our Scottish Mountain Goats attempts to spear it with his trekking pole or net it with his head net proved ineffective (just!) so boil-in-the-bag again for tea!

 

Once back at camp and cleaned up the stiffness and swelling started in earnest, (and really really not in a good way) and I am now hobbling about like an Honorary Colonel on a bad bay with “me stick” in hand protecting “me gammy leg(s)” and generally not moving much.

 

Tomorrow’s diaries from the TSQ 4 won’t be featuring your correspondent up mountains, but I am sure the 3 remaining hardy souls will be up something of significance, and watch this space for a list of 101 interesting things to do in a remote base camp when your legs don’t work properly!

 

Tassiusaq Team News 22 August

 

Day 2 in TSQ ALT (or TSQ low, as we are only 1 metre or so above fjord level) and the team are up for an early start on a hill that will give us a first ascent and a good view from the opposite side of a really quite challenging looking lump called Qinnguattta Qaqqai (please don’t ask me to do the phonetics!)  according to the map.

 

22aug08The sun wasn’t exactly shining, and after being slightly delayed by your correspondent’s use of the afore mentioned triangular rock facility (not as easy as it sounds believe me!), our heroes march on hill 863 began. Across the hummocky / rocky /. stream infested plain we wander only to be  slowed as we reached the lower slopes of our intended challenge by a cry of “ Och lads, hang on a wee minute, I’ll catch you up the noo!” or something similarly celtic, proving once again the inevitable link between crossing heather covered moors and the Scottish persons peristaltic movement pattern.

 

So suitably unburdened, we work our way up the early part of the slope, the sun tries to break through and a rainbow appears, apparently ending right in TSQ High / Main camp. But only a few moments later, the Mountain Gods realise their mistake in giving the remaining TSQ base camp rats the pot of gold as they were clearly only on their 3rd brew of the morning, and were busy contemplating whether or not to open the tent flap today, and so shifted the rainbow first to our more deserving foursomes’ camp and then making it follow us up the hill for a while. Very picturesque! However, after some discussion about how much decent whisky could be purchased in an airport duty free shop for the nominal sum of a “Pot of Gold”, the excitement of the more northern based members of the team subsided as the weather briefly improved and the Mountain Gods kept their cash after all with the early disappearance of the rainbow.

 

22aug08Still, on we pushed, and a hit our first snow flurries of any substance at about 450m. Undeterred, in fact spurred on by the sheer manliness of pushing on through the snow, our heroes press on, convinced the weather was about to imitate Barbados in July at any moment, and reveal the secret easy routes up the other rather serious ridges.

Unfortunately, although the climb plan time estimate proved actually very accurate, the weather wish list achievement did not, and once a 780m summit was reached, the view was limited to about 6 rocks, 4 people, and rather more aggressive snow, so we had to be happy with just being there!

 

Safety being the watchword of the day, we retreated down off of the summit for a brew and biscuits to wait and see if the Barbadian sunshine would put in an appearance. Sadly, it didn’t show and so we decided to head back to TSQ Low camp before the weather got too bad. This new route down the hill included an opportunity for our eager leader to demonstrate the correct way to carry out that key mountaineering skill “Falling on your arse and slipping down a particularly wet and muddy bit of rock”, a drill which the whole team practised and even perfected over the remaining descent, including our imbedded Scottish Mountain Goat.

 

Still, here we are now back in TSQ low, looking back at the hill we have just climbed, with the sun shining on it, wondering why it’s chucking it down with rain everywhere else including here! Ahh Greenlandic weather, it would even challenge Iain McKasgill in the prediction game. More tomorrow.

 

Tassiusaq Team News 21 August

 

Day 4 in the camp and the Tassiusaq (TSQ) 4 decide to relocate to another part of the bay. This is ostensibly to get in some better hills, but informed opinion has it that the TSQ base camp traps are reaching critical levels and so it was thought escape was better than changing drills! After an “early” start, i.e. when Anders and David decided the boat was fixed, it was a short hop in the zodiacs across the where TSQ base camp get their water from. After an uneventful beach landing, our 4 heroes split up to find a suitable site for 2 small tents – no big tent circus for these hardy lads!

 

Nice place to be for an eveningAfter walking up the rocky plain behind the shoreline an inappropriate distance in one direction and much too far up the main stream in the other, our eager leader discovered a nice “campenplatz” right next to a circle of stones that generally indicates use of the ground by the locals as a sort of wilderness Travelodge type arrangement.

The tents were soon up, although one did look a bit of a strange shape for a bit whilst the outer was reversed longitudinally, then inside out – and these were the lads that had “practised hard” on Skye!

 

The technical superiority of the commissioned members of the team established, the fantastic four set about exploring their new home. To be fair, it didn’t take too long, bay to the north, valley running away to some serious hills in the south, and about a km of rocks, hummocks, streams etc all around. Very good facilities though. Running cold and colder water within 10m, and a nice flushing toilet, for those solid output moments (well a convenient triangular shaped rock that the tide washed twice a day anyway – crude but effective, much like your correspondent!).

 

So, social niceties exhausted, the team decided to take o look up an easy looking hill to see what the bigger bits of geography looked like from a different perspective. It was quite a long and knee crunching haul across the rocky / hummocky / generally annoying ground of the big foreshore to the base of the allegedly un-summited hill attractively labelled 433 on the map. After an hour or so of hard-work upwards over reasonable terrain, the summit was reached and a whole conference using data provided by wrist-watch barometers, GPS heights, map contour readings and feature identification took place to identify whether we had actually reached the dizzy height of 432 or not.

 

Having established what we were standing on, consideration of what was “do-able” or whether “it would go” (to where was not made clear) started re the higher features we could see from our new vantage point, and a plan for the next day or two established. With the sun now well and truly out, our fearless foursome descended back towards shoreline down through a truly stunning valley, or as one of the more romantically inclined members of the team described it “scenery you could cry over”. Of course this would just make your fleece wet and waste body fluids and so is not recommended, but you get the picture.

 

After another slog across the plain around the basin, one half of the team discovering that if you stayed higher the going was actually quite firm and level on some sort of plateau, we all arrived back at our new home where after an outbreak of Bombay Mix and soup, some partially warmed up tins of stew were eaten to the unanimous acclaim of “well it was alright I suppose”. However, the fruit and nut and proper coffee to finish with did round off the day nicely.

 

More from your TSQ in the field correspondent soon.

 

Tassiusaq Team News 21 August

 

Day 4 in the camp and the Tassiusaq (TSQ) 4 decide to relocate to another part of the bay. This is ostensibly to get in some better hills, but informed opinion has it that the TSQ base camp traps are reaching critical levels and so it was thought escape was better than changing drills! After an “early” start, i.e. when Anders and David decided the boat was fixed, it was a short hop in the zodiacs across the where TSQ base camp get their water from. After an uneventful beach landing, our 4 heroes split up to find a suitable site for 2 small tents – no big tent circus for these hardy lads!

 

Nice place to be for an eveningAfter walking up the rocky plain behind the shoreline an inappropriate distance in one direction and much too far up the main stream in the other, our eager leader discovered a nice “campenplatz” right next to a circle of stones that generally indicates use of the ground by the locals as a sort of wilderness Travelodge type arrangement.

The tents were soon up, although one did look a bit of a strange shape for a bit whilst the outer was reversed longitudinally, then inside out – and these were the lads that had “practised hard” on Skye!

 

The technical superiority of the commissioned members of the team established, the fantastic four set about exploring their new home. To be fair, it didn’t take too long, bay to the north, valley running away to some serious hills in the south, and about a km of rocks, hummocks, streams etc all around. Very good facilities though. Running cold and colder water within 10m, and a nice flushing toilet, for those solid output moments (well a convenient triangular shaped rock that the tide washed twice a day anyway – crude but effective, much like your correspondent!).

 

So, social niceties exhausted, the team decided to take o look up an easy looking hill to see what the bigger bits of geography looked like from a different perspective. It was quite a long and knee crunching haul across the rocky / hummocky / generally annoying ground of the big foreshore to the base of the allegedly un-summited hill attractively labelled 433 on the map. After an hour or so of hard-work upwards over reasonable terrain, the summit was reached and a whole conference using data provided by wrist-watch barometers, GPS heights, map contour readings and feature identification took place to identify whether we had actually reached the dizzy height of 432 or not.

 

21aug08Having established what we were standing on, consideration of what was “do-able” or whether “it would go” (to where was not made clear) started re the higher features we could see from our new vantage point, and a plan for the next day or two established. With the sun now well and truly out, our fearless foursome descended back towards shoreline down through a truly stunning valley, or as one of the more romantically inclined members of the team described it “scenery you could cry over”. Of course this would just make your fleece wet and waste body fluids and so is not recommended, but you get the picture.

 

After another slog across the plain around the basin, one half of the team discovering that if you stayed higher the going was actually quite firm and level on some sort of plateau, we all arrived back at our new home where after an outbreak of Bombay Mix and soup, some partially warmed up tins of stew were eaten to the unanimous acclaim of “well it was alright I suppose”. However, the fruit and nut and proper coffee to finish with did round off the day nicely.

 

More from your TSQ in the field correspondent soon.

 

20th Aug 08 - Tassiusaq

 

The weather greeting us as we emerged from our tents was a huge improvement on the day before.  Clear summits showed over mid level cloud – a good day appeared to be in store.

 

At the topThe plan for today was to complete a 968 m recced by John H-W’s team in phase 1.  The peak has been dubbed Black Knoll.  Local knowledge had it that the peak had been previously climbed by a pair of American kayaker/climbers after laying siege for 3 days.  Its North Eastern face was an intimidating wall, but observation from the fjord had shown a possible approach from the West.  The map showed a steady grade ridge line, but we had learned from personal experience that the map often hid a variety of detail.  The plan, then, was to insert via zodiac on the South bank of the fjord and then move up to a ridge approaching the peak from the West.

 

The Tassi team of Gary, Oli, Stu, Joe and Matt were joined by John G and successfully found a landing point near where a stream ran down a boulder-filled gully to the fjord.

The sun shone strongly from the outset, lifting the cloud so that we were able to look ahead and plan our route as we climbed.  After an initial clamber out of the boulder filled gully, we crossed a stream swollen with recent rainfall and headed across a meadow of wild grass and moss.  The overnight dew had not yet dried and shone in the morning sun.

 

From the meadow we found rock and began to pick our way upwards making good progress.  Most of the surface underfoot provided excellent grip and meant that we could walk confidently up even quite steep grades.

 

We constantly looked ahead, planned alternative paths and always half - expected our path to be blocked by some obstacle.

 

Our first rest stop after 2 hours found us having made excellent progress.  Although we had initially thought to approach from the East from a lower peak, it began to look as though a direct approach to our peak would be possible.

 

20aug08Our good luck and good footing continued until around 850 m, when the ground became steeper, becoming something like a grade 2 scramble, but still providing superb friction.

After a final 25 m scramble, the rounded summit was gained.  The weather was perfect.  A 360 degree panorama lay around us and we feasted our eyes.

 

We had made excellent time in ascent and decided to pull forward our rendezvous time with the zodiacs.  Careful route selection on the way down yielded a sheltered tarn for a quick dip for John and Matt.  A final dash across the slope to the pick up point had us exactly on time.


As we sped home, I reflected on our day: a successful route up a difficult peak, in the middle of a pristine sun-drenched wilderness, with motor boat transport thrown in!  Carlsberg don’t do adventure training, but if they did …

 

Matt was presented with a birthday cake complete with candle by the lads, who were amazed to learn that, despite his youthful good looks and care free manner, he was 36 today.

 

A perfect day was rounded off with a conclusive thrashing of Gary ‘Trivia’ Mason’s team by John ‘The Knowledge’ H-W’s team at Trivial Pursuit.  

 

M B Ladbrook
MO
Capt

 

19th Aug 08

 

Resting before the returnWell today was the first day of action for the TASSI  Team.  We climbed a 500m peak near the camp.  It was climbed by Exped members last week so no first ascent but a good shake out day and chance to assess what conditions on the ground are actually like.  It went well with some spectacular views.  Tried a different route back and ended up caught up in a boulder field that delayed things a little.  We are getting more ambitious tomorrow aiming for a peak that has been climbed once before by some Americans who took 4 days.  We are aiming to be there and back in a day!