Southern Greenland adventures

25 September, 2014

Olly Sanders and Liam Fleming have recently returned from a successful expedition and fantastic adventure, combining kayaking around the southernmost tip of Greenland with climbing two new alpine style rock routes.

The team of two set off from Nanortilak - Place of Polar Bears - to paddle around Cape Farewell with the sea kayaks packed full with 23 days of food, camping gear and their climbing kit.

Iceberg on day five

Cape Farewell is a headland at the south end of Eggers Island and has been described as the 'Earth's Windiest Region'. Olly said: "It's a committing coastline exposed to big ocean swell, tides and wind, with high cliffs and no easy landings. It was a really tight fit getting everything into our boats so that we were totally self-contained. The cockpit was rammed and quite a bit of gear had to be strapped to the back decks."

Because of the weight of the boats and the gear on the back it wasn't that easy to stop the kayaks continuously trying to turn into the wind, even with the skegs down. Stashing three food bags at the first campsite for the return journey helped to slightly lighten the load.

The crux of the trip was getting around Cape Christian and Farewell which wasn't helped by lots of fog. As Cape Christian appeared the wind suddenly increased and a difficult landing on a boulder beach was chosen as the safe option. After being stormbound there for a day they eventually reached the west tip of Eggers Island where Olly and Liam climbed a new eight pitch HVS, Dance with Seals, on the slabby side of Quvperitqaqa.

Pitch 9 of Keeping the Faith (E1)

The following days were spent exploring the fjords with some committing crossings and a brief stop in the village of Augpilagtoq - their only real contact with the 'outside world' in three weeks.

From a campsite some way down the Igdlukasip Tunua Fjord the pair climbed a big mountain face they'd noted, which turned out to be bigger than they thought, but with some good climbing and occasional loose sections to give the 700 metre Keeping the Faith (E1).

Plans to spend the last week exploring another area they'd seen closer to Nanortilak were affected by the weather turning unsettled.

Olly said: "For an hour on one of the days we had to battle the swell and wind that created some of the biggest seas I've ever been in and any rescue would have been out of the question."

He added: "As we were now in sight of Nanortilak, I managed to get a phone signal and a weather forecast. More bad weather was coming in two days, so we decided to head back-in slightly early rather than be stormbound again."

In all, over the twenty-one day trip, they covered approximately 270 kilometres, had close encounters with minke whales but luckily no run-ins with polar bears, and spent 15 days paddling, four stormbound and three climbing.

Torsukatik fjord

Here's a list of the kit they used and took with them:

  • Plastic Cappella 166 kayaks with skegs
  • Two Werner paddles and one set of spare paddles
  • Palm Aleutian Drysuits and buoyancy aids, Nova wellies and Palm spraydecks
  • Terra Nova heavy duty Hyperspace tent
  • Mountain Equipment Titan 850 down sleeping bags
  • MSR Whisperlite stove combo
  • Climbing kit - 2 x DMM Alpine harnesses, 2 x 9.8mm DMM 50m ropes, 12 quickdraws, 5 slings and krabs, double set of wires 1-10, 9 assorted cams, helmets, rock boots and 30m of tat.
  • EPIRB and VHF RADIO and mobiles although only a few places had phone coverage
  • Various camera kit

 

The team would like to thank the following for their support:

  • Gino Watkins Memorial Fund (Arctic Club)
  • Welsh Sports Association
  • BMC
and for kit
  • Palm
  • Mountain Equipment
  • Werner Paddles
  • DMM
  • Cotswold camping
  • Wild West Beef Jerky
  • A to Z Expeditions
  • Bromsgrove school

 

Olly sanders heading down Torsukatik fjord and descending from Keeping the Faith

Olly Sanders is a Level 5 Sea Kayak Coach, A.C.A. Advanced Open Water Instructor and MIC holder and runs Rock and Sea Adventures.