At the north end of the ridge below the summit there is a shale deposit. Fossils and petrified wood can be found here. We collected a few pieces then began to climb the north-east face of Odellfjellet. Near the summit there was a snow patch. We didn't have crampons with us so we lost some height and traversed west on less steep snow. We then reached the summit via the north face.
Reluctant to plunge back into the dense fog below, we walked west along a narrow, steep ridge down to a col between Alandsdalen and Jaderindalen and continued along this ridge back up to an unnamed peak at 820m. Here we basked in the record breaking warm sunshine before walking back to the col. We then walked down
Alandsdalen to the valley floor then followed the Alandselva back to camp. (NB ~dalen = valley; ~selva = river.)
WATSONTOPPEN AND GRAPIGGEN
We walked south west down Alandsdalen and after a couple of kilometres walked north west up a small valley. A long plod up a rather muddy, scree covered hill followed - eventually we reached the ridge where Watsontoppen and Grapiggen are situated. We saw the characteristic large, flat top of Grapiggen and the excellent ridge walk that lead up to it. We proceeded westwards along the ridge along a number of small peaks and cols. The ridge was good to walk along and afforded good views of Alandsdalen (to the south) and Gyldenbreen (to the north). Watsontoppen, at 950m, is the highest point on the ridge apart from Grapiggen and is a good lunch spot and viewpoint. More small cols and peaks followed Watsontoppen and there was overall quite a long descent to the foot of Grapiggen. The slope leading up to the summit of Grapiggen was covered with a thick layer of scree - it proved quite troublesome at times getting to the foot of the rocky outcrop. We wandered around the bottom of the rock for a while finding a safe place to climb up. We set up a rope but this is not necessary. Once on the large, flat summit we had good views in all directions. We saw cloud come slowly into the valleys but as this did not affect us we lay on the top in T-shirts and bathed in the sun. The descent was considerably faster and easier than the ascent - we simply scree ran down to the foot of the mountain. We traversed along the south side of the ridge for a while until we reached the valley in which base camp was situated.
Kinanderfjellet is a 1027m peak situated at the head of Hørbyebreen, Southamptonbreen, Manchesterbreen and Gonvillebreen in Dickson Land. The glacial activity around it has left a very spectacular mountain even though the rock itself has been fairly well mashed to pieces. Its sides appear to be a huge interrogable cliff, formed as the back wall to the glaciers mentioned above; however there is an easy route up a scree slope on its SW face.
We discovered the route on our walk-in to base camp at the start of the expedition, which was lucky because the mountain looked unclimbable from any other direction. We took a fast route from base camp up the right hand side of the valley, crossing onto Manchesterbreen near it's nose. We walked unroped up the glacier and climbed its back wall to the right of the col. Next we proceeded along the ridge to the SW face and scrambled up the large loose scree to the summit ridge. Standing on the ridge in a high wind would not be advisable as the cliffs above the Hørbyebreen are completely sheer and must be over 200m high, also the ridge is in parts precariously thin and is so rotten it is surprising it even stands - vertigo sufferers beware! Nevertheless it is an incredible mountain and well worth the climb. Equally astonishing are the hundreds of birds nesting on the SE cliff which wheel and spin over your head as you gaze at the view; their young don't get more than one chance at learning to fly!
Some high grade ice routes might be possible up the NE face cliffs in winter or early spring but the same (ice free) route taken in the summer would be pretty dangerous.
Karnakfjellet is a 975m peak situated at the head of Balliolbreen in Dickson Land. It forms the final summit of a ridge stretching SE from Sentinelfjellet. While the mountain may not be very exciting-looking it is a good climb when taken from the ridge and offers excellent views from Kinanderfjellet around to Billefjorden.
The ridge from Sentinelfjellet to Karnakfjellet would give most Scottish ridge walkers wet dreams. Our route took us on a round trip from base camp along this ridge, returning down the Balliolbreen glacier. It crosses the Billefjorden fault zone, and as a consequence is swathed by bands of multicoloured rock. In addition to its striking colour it is a classic knife edge shape, and continues as such for its entire (6km) length. Walking along it requires no specialised equipment although there is quite a lot of height loss/gain especially the final climb to Karnakfjellet. Escape from the summit is possible either off its SE ridge (worth a visit in its own right) or by retracing your steps back along the ridge and descending off the first col.
Sentinelfjellet consists of a series of ridges reaching a highest altitude of 930m and encompassing the impressive metamorphic crags of Sentinelnosa and Sentinelknausen. Lying just across Alandsdalen from base camp, it was an obvious target for exploration. However, although seven of the expedition stood on the highest point and an eighth, Chris spent a month working on its slopes, only Steve can claim to have explored it fully in the course of his mapping.
I will describe two of the routes to the summit that we attempted.
The first ascent by the expedition evolved from a failed attempt at the West Face of Sentinelknausen. The route was as follows.
The other involved an almost direct ascent from base camp on to the northern arm of the mountain. A description of the route is below.
The Sentinelfjellet ridge also formed part of one of the best ridge walks of the expedition. Route 2 was followed as far as the summit, and after that, the ridges linking up to Karnakfjellet at 970m.
The most favoured route of descent involved a 'bum slide' from the ridge above Alandsdalen. There were several excellent snow patches to choose from although as Walter discovered, the longest contained a crevasse (!) and as these melted, scree running on the fine screes on either side became possible.
The northeast face of Sentinelnosa dominated the view from base camp. Ever since we arrived, one route stood out as 'the-route-to-do' in the immediate area. So attractive was it, that both Chris and myself took a 'rest day' from science work, and spent it doing this 2000ft climb.
The gully was snow filled from one third height, and looked wide for most of its length. Towards the top it vanished, but another gully branched to the right, and although narrow, it continued to the top. The route looked frighteningly steep. This was purely the perspective, and when viewed from elsewhere, the face 'laid back', and it looked achievable.
The route was the first climb of the expedition, and it took a while to gather up all the equipment. We crossed Alandselva and headed up the scree cone towards the bottom of the gully. We geared-up before the top of the scree cone. The gully was unfortunately scree until it turned at the point where it first became visible from camp. We scrambled up, as the view and gradient increased.
On reaching the base of the ice, the gradient was less steep than we had at first thought. There was the suggestion of doing the first section alpine style. We opted for caution until we had done a few pitches, and put in stances. 450ft up the gully, the exposure started to make us glad of secure stances, and we continued up in pitches.
We continued up for several more pitches. Protection was becoming increasingly sparse, and to avoid literally hanging in the gully, more and more time was taken in looking for solid rock at the side. We stayed on the northern side until the gully branched. Up to this point, I had been doing the leading. However, as it became apparent that this climb was going to go on and on, Chris and I started leading through, while Rollo and Richard climbed together in the middle of the ropes. As the gully branched it steepened again, and the deep snow we had enjoyed so far thinned. One pitch later and they was no option but to put in very good ice-screws and literally hang, looking straight down the 1500ft gully. Thoughts like, 'just how good am I at ice axe arresting?' sprang to mind! The top two pitches were on steep ice, and were very fine. It was verging on a brown-trouser-experience when leading with over 100ft of rope out, and no protection.
We reached the top of the gully, to the warming welcome of the evening sun. The summit was still a little way off. Much concentration was required to reach it. The rock ridge was very rotten, and extreme care was taken not to send too much rock on to the climbers below.
We reached the summit in the early evening, and had lunch! That would have been enough excitement for one day, but there was more...
One side-effect of Geological Mapping is that you have to survey every nook-and-cranny of the area, and I had noted an extensive snow patch down the northwest of Sentinelnosa. It was not visible from the top, but I was able to find it. To my pleasure, my first reaction was; 'that looks a bit steep!' We dressed up in waterproofs, clenched ice axes, and sat down... WHOOOSH!!! ...and we were at the bottom. That was the icing on the cake. An excellent day (if not very restful)!
This was another mountain in the Egyptian area, my first real climb of the trip. We set off from camp and went up Cambridgebreen arriving at the bottom of the route in just two hours. We stopped at the bottom of the scree and roped up; Jim leading. We moved together up to the first rock band and set up a belay there. Jim led this first pitch, which was not a problem, then I went up belaying myself on a clogger. Dave came up and led through straight up the slope. We then decided that the route did not really need to be pitched and continued as an alpine lead traversing to the narrowest part of the rock band which had a bit of ice going through some of it. This rocky bit was pretty tricky and the traverse before it was very steep. Jim placed a runner above the rock band and from there it was straight forward to the top and along a knife-edged ridge to the summit where we had our lunch.
The descent was not as easy as we had expected. We had hoped to come down the front of the peak, down the rocky ridge to the left and then onto the top of the snow patch to give us a good bumslide to the bottom. But the scree was very steep and loose and the cliffs were about 20m high. There was no route down that way, and certainly no decent anchor to abseil down the rock band.
So we went down a really good scree slope on the other side of the mountain and then traversed across a steep glacier so that we found ourselves right on the right hand side of the peak. We then simply came down the scree and headed home.
Fareofjellet is an impressive looking 1015m peak sandwiched between the Balliolbreen and Cambridgebreen Glaciers. The route we took was up the main ice gully on its north face, however the summit can also be reached via an easy walking route (which was our descent route off the top) approaching from the col between Fareofjellet and Cheopsfjellet.
The climb lasted about seven hours, however this was due to us pitching most of it. If you were a competent enough climber a solo climb (unrecommended) would have been much quicker. We approached the mountain from the north (from base camp) along Cambridgebreen and walked into the small corrie glacier enclosed by the buttresses of the mountain's north face. From there it is easy to route-find.
There are two main options available to an ice-climbing party. The first (the route we took) is to head right into the back of the wall and up into the narrow gully in the middle. The other is to steer to the right, ending up on the shoulder to that side (from there it is an easy plod to the summit). The second route could make a good escape route, especially if there is heavy rock fall. Watch out for the rock chute just to the right of the (top) gully! The climb is a grade 1-2 depending on how late in the season you attempt the climb - although the bottom is a snow fan, there is quite a sustained ice section near the top, affording little protection. We steered to the right of the top gully which forced us into a traverse and another time-consuming belay. After the traverse you can afford to relax as the slope slackens off.
Having reached the top you can be assured of an easy descent route - simply walk south along the summit ridge and drop down to the col. Beware in the cloud not to turn left too quickly, there is a nasty drop before the col ridge. The summit views are really splendid, they take in most of Dickson land - including Austfjorden and Billefjorden - and reach across to Ny-Friesland. I've got a 51/2' long panoramic photo which I took at about 10 o'clock at night.
It is an excellent route - one of my favourite - and looks very impressive on film!
Trikolorfjellet, although directly in front of our base camp, was not climbed until late into the science phase. It simply did not interest anyone, and it was for that reason also that only Dave, Walter and myself ventured to the summit. The route there was across Alandselva and along the now well beaten track towards the Balliolbreen. After the terminal moraine we turned east and walked across the glacier snout, crossing the medial moraine that separated Balliolbreen from Cambridgebreen. Eventually our way was blocked by a very deep, fast flowing glacial river. We headed up the glacier to find a suitable crossing point. This turned out to be much further up, as the ice had been greatly undercut.
Having moved so far south along the slope of Trikolorfjellet, we were virtually under the summit. Instead of a gentle climb from the north, we were going to have to go straight up. Predictably it was another scree slope at critical angle. That said there was some very interesting geology on the way up - and it was at one such point that we had lunch. The geology was the only point of interest, the view was well known, and the food was not a new experience.
The peak, we feared, was going to live up to its expected standards: i.e. poor. But that changed once we reached the summit. The view, although not new, was sufficiently different to justify a 360o panorama! We were able to see north up Austfjorden, and from its shores, follow Mittag-Lefflerbreen south. To the east lay all Alandsdalen and base camp. Sentinelknausen looked very tempting from here, as did Fareofjellet - I was able to pick out the route we took up it. The peak itself was really nothing more than a blip on a sharp ridge. But it made good walking - the ground was made of weathered fragments of rock, tightly packed, which gave slightly underfoot. The rock itself was banded into distinct colours of red, brown and yellow/grey (hence the mountains name).
As it had not taken as long as expected to reach the summit we followed the ridge south to other rises along its length, stopping at each one to pick up fossils and look at the view - but as it wasn't changing much so we decided to return. The descent became a zigzagged exploration looking for suitable scree-running material. Once we eventually reached the bottom - but not before setting off the odd mudslide - the march home began. Same route, more-or-less, just faster. We found a braided section of the river in our valley, which was much easier to cross than our usual ford (typical to find it just before leaving for Ny-Friesland). Thus, all in all a good mountain, and upon our recommendation Richard and Lucy later climbed it too.