** First WINTER Ascents! **
DOME 3682m and CONE 3669m First WINTER ascents of the Arctic's second and third highest mountains
In March 2006 Tangent became the first and only expedition to ever make a Winter ascent of Gunnbjørnsfjeld 3693m, the highest mountain north of the Arctic circle. In March 2013 Tangent Expeditions founder Paul Walker will be returning to the Watkins Mountains to lead the first WINTER ascents of Dome and Cone, to complete our Arctic Winter Trilogy. Please contact Paul as soon as possible if interested. Places are strictly limited and are guaranteed to fill quickly.
The highest mountain in Greenland, Gunnbjornsfjeld 3693m, is also the highest summit in the Arctic and is often referred to as the "8th summit" amongst those wishing to add to their Seven Summits challenge. Little is known of it's two close neighbors, Dome and Cone, of almost equal height but which offer relatively easy but beautiful and rare ascents. All three summits give fantastic views of all ten highest peaks in the Arctic which adorn this pristine wilderness. Only Tangent holds the full and complete record of all known ascents of these peaks and this major expedition will complete a significant piece of that Arctic mountaineering history. The Watkins Mountains are without doubt the most impressive range of arctic summits, peaks, cliffs and massifs in Greenland. The non stop 1400m ski descents back to base camp are fantastic, in perfect winter powder! Both peaks can be ascended on snow shoe for non-skiers and with easy descents back down to advance base camp, situated in a high bowl on the un-named access glacier. If time and conditions allow, there could be an opportunity to make a second winter ascent of Gunnbjørnsfjeld before being collected by Twin Otter ski plane.
Tangent Expeditions is the leading authority on mountaineering expeditions to Gunnbjornsfjeld and the Watkins Mountains, having arranged 28 previous expeditions to these peaks, and a further 30 expeditions to the surrounding mountain ranges. No other guiding company is running, or has run, expeditions to these summits for the past several years due to very high overheads for private aircraft charter. In contrast it has always been our commitment to continue running trips on minimal margins to allow people to appreciate the true and awe inspiring beauty of this region.
The expedition will be led by Tangent founder Paul Walker who has led numerous expeditions to Greenland over 20 years. Paul has climbed Gunnbjørnsfjeld three times and Dome and Cone twice. He led the Tangent expedition to make the first winter ascent of Gunnbjørnsfjeld in 2006. Although unconfirmed, it is likely that Paul holds the world record for the greatest number of previously unclimbed mountain summits. For a full CV and further details click herePaul Walker.
The group will meet in Reykjavik on the expedition start date before taking an internal flight to Isafjørdur in NW Iceland the next morning. We will meet up here with our advance shipment of expedition goods and fly the same day over the ice filled Denmark Straits direct to Gunnbjørnsfjeld base camp in east Greenland. The final part of the flight offers superb views of thousands of unclimbed summits stretching as far as the eye can see. An amazing sight as the anticipation and excitement builds in preparation for the glacier landing. Due to the payload restrictions it is only possible to fly with 4 people on one flight and so two flights will be made for a group of 7-8 team members.
Base camp is intended to be situated at the aircraft landing site at the foot of the access glacier leading up to Dome and Cone. Position N68'54 W29'43. Altitude 2300m.
Altitude & Acclimatisation
Tangent expeditions in Greenland rarely involve ascents of mountains where the affects of altitude are experienced. The only expeditions operated by Tangent that involve operating at altitudes above 3000m are our expeditions to the Watkins Mountains of east Greenland. These expeditions will involve ascents up to 3700m, where it is possible to experience altitude sickness. The expeditions will allow adequate time for acclimatisation if required.
From base camp the team will make an initial recce ski trip up the approach glacier, carrying tents and food up to a large bowl in the upper reaches of the glacier at an altitude of 2800m. This will be a single day trip and descent will be made back down to base camp. A second ascent will then be made back up to advance base camp to move the remainder of food, equipment and fuel. A rest day would then be planned before first making an attempt on Cone, the easier and quicker of the two peaks to climb. Cone will be climbed by the SW ridge which was recently climbed again by Paul and a Tangent group in June 2009 as a final recce. From ABC the route involves approximately 3 hours of ski ascent to an altitude of 3300m before roping up and making the final 400m of ascent on foot up easy grade snow slopes. On Dome it is also possible to ski/snowshoe to 3300m before ascending over a small subsidiary summit to a col below the summit ridge. After ascending an initial 100m of a steeper 40 degree snow slope the angle eases and gives a fine 1 km summit ridge to a broad summit. The ridge is reasonably exposed but involves nothing more than walking with careful foot placements and does not require protection. Both summits can be achieved in single day ascents of around 8-10 hours from ABC, including descent time.
Accommodation in Iceland is provided on a Bed & Breakfast basis, and other meals are not included in Iceland. Expedition food will be provided on a full board basis for the time spent on expedition in Greenland. This will include camping style food during transit at Constable Point airport. If clients choose to eat in the airport canteen this is not included and should be paid for locally in Danish crowns or by credit/debit card.
From our winter experience in 2004, 2006 and 2010 we can confirm that there will be approximately 12 hours of light at the beginning of the expedition, increasing to 13 hours by the end of the 2 weeks.
We have experienced both extremes of weather with our 2004 and 2006 expeditions. In 2004 we were plagued by long periods of bad weather, strong winds and heavy snowfall. Night time temperatures averaged -30 to -35 degrees C with extremes of -25 during milder days and down to -43 on the coldest night. In 2006 it was very different with average temperatures of -25 and extremes of -20 during the day to a coldest temperature of -30. The 2006 expedition experienced perfect blue sky weather and stable high pressure throughout. In summary, we could expect anything!
Level of Camping
The expedition will involve camping in full winter snow conditions on a permanently snow covered glacier. During periods of snowfall it will be necessary to 'dig out' your tent on a regular basis and maintain good overall camp organisation and camp craft skills. At such extreme temperatures condensation from breathing and cooking freezes on the inside of the tent requiring thorough and regular de-icing of the inner tent each morning. The real skill is in keeping everything dry in these conditions.
Experience & Fitness Required
Ascents of both peaks will involve full day ski tours and ski ascents/descents which will typically be of around 8-10 hours depending on ski ability. The ascents will involve easy angle ski ascents/descents on large slow moving glaciers where crevasses can largely be avoided. The final few hundred metres of each ascent will be on foot and involve moving together throughout on easy slopes with the occasional rope length of 35-40 degree slopes. The team will be carrying ropes and suitable protection to safe guard any steeper sections. No rock climbing experience is required. Skiing ability should be such that you are able to confidently descend blue ski runs. Alpine touring (Randonee), Nordic mountain touring, Telemark, and split board ski equipment are all suitable for this expedition. Snow shoes are acceptable for non skiers but will result in slower descent times. Clients should have previous winter camping experience in difficult snow conditions, and be competent in the use of ice axe and crampons for winter mountain walking. Clients should have good mountain hill walking fitness and be capable of long and hard hill days of up to 10 hours or more when required.
All team members will require the usual set of winter alpine clothing and equipment, however the following additional items are essential for living and climbing at these temperatures:- full one piece down suit, high altitude mountaineering boots with built in gaiter, full neoprene face mask. We will also have custom inners made for the boots which contain mild heating elements to reduce the chances of frost bite. These are Lithium battery operated from a unit stored in the inner chest pocket of the down suit.
Tangent will provide Snowsled pulk sledges, North Face tents, snow pegs, floor insulation, MSR stoves, fuel bottles, fuel cans, fuel funnels, stove spares kits, lighters, pans, white gas fuel, food, toilet paper, maps & aerial reconnaissance photos, GPS, group survival shelter, snow shovels, emergency flares, PLB (emergency locator beacon), rifle & ammunition (Polar Bear deterrent), VHF air band radio, walkie talkie radios, satellite telephone & solar re-charging system, emergency flares, base camp medical kit, mountain first aid kit, general spares and repair kit, client prussik loops, ropes & all snow/ice climbing and crevasse rescue equipment for security on steep ground and glacier travel, general spares and repair kit.
Clients will need to provide their own large rucksack/travel bag, 55+ litre daysack for summit days, top of the range sleeping bag comfort rated to -30'c, inflatable sleeping mattress (& repair kit), foam sleeping mattress, water/windproof jacket and trousers, suitable ski touring/Telemark boots, ski or snowshoe gear, ski poles, skins, spare skin glue, avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe, crampons, full winter clothing, expedition gloves/hat/balaclava, 100% UV sun glasses, 100% UV snow goggles, 1 litre metal flask, 1 litre water bottle, eating/drinking cup/bowl/utensils, pee (toilet) bottle, multi-tool knife, harness, helmet, 5 x screwgate karabiners, ice axe & hammer, GPS (optional), compass.
Please see our insurance site www.insuregreenland.com for details.
The additional cost of this expedition over that of the spring ascents is due to more complex logistics for winter trips and the inability to share flight logistics with other Tangent expeditions to this region.
The expedition will be led by Tangent founder and pioneering Greenland mountaineer Paul Walker who has led numerous expeditions to Greenland over the last 20 years. Paul has climbed extensively throughout east and northeast Greenland and has opened up many new mountaineering areas with his company Tangent Expeditions. He led the Tangent expedition to make the first winter ascent of the highest mountain in the Arctic, Gunnbjørnsfjeld 3693m, in 2006. Although unconfirmed, it is believed that Paul holds the world record for the greatest number of previously unclimbed mountain summits.
Personal Service - all prospective clients are welcome to visit us at our home in Cumbria or Paul Walker will travel to any part of the mainland UK free of charge to meet with you and discuss the expedition in more detail and show you maps and photographs. We believe this benchmark service is offered by no other expedition travel company and supports our commitment to providing an ultimate level of high quality personal service.