Arctic Mountains

Watkins Mountains, East Greenland

Gunnbjørn Fjeld, 3694m (Hvitserk, Gunnbjørnfjeld, Gunnbjornfjeld, Gunnbjorn Fjell, Mt. Gunnbjorn)
Dome, 3683m (Qaqqaq Kershaw)
Cone, 3669m (Qaqqaq Johnson)
+ more (see below)

Mountain area : Watkins Mountains, East Greenland
Maps : See below
Primary factor : See below
Visited : May 2004
Norwegian National Day on Gunnbjorn Fjeld

Norwegian National Day on Gunnbjørn Fjeld

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Greenland's highest mountains are found in the Watkins Mountains on the eastern side of Greenland, approx. 80Km northeast of Kap Normann on the coast. East and west of the Watkins mountains, the major glaciers Rosenborg and Christian IV gletchers (glaciers) drain towards the sea. The three highest mountains in this area are Gunnbjørn Fjeld (3694m), Dome (3683m) and Cone (3669m). Gunnbjørn Fjeld is named after the Norwegian explorer Gunnbjørn Ulfsson who sailed far enough to see the Greenland coastline. Dome and Cone have later been renamed to Qaqqaq Kershaw and Qaqqaq Johnson ("Qaqqaq" means "mountain" in the Greenlandic language). In addition to being the highest mountain on Greenland, Gunnbjørn Fjeld is also the highest mountain north of the Polar Circle. The fourth highest mountain - PEV (3609m and named after Paul Emile Victor) is also a significant peak, located approx. 24Km southeast of Gunnbjørn Fjeld.

This area is becoming more and more accessible thanks to well established guiding companies such as Tangent Expeditions International and Hvitserk. It is a good idea to join with companies such as the ones above to avoid massive paperwork, planning and detail work.

Our Greenland 2004 (G4) Expedition

This was a privately organized expedition, initiated by Petter Bjørstad. The expedition team consisted of Petter Bjørstad (expedition leader), Torstein Skage, Per Ove Oppedal, Ståle Grimen, Jan-Frode Myklebust and myself. Torstein, Per Ove and Ståle are attached to the Bergen Mountaineering Club (Bergen Turlag Fjellsportgruppen). Petter met them through this organization. Petter, Jan-Frode and myself have done several trips together. All in all, it was two separate teams joining up for this Greenland expedition. The team from Bergen Turlag Fjellsportgruppen were skilled climbers, skiers and instructors. Ståle was in addition a certified (male) nurse. Petter is a seasoned mountaineer (including 3 former Greenland trips, all the Colorado Fourteeners, and high mountains around the world) and Jan-Frode has experience from climbing. I was the one with least experience and skills regarding mountaineering. All in the group live in Bergen (per May 2004)

The primary goal was to ascend Gunnbjørn Fjeld, the highest mountain in the Arctic (as defined by north of the Polar Circle). The secondary goal was to ascend all the 3 highest mountains. Thirdmost, we would like to get the first Telemark descent from the Gunnbjørn Fjeld summit. In addition, if we were so fortunate to be able to collect some 1st ascents, the project would be 100% successful.

The expedition was "officially" launched Nov 7 2003, when Petter sent an invitation to participate on the expedition. By early December 2003, the group was settled, and we had our first team meeting. Tasks and responsibilities were delegated within the group. Petter would handle the administrative work (permits, insurances, transport, accomodation, etc). The rest of the group would be responsible for weight planning, food, cooking equipment, VHF radios, satellite phones, emergency beacons, tents, climbing equipment, maps, medicine, and so on.

In addition to the intial, and follow-up planning meetings, we spent one evening on Gullfjellet outside Bergen where we repeated crevasse rescue techniques, and one evening at Nutec (where Ståle works), covering advanced first aid techniques.

A group of sponsors helped us keeping the cost down by discounting and/or supplying us with equipment. Members of the group will be giving presentations to some of the sponsors as part of the sponsor agreement. We would like to thank the following sponsors:


The trip (highlights)

The group left Bergen May 14 2004 and arrived Isafjordur (Iceland) via Copenhagen and Reykjavik. We spent the night at a local guesthouse and left for Greenland on a chartered Twin Otter (Flugfelag Islands) May 15th. Also present in the Watkins Mountains was a 8-person team from Tromsø, Norway, on a trip organized by Tangent.

We reached the summit of Gunnbjørn Fjeld May 17 (on the Norwegian National Day). We reached the summit of Dome on May 20th and the summit of Cone on May 21st. All in the group reached the summits, and two in the group (Torstein Skage and Per Ove Oppedal) were the first in the world to: a) Ski down (Telemark) from the very summit of Gunnbjørn Fjeld, b) Ski down (Telemark) the Gunnbjørn Fjeld southwest ridge, c) Ski down (Telemark) Dome (the Tromsø team had Telemark skiers down Cone the day before we reached the summit, and d) Ski down (Telemark) all the three highest mountains on Greenland. It should be noted that a 3-person team from Denmark *almost* skied down the entire Gunnbjørn Fjeld northwest ridge in May 2001. A very short pitch (10-20m) of blue ice prevented a complete run down on skis. A very strong achievement, taken into consideration that they had skied for 47 days (!) from Constable Pynt.

We left the Gunnbjørn Fjeld area May 25th after having ascended another four peaks above 3000m. We assume that these peaks have already been ascended, and are trying to find out if this is so. In the period May 26 to May 30, the group skied and climbed 11 mountains. One of the mountains had a cairn. Until proven otherwise, we anticipate that the other 10 climbs were 1st ascents.

We left Greenland May 31st and returned to Isafjordur (Iceland). We continued to Reykjavik where we spent the night. June 1st, we stopped by the Blue Lagoon for recreation before we flew back to Bergen via Copenhagen. We had 15 full days on the ice, and 2 half days. We had 2 days designated as resting days due to snowfall. All in all, the expedition was clearly a huge success, measured in both accomplished goals, execution, personal experiences and weather. A very warm thanks to Petter is called for!

The mountains climbed on this expedition were:

May 17Gunnbjørn Fjeld 3694mN68:55.170, W029:53.9123694mHighest on Greenland
May 18Peak 3266 3266mN68:52.456, W029:36.684103m "Skitoppen" (the ski top)
May 20Dome 3683mN68:50.372, W029:55.418645m 2nd highest on Greenland
May 21Cone 3669mN68:52.283, W029:57.009331m 3rd highest on Greenland
May 23"Peak Bergen" 3263mN68:53.871, W029:49.001100m SE of Gunnbjørn Fjeld. 2nd ascent
May 23Peak 3535 3535mN68:53.541, W029:54.465172m 6th highest on Greenland. 3rd ascent
May 23"Styggehorn" 3503mN68:52.077, W030:00.000140m W of Cone
May 26"Brekruna" 2824mN68:58.186, W029:26.830211m 2nd ascent
May 27Point 2263 2263mN69:01.739, W029:25.618100m 2nd ascent. Height est.
May 27"Anita Fjeld" 2466mN68:59.342, W029:24.435178m 1st ascent
May 28"Lille Snefjeld" 2511mN68:59.488, W029:04.705118m 1st ascent Height est.
May 28"Ebeth" 2628mN68:59.086, W029:02.879219m 1st ascent
May 28"Ebeth S-Ø topp"2595mN68:58.590, W029:02.33960m 1st ascent Height est. Not ranked.
May 29"Kristine Fjeld" 2445mN69:00.202, W029:09.040141m 1st ascent Height est.
May 29"Rabben" 2378mN68:58.597, W029:09.285108m 1st ascent Height est.
May 29"Snefjeld" 2650mN68:59:899, W029:06.459323m 1st ascent
May 30"Istind" 2667mN68:58.513, W029:05.029429m 1st ascent
May 30"Skorsteinseggi" 2275mN68:59.228, W029:14.921160m 1st ascent
May 30"Skjærseggi" 2232mN68:59.585, W029:16.451119m 1st ascent Height est.

(mountains I climbed: Gunnbjørn Fjeld, Dome, Cone, Peak 3266, Peak 3535, Brekruna, Point 2263, Lille Snefjeld, Ebeth S-Ø topp, Kristine Fjeld, Skorsteinseggi and Skjærseggi)

Names enclosed in double quotes (") have been assigned by this expedition. We later learned that "Peak Bergen" had already been climbed in 1998, and was known as "Peak Osterreich" (Østerrike in Norwegian). "Brekruna" had also been climbed before, but the name is not known to us. "Peak 3266" is also known as "Skitoppen" (the ski top). Petter Bjørstad is developing a climbing history page which should serve as the main source of information.

"PF" means primary factor. See here for more information about PF. "Not ranked" means the primary factor is less than 100m, thus the mountain is not recognized as an independent mountain.

Pictures and Trip Report:

The pictures here are mainly taken by Per Ove Oppedal and myself. All pictures have the text "Watkins Mountains, East Greenland" in the title. We do not for sure know if the mountains we climbed in the period 26.05-30.05 actually are part of the Watkins Mountain range.

Click here for a day-by-day trip report with pictures.



Resources used for planning were aerial photos and maps.

Map ("Hvitserk Gunnbjorn Fjell"): Very useful map, 1:100 000. (Nov 2004: This map seems to be hard to obtain. The publisher has no current plans to reprint at the moment)

The aerial photos were purchased from:

  Kort & Matrikelstyrelsen
  National Geodatabank
  Rentemestervej 8
  DK- 2400 København

The CD maps: Grønlands Topografiske Kartverk was purchased from:

   Kort & Matrikelstyrelsen
Price: DKK 1430 + VAT per Dec 2003.
(Does not contain the Hvitserk map)


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