Arctic Mountains

G4 Expedition, Watkins Mountains, East Greenland

May 17 2004 - Gunnbjørn Fjeld

Roll call 04:45AM on the Norwegian National Day. Lovely weather, but it was freezing cold. After the morning rituals with changing clothes, eating porridge and melting water, it was time to get going. Jan-Frode left camp 06:30AM, I left 06:45AM, Petter 07:00AM and the others shortly after.

I caught up with Jan-Frode after an hour. The blisters were bugging me. I decided to just let the mind drift and headed upwards. The glacier was amazingly long. Almost endless. After a couple of hours, Gunnbjørn Fjeld didn't seem any closer. I crossed over two crevasses, and didn't wait for the others. The Tromsø team told us they did not use ropes upon skiing down the glacier. This doesn't mean that the crevasse is safe, but the snow bridge looked pretty solid, and I decided to take my chances. I continued all the way alone up to the high ridge at 3300m. The others were catching up behind me. I had developed a headache, and moving upwards suddenly turned harder.

The long journey up the glacier took about 4,5 hours. We all met on a rock field at the foot of the mountain. We put on crampons and left the skis behind. Everyone, except Per Ove and Torstein. They were quite determined to get the first Telemark descent from the mountain.

The views that opened up towards the Christian IV glacier were absolutely amazing. But I wasn't in a position to enjoy anything. In addition to the headache, I felt nausea. I decided on getting the summit and get the hell off the mountain.

Torstein was above me on the southwest ridge. From distance, the ridge looked steep, but it got less steeper than I had anticipated. Perhaps 40 degrees. I was able to take 20 steps before I had to rest for 30-60 seconds. I couldn't remember last time I was this tired. Not even on Mt. Blanc last year. The nausea got worse, but I knew I would have to break both legs not to collect this summit. Only 200 vertical meters to go. Come on!!

Torstein reached the summit 13:05PM. I could hear his scream, and was uplifted. I reached the summit 13:15PM. We looked at the northwest ridge, and found it to be less steep than the southwest ridge. We congratulated each other with the achievement, and I managed one round of pictures before I decided to abandon the summit. In the meantime, Petter had arrived the summit, and Per Ove were following shortly after.

Just above the steeper part of the ridge, I passed Ståle and Jan-Frode. They were both pretty exhausted, but there was no doubt they would make it all the way. I mumbled something about being sick, and headed down towards the skis. As I was fighting to get the crampons off, I started to vomit. The skull now felt like it would explode any minute. I took some Decadron and managed to get the skis on. Then I began on the journey down the glacier.

I reached camp 15:15PM and fell immediately to sleep. I woke up one hour later and was a bit worried when I didn't see anyone on the glacier. I took out my binoculars and gazed up the glacier. Side by side, I saw 5 people skiing down the mountain. The scene could have been taken straight from a James Bond movie. Incredibly cool.

The happy crowd could report that Per Ove and Torstein had skied down all the way from the summit. What a success! Ståle also got sick on the mountain, and Per Ove was suffering from headache. My condition had quickly improved due to the Decadron and being back in the lowlands, and I was able to share the joy with the team. Everyone got a tiny taste of precious whisky. The amount was insignificant. We had already started to appreciate the small things of luxury that were available to us.

Petter called back home with great news, but the battery almost went dead after the call. That was a bit worrying, but we still had two batteries. In any case, it was clear that we would have to be careful with the phone calls. I went to bed 20:00PM, quite happy with today's achievement and that everyone made it back "home" safe and sound.

While trying to sleep, I reflected on having been to the highest mountain north of the polar circle. I felt nothing. I knew that Gunnbjørn Fjeld could hardly be called a very accessible mountain, and that I was indeed fortunate to be a part of this adventure. I felt thankful for the opportunity, but still felt nothing about the achievement. I felt it was way too easy. All I had done was to pay a great deal of money, fly out here, ski up a glacier and walk up a ridge. I had the same feeling after hiking Mt. Blanc. It took many months to get the necessary distance and to develope joy about having done a superb mountain. I fell too sleep, accepting that the Gunnbjørn Fjeld sensation would come later in the year.

1. On the way to Gunnbjorn Fjeld (179KB) 2. View back towards camp (315KB) 3. On the way to Gunnbjorn Fjeld (258KB) 4. The southwest ridge appears (262KB) 5. Crampons on (233KB) 6. Torstein on the way up the mountain (132KB) 7. On the southwest ridge (330KB) 8. Staale on the southwest ridge (174KB) 9. Wild mountain near Gunnbjorn Fjeld (297KB) 10. Petter arrives the summit (242KB) 11. Tired, sick and happy on Gunnbjorn Fjeld summit (111KB) 12. Torstein Skage on Gunnbjorn Fjeld summit (307KB) 13. Summit view from Gunnbjorn Fjeld (558KB) 14. Gunnbjorn Fjeld northwest ridge (233KB) 15. Summit view from Gunnbjorn Fjeld (661KB) 16. Summit view from Gunnbjorn Fjeld (1107KB) 17. Crevasses on the ski route (372KB) 18. Jan-Frode, Staale and Per Ove on Gunnbjorn Fjeld (197KB) 19. Torstein and Per Ove on Gunnbjorn Fjeld (270KB) 20. Norwegian National Day on Gunnbjorn Fjeld (164KB) 21. Torstein skiing down Gunnbjorn Fjeld (234KB) 22. Per Ove skiing down Gunnbjorn Fjeld (222KB) 23. Per Ove skiing down Gunnbjorn Fjeld (239KB) 24. Torstein skiing down Gunnbjorn Fjeld (215KB) 25. Per Ove skiing down Gunnbjorn Fjeld (278KB) 26. Group celebration after Gunnbjorn Fjeld (247KB)

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