Arctic Mountains

G4 Expedition, Watkins Mountains, East Greenland

May 28 2004 - Istind, Lille Snefjeld, Ebeth

The morning began with a cloudy horizon, scattered blue sky above us and a flat light. Priority number 1 this morning was to check out the mountains at the end of the glacier. We sat course for the mountain we referred to as Istind (Ice Peak).

The pitch up to the ridge was steep. At least 50 degrees. It was clear that Torstein and Per Ove meant to use the rope. Petter seemed determined to come along. Jan-Frode and I was going back and forth, but decided to pass. My personal reason for stepping aside was the obvious extra time one person would cost the team. In my opinion, this was a job for a two-person team. I decided to ski over to Lille Snefjeld and follow their progress. Jan-Frode came along.

Ståle was watching the group on Istind from his photo point below Ebeth. Lille Snefjeld was a poor hump, and we could ski both up and down the mountain. Still, this mountain may never have been visited before, which added some excitement to the summit visit. We could see that the progress on Istind was slow, and for some reason, I was convinced that they wouldn't make it to the summit this day.

Jan-Frode and I returned to Ståle. I asked Ståle if he wanted to come along and check out the Ebeth summit ridge. He wanted to watch the group, but could do so all the way up Ebeth. Just below the Ebeth summit ridge, we could see that the guys on Istind were coming back down.

The Ebeth summit ridge was sharp, exposed and the snow was questionable. There was no way we should get anywhere near that ridge without ropes. Then we suddenly discovered another peak further southwest. We hadn't seen this peak from the glacier, and the access was quite easy. It wasn't as high as Ebeth summit, but had incredible views down the Kronborg glacier. We put up a cairn at some naked rock just before the summit, just where the mountains falls steep down to the glacier below. The summit was narrow, but could easily fit two persons.

Due to the high saddle, the SE spur of Ebeth was not ranked as an independent peak. The height from the saddle to the summit was merely 60m. Still, it was fun to have "discovered" this peak, and Ståle and I referred to as "Hidden Peak" for internal use.

On the way down, we saw Torstein and Per Ove heading towards Ebeth, aiming for the west face. I had assumed the south ridge was the natural access point, but these guys clearly saw the opportunity for a marvellous run down on skis. Petter was heading for Lille Snefjeld, probably very eager to "bag a hill". Especially since the Istind attempt had failed. Jan-Frode, who was waiting below, Ståle and I headed towards Torstein and Per Ove. We learned that the snow above the place where they hit the Istind ridge was unstable, and that they all had agreed to cancel the project. It had taken them 2,5 hours to advance to the ridge and one rope length above the ridge.

Per Ove seemed determined to ski all the way up to Ebeth. I took a quick look at the mountain and decided to go somewhere else. Per Ove yelled down to me and asked me where the hell I was going. "It's not steep!", he added. In pure shame, I put on the crampons and headed up the mountain.

Above me, I could see that Per Ove had taken his skis off. Torstein was already way above him. Then I hit the crevasse with hard blue ice. I hadn't a very good grip on the ice axe, and the crampons weren't biting quite as good as I wanted them to. I continued for another pitch and looked up. It didn't look all that steep, even if I realized it was at least 50 degrees. I looked down and confirmed that it was steep indeed.

I had to take a decision and bailed out. This decision was the singlemost important event on my Greenland trip. There was no question that I would have made it to the summit, but realizing this would also be the return path, I got anxious. I had a clumsy ice axe, 70cm long, with no support for the hand. This wall required the sharp end of the axe and the axe slipped back and forward inside my glove. Taking the glove off was not an option. With better snow conditions, and no blue ice, I might have gone all the way. It was impossible to tell how a fall would have been. Most likely I would have fallen a long way. Being in a fairly remote area, the threshold for taking chances was clearly raised. But this was certainly a big mental disappointment for me.

Jan-Frode gave the wall a try. He went a bit higher than me, but also turned around (and Jan-Frode climbed Istind two days later). I had expected Ståle to try as well, but he stayed at the bottom. Petter came along, clearly eager to follow, but he didn't.

Per Ove and Torstein soon reached the summit, and we could see them building a cairn. 10 minutes later, Torstein was backtracking face in with two axes, making sure every step was secure. Meanwhile, Per Ove (the madman) was gearing up for a run down on skis. It didn't take Per Ove long to be back down. His wide smile indicated that this sort of kick is more important than food and water. It took Torstein at least 30 more minutes to reach the less steep section of the wall. I was impressed with their performance, and felt small.

Petter, Jan-Frode and I returned to camp while the others went up to Lille Snefjeld. The number of ski-tracks on the glacier were amazing. From being a virgin spot on this earth, the glacier looked like it had hosted a race with hundreds of skiers. It was a good day in the mountains, despite the lack of bravery that hit me on the Ebeth west face.


1. On the way to Istind (105KB) 2. The shark looking face of Istind (137KB) 3. The group on the way to Istind (165KB) 4. Snefjeld and Lille Snefjeld seen from below Istind (173KB) 5. Ebeth seen from below Istind (250KB) 6. The guys on their Istind attempt (192KB) 7. Torstein climbing Istind (167KB) 8. Per Ove on Istind (144KB) 9. Petter on Istind (258KB) 10. Torstein on the way up to Petter (90KB) 11. Torstein on the Istind ridge (158KB) 12. Per Ove on the Istind ridge (241KB)

Lille Snefjeld:

13. Snefjeld seen from Lille Snefjeld (161KB) 14. Glacier view from Lille Snefjeld (298KB) 15. Ebeth seen from Lille Snefjeld (248KB) 16. Jan-Frode on Lille Snefjeld (253KB) 17. Arnt on Lille Snefjeld (250KB)


18. Snefjeld and Lille Snefjeld seen from below Ebeth (139KB) 19. Istind seen from Ebeth south ridge (197KB) 20. Staale and Ebeth SE spur (176KB) 21. Arnt on Ebeth SE spur (374KB) 22. Staale on Ebeth SE spur (220KB) 23. Scenery below Istind seen from Ebeth (230KB) 24. Ejnar Mikkelsens Fjeld and Kronborg Glacier (297KB)

25. Torstein and Per Ove on the way to Ebeth (166KB) 26. Glacier view from Ebeth (174KB) 27. Ebeth summit (166KB) 28. View from Ebeth (236KB) 29. View from Ebeth (363KB) 30. Torstein climbing down and Per Ove skiing down Ebeth (159KB)


31. Per Oves tracks down Lille Snefjeld (105KB) 32. Small men. Big landscape (138KB) 33. BC3 (152KB)

Additional pictures by Petter, added Nov 2004

34. Ebeth seen from Lille Snefjeld. The dots are the rest of the team (240KB) 35. Torstein and Per Ove on the way down Ebeth (164KB) 36. Torstein and Per Ove attempting Istind (276KB) 37. Snefjeld (105KB)

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