A young climbing history
The early history of mountaineering in Greenland is closely linked with scientific exploration, and many first ascents were performed in connection with topographic mapping and geological exploration.
Climbing for sport started relatively late, not least because Greenland was a closed protectorate until 1950. After this time, the country was often visited by climbers, mainly from England, France, Italy and Denmark.
“Greenland is just beautiful, especially once you just get out of the towns and into the mountains. It is just so mesmerizing. This is the seventh time I have come back. It is a love affair!”
Six core destinations for climbing in Greenland
Satuning Alps are located in the North Greenland National Park, near the air strips of Mestersvig and Constable Point. There are many notable alpine peaks, up to nearly 3,000 m in height. Access to the area requires an expedition permit.
This is the area with the highest mountains in Greenland, culminating in Gunnbjørn Fjeld. Located behind the inaccessible and often feared Blosseville coast, this area is pretty much only reachable by ski equipped airplane from Iceland. It is one of the most visited mountain areas in Greenland. Access to the area requires an expedition permit.
Schweizer Land is a popular climbing area, not least because of the relatively short distance from the international airport in Kulusuk and the town of Tasiilaq. Most of the area (up to 150 km from Tasiilaq) lies with in a permit free zone, providing access to climbs on numerous peaks and rock walls.
If you want good granite and solid rock, the fiords of South Greenland are an obvious and accessible climbing goal
Cape Farewell / Tasermiut Fjord
If you want good granite and solid rock, the fjords of South Greenland are an obvious and accessible climbing goal, which, with a bit of planning, can be reached in a day from Europe. It has been a popular climbing area since the early 1970s, and still has an almost inexhaustible number of unclimbed walls and peaks.
The most famous peaks are Ketil and Ulamertorssuaq (The Great Cylinder). Nearest town is Nanortalik, where you can hire boat transport into the fjords.
Evighedsfjorden (The Fjord of Eternity)
The fjord is a classic climbing area close to the town of Maniitsoq and very popular with Danish climbers in the 1960s. The area is often used for extreme skiing and heliskiing.
Uummannaq Bay and Upernavik
Again a classic climbing area, and in recent years "rediscovered" by some of the world's best rock climbers, who have repeatedly used their own boats in this beautiful fjord system between the Nuussuaq Peninsula and the town of Upernavik. There is quite a bit of loose rock close to Upernavik, as well as firm solid granite One of most photographed mountains in Greenland, the Heart Mountain in Uummannaq, has recently had several new routes added!
Permits, Insurance and rescue
The Greenland Government requires expedition permits for all traffic on the Ice Cap, in the Greenland National Park and for most part of East Greenland.
Excluded are the areas around the two towns in East Greenland, Illoqqortoormiut / Scoresbysund and Tasiilaq (both containing numerous exciting climbs) and all of West Greenland.
Regardless of whether you have been allowed into a restrictive area, or if you climb in West Greenland, where permission is not required, it is important to note that there is no mountain rescue in Greenland. Air Greenland has many helicopters available, but none of them have the necessary equipment to pick up casualties from difficult terrain.
It is therefore essential to possess experience in self-rescue and advanced first aid. It is important to provide the local police with a plan in writing which will show your intended location, time and dates – and to be in possession of an emergency transmitter or a satellite phone.
“We had read about others climbing near Tasiilaq, so we picked Greenland! Standing on a peak that has never been climbed and having a view in all directions that is absolutely spectacular is a pretty cool experience! No matter how many times I have done it before, it is always rewarding!”
Strong winds can suddenly and un-expectably arise. In particular, the South Greenland
Although the world's largest island covers an immense area from 60 to 84 degrees north, summers are startlingly similar in both the south and the north. In July, you would expect temperatures at sea level to be eight to ten degrees (and more), but often the temperature will feel warmer in the dry clear air.
Greenland's climate is strongly influenced by the presence of a stable high pressure over the Ice Cap, pushing away a series of low pressure from Arctic Canada and Iceland. This often provides stable and hot summer weather close to the Ice Cap and in the deep fjords, but more humid and cool weather closer to the outer coast. Low pressure passage and rain becomes more frequent the further south one goes.
Strong winds can suddenly and un-expectably arise. In particular, the South Greenland "south-east" a special gusty type of wind from the Ice Cap can create surprising challenges for climbers.
The Arctic Circle passes through Kangerlussuaq on the West coast and Tasiilaq on the East coast, allowing you the possibility of experiencing the midnight sun during summer and thereby providing you with an opportunity for 24 hours of continuous climbing. The exception is climbers who choose to climb in the popular southern part of Greenland.
Equipment and Supplies
All climbing equipment and special provisions must be brought from your homeland. However, basic supplies, meat, vegetables and fuel can be advantageously purchased in even the smallest towns along the coast. Heavy equipment is transported by ship. Calculate minimum of one month for transport from Denmark to the nearest, larger town in Greenland.
There are no official guidebooks showing climbing routes in Greenland!
Information on climbing
There are no official guidebooks showing climbing routes in Greenland! It can make planning somewhat difficult, but at the same time it does provide climbers with a feeling of being the first ones there at a particular site.
Finally, it is important to notice that there are few drilled bolts in Greenland, no sports climbing and no routes close to the towns. Greenland is a destination for traditional climbers and virtually all areas require some form of expedition approach, such as long hikes, boat hire or permits.
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