East Greenland Expedition

Destinations: the summit of the “Tupilak” at 2264 metres and then on to the “Ritterknecht” at 2020 metres.

...We chose our destinations based on information from expeditions carried out 16 years ago..., and this sentence from the report written at that time is one we will probably never forget... “17 July 2000: ski tour to the highest Kulusuk peak”...

At the beginning of July, a two-hour flight from Iceland takes us to the small island of Kulusuk, the gateway to East Greenland. But unlike our friends, who came here 16 years ago, there will be no ski tour for us. With temperatures of 20 degrees and above, there isn’t even a trace of snow. Instead the weather is beautiful! An Inuit takes us to our final destination – a place called Sermiligaaq – in his boat. Armed with touring skis and sleighs (pulkas), we had originally planned to carry our gear over the Karale Glacier to the Deep Freeze Pass and then continue on to the 16th September Glacier to ascend the Tupilak. But the glaciers are icy on an inconceivable scale. With no snow and no firn, the skis are the most useless item of equipment we could have brought with us on this expedition. They will remain unused throughout the trip.

After just two days of hard grind, our pulkas start to break up from so much dragging along the hard ice – and we’ve only covered a third of our journey!!! Tired and a little frustrated, we decide to set up camp right at the foot of the Ritterknecht. We explore our options over the next two days, and it quickly becomes clear to us that continuing on the soggy glaciers is going to be impossible. The crevasses are huge and there’s barely any snow even at higher altitudes, plus the temperatures are above 20 degrees. No way…

New plan... new luck... Alexander knows the area from last winter. He was standing on the summit opposite when he noticed the vast unclimbed eastern face of the Ritterknecht. There’s only one sensible way to access the buttress: well-hidden, it cannot be seen from below. We use the photographs from winter to find out where the corridor is, then a few days later we set off on our mission at half past three in the morning. We ascend a good 900 metres on a saddle and then go back down 250 metres to the entrance. Up along the wild buttress we go, until we reach the remarkable column. Finally, it starts to get steep and the rock is looking fantastic! The climb in the first eight pitches is just great and gets to lower Grade VIII difficulty. Then there’s a short climb along the ridge without a rope until the ascent recommences, then it’s another two pitches in the steep granite until we reach the summit of the buttress.

It’s been a long day. We melt water and take on some energy: bacon, cheese and bars. No drive without energy! Well-nourished, we tackle our last steep summit attempt. Take the bull by the horns – that’s our motto. A bivouac definitely isn’t part of our plan! Why should it be? It doesn’t get dark in the Arctic summer, so we can just keep pushing on until we’re at base camp. A few pitches on a ridge scattered with wild jagged towers take us to the top. At 8 pm we are all standing overjoyed on the summit. An incredible mood in the evening sun is a fitting reward for all our efforts. But the descent along the extremely long north ridge still awaits us. After endless descents and lots of abseiling, we finally reach the glacier. Then there’s a short labyrinth and another hour-long descent to deal with before we reach base camp. Arriving back at the tent somewhat weary, I hear an irksome noise coming from my tent: the alarm is ringing JJ Exactly 24 hours have passed and a phenomenal climb is over. We’re all in good health and on cloud nine.

RITTERKNECHT 2020m/route name: “CARPE DIEM” (1000m elevation/8-/ED-)