Climbing in Greenland – Nameless Creek

Earlier this summer Hyperlite Mountain Gear sponsored an expedition by Team Glitterbomb (that’s Lizzy Scully, Quinn Brett, Prairie Kearney and John Dickey) to climb unclaimed big walls in Greenland.   Hyperlite Mountain Gear is amazed at what the team accomplished and proud that our ultralight backpacks and shelters helped them along the way.

Glitterbomb PostcardRead on for a post from Lizzy Scully on the expedition and Nameless Creek, the rushing waterway that featured prominently in their time in Greenland.

Every morning this July (2013), I wake up to the sound of a nameless, raging glacier-fed creek just 20 yards down the hill from my tent. Looking out my “window”, I see it splash against big, white-spotted gray boulders and churn in small, clear holes. I call her Nameless Creek. I love how she tumbles and froths.

Nameless Creek alternately calms and scares me. She is difficult to cross, except in a few choice, semi-trecherous spots where we jump from wet, mossy boulders to steep, angular ones that we slide down despite our sticky rubber-covered shoes. Sometimes a foot or whole leg ends up submerged in frigid water, and sometimes it’s best to just take the approach shoes off and cross in the shallower, flatter gravelly bars with quickly frozen, bare feet.

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On the days we hike below the bases of the many unclimbed, sometimes strangely-named rocky peaks we aspire to summit, we walk alongside Nameless Creek. We hop the boulders that line her shores, and we wander into the florescent green vegetation through which she runs. Our feet sometimes sink fully into her marshy surroundings. We have taken two trips up and down Nameless so far to climb three first ascents, the two biggest of which I have happily been a part of. The first week, our team of four ascended a stunning 8-pitch 5.11- ridge line that we called “Morning Luxury,” on a spire that some Brits identified as Breakfast Spire (though they never summited); the three ladies also climbed a manky wet, but interesting 10-pitch 5.10+/11-, which we called “Plenty for Everyone” on the Barnes Wall (we named it that in honor of a friend who died a few days later); and finally, John, Prairie, and Quinn climbed another 4-pitch route to the ridge of the Submarine Wall on a sunny, warm afternoon that I spent meditating, resting, and slapping mosquitoes; they called it “Four Quickies” (5.9).

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We are fairly certain our two summits have not been reached by other humans, especially the summit of Breakfast Spire, a very narrow, slanted square platform, blanketed with black, potato chip-crunchy, rose-like blooms of lichen. We are the sole proprietors of the Wedgies and biners that were left, without which it would be impossible to descend. Of course, we aren’t 100% positive. A handful of climbers in the past assembled a haphazard array of trip reports and topos, one of which shows an unfinished line up our Spire. But there’s nothing definitive about this area. Hopefully there never will be.

Nameless Creek originates just where we established our advanced base camp, amidst glaciers and a gnarly boulder field the size of 10 football fields, all nestled within a giant cirque of granite walls. It is also nameless–The Cirque–at least as far as I know. Melting streams of snow and ice from other, smaller valleys also feed Nameless, but most of her raging frothiness comes from the sky blue-tinted glacier that stretches across the basin of The Cirque.

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The glacier. It’s lovely, with its swaths of pinkish sections, collapsed sink holes, and deep aqua green mini-lakes that sparkle with the shiny, silicate mineral called mica. We hear dozens of streams of varying sizes flowing underneath areas of the glacier as well, which we carefully avoid, and also beneath the boulder field.

While we climb and rappel on our longest, 18-hour day, up our favorite route “Morning Luxury”, I realize also that water from hundreds of snowy patches in the shadowy chimneys and corners of 1600-foot Breakfast Spire also feed Nameless Creek. Evidence is everywhere. It drip, drip, drips off incipient seams and plops into small pools of cold, clear water in various granite nooks. It saturates every patch of sponge-like green and orange moss on the Spire’s ledges and clusters of boulder. And it flows down dirt and grass-filled cracks until it fans out, painting the Spire’s lower slabs with big grey vertical streaks.

And at times the wetness gets very personal. I feel it as I ease my way up the smooth, slime-covered walls of a 200-foot chimney. I hope my damp hands don’t suddenly slip; there is no protection. We find the worst, unprotected, crumbling, waterlogged rock any of us has ever touched in places, and we feel the ooze of mud through our fingers while digging into cracks with nut tools in an attempt to find elusive gear placements for rappel anchors.

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Each day in Greenland, we touch and feel the water that eventually turns into Nameless Creek. Right now as I speak this story, rain that feeds her patters on the thin walls of my tent. Droplets form, a rivulet of water weaves its way down the waterproof fabric, into the grass and shrubs, through the earth, and then into Nameless. Less than 20 yards away, she drops off suddenly, falling from the flat meadow that is our base camp onto a steep talus slope. There, she falls faster and faster until she finally becomes a roaring waterfall crashing into the Torsukatak Fjord, thousands of feet below. HMG21

It is July, 2013, and every night I fall asleep to the sound of water crashing down the hillside 20 yards from my tent. I call the flow of her Nameless Creek. I love how she rumbles and churns.

Lizzy Scully, Summer 2013, Greenland.

 

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