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New Arctic Big Wall Route Climbed in Winter

Two highly experienced alpine climbers establish the first winter big wall route in Greenland

Marcin Tomaszewski and Pavel Haldas have made the first ascent of a big wall in Greenland in winter. They were away from communication for 26 days during their expedition, of which 14 were spent on the wall. In the end, they established FRAM up the Oqatssut Wall, a  700-metre VI M5 A3 C2. It’s the first recorded big wall route opened in Greenland between Dec. 21 and March 21.

Oqatssut Wall

Tomaszewski and Haldas travelled from Ummaannaq to a nearby island using a snowmobile expecting to climb in -40ºC temperatures. “We realised that the key to success in this case was speed, especially as the weather conditions vary,” said Tomaszewski. They fixed the lower wall in good weather, finding the temperatures to be the biggest obstacle. “The climbing in the lower part of the wall was not technically difficult but very demanding due to the loose rock,” said Tomaszewski.

They only had seven hours each day to climb due to a late rising and early setting sun. Tomaszewski said they were on the verge of extreme frostbite every day. “A moment’s carelessness or negligence would have ended our expedition and our dream of a new route on this beautiful wall.”

Photo by Marcin Tomaszewski

They started up the wall on Feb. 18 and rigged their portaledge above the ninth pitch. They swapped leads to stay warm. Their climb followed a natural line up cracks and chimneys past overhangs. There were sections too wide for their #6 cams. High on the wall was a “demanding” A3 pitch up a tricky and loose slab. The reached the top and rappelled in high winds. They said that climbing the wall in summer would likely be too dangerous due to the amount of loose rock – most of which is frozen together in winter.

Tomaszewski has established many difficult big wall climbs over the years, including a new one on Uli Biaho Tower in Pakistan’s Karakoram. Frozen Fight Club is a 780-metre M7 A3 climbed over 11 Days in -32°C – read more about it here.