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First Ascents and Friendship in Greenland

Posted on: December 5th, 2013 by The AAC

2013 Copp-Dash Inspire Award winners Quinn Brett, Lizzy Scully, and Prairie Kearney journeyed to Greenland this past summer. The Copp-Dash was formed to assist climbers before, during, and after expeditions with financial grants and multimedia instruction to help empower them to share their current and future adventures with a wider audience. The deadline for the next round is December 31, 2013. Apply today!

Photo credit: AAC member Quinn Brett

Prairie on Morning Luxury on the Breakfast Spire. Photo credit: AAC member Quinn Brett

By AAC member Quinn Brett

We stirred side-by-side in our yellow nylon sanctuary, passing the grey sunset-less days with activities and conversation. We discussed our completed climbs and possible new routes. Most popular was the combo package of playing cribbage, while giggling between songs, that we would slaughter aloud. Very aloud. We sung to our expedition mates nestled in their own rain havens.

Prairie Kearney, Lizzy Scully, photographer John Dickey and myself set up our base camp at the lip of the Tortusaktak Fjord only six days earlier. We arrived June 24, 2013 via small powerboat. The surrounding scenery remained elusive, completely socked in. The rain eased as we shuffled loads up the steep tufty slope to base camp. This beautiful valley, home for the following four weeks, is located in the southernmost tip of Greenland. The Cape Farewell region is stacked with unclimbed peaks. A climber’s paradise. Some fjords contain sheer steep walls, like those in the Tasermiut. Other fjords are stacked with 2,000 foot alpine-style rock climbs. Our valley in the Tortusaktak lay directly west of the famous Baron and Baroness, across iceberg-filled waters, and fit into the alpine category.   

Basecamp. Photo credit: Quinn Brett

Basecamp. Photo credit: Quinn Brett

We felt lucky to be in this remote place. It all started when I emailed Lizzy Scully inquiring about expedition partners. Lizzy was keen to join, and I couldn’t be more thrilled! She spearheaded the grant proposal for the Copp-Dash Inspire Award and contacted other sponsors. Lizzy and I had just decided we should include more females on our journey when one of my best girlfriends came for a visit, Prairie Kearney. Prairie is a longtime friend and handstand enthusiast. We giggle more than we talk most days. I invited her, but she was unsure of her work schedule and worried her skill-level would be hindering. “Are you kidding?” I said. Prairie is strong, stronger than any cup of coffee you have ever had. Yeah, THAT strong! Lizzy worked her magic, and Prairie joined in.   

On the fourth day, we experienced perfect bluebird weather, which we hoped would provide us with dry rock (and it did for the most part). So, we blasted off to attempt a new route on the left side of the Barnes Wall buttress. Our line, “Plenty for Everyone,” ascends the 1,800-foot southeastern arete of what we called the Barnes Wall. Both names in the spirit of an amazing soul, Andrew Barnes. Andrew died climbing in the Black Canyon while we were on this extravagant journey. A classic adventure with a little bit of everything: hand sized splitters, tiny smears and face holds, loose blocks, a clean 5-inch right-facing dihedral, and a little wet choss before the summit mantle.  

Rest followed for a day, but only one. Our hearts set on a plumb line that spawned this journey. The south ridge of the Breakfast Spire. Parts of this wall had been previously climbed, but the entire 2,000-foot sweeping east face all the way to the summit has yet to see a route. Scrambling up the steep/slabby slope to gain the south ridge’s gendarme was moderate. The view of neighboring Shepton’s Spire was jaw-dropping. We flirted with the gradually steeping south ridge for two long pitches before finally zagging right onto a ramp. This gained access to a long and clean 5.7 chimney. From here the climbing zigged back over the left side of the ridge, where it would remain until the summit block wrestle. This eight-pitch route contains two stellar stem-box 5.11 corners. One with an off-width start and the second opening up into a gorgeous hand crack. Belays are all cozy ledges. If in Colorado this would surely be a classic rock climb.  

“Morning Luxury” became our third route, ground up, first try, and all in our first week to Greenland. WOW!

Photo credit: AAC member Quinn Brett

Summit of Plenty for Everyone on the Barnes Wall. First route, first summit, first try! Photo credit: AAC member Quinn Brett

Because Prairie and I have a history, I sensed Lizzy perhaps feeling lost with our excessive inside jokes and our odd sense of humor.  Prairie and I have a habit of “caw-cawing” for our belay commands. But, by the end of the trip we started hearing “caw-caws” out of Lizzy. At first meek, but now with gusto!

On the summits, we danced. A tradition I like to keep on all my summits. We climbed four new rock climbs in Greenland, two of them over 1,500 feet tall (on the first try). So, we danced a lot. In our downtime we attempted to catch fish, convinced a frenchman to wear my pink dress, giggled, taught John Dickey how to do a handstand, and swam in frigid waters. We had plenty of success on many accounts. While together, traveling and climbing, the three of us got to know each other as women and also as climbing partners. John Dickey remained patient as ever, as he traveled with this group of women capturing beautiful images in this surreal place.

Selfie! Praire Kearney (left) and Quinn Brett (right). Photo credit: AAC member Quinn Brett.

Photo credit: AAC member Quinn Brett.

We are all so thankful for the American Alpine Club and the Copp-Dash Inspire award. The grant made the whole trip possible. Additionally many things seem predestined about winning this grant. We traveled with John Dickey who was great friends with both Micah Dash and Jonny Copp and had traveled to Greenland in 2003 with Micah on an American Alpine Club Grant. Dickey shared so many stories of both men. Lizzy and I both knew Jonny and Micah as well, and are super proud to have climbed these new routes in a minimalist ”Colorado Cowboy” style! Jonny, Micah and Andrew would be proud of our ascents and of our goal to inspire others to climb and laugh their hardest.  

Apply for the Copp-Dash Inspire Award today!




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