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Russians Climb Shark's Tooth
Posted on: June 10, 2011
Pictured above is the Shark's Tooth (1555m); one of many jagged peaks jutting from the Sharks' Teeth glacier. Arcing around the panoply of spires is the Scoresby Sund fjord, which Ruchkin and Mikhailov skied across on their approach. This passage is the longest and one of the deepest fjords in the world. [Photo] Google Maps
On May 5, Russian climbers Alexander Ruchkin and Mikhail Mikhailov succeeded over the course of four days in making first ascent of the Greenland's Shark's Tooth (1555m), via the northwest ridge, a shield of jutting granite located in southeastern Ren Land on the Edward Bailey Glacier. They graded their twenty-one pitch ascent Russian Grade 6A: 6A, 6c A2, 1200m.
While the Russian's were the first to climb this peak, they were not the first to explore the remote Edward Bailey Glacier. In 2007 a party of fifty West Lancashire Country Scouts entered the glacier and claimed thirty-two first ascents. The subsequent year, six Irish climbers from the Queen's University Belfast Mountaineering Club, inspired by the rampant success of last year, also traveled to the glacier but were thwarted by heavy snowfall, complex topography and scant ice.
When the Irish left after establishing five new climbs, Crispin Chatterton, Rob Grant and Nat Spring quickly took their place, climbing nine new routes and exploring several glaciers; one of which was the Shark's Teeth. When this team returned they reported that this location had potential for many big wall and lengthy, alpine-style routes in the following year's American Alpine Journal.
Inspired from Chatterton, Grant and Nat's success, a Dutch team sought virgin peaks in the Shark's Teeth Glacier in 2009. But they encountered impassable rivers and had to settle with northern rock routes.
When the Russians left Saint Petersburg for Greenland on April 13, they brought little gear (not even a portaledge) due to the airlines' high baggage fees. This enabled them to travel quickly and by May 1, Ruchkin and Mikhailov had skied a majority of their gear ten kilometers from base camp to the foot of the climb through a wet and rapidly accumulating snowfall. By May 5, after four nights tenting in outcroppings on the tooth's ridgeline, the two reached the barren peak.
In hindsight, Ruchkin admits their climb should have been made in the summer months between July and August to avoid the deep snowpack and sub-freezing temperatures. Despite the early season conditions, Ruchkin was satisfied with their remote climb, saying it fit the three criteria for a climb that Tamotsu Nakamura helped him identify: "virgin, beautiful and technically challenging."
"There's a lot of unclimbed peaks," Ruchkin told Elena Laletina of Russianclimb.com. "And the adventure format is possible, on this frozen island, you play the game with a lot of unknowns. It's tempting. The harder to reach the object of ascent, the more it beckons. The result is not only climbing, but a kind of the small expedition. This gives a sense of real adventure."