Italian Archives : Summer 1966

Wegener peninsula, explored by Italian from Carate Brianza.
Text from: Giuseppe Cazzaniga - Expedition "Town of Carate" Groënland '66.
Original article.
(Extract from "Montagne di Groenlandia"; Mario Fantin, Tamari editor, Bologna September 1969.)

A long time ago, in our meetings or during our ascensions, we felt among us the possibility of doing a mountaineering expedition out of Europe. But the numerous difficulties of organizing that kind of trip slowed down our enthusiasm. In the summer of 1965 we became aware that our project was mature enough.
So we had to make a decision about the destination. The success of the Milanese expedition "Greenland 1965", the possibility (without unforeseen problems) of traveling fast, the desire to go to an unknown climbing area, and moreover, the possibility of transporting our material cheaply, brought us to choose Greenland.

Guido Della Torre (the Milanese expedition head leader), gave us, among other things, a photograph and few useful indications on Greenland. We focused on the Alfred Wegener peninsula, located on the western coast at 71° and 10' North latitude. After we had asked and gained authorization (from the Danish Consul in Milan), we contacted Mister Due Pedersen, head of the Ummannaq district.

We asked this gentleman (who was so helpful) to reserve the boats to go from Ummannaq to the Wegener Peninsula. This action had the merit of having some precise information, before the end of April 1966, and we were able to send nearly 7OO Kg of material and food there. And now, the adventure could begin. Between giving lessons of spring's scaling organized by the section of Carate Brianza, from the mountaineering's school of Mario Dell'Oro which engaged all of us as instructors, and our proper training, we did not notice the last week pass by, nor did we see the departure date arrive, which was set on the 21of July.

The journal :

Linate Airport, 13:20, after having saluted the relatives, the friends, and the vice- executive chief of the C.A.I. Central Bozzoli-Parasacchic, we left with a flight of the S.A.S. to Copenhagen. Expedition chief : Pier Luigi Airoldi (C.A.A.I. Instr. Naz. Gruppo Ragni and C.A.I. Sez. of Lecco and Carate B. ); Pier Luigi Bernasconi (C. A.A.I. Sez. C.A.I. of Como); Giuseppe Cazzaniga (High mountain Guide and C.A.I. Sez. Carate B. ); Bruno Gallium (C.A.I. Sez. Carate B. ); Ettore Villa (C.A.I. Sez. Carate B. ).

The group was composed of some famous mountaineers including Airoldi and Bernasconi who had experienced other expeditions in Alaska and in the Andes, and some qualified climbers as well as Giovani House and Galli Smaniosi who were looking forward to climbing elsewhere than the Alps. We landed in Copenhagen after near one hour and forty minutes of flight. As it was not the same time zone there, we had to wind our watches back one hour.

22 July - Departure from Copenhagen in a DC8, it took five hours to reach Söndre Strömfjord, Greenland's intercontinental airport, situated on the polar circle. It is our first polar night. Surprisingly, there is still daylight at 11 o clock p.m. and in the accommodations where I' am, I can write these notes in the natural light (the time is 4 hours earlier when compared with our own time zone! Drafting notes M. F.).

23 July - With a Greenlander airlines helicopter we arrived at Egedesminde, one of the biggest towns in Greenland. The low-altitude flight of the helicopter in beautiful sunny weather, gave us the possibility of admiring the magnificent and interesting view that scrolled under our feet. Innumerable small lakes, deep and long fjords, placid streams that slide towards the sea along with parallel beaches giving the illusion of enormous roads, reindeers grazing and in the distance the first icebergs emerging majestically from waters. At Egedesminde we stopped until the 25th of July, waiting for a boat which would take us to Ummannaq. This imperative stop makes us impatient but it does not affect our morale.
We embark. At 15:00 we sail. The halt at a village called Qunenguak makes this quiet trip on the sea interesting. The 26th, the ship arrives in Ummannaq after having passed through a small ice barrier in front of the town.
In the crowd, that usually comes to salute the arrivals and the departures of the boats, there are members of the "Città di Tortona" expedition and mister Pedersen and his wife. Mr. Pedersen have taken extreme care of our equipment sent previously, and moreover he has rented boats, and has thought of procuring us beds for the night. The place was usually taken by some local schools teachers. He finally invited us to a reception in honor of the Tortonesi group who were returning to Italy.

27 July - We embark on the fishing ship of Mr. Pedersen. The supplies were loaded on a motorboat which will follow us. After nearly nine hours of navigation on a calm sea, we land on the Wegener Peninsula. Kurt Diemberger, who didn't go back with the Tortonesi group, wanted to accompany us and nicely helped unload the material. This done, and after coming to an agreement with Mr. Pedersen about the return date, the boats leave. Diemberger, pleasantly, with his inseparable guitar, salutes us by singing a song of best wishes for the occasion.
By now we're alone, isolated from the world, without any possibility of communicating with anybody. The desire we have to test ourselves on these mountains makes us forget the actual danger of our location, even in case of benign incidents. Choosing a grassy place at one hundred fifty meters from the sea, we settle tents in order to have our base camp. At 22:00, the sun still shines high and is going to hide itself for few hours behind the mountains of Qîoqe.

28 July - Airoldi, Bernasconi, and Galli ascend the moraine until they reach the glacier to search for a place to set the altitude camp and to make a survey. Villa and I clean up all of the materiel in the base camp and collect water: the water comes from small icebergs we catch with an improvised lasso and boil on the burner. Late in the afternoon, our three companions come back from their survey. They have put the altitude camp two hours away.

29 July - After midday, it rains. In the afternoon, we all leave for the altitude camp. We have previous expedition experience, so we stake on our guard concerning the danger of crevasses in these mountains. As a consequence we make decisions: all of us will participate for each attempt; we will be divided into two roped parties to be able to rescue each other in case of emergency. After nearly three hours of tiring path on an extremely unsteady moraine, we reach the altitude camp, installed on the glacier nearly six hundred meters above sea level. The camp is surrounded with a magnificent amphitheatre.
Looking at the sea, with a circular view going from the left side to the right, we have: a rocky needle that strangely resembles our Grignetta, a glacier with a barrier of ice which leads to a pass, a mountain with a huge ice cap, few summits among which lies a defiant pyramid. To the center towards the straight the impressive north wall of the Agpartût (height of the wall: nearly 1200 meters), then a high glacier with big ramparts of ice in its median part, and finally the buttress battlements that close the north of the Wegener Peninsula. The time for admiring the view is short, because a low mist descends and it starts to rain.

30 July - We put only our noses out of the tent and an autumn drizzle welcomes once again us; it invites us to remain inside. The tent is uncomfortable, because in the afternoon the ice melts, becomes flat, and the next morning it becomes tumultuous; so our tents are always slack. During the morning the weather seems better, so we decide to leave around 13:30 in order to try the eastern top. Tacking paths between crevasses, we walk up the eastern glacier which we have baptized the Glacier Brianza.
Once again, the weather becomes uncertain, but the visibility remains good enough. The pass looks like an icy wall with crevasses and cornices. We pass on the left side where the ice lets the rocks appear. A fixed rope of 60 meters is stake to help the ascent and the descent: this slanting path (between 55°-60°) containing hard ice, is very exposed to falling stones.
At the pass we meet squalls of wind and sleet. We push on the right and cross the plateau, attack the slope which leads to the western crest, that we fellow on the southern face just below its summit, to avoid the cornices. Now the weather becomes truly bad but it is enough safety to continue, as the difficulties of the crest are not excessive. At 19:50 we arrive at the top in stormy weather. The altimeter marks 1780 meters. We dedicate this top to the Town of Carate Brianza. We take hastily and without conviction few pictures, the visibility having significantly decreased, and we go back quickly, happy of that first victory.

31 July - Bad lot. A splendid sun in a limpid sky welcomes us when we wake up. In the afternoon we descend to the basic camp because we all need a strong meal. We lack water.

1 august - In the morning, we quickly go to the beach to search fragments of icebergs pushed towards the beach by the tide. We are lucky and find so much ice that when melted we can fill out two drums of 20 liters and few pots.

2 august - Basic camp; in the morning we prepare the sacks and around 11:30 we leave for the altitude camp. After a brief halt to take materiel, around 15:30 we carry on. This time we ascent the western glacier (that we name Glacier Volta) to see whether it is possible or not to climb the higher top of the Peninsula Wegener: the mount Agpartût. This glacier is slanted, so we are quickly "inside".
To avoid the wall of ice which stands in the middle height, we go on the right side through a very slanted bottleneck of ice covered with broken rocks. Then, we gain a plateau. On the left hand we can see two tops, separated by a pass: the first is made of a big cap of ice, the second is an irregular round pyramid made with accumulated rocks. Before we can be able to observe comfortably the mount Agpartût from one of the peaks, we cross the glacier, in direction of the slanted slope who leads to the pass. The snow on the plateau, melted by the sun which never disappears, is the worst we could find.
It is very difficult to identify small crevasses. As it arrived to each one of us during the first ascension, from time to time we fill an empty opening under our feet and we shout. Then it is necessary to take a position of stop and to retain the rope in order to avoid the person to fall in the abyss. If it were possible we would fly gladly! In the superior part of the slope a huge crevasse closes the road. We cross the slope on the lower lip of the crevasse, in direction of a bridge we could glimpse on the right. Our moves make some small pieces of ice falling noisily in the crevasse.
After we have crossed the bridge, we arrive on the final part of the slope which is now straight. As we climb, the snow changes; it becomes granular as shrill up to walnut form and recovers hard ice. This makes the crossing of the place very delicate, because the clamps do not succeed to bite unsteady ice. At the collar, we take towards the right-hand top, and passing some thick blocks of unsteady rocks, (not difficult to cross), we gain the summit. The altimeter marks 1620 meters. It is nearly 20:00; we are the 2nd of august. We dedicate the tip to Verano Brianza, from our native country.
The bad quality of the snow and the big cornices of the crest convince us of the impossibility to arrive alive at top of the Agpartût. As a consequence, we make decision to go down to the collar and to attack the western slope which leads to the icy cap on our left hand. At 21:45 we are at the top, the altimeter marks 1617 meters. We dedicate the tip to the Town of Côme. We go back to the altitude camp around 1:20 the 3rd august. We still have tents to tidy and clean up all of the materiel before going back to the base camp.

4 august - In the afternoon, to take advantage of the beautiful weather, we decide to try a new summit we have seen during the first ascension. We leave the base camp at 20:30. At the altitude camp we pick up the hardware and start the ascension. We take partly the way of our first ascension and again use the fixed rope let previously in order to arrive to the pass. There, during a splendid polar night, the mount Carate Brianza appears with his majestic north-west wall. We can sea the itinerary we follow during the storm. But we can not linger too much; another top is waiting for us. A strong frozen wind is raised, but the sky remains calm.
To the plateau we turn on the right and descend a light slope of SÚrac, our back face the mount Carate Brianza. Then going on diagonal we attack another icy slope that brings on the crest which is constituted by rocky plates. An icy wall stand in the way of the peak, but this is the ultimate obstacle. The peak is constituted of enormous superposed blocks forming a tall top which looks like the mythology Cyclops. Down below, the sea covered with drift icebergs, resemble to a huge immobile tablet of crystal. Far end, the Inlandsis, immense, and in the limpid sky the moon is accompanied the sun, already high; It is 4 o'clock, the 5th of august. The altimeter mark 1560 meters.
We dedicate the top to the Town of Lecco. We go back to the altitude camp, unseat tents and, after have taken some strength, we return to the basic camp.
By now the conditions of snow are more and more bad and there are numerous crevasses, so we must be careful. We decide to end the explorations of that basin with the ascent of the northeast slope of the Grignetta Arctic.

6 august - We pass the daytime lounge face to the tepid sun. In the evening we receive the visit of the husband and wife Pedersen. They come with an anthropologist on the way to a village far from 30 kilometers and they thought to make those nice visit. They bring some fresh fruits, among which apples coming from Tasmania which is the antipodes of the place we are.
The legendary politeness of the Pedersen, already experienced by other Italian expeditions, is confirmed by this act of extreme courtesy. We invite them to stay and dinner with us. Menu: risotto Milanese and ham of Parma with green peas. Before they leave, Mr. Pedersen insures that he will come to take us earlier the 12 august.

7 august - Around 10 o'clock, we leave to go inspecting the Northeast slope of the Grignetta. We want to be able to do it in 5 or 6 hours. Unfortunately we continue going up and down unsteady moraines after 9 hours walking. The unique result is we have seen the North-Northeast slope of the mount Carate Brianza, even if it was from far. Around the Grignetta, a suspended glacier lays on some traitor's rocks: we remote all idea of the ascension.

8 august - In the morning, bad weather. In the afternoon we can see in the middle of the fjord a very long and enough wide silvery form on which innumerable birds land. We suppose this is a group of fishes.

9 august - We pass a daytime in tempting to find a path in the winding deep torrent that run 300 meters from the basis camp, but unsuccessfully. This path would have given the possibility of going up the dome posted to the east of basis camp. We could have watched from there the terminal part of the fjord with oriental summits of Qîoqe. We miss a pneumatic ship that would have permits to avoid the obstacle of the sea.

10 august - Around 5 o'clock, we hear an unfamiliar noise coming from the mouth of the fjord. We climb higher than the camp to see two large whales emerging to breathe which provoke this low noise. The sky is bad and in the afternoon it starts to rain.

11 august - During the night the first snows fell up to 700 meters of altitude. We begin to pack up the hardware and unseat a tent. In the evening, we gather all the milk can in a hole and we throw over thick stones. In the evening we put fire to a big stack of paper, can, wood, old clothes, etc… Our intention is to leave this place as clean and in order as we found it. In a bottle we hang with two nails to a rock which protects our tents, we introduce a signed message. The weather is cold and we linger near the fire up to it's extinguish. We go back in our tent. Nobody wants to sleep. The anxieties homeward, the memory of our family, the emotions fell in this very beautiful adventure, prevent us from sleeping.
Around 2 o'clock, a strong wind raise, it gives us shivers in our sleeping bag. Towards 3:30 I get up and I go scrutinize the horizon; Mr. Pedersen had tells us that he would arrive around 4:00. The force of the wind increase and the sea begin to be enough strong; I worry a little about it. The ship should leave Ummannaq the 14th at 7 hours; this is why we must arrive at all costs to the port before tomorrow.
Finally around 7 o'clock the wind decrease and at 7:40 I can see a ship arriving. Disembarked, Mr. Pedersen apologizes for the delay! The ship foreseen was damaged and they have to come with the ship that was supposed to serve for hardware. The wind restarts to blow and the sea do not enable our embarking. It's necessary to wait.
13:00 the captain tells Mr. Pedersen that he can tempt to leave. He would keep the possibility of turn back hurriedly to the shore if the navigation is not safety. We embark around 13h20, letting all the hardware on the beach. They will come to take it with the next trip. The ship is overloaded, the edge emerge a little from the water and this make us ill at ease. But we already have experiment the cleverness of these navigators, so we trust them. Immediately after the exit of the fjord, the direction of the wind changes and raises, water reach and froze us. We regret bitterly having let our raincoats among the luggage. The Inuit (all happy) put there trousers and vests made of seals skin.
Happily after near 4 hours of navigation, we can go on the ship of Mr. Pedersen (that was repair); in its worm cabin we eat and we continue the trip up to Ummannaq we reach towards 21:50. The wind has spread a veil of ice on the water of the port, and joins the innumerable icebergs. We pass the evening at the spouse Pedersen home. They offer a succulent dinner with salmon, herrings, roast, etc; whole celebrate with an excellent white wine of Reno. This is an unforgettable evening pass with these two extremely delightful persons: we could not find terms to thank them.

13 august - We pass the daytime walking in Ummannaq; in the afternoon we pack the last pieces of hardware that the Inuit have get back.

14 august - 6:20 from the window of our room (into the same place reserved for our arrival) I see in the harbor coming the boat which is going to take us to Egedesminde. We embark at 7:30 after have taken release from spouse Pedersen and to be cordially saluted by a good part of the population on the wharf. Before the leaving, we can see hoisting on the yard of the house Pedersen the Danish flag. When the ship begin to move, one rifle salvo salutes us; these extraordinary Mr. Pedersen climbed on the back of his help Joseph send us a last salvation. We reply (with the arm and shaking handkerchief) to that particular salvation, and after a last glance to Ummannaq, we start the returning trip.

Translated by Alain Dutrevis, February 2004.

Technical note: The zone is characterized by crystalline stratified rocks of various measurements and various colors. The colors go from grayscale to the yellow, to the green, to the red, until the brown. The rock is of very bad quality. The alternation of layers trained with different size, because of frequent frost, make very dangerous the ascensions. As a consequence our ascensions were undertaken mainly on the ice, limiting the rock to the obliged transitions and to the summit crests.
With better ice conditions, we would have been able to try the Agpartût which is the highest top of the Peninsula Wegener. But the long crest of ice laying from the summit of Côme to the south of the Agpartût needs excellent condition of snow because of numerous crevices. The four tops that we have climbed are classified middle difficult with some difficult transitions. Materiel employed: 3 ice nails, all recovered, 2 rock nails, only 1recovered, a 6 mm rope and 60 meters long employed as stationary rope has not been recovered.