A more recent event to reflect on here. Last month saw a reunion that included many members of the various Greenland expeditions led by Phil Gribbon. Phil was celebrating his 90th birthday – or so he says! Always evasive when asked his age and at times going to some length to avoid others gaining sight of either his passport or driving licence details that might provide the necessary evidence, why should we believe him now?
In fairness, he did provide some supporting detail by way of a retrospective going back to where he was on the anniversary of each decade since his birth. Characteristically this was infused with the Irish logic with which we are well familiar, which perhaps undermined the certainty in some minds that this really was his 90th birthday.
It was a great occasion and I’m very grateful that someone remembered to invite me. Most welcome was being back in touch after many years with several people, one in particular. Of course the thing that many of us are most grateful for was the opportunity to visit Greenland as part of an expedition team and all that that entails. That is all thanks to Phil. As the years pass, the appreciation deepens. As someone remarked, the experience was life changing. The solid friendships formed and that have endured are highly valued. Also the realisation that to visit Greenland when we did was an experience that could not be replicated today makes the experience so precious. It’s hard to put this into context but it’s something like “I’d really like to visit Tibet, but only if I can go before 1950”.
Thanks Phil and we hope you enjoyed your birthday.
There was a distinct herring-bone arrangement of drainage ditches next to the south end of the Qingua Dalen river, not apparent as we walked through it, but visible from the mountains nearby. We did not speak of it much at the time, but it comes to mind as I think back to our days there. I sometimes regret not having taken a photograph.
Grey glacier water, Sharp red spires, Ice towers falling, Tranquil distant snow, Thick birch scrub And stinging flies. Crackling tang of fire And dancing green auroras In black northern skies. So deep, so far it was Up that sleeping valley: We shall not find that camp again.
P.Biggar September 1971
Qinguadalen had an impact on all who traversed the birch-scrubbed-fly-ridden valley floor. For some of us it was a memorable single trek to deliver in-advance supplies for those who would inhabit the camp at the head of the valley. For others, it was multiple trips. In the case of Peter and Richard three return journeys. Peter was so affected he wrote a poem.
In 1971 Narsarsuaq felt remote and abandoned – a mysterious airstrip with empty control tower and massive, gaunt, deserted hangars complete with stories of World War II pilots long gone crazy at Blue West 1. We dropped out of the sky right on schedule, in our deluxe Icelandair jet from Iceland. And then our adventure began. We each had a pack with personal items, but the bulk of our food and tents were still on a ship off the Greenland coast (stuck in the pack ice on their long voyage from Scotland via Denmark, as we would later learn). But there was another ship, the MV Taterak – albeit very small and very, very full of people – that would take us down the fjord to overnight at Julianehaab (now Qaqortoq) and then eventually wend its tortuous way through the ice clogged fjords to Nanortalik in the deep south. Continue reading “Then and Now – Narsarsuaq”
Greenland tourism seems to have taken off. Would I want to go now? I don’t think so. We had the best of it in 1971 and I wouldn’t want to dilute the wonderful memories.
I’m not sure that I don’t feel a bit of the same about Scotland. I liked the fact that in the 1970’s, if you chose carefully, it was rare to encounter others while out for the day or longer. This is no longer the case with at times, flocks of hill-walkers traversing the country and areas such as Skye being declared ‘full’.
Reflecting on memories of Greenland…. I started from the commonplace notion that Greenland in general and maybe Cape Farewell in particular would develop in popularity somewhat like the French and Swiss alps in the 19th and 20th centuries. Camps that were for us hard-won would be reached by easy paths leading to cabins with bunks, running water, and meals provided. Bare mountains, vaguely mapped and bereft of ‘instructions’ would have guidebooks with diagrams, graded routes, and pictures of rock faces streaked with coloured or dashed or dotted lines. Choppers and fast launches to handy helipads or jetties would get the punters in at sea level for long weekends or maybe even daytrips.Continue reading “Idle thoughts..”
…and a great example of the rewards of keeping a record
A benefit of this blog is that it has enabled others to get in touch with us. Long-lost former climbing companions and others can re-establish contact or those with an interest in the area we visited might seek or share information. There’s no better illustration of this than what happened recently when a former climbing companion of Phil’s got in touch. Continue reading ““Was I there?””