Some books make memories…

…and what I’m reading now

Reading What Makes a Mountain Beautiful?,  reminded me that my expedition diary contained an annotated list of the books I  had read.  The list reveals that among the books outside the light fiction category, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s First Circle got a rave review – though I remember nothing of it. Also, rated “good in patches”, was Gog by Andrew Sinclair and Bram Stoker’s Dracula was enjoyed. Aldoux Huxley’s Brave New World didn’t fare so well getting a comment of  “interesting rubbish”! Payment Deferred by C S Forrester was recorded as “disappointing”.

Memories have been stirred and questions raised that I cannot answer. Why on earth had I kept one of the numerous Mickey Spillane novels?  How is it that I can remember the opening lines from the first Mickey Spillane novel that I read? Best read with an American accent, it went “There was this tomatoe. What was left of her was spread around the walls of the room”. After a few more sentences, I’d worked out that tomatoe = broad = woman and also deduced that I was not about to encounter a literary masterpiece.  And perhaps most puzzling – Why had the original purchaser (name withheld to avoid embarrassment) chosen to write ‘J Shade April 1971’ inside the front cover, as though this was a valuable item to be treasured?

This all led me to reflect on my subsequent reading habits. For many years I read almost nothing outside the inexhaustible supply of work-related reading material needing to be consumed. Over recent years, I’ve become an avid consumer of Scottish and Scandinavian detective fiction. Without even checking, I can tell you that what I’m currently reading for light entertainment will be some mainstream detective/thriller.  Also, depending on my mood, I’m reading Richard Hoggart’s Uses of Literacy. As described here and relevant today “This influential cultural study of postwar Britain offers pertinent truths on mass communication and the interaction between ordinary people and the elites”. Whilst already familiar with the book’s message, I felt the need to read it afresh, having started reading a more recent publication, Respectable, in which the author Lynsey Hanley points out that in some areas, little seems to have changed since Hoggart’s seminal work of 60 years ago.

Best thing I’ve read? Hard to say. I can’t shake off a desire for practical rather than literary content, so The Slate Roof Bible is among my picks! Joseph Jenkins combines interesting historic and technical detail on slating practices from different countries with useful practical information for maintaining slate roofs. An engaging insight into the political scene of the Thatcher era can be gleaned from Alan Clark – Diaries, which I found as addictive as a good novel.  The book that I’m most pleased to own, is the delightful Early Scottish Gardeners and their Plants by Forbes Robertson. Covering the period 1650 to 1750, this well-researched and exquisitely illustrated volume is an interesting read, with information on matters such as gardeners’ fraternities, pay and working arrangements.


Climbing in his sleep….

…or the summit of sartorial statements?

It’s strange what you remember after all these years, especially when it comes to matters of detail. This photo was taken from the summit of Croomble, a peak to the north of the col between Taserssuaq and Kangerdluk inlet.  The view is south-east, towards the Ilua fjord region. Continue reading “Climbing in his sleep….”

The Power of Maps

…and a really famous Belgian

She didn’t even have a fancy cartouche¹. A few simple words was all it took. “Norse ruins” in the map legend got us going; the sight of “Norse church ruin” and we were done for. For she was telling us that there were items of possible interest all around, demanding to be located and investigated. Little did I know that my vulnerability to seduction-by-map would last a lifetime and that at various times it would drive me into the arms of libraries for lengthy periods of study. For I was a would-be mathematician, with little need for libraries and what they contained. How wrong I was. Continue reading “The Power of Maps”


The view was worth the effort…

We awoke late.  Nevertheless we went ahead with our attempt to climb Rubicon (1,700m) – a mountain forming part of the east flank of the Qinguadalen valley.  It was a beautiful day; a cloudless azure sky, a bright sun and no wind.  However such a day is not altogether perfect.  In the valley a myriad of mosquitoes and black flies took advantage of the fine weather and attacked us relentlessly.  Once above biting insect level at around 500m, we breathed a sigh of relief. Continue reading “Rubicon”

An unforgettable view

The picture was taken on 21st August 1971.  Well, two pictures really, stitched together some 40 years later from the scanned slides.  Bad weather had recently left a dusting of snow on the tops and good weather had helped spur us back into action.  We had little idea of what was ahead as we left our bivouac among the boulders on the north shore of Taserssuaq.  It was a fine day and easy ascending of grassy slopes, scree and snowfield led to a summit that overhung the glacier below.  There were four of us and and we were the first people to gain this amazing view – for this was the first ascent.  We lingered long, absorbing the incredible view – reluctant to leave this amazing sight of the ice cap flowing into Tasermiut and the dramatic rock walls of Imaha and Pingasuit.  Detailed memories of the ascent have faded but the view from the summit was unforgettable.


Setting the scene

A map of the area and ascents of the expedition

In 1971, ten members of the University of St Andrews set off to explore the area around Tasermiut and Taserssuaq, in the Cape Farewell region of Greenland.  Over 30 first ascents of peaks in the immediate vicinity were made and a prolonged stay in Nanortalik took in the celebrations of the 25oth anniversary of the arrival of Hans Egede in Greenland.  Forty-five years on, in 2016, an updated and illustrated account of their expedition experiences was produced.   Following the link at the right will lead to further information about the e-book version of the 2016 publication.

Putting together the new account was a moving experience.  Memories were refreshed and some dramatic experiences relived.  The aim of this site is for us to take some of the images we recorded and individually reflect, reminisce and revisit on various aspects of the region and our experiences.  Thus, the postings here are from any one of the ten, providing their own recollection or comment on some aspect of a particular image.

Our starting point is to summarise where the main ascents were and where our climbing camps were.  What follows is an enhanced and much cleaned copy of a map from the original 1971 report.  The weather in the area is notorious and a clue as to why one camp was named Desolation Camp.  The image at the top of the page was taken from the summit of one of the peaks marked on the map to the immediate north of Taserssuaq.