Greenland Expedition with Alpine Ascents

Latest News — Tuesday, June 16, 1998
It's a warm day in Greenland and with rocks crumbling on the peaks, the climbers decided to call it an expedition and soak up sun and views on their last day in base. With six solid climbs under their blistered feet, they're pleased with the trip and are hoping the plane will come for them tomorrow.
[Click for the Latest Expedition Update]

Among the Last of the Wild Frontiers
Todd Burleson
[click to zoom]
(photo: AAI)
Greenland, the world's largest island, is perhaps one of the least explored areas in the world. As the climbers of the Alpine Ascents International expedition, lead by Todd Burleson, attempt to summit the island's highest peaks and explore the arctic surroundings, they will use satellite phones to stay in touch with The Mountain Zone.

Greenland is predominantly an ice cap with a rugged mountain chain which runs north to south up the east coast. Mount Gunnbjornsfjeld (12,116'; 68° 55'06"N, 29° 53'54"W), the highest mountain in Greenland, is located on the central part of the east coast, approximately 30 miles inland from the sea. The climbers will attempt a summit of Mt. Gunnbjornsfjeld, one or two other ascents in the area, and a possible first ascent.

The ascent of Gunnbjornsfjeld will take approximately four to five days. Travel on the glacier will be on mountaineering skis and the transport of gear will be accomplished with sleds and backpacks. All routes will be climbed in alpine style with camps moved on each day of the ascent. The climbing is moderate with some steeper sections of 40° to 45°. The climbers will be living on glaciers the entire time they are in Greenland with temperatures ranging from -10° to 30° Fahrenheit.

After climbing Gunnbjornsfjeld, the climbers will use aerial photos and information gathered from previous expeditions to explore the surrounding glacier valleys. Their goal will be to find new mountaineering objectives which fit their climbing skills. Many of these peaks have never been climbed, and they hope to summit two or more of them.

Expedition Itinerary
Day 1 & 2: Depart US and fly to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland. Transfer to domestic terminal for an Iceland Air flight to Akureyri in the northern fjord country. Here they will overnight in a local hotel.

Day 3: Board ski equipped Twin Otter aircraft and begin the three hour crossing of the Straight of Denmark. After landing on the glacier, they will ski for a few hours to base camp.

Day 4 to 12: The climbers will first attempt Mount Gunnbjornsfjeld (12,116'; 68° 55'06"N, 29° 53'54"W) which will take approximately four to five days. They will then pick three to four unclimbed peaks and study possible new routes hoping to ascend at least two of these routes. If there is extra time and the weather is good, they may attempt an ascent of Mount Kershaw (12,079'; 68° 50'22"N, 29° 55'24"W), the second highest peak in Greenland. This peak was named after Giles Kershaw, a well known Arctic and Antarctic pilot and explorer.

Day 13: Fly back via Twin Otter to Akureyri, Iceland.

Day 14: Fly from Akureyri to Reykjavik and then on to the USA.

Gordon Janow, Alpine Ascents Program Coordinator

[click to zoom] (photo: Alpine Ascents Collection)

Polar Bear
(photo: Art Wolfe)

Just the Facts


72° 00' N, 40° 00' W
Island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean, northeast of Canada

The world's largest island is 2,175,600 sq km (more than three times the size of Texas).


Noun: Greenlander(s)
Adjective: Greenlandic

The Greenlandic word for mountain is Qaqqaq

Climate is arctic to subarctic; cool summers, cold winters

Arable land : 0%
Crops: 0%
Pastures: 1%
Forests: 0%
Irrigated land: 0%
Other: 99%

Continuous permafrost over northern two-thirds of the island,


Polar bears eat mostly seals and walrus pups but will also eat bird eggs, rodents, berries and anything else that is available. They can lop off a person's head with one swipe of a paw.

Polar bears will relentlessly follow tracks in the snow (including those of snowmobiles or sleds) to find their prey. It is rumored that a polar bear will cover its black nose with a paw when within striking distance of its prey to keep from being seen against the white snow and ice.

Adult polar bears stand 3½' tall on all fours, are 8¼' to 11½' long, and weigh about 1300 lbs

Hollow hairs let the bears float when swimming, and a long neck keeps the head above water. Their skin is black, toes webbed like a duck's, and leg fur is dense for traction on ice.

Pregnant females are the only polar bears who hibernate. Other bears will build a shelter to stay warm during a winter storm or cool during summer heat.

Todd Burleson, Director and founder of Alpine Ascents International, has achieved unparalleled success in the mountain guiding industry and is considered to be one of the top climbers in the world. Todd spent most of his childhood in Alaska where his prowess and love for mountaineering was developed. In his sixteen years of climbing, he has led seven expeditions to Mt. Everest (summitting twice) and has led successful expeditions on every continent.

Alpine Ascents International, Inc.
Greenland Expedition

[Expedition Updates] [More Climbing Stories]

Alpine Ascents International: [email][website]

The Mountain Zone, 45° 31'62"N, 122° 41'75"W