Inspired by the pictures of an earlier expedition to Ren Land, led by Dick Griffiths in 2007 and reported in the American Alpine Journal in 2008, a small expedition of four Dutch climbers took place from August 8 till August 30, 2009. Base camp was put up at the end of Skillebugt Inlet that penetrates Renland on the Southeast.
Niek de Jonge and Jelle Staleman planned to make alpine style first ascents with their main goal being a 900 m high loose standing pillar named The Cenotaph. Martin Fickweiler and Gerke Hoekstra planned to make a big-wall style first ascent of the so called Shark Tooth. But due to impassable rivers the Shark Tooth turned out to be inaccessible.
From base camp it was a 16 kilometer walk over the Apusinikajik glacier to the base of The Cenotaph. On August 12, Staleman & de Jonge made a first attempt to climb a beautiful direct line on the Cenotaph. Beforehand there seemed to be a blank section above an obvious spire which they hoped to pass with help of aiding techniques. It turned out it was impassable without drilling an exceptional amount of bolts or rivets. The unfinished route was called Disappointment Pleasure (600m UIAA VII). The first 250 meters of the route consisted of very bad quality gneiss. Especially the retreat through this left leaning corner turned out to be heinous and quite dangerous.
The other team, G. Hoekstra and M. Fickweiler, returned from the inaccessible Shark Tooth to find a big-wall objective on the main head wall of The Cenotaph. But due to the bad rock quality they decide to go for an alpine style free ascent instead. Fickweiler & Hoekstra climbed the first 5 pitches of Disappointment Pleasure and they established an abseil station for a safer return. On August 17 both teams started with a free ascent of The Cenotaph. Fickweiler & Hoekstra started of first and climbed a line of least resistance. They called their route First Ascent Route (900m UIAA VII). Staleman & de Jonge took a more direct line and joined the last few pitches just climbed by Fickweiler and Hoekstra arriving one our later on the summit. They called their route Controversy (900m UIAA VII).
On August 25 Staleman & de Jonge climbed a 2000 m high mountain on the eastern side of the Apusinikajik glacier. Expecting an easy ascent of the unclimbed mountain they decided to take only the bare minimum; one pair of crampons, one ice-axe, one rope and a few cams and wires. The first 1300 m consisted of easy terrain through a debris slope, with rather big boulders, following 3rd to 4th class terrain up to the shoulder. From here they climbed mixed terrain and firn up to 50 degrees. Having only one pair of crampons and one ice-axe slowed them down considerably. The last 200 m were climbed on (surprisingly) good quality gneiss with difficulties up to French 6a. The last pitch up to the summit was the hardest, 6b+ with minimal protection. The overall alpine grade of the route is regarded TD/TD+.
We named the mountain McDonnell Peak after Gerard McDonnell who tragically died on K2 in 2008. We believe that a person who tries to save the lives of fellow climbers with literally the risk of loosing his own life is a true hero. Only one mountain named after him is not nearly enough to show our respect to such a heroic act of mountaineering comradeship!!
On August 28 Fickweiler en Hoekstra made the first ascent of a 1000m high mountain close to base camp. The whole route was climbed simultaneously up and down. Due to little visibility because of fog covering the mountain the pair made a big cairn on the summit. A few days later when the weather cleared they could check with binoculars that they visited the true summit. They named their route The Small Lion (450m UIAA IV).