Monday, 30 May 2016

Baffin Island - skiing the ancient hallways - part 1

Baffin Island has been high on my 'bucket list' ever since I read an article by Andrew McLean on a trip he made in 2002 when he and Brad Barlage made over a dozen first descents in the Sam Ford Fjord and Walker Arm area, including now uber-classics like Polar Star couloir. Ross Hewitt and I had batted about the idea of a trip here for some time and it all came together for a trip in spring 2014. Unfortunately this also coincided with the arrival of my second child the previous autumn, and the timing simply was not good so I had to pass on that trip. I had resigned myself to having missed the chance as there are so many factors that go in to putting together a team for this kind of trip: a) partners capable of skiing the terrain, b) partners with a) and also capable of surviving on sea ice in -25/-30C temperatures, c) partners with a) and b) also with sufficient funds (this is an eye-wateringly expensive trip...), d) partners with a), b) and c) who have enough free time in April/May, e) partners with a), b), c) and d) who I would want to spend 3,5 weeks in a small tent on the sea ice with... etc etc

Fortunately Ross came back from the 2014 trip massively enthused to return, so 2016 was blocked in the diary and we started planning. The team was completed by Evan Cameron an NZ-based Scot and long-time climbing/skiing buddy of Ross's, and my buddy Stephen 'Chipie' Windross a Tarentaise-based roving skier and adventurer.

4 men and a whole lot of bags...

Iqaluit - probably the brightest airport in the world?

An omen...:

Clyde River airport 10 minutes after the plane has gone - best do lots of networking on the flight in otherwise it is a long walk into town...:

Big rabbits round here...:

The man the myth the legend - 75-year old Ilkoo still hunts and fishes and despite putting on a Yoda-like 'front' with a walking stick around town is still sprightly and hard as nails...

Chipie checking out our wildlife protection:

Skidoo and qumatik loaded and ready to go - possibly the most uncomfortable 14 hours I have ever spent - bumping across pressure ridges in the sea ice with very little padding...:

'I'm a livin' in a box' - Chipie & I in our 'kennel' on qumatik #2:

Polar bear gloves - warmer than a warm thing...:

Polar bear tracks - mother and cubs:

14 interminable hours later:

The views are 'alright' at 2 am:

Day 1: a late start after a long day, but blue skies were too good to waste - time to get busy!:

Today's target - the line to the right of the big cliffs - 1200m up to 50ยบ:

Goin' up:

And coming down...


Perfect cold snow for steep skiing:


Heading for the exit door:

1000m rock walls above:

Back down into the freezer - cold air pools on the fjord so most days we climbed into warmer air and then skied back down into coldness again...:

Powder down to the fjord:

More to follow at some point...

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Baffin Island - taster

I have finally made it back home after a long (and convoluted) journey back from Baffin Island. Awesome is an over-used word these days but truly deserved for this place. Lots of photos to follow, but here is one to get started... Ross skiing the upper section of our first line - 1200m of steepness to the fjord, first known descent, blue skies, cold powdery snow... mega!