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Baffin Island
Parent Area: Arctic Islands
 

Area: 789297 sq km. Location: Baffin Island is in the eastern Canadian Arctic, lying between Greenland and the mainland of southern Canada. It is the fifth largest island on Earth and is located in the newly created territory of Nunavut. Terrain: The northeast coast of Baffin Island has many deep fjords with many spectacular glacial and ice-capped mountains. There are towers, spires and pyramids of rock and ice, with sheer and overhanging great rock walls. The rock is primarily granite, which provides excellent climbing. The snowfall on the Baffin Island mountains is light, much less than in places like the Saint Elias mountains which are plastered with snow. Even at sea level, the lakes remain solidly frozen into May and June, and thus can be used as a means of transport. Geologically, Baffin Island is a continuation of the eastern edge of the Canadian Shield, which covers most of northern Ontario and Quebec. It was covered with ice until about 1500 years ago, and vast parts of it are still ice covered. Most of the finest peaks are located on the Cumberland Peninsula, at the head of the South Pangnirtung Fjord. Much of the area is included within Auyuittuq National Park, and is accessible from Pangnirtung, a small coastal Inuit settlement that is increasingly catering to tourists. From here, access to the mountains is by boat, dog sleds, float-planes or ski-planes, depending on ice and weather conditions.

History: There were Inuit (Eskimo) settlements on the rugged east coast of Baffin Island long before European contact. The first European contact is believed to have been by Norse explorers in the 11th century, but the first <i>recorded</i> sighting of Baffin Island was Martin Frobisher during his search for a Northwest Passage in 1576. In the early 18th and 19th century the Inuit had contact with various European exploration and supply vessels on the way to Hudson Bay, but it wasn't until the late 19th century whaling stations that the original culture was greatly affected. Although the Inuit welcomed trading and contact the population declined rapidly because of dietary changes and exposure to European diseases. Since the 1950's the Inuit have become much more sedentary, moving into communities such as Iqaluit (formerly Frobisher Bay).

One of the first mountaineering expeditions to Baffin Island was in 1934 by J.M Wordie, in which two peaks called "Pioneer Peak" and "Longstaff Tower" were climbed. In 1950 there was a large expedition to the Clyde Inlet district. Clyde Inlet is a large fjord halfway up the rugged east coast of the island. In 1953, the Arctic Institute of North America organized a large expedition to the Cumberland Peninsula on the south of the island. The expedition was led by Pat Baird, the first director of the Arctic Institute of North America (AINA), and was the first mountaineering visit to this area. Although the expedition's main objective was "scientific", of course mountaineering was high on the agenda. Eight peaks were climbed on this expedition, including an ascent of Mount Asgard, led by Marmet, a trained Swiss guide. On the same expedition Baird and Marmet climbed Mount Odin. Between 1953 and the 1970's interest in the Baffin Island peaks grew slowly, no doubt because access was an expensive proposition for all but government-funded expeditions. However there were several expeditions in the 1960's including a 1961 expedition by Cambridge University. In 1962 Rev. Sydney Wilkinson made numerous solo ascents from the Anglican mission in Pangnirtung. In 1963 the ACC, in conjunction with Pat Baird, held the first of a series of climbing camps on Baffin Island. The 1963 camp was at the head of Pangnirtung Fiord, and made 14 first ascents and repeated the ascent of Mount Asgard. Again in 1965 the ACC organized a camp, this time near Pangnirtung Pass, which bagged another 9 first ascents and again repeated the ascent of Mount Asgard. In 1971, Doug Scott, of Everest fame, led two expeditions with the objective of climbing peaks by difficult rock faces. Previous expeditions had concentrated on ascents by the easiest means. The 1971 expedition depended on air support. Interestingly enough, the group was pinned down by bad weather for 2 weeks, a scenario much more common on the icefields of western Canada. One of the highlights of the 1971 expedition was the climbing of the unclimbed South Tower of Mount Asgard.

In 1972 Doug Scott and Hennek returned, along with two other experienced English climbers Paul Nunn and Paul Braithwaite. This expedition used sleds and snowmobiles to make their access, a method of access to be repeated in later expeditions. Once as far as the sleds could be taken, the party put on monstrous packs and established a base camp within reach of Mount Asgard. Over the next few days they climbed the east ridge of the North Tower, a difficult Grade VI climb. These climbs were described in various magazines and alpine journals, and in a book published by Scott in 1974 outlining logistical details. This was probably the beginning of Baffin Island becoming an international mountaineering destination.

In 1972 the government established Auyuittuq National Park. In 1973 the ACC established a camp 100 km west of Clyde Inlet. By this time expeditions to Baffin Island had become fairly common from all over the world, 8 expeditions in 1975 alone.

In 1979 the ACC had a second expedition to the Ayr Lake area, which is a bit closer to the Clyde. The 1979 expedition made almost 30 first ascents.

Top Trips
Baffin Island Ski Traverse 2007 Sandy Briggs
Extreme Sightseeing in Sam Ford Fiord Area of Baffin Island Manrico Scremin
A Tour of an Unnamed Glacier in Auyuittuq National Park Rick Collier
Damocles - From Southeast Klaus Haring

Top Photos
Mount Odin's Massive South Face Preston McEachern
Mount Odin and Mount Northumbria's West Ridge. Dave Hodge
Qiajivik Mountain, North Baffin Island Sandy Briggs
Eglington Tower from Northwest Manrico Scremin
Mount Asgard from South David Wasserman
Walls of Sam Ford Fiord, Baffin Island Sandy Briggs
Fortress Mountain, Baffin Island Sandy Briggs
Eglinton Tower, Baffin Island Sandy Briggs
Broad Peak, Baffin Island Sandy Briggs
Weasel River Valley with Thor Peak David Wasserman
More Photos