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North America, Canada, Canadian Arctic, Broad Peak, Sam Ford Fjord, Baffin Island

Broad Peak, Sam Ford Fiord, Baffin Island. In April Steve Trafton, Martin Waller, Brad Albro, Lynn Buchanan, Jim Shedd and I traveled to Clyde River via Montreal, Frobisher Bay, Pangnirtung and Broughton Island. After meeting with the Innuit Settlement Council in Clyde River, we traveled with local hunters by snowmobile and komitik (sled) to Swiss Bay on Sam Ford Fiord. From Swiss Bay we manhauled a sledge with a month’s supplies to the foot of the glacier flowing from the Broad Peak area. After two days of plodding through deep, soft snow we camped below the north face of Broad Peak at 1300 feet. From there on April 20 Trafton, Buchanan and I made the first ascent of Broad Peak (6150 feet) via the south ridge. The route was repeated on April 21 by Waller, Albro and Shedd. A three-day storm then pinned us down in camp at 2200 feetbelow Broad Peak’s southwest face. On April 25 we attempted the ascent of an unclimbed peak south of Broad Peak. This climb was cut short when a major windslab avalance struck us and swept us from the face. This great slide had a shear line more than 1000 feet across and flowed at a depth up to 15 feet. No serious injuries were sustained, but we learned about avalanches in the far north. Very little snow falls in the Arctic. The small amount deposited blows around a great deal during the frequent, violent winter storms, causing dangerous lee-slope conditions. Even very light snowfall does not mean low avalanche danger. We had under one inch of snow during our 72-hour storm. Slab conditions seem to be the rule. Slight temperature gradients in late winter do not encourage the metamorphising of snow structures and so avalanche conditions tend to prevail long after a storm has ended. A later attempt on Walrus Peak was halted by delicate snowslab conditions. We spent the remainder of our three weeks’ stay ski touring. Climbers going into this or other remote Baffin Island locations should check with native (Innuit) town or settlement councils before departing for the field. Many areas (primarily approach routes) include important hunting grounds. With this in mind it seems only proper to check with locals before possibly disturbing wild game in hunting zones.

Allan Errington