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North America, Canada, Canadian Arctic, Inglefield Mountains

Inglefield Mountains. This expedition, sponsored by the Explorers Club, was the third in a series organized by one of us (Cochran) that has been aimed at exploratory mountaineering around Makinson Inlet in southeast Ellesmere Island. The first (August 1976) and second (May 1978) were joint ventures with Canadian climbers and achieved many first ascents including the 1800-foot rock tower of Bowman Island and snow peaks along the southern side of this remote fiord in the high Arctic. On these prior expeditions, interesting peaks had been viewed further east on both sides of the inlet. Known as the Inglefield Mountains on the north and Thorndike Peaks on the south, both groups are virtually unexplored. Members of the expedition included the undersigned as well as Nancy Van Deren, William Mayo-Smith and Carl Schuster. We arrived in Grise Fiord, the northernmost Eskimo settlement in Canada, on April 30. Three days later, we set out on a 125-mile trip to Base Camp using Bombardier snowmobiles and 14-foot Eskimo-type sledges or “komatiks” which we had built and shipped north from New York. With the aid of Eskimo friends, we reached Makinson Inlet after a very difficult two-day trip complicated by deep, soft snow in the hills. From there, Base Camp had been expected to be an easy four- to six-hour run over smooth sea- ice. Unfortunately, the upper 20 miles of Makinson Inlet never cleared of broken ice flows the prior year and it had piled into endless masses of heaps and ridges, then frozen into place. The Eskimos, who had planned to come only this far, deemed it hopeless and returned. After seven days of reconnaissance and struggle, we placed a route through this “horizontal icefall” and continued on to establish Base on May 13 on the north shore of the Inlet at 77°18'40?N 79°46'10?E. The delays cost so much time that plans for extended excursions to the major peaks in each group had to be abandoned. Instead, we reconnoitered the Thorndikes by making a ski climb to 2200 feet on P 2750, a prominent crag with a face rising straight from the south shore. A final crampon ascent of the summit was precluded by questionable snow. Next, we reconnoitered the Ingle- field Mountains on the north shore by heading up a large glacier and establishing camp four miles inland. From there half the group made an unsuccessful attempt on the highest summit in the area P 4250, four miles further northwest. The others (Cochran, Rosenfeld, Schuster) made a successful ski ascent of a massive 3700-foot peak (77°22'20?N; 79°46'E) that was nearer camp. Clear weather on all climbs enabled us to obtain the first good overviews of the Thorndikes and Inglefields. A scientific program involving mechanical measurements in sea-ice also was carried out in cooperation with the Polar Continental Shelf Project. For map references see National Topographic Series 1: 500,00 Smith Bay.

G.V.B. Cochran, E.D. Rosenfeld, and B. Carey