American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Canadian Arctic, Freya, Southwest Buttress, Baffin Island, 1987

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1991

Freya, Southwest Buttress, Baffin Island, 1987. The first time I approached Windy Lake shelter in Auyuittuq National Park in the southeast comer of Baffin Island, it was late February. The temperature hovered around -25°F and wind was building. We had been traveling under severe conditions for several weeks and one of my dogs had already frozen to death. By the time we reached the cabin and I had staked the team in a ravine beyond, the wind was blowing so hard that I had to crawl across an exposed hummock back to the cabin where I was destined to spend a few days. When the storm died and the sun returned, we continued through the Weasel valley, past Thor, Asgard and the rest of the big walls. I promised myself to return, in the summer, with climbing gear. Three years later, in July, 1987, Gray Thompson and I were camped at Summit Lake, looking for an objective. Freya’s dominant face stood just northeast of camp. Doug Scott had put up a route on its right side and so we decided to try the left, the southwest buttress. We third-classed several hundred feet on a low-angle apron and roped up when the angle steepened. The first 19 pitches were 5.6 and 5.7 and we moved quickly in the warm sunlight. Then Gray drew a 5.9 lead on steeper slabs with a few small roofs. By afternoon, we had negotiated fairly technical climbing toward a house-sized chock that was jammed inside a major dihedral system on the left side of the face. We worked right under the chock on mossy, wet 5.9, expecting to exit on a shoulder that would allow us to walk up the summit ridge. Instead, we found a headwall, broken by ledges, that went free for ten more pitches at 5.8 and 5.9 with about ten feet of aid. We finally reached the summit in the Arctic twilight at midnight. The descent was a long series of nasty rappels into a snowy, slabby gully system that started northwest of the summit. The total climbing time was 15 hours and we were away from camp for 30 hours.

JON TURK, Unaffiliated

This AAJ article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.