American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Canadian Arctic, Nunavut, Traverse of Marvin Peninsula, Ellesmere Island

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1995

Traverse of Marvin Peninsula, Ellesmere Island. We succeeded in crossing the entire Marvin Peninsula from the British Empire Range to Ward Hunt Island, despite heavy snowstorms. From Base Camp on McClintock Sound, we spent two days working 12 miles up the unnamed glacier that lobes at tidewater on the eastern shore of the sound. We camped in a dry valley behind the prominent battleship butte. A slender, elegant glacial arm blocks the valley to the south. After ascending to the east up this arm, we left the ice at a tarn and climbed the rock buttress until we surmounted the icecap at 4000 feet in a whiteout. When it suddenly cleared, six of us proceeded up the the north face of a splendid snow dome of 5500 feet. Our route led through mountains above the sound. We documented a layer of Holocene clam shells 100 meters above sea level, marking an extreme level of isostatic rebound. We reached Ootah Fjord through an unknown canyon of ice bridges, natural arches, gigantic chockstones and waterfalls. We continued north from Ootah after two days, breaking trail to Rainbow Lakes. We collected butterfly specimens and observed miniature caribou and muskoxen at the very northern edge of North America. Happily, there was no open water between us and the Ward Hunt Iceshelf. I was able to make a brief study of the ice rise or “beach glacier” phenomenon and concluded that these ice rises are not Pleistocene tongue remnants as was thought but rather contemporary products of microclimates and prevailing wind drift. After two days of snow-fog, we crossed one of the beach glaciers and the frozen lead, thus entering the world of the 3000-year-old iceshelf. We then crossed a succession of turquoise lakes by means of relays in a tiny inflatable boat, reaching Ward Hunt Island after two more days. Our members were Ruthmary Deuel, Heather Wilson, Les Wilson, Chris Curtis, Alexander Jolies, Joe Legalet, Bill Dunlop, Dave Endres, Ed Hartley and I.

Dennis Schmitt, Sierra Club

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