American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Ellesmere Island, "Our Peak," and Other Activity

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1997

Ellesmere Island, “Our Peak,” and Other Activity. Although mountaineering was not our sole reason for visiting Northern Ellesmere Island National Park, it was certainly one of the things that Howell Martyn and I intended to do while there. Physically getting to Ellesmere was surprisingly easy—a commercial flight to Resolute followed by a Twin Otter charter to Lake Hazen Camp, our base. We arrived with a group of 11, of whom most were hikers and uninterested in climbing. It was late July, 1995, and the sun never set. Our goal was to climb Mount Barbeau (2616 meters), the highest mountain in eastern North America. It quickly became clear, however, that this would not be possible. Unusually warm and sunny weather had increased glacial runoff to the extent that the Henrietta River, which crossed our intended route, was not passable. As an alternative, we decided to hike in the other direction and onto the ice cap to check out the nunataks in that area. The park’s Senior Warden had informed us that, to his knowledge, all the peaks there were unclimbed. We traveled east across the Snow Goose River to the Abbe River Valley, then north to the Abbe Glacier which is part of an ice cap covering the northwestern half of the Park. The high point was crossing the swollen Snow Goose River whose current was rolling boulders that could be heard from some distance. At the Abbe Glacier we skirted the imposing headwall and an found an easier route onto the ice from its southwestern flank. The ice cap was easy hiking. It had a hard, smooth surface broken by occasional melt water lakes and streams with little apparent crevasse danger. The area was marked by many small unnamed peaks protruding 500 to 1000 meters above the ice.

After two and a half days of hiking, Howell Martyn and I were eager to climb something. The highest peak we thought we could complete that day was picked and we set out for the summit which was reached without difficulty in a few hours. This unnamed mountain was approximately 1740 meters high and located around 15 kilometers west-southwest of the Seven Sisters Range. We henceforth referred to it as “Our Peak.” We camped on the ice cap in anticipation of making additional climbs, however, visibility the next day was poor due to fog and low cloud cover. Good visibility was important for route planning since topo maps of the area are not well-detailed (1:250,000 scale with 500-foot contour line intervals). Not knowing how long this weather would prevail, we decided to head back.

Our return route was via Glacier Pass and the Snow Goose River valley. This time we crossed the Snow Goose where it fanned out before entering Lake Hazen, a much easier, if less interesting, crossing. We had seen no traces of prior human presence except for the area within a few kilometers of the Hazen Camp. While it was not the most challenging of climbs, it was great adventure for a couple of old guys!

Frank Cabron, unaffiliated

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