American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Baffin Island, Auyuittuq National Park, Summit Lake Area, Various Ascents

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1999

Summit Lake Area, Various Ascents. Six of us from the Banff area converged on Summit Lake during the first two weeks of May. We only had time for a short trip, so were banking on a lucky weather window. People seemed to think that going before the sea ice breaks yields less humidity in the air and therefore better weather. A suspicious theory at best, but we were clinging to it.

Our arrival at Summit Lake seemed to be timed perfectly: a north wind brought the clear skies we wanted, but unfortunately was accompanied by -20C° temperatures. At this point, the prospects for even going ski touring were looking rather grim and we resigned ourselves to be happy with even one summit. On the first day, Marc Ledwidge, Rob Orvig and Larry Stanier climbed the Swiss Route to the top of Mt. Asgard. At the same time, Tom Fayle, Mark Klassen and I climbed an unnamed and possibly unclimbed peak just to the southwest of Asgard itself. Our unnamed peak climbed a big snow face to a ridge, had three pitches of fifth class, and then followed a sharp ridge to a summit. This was a great cold-weather route, as it wasn’t too hard to keep moving.

Two days later, Tom, Mark and I climbed another new route on the southwest face of Asgard’s north tower. We named our route Polar Thievery after an incident that occurred with some snowmobilers at Summit Lake. Approaching as for the Swiss Route, our climb then cuts across snow and rock slabs to the very right-hand edge of the southwest face somewhere near the Bilfrost Buttress (though we never did locate this route). Polar Thievery takes a crack system that starts directly below and finishes in the large obvious corner on the upper right side of this face. We did eight pitches of awesome crack climbing on perfect granite up to 5.11a, but in drier conditions one should expect two or three more pitches.

After a rest and a ski tour to scope out another project, we split into three teams of two. Mark and Rob climbed the north face of Bilbo Peak, Larry and Tom climbed the Scott/Hennick Route on Asgard in 44 hours from Summit Lake, and Marc and I climbed the south ridge of the big unnamed peak to the northwest of Northumbria, directly north from Tinfoil Ridge. The route was ten pitches of good stone up to 5.10a, and we called it First Air after a startling commercial flight that buzzed us on the summit.

We all reunited back at the head of the Fjord to be picked up on skidoo 12 days after we arrived. As we rode the machine out in the wet and stormy weather, I couldn’t help but laugh and think that very occasionally, some weather folklore can actually come true.

Grant Statham, Canada

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