American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Baffin Island, Gibbs Fjord, Cat's Eye Wall, Out of the Pan and Into the Fire, New Route

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2001

Cat’s Eye Wall, Out of the Pan and Into the Fire, New Route. After ten tedious days of airports, northern homeless shelters, and the coldest skidoo ride of my life, Jason Robinson and I found ourselves in Scott Inlet. Our guide, Ilko, pointed out a wall he thinks is 3,000 to 4,000 feet high that had had one free-climbing attempt the previous spring (the party was forced off due to the severe cold). Our sights were set on the tallest, most prominent feature: the overhanging arête of a pillar that was detached from the main wall.

We sieged the wall with force, and after five days it was great to be off the ground above the snow slopes and ice. We hauled to Camp I at 1,200 feet with nothing but rock above. The 24-hour daylight and calm bluebird skies made the bitter cold bearable, if you kept moving. Aid pitches were taking ten to 15 hours to lead; the belayer sat in Gloria, a legless patio chair slung up for belays.

We started rope soloing above CII so the belayer could sprawl out to eat and sleep in the portaledge in relative luxury. For almost two weeks, and using the constant daylight to our advantage, JR and I only saw each other in passing at the end and beginning of our shifts. The climbing was mostly thin and always steep. By CIII, we could taste the top.

Baffin is a serene, arctic desert. Except for one guy who dropped by, the only people we saw were the odd hunters slowly passing by below. In the arctic silence I heard an odd flapping sound above. Instinct told me it was probably ice or rock falling from the top. Boy, was I wrong! As it fell closer it took the shape of Lee, the solo BASE jumper we had met in town. His canopy roared open right in front of us amidst our cheers and excitement, and he seemed to float off as quickly as he arrived.

On day 31, JR led the final free-climbing pitch, with the token offwidth finish, to the 3,400-foot summit. We called our route Out of the Pan and Into the Fire (VII A4 5.10 WI3).

Thoughts of abundant food and space in base camp kept me going for the 20 hours it took to slog off the top. Back in civilization, I missed the simplicity of wall life—but working and paying bills is all worth it if it means I can fund another adventure.

Jason Methot, Canada

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