American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Baffin Island, Mt. Thor, West Face, Attempt

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

Mt. Thor, West Face, Attempt. In late July, August, and early September, I spent 39 days on the west face of Mt. Thor, climbing 20 pitches to a high point two pitches above Hurgnir Ledge. The route is extreme with three pitches of modern A5, three pitches of A4+, five pitches of A4 and one and a half pitches of 5.10 face climbing. Forty-one bolts (mostly at single-or double-bolt belays) have been drilled to date. No “bolt ladders” (which I define as three bolts, rivets or bathooks in a row) were drilled. The route currently has two pitches harder than anything on El Cap’s Reticent Wall.

On August 28, temperatures dropped 30 degrees to 10° F, and a six-day snowstorm stalled me on Hurgnir Ledge. The temperatures were not to warm again in the following two weeks. On September 6, I began traversing off the face in “Colorado winter conditions” and reached base camp two-and-a-quarter days later after two additional nights out without bivy gear. I plan to return to Thor next summer, traverse onto the face and complete my route.

I determined that Japanese soloist Go Abe died not because his rope “broke” but because a large hanging flake he was nutting blew and chopped his 10-mm lead line on its first impact with the wall. His portaledge and some of his camps appeared to have been destroyed by an earlier rockfall. He was a warrior.

Although by alpine standards I failed on Thor, my dream of putting up the hardest techno aid route in the world is still attainable. If I survive another year of “training routes,” and complete the remaining eight pitches on the upper headwall (looks like three A5 pitches), then I will indeed have attained my goal.

Jim Beyer*

*Recipient of a Helly Hansen Mountain Adventure Grant and an AAC Lyman Spitzer Climbing Grant

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