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North America, Canada, Baffin Island, CambRidge Fjord, Alain Estève Peakm Sous l'oeil de Nanouk

Cambridge Fjord, Alain Estève Peak, Sous l’œil de Nanouk. Combining their experience of polar deserts and of mountains all over the world, climbers of the French High Mountain Military Group (GMHM) went to the Canadian north and climbed a virgin peak during their three- weeks spring trip. The route is more than 1,000 meters high and is situated on the unexplored Cambridge Fjord, on the northeast side of the island. The peak was found during an aerial reconnaissance in April. We called it Alain Estève Peak in the memory of a friend who died on a Norwegian icefall four years ago.

The expedition began on May 19 at the small village of Clyde River. Inuit hunters drove us with snowmobiles for two days on the ice cap to the fjord. We were lucky to observe a seal hunting and to see (far from us!) two polar bears. We arrived at the base camp in a storm. A few minutes later we were alone, 300 km from the nearest established settlement.

During the first week the weather was awful. Nevertheless, during the few moments of blue sky we managed to fix 400 meters of rope on the wall. During the second week the sun came back. The entire team climbed to the top of the ropes, leaving only belay anchors behind. The first bivouac was on the first shoulder. On the second day we reached the second shoulder, facing the overhanging part of the upper mountain. We fixed two pitches before sleeping. On the day after, despite snowfall in the morning, we fixed seven pitches.

The next day was the hardest. The moves were intricate, but we succeeded in freeing them. On the last day, June 1, the bags were hauled and the last 50 meters easily climbed. Because of bear tracks around base camp, we called the route Sous l’œil de Nanouk (Under the Eye of the Bear).

Antoine de Choudens, French High Mountain Military Group (GMHM)