American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Baffin Island, Turnweather Glacier, Sangtraït

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2002

Turnweather Glacier, Sangtraït. When Frank Van Herreweghe (Belgian, but Catalonian citizen) and I arrived at Auyuittuq National Park, we felt really happy. After months waiting for this moment, finally we were in Baffin, ready to enjoy this unknown land. We arrived in the beginning of July at Pangnirtung. We spent 10 days carrying our stuff from Overlord to the Turnweather Glacier. It’s a hard trek with weight—not too long compared with the approach to Asgard or Thor, but steeper and long enough. We knew about the first route on the wall, Insumisioa, climbed in 1995 by a Basque-Catalonian team. We also consulted the rangers’ office, where climbers register ascents. There we learned of two attempts—a Canadian attempt in 1999 and an earlier Japanese attempt.

We put our base camp at the Turnweather moraine and started to fix the first 250 meters of the wall. It was difficult to choose a line because we didn’t have much information about the previous attempts. Finally we decided to start on the east buttress on the north face. We climbed 19 pitches, two having been climbed by the Canadians and having bolted belays and one having been climbed by the Japanese. The other 16 pitches were ours. We spent 15 days living on the wall capsule style (three camps), climbing and suffering from rain and fog. The result is a new route called Sangtrai't (blood blister). The blood blister appeared after I smashed a finger with the hammer. I also broke my finger.

Sangtraït has 1,155 meters of aid and free climbing (A4 5.11a 60-degree snow). The first 150 meters are on a 40-degree snow ramp. Then the rock begins, being a bit loose for the next four pitches. After this we had to cross a 60-degree snow ramp, after which the rock becomes better and better until the top. We rapped down the wall, taking 24 hours. It was hard to cross the ramps, lowering our haulbags, because after 15 days there was no more snow, just loose rocks. Chaotic!

After opening this new line we had time left, so we hiked through the main valley to visit mounts Asgard and Thor and see how beautiful they are. We spent two months on Baffin Island, enjoying the landscape, the people, and the climbing. But most important was to enjoy all this with Frank. Always happy, always there.

SÍlvia Vidal, Spain

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