American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

North America, Canada, Baffin Island, Mt. Thor, Absolute End

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 2003

Mt. Thor, Absolute End. This summer saw the first-ever Polish climbing expedition to the big-wall paradise of Baffin Island; it culminated in an impressive new line on the north- facing flank right of the main west face of Mt. Thor. Thor’s west face is one of the tallest walls in the world (1,250m), and the mountain, located just beyond the Arctic Circle in Auyuittuq National Park, has attracted climbers from all over the world. Four routes existed on the main west face, all highly technical and requiring extreme aid: West Face (American), VII A4 (first big-wall VII in the world); Midgard Serpent (American), VI A5; Aromes de Monoserat (Spanish), VI A4+; and the mind-bending American route, Project Mayhem, VII A5+.

Three of us, Chris Belczynski, Marcin Tomaszewski, and Michal Bulik, came to Baffin Islands Gibbs Fjord in early July. We tried to hire local Inuit to carry our loads (25-30 kg each) for $300 Canadian. At first they were enthusiastic, but things deteriorated. They lacked the stamina of Pakistani porters and seemed unfit for the task. They forgot to bring extra shoes for river crossings (some even walked without socks!) and required one of us to be constantly finding the trail, adjusting their rucksacks, etc. After a day or so they were blistered, sore, and unable to walk farther. We sent them home with half the agreed-on pay.

It took us over a week and 200 km of walking to shuttle our 400 kg of gear and food to the base of Mt. Thor. Inspection of the west face showed that the most obvious lines had already been climbed. Moreover, recent routes (other than Jim Beyer’s Project Mayhem) had required extensive drilling—over 100 holes for Midgard and over 200 for Aromes. The only remaining logical line ascended the north-facing vertical flank just right of the main west face. Over 18 consecutive days we climbed a new line on this flank. We called our route Absolute End.

The route follows a system of seams, cracks, and dihedrals, sporadically broken by roofs and short, vertical, blank sections, which we either hooked or free-climbed. We rated the route VI 5.11 A4; reaching the ridge of Thor required 1,070m of climbing. Another 300m of easy climbing (below 5.6) took us to the top of Mt. Thor, which we reached on August 1. The route was opened in capsule style, with three hanging portaledge camps. The main difficulties included aiding loosely attached pillars and expanding flakes. For the first nine days the wall was hidden in fog and battered by rain, snow, and high winds. Thereafter we experienced good weather.

With luck we survived a couple of rock and ice falls, almost without injury, and none of us took a fall longer than 30'. We dedicate our route to the Japanese climber Go Abe, who died trying to solo a new route on Mt. Thor several years ago.

Chris Belczynski, Marcin Tomaszewski, & Michal Bulik, Polish Climbing Association

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