North America, Canada, Nunavut, Baffin Island, Bylot and Baffin Islands, Ascents and Exploration

Publication Year: 2005.

Bylot and Baffin Islands, ascents and exploration. In May, Louise Jarry and I made a 30-day exploratory ski tour of 300km, with eight peak ascents, from the village of Pond Inlet, Nunavut Territory. On May 1 we were taken by snowmobile on a 5-hour ride to the west coast of Bylot Island, 21km east-southeast of Canada Point. Wishing to avoid polar bears, we moved north, inland, toward the toe of a 23km-long valley glacier flowing southwest from Savik Mountain. From a camp at 46m we ascended two peaks: a ski and scramble up Point 1,073m and a mainly ski ascent of Point 1,113m, which has an icecap summit.

We next skied up the valley glacier, then west up one of its tributaries to a 425m pass holding four lakes. We climbed the end of a long ridge that divides the tributary glaciers and climbed a tiny, 720m alpine summit by its north-northeast ridge. We called the long, narrow ridge Division Ridge because it separates two glaciers north as far as Point 1,357m. Next, in thick fog we skied from our lakes camp up the glacier to the northwest. It turned out to be one of those magical days when perseverance paid off. After several hours of whiteout navigation we broke through the cloud layer to blue skies and warm sun. We continued north up the glacier, skiing to the summit of a 1,284m ice-domed peak. There were impressive views down the Inussualuk Glacier and west to Tay Bay. Farther in the distance Baffin’s Borden Peninsula was visible.

Leaving the mountains of Bylot was difficult, but we skied west from our lakes camp to Navy Board Inlet and crossed it (15km) to the mouth of the Kilutea River on Borden Peninsula. We saw five sets of bear tracks along this route. We followed the Kilutea upstream, bypassing a difficult headwall near its headwaters lake, and continued to the base of Military Survey Mountain (MSM) in five days of skiing. MSM is the only officially named peak in the northern interior of Borden Peninsula.

After more than a week of poor weather we were treated with improving views from MSM, neither summit of which had a cairn. In hindsight this seemed odd in the context of our next mountain climbed. Moving south we ski-ascended the next 1,000m peak, Peak 1,098m. On its summit we found a cairn, along with strips of bright fabric used for survey and air-photo work. Given that this peak is higher, has a cairn and survey fabric, and the labeled MSM has none of this, there may be map-labeling error.

Continuing southeast we detoured for a ski ascent of a 942m-high icecap peak 13km east-northeast of MSM. Our final ascent was of Point 1,078m, 17km southeast of MSM. This involved a pleasant ski across its east glacier. At approximately 832m we discovered what might be a human-built bivy rock wall, potentially prehistoric. Our plan had been to ski down the Mala River, but views of the lower Mala made us nervous. There might not have been enough snow left, so we traveled east, north of the Mala, through a series of side valleys and passes.

On our last night camping, May 29, it rained. Locals said spring arrived several weeks early. The next day we were picked up by snowmobile north of the mouth of the Mala River and returned to Pond Inlet. We thank The North Face Canada and Mountain Equipment Co-op, who generously supported this expedition.

Greg Horne, Alpine Club of Canada