Bylot Island: Ski Traverse and Ascents

Canada, Nunavut
Author: Greg Horne. Climb Year: 2006. Publication Year: 2007.

Starting April 13 and finishing May 9, Louise Jarry, Terry Winkler, and I made an unsupported crossing of Bylot Island, 237km, with ascents in the Byam Martin Mountains of Sirmilik National Park. The original plan had been to begin at the northwest tip of the island. After a day and a bit of travel by snowmobile using Pond Inlet outfitter Polar Sea Adventures, we turned back short of our intended drop-off point due to rough sea ice, poor visibility, wind chill, and concern about polar bear encounters. Instead we began from Tay Bay on the west coast of Bylot. This was the starting point of a summer traverse by Kelly, Lamont, et al. in 1977 (see AAJ 1978).

We ascended Inussualuk Glacier to its head and crossed a 1,270 m pass, the first of 19 we would eventually cross. Although clear, temperatures of -20°C plus considerable wind chill made it prudent to take a couple of layover days early in the trip. Once over the first pass, on average we traversed one or two passes per day as we traveled southeast. On April 21 we ascended our first peak, Pt. 1,506m, a fine glaciated pyramid just north of Pass #7. In the afternoon and evening of April 23 we ascended Angilaaq Mountain (1,944m), the highest peak of Bylot, via its southwest spur and south ridge, enjoying clear views to both the north and south coasts of the island.

We camped April 26 near the pass that Bill Tilman probably used during his 1963 north- to-south foot crossing of the island. An enjoyable descent down the middle portion of the Ser- milik Glacier led to an ascent of Pass #13 and travel down glacier E-67 (Glacier Inventory Area 46201). We also climbed Pt. 1,718m by its south ridge. Next we crossed the steepest and most avalanche-prone pass (#14) of the trip, a divide between glaciers E-67 and A-41, in whiteout conditions. From May 1 to 8, as we traveled east over glaciated terrain, we ascended seven more peaks: Unnamed 1,547m (NW and W ridges), Unnamed 1,537m (SE and E ridges), Pt. 1,321m (GPS 1,350m, W ridge), Mt. Qitdlarssuaq (1,180m, N slopes), Pt. 1,085m (GPS 1,090m, NNE ridge), Pt. 901m (SW ridge), Mt. St. Hans (808m, N slopes). Five of these were probably first ascents. From Button Point an evening snowmobile ride returned us to Pond Inlet.

– Greg Horne, Canada, ACC