Broad Peak, North Face, Beluga Spire, Attempt
North America, Canada, Baffin Island
Baffin is a landscape of frozen fjords, exotic wildlife, massive big walls, and sea ice as far as the eye can see. I went to the island in early April and did not leave until the second week in June, having the experience of a lifetime along the way.
I took the full arsenal of toys—big-wall and alpine climbing gear, ski-touring equipment, and enough food and fuel for a few months. My outfitter dropped me in the Walker Arm of the Sam Ford area, in a climber’s and skier’s paradise. I set up base camp in a central location, at the foot of the impressive Polar Sun Spire. I climbed or skied almost every day, despite -30° temperatures. The skiing was great, with an abundance of couloirs and chutes that had a deep layer of powder. I also made forays into other fjords, sometimes traveling 35 miles at a time. On windy days I would kite-ski across sea ice, being pulled at 40mph!
Once the temps rose in early May, I started climbing. The biggest unclimbed wall in the area is the north face of Beluga Spire, situated between Polar Sun Spire and the Walker Citadel. The 1,400m monster had been BASE jumped, but never climbed. I slimmed my gear to a minimum, leaving portaledge, bolts, static rope, and partner (obviously). After three days of climbing, I retreated from halfway, due to cold affecting my toes, which I’d frostbitten a few weeks earlier while ski-mountaineering. I tried Beluga again a few days later, going even lighter—no second rope, haulbag, or anything extra—but got shut down again by my toes.
I switched objectives to a new route on the north face of Broad Peak, a 1,400m rock and mixed giant. I knew I could do it if I brought all the big-wall gear, but I wanted to continue my light-and-fast strategy and try a continuous ascent. I took one 70m rope, my one-man tent, and food and fuel for 48 hours. I spent 39 non-stop hours on the ascent, taking advantage of the 24-hour Arctic sunshine to keep going without a bivy. The line was beautiful—a few pitches of mixed to get onto a spur, then a difficult knife-edge arête that led to an easier hanging snow-field, the 400m crux headwall (5.10 A3), and a super-rad ice arête to the summit. It was one of my biggest climbs, set in the most beautiful area I have seen.
By the beginning of June it was time to go home, and my Inuit friend came to get me. But not before I got to see polar bears, seals, caribou, foxes, crazy big walls, super couloirs, virgin peaks, and so much more than words can describe.