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English Mountains, M&M Ridge

In early spring fellow New York Section-AAC member Mike Barker and I explored this low subarctic range that comprises the easternmost and highest part of the Mealy Mountains, protected as part of the Mealy Mountains National Park Reserve. They reach elevations of approximately 4,000', with bare alpine summits, and are flanked by cliffs of clean anorthosite and granite. The English Mountains have no record of technical climbing.

On March 27 we traveled by turbine single-Otter ski plane from Goose Bay to a dramatic cirque at N53.6260 W58.5060, where we established a base camp for a week. Several harsh, extended arctic windstorms hampered our climbing. However, we had a sufficient break in the weather to climb the snow and rock ridge (M & M Ridge: the ice melts in your mouth and in your hands) that rose north-northwest from our base camp. It took three days to figure out, due to complex routefinding, but on day three we climbed a 1,300' vertical route that bypassed four cliff bands, with scrambling over moderate rock and variable snow, and put us onto exposed snow slopes up to 60°, before the long, flat walk to the summit.

The English Mountains have lots of untapped climbing and winter sports potential. There were abundant continuous, fully formed water-ice falls and steep, narrow, firm snow chutes, some in excess of 2,000' vertical, on stable, featured rock, much of it clean granite. We saw almost no evidence of rockfall or avalanches. There were also lots of possibilities for skiing. Scenically, this truly wild area struck me as a cross between a lower-elevation Baffin and an inland Norwegian fjord, with some granite faces reminiscent of the southern Columbia Mountains of British Columbia. All of this in an area about the same air distance from midtown Manhattan as Miami Beach.

We thank the AAC-New York Section for giving us the honor of carrying its expedition flag. We are also grateful to Big Agnes for their support, and to AAC-NY Section member Martin Torresquintero, our communications coordinator, duct tape consultant, and weatherman.