Welshman's Peak, Arctic Monkeys
North America, Canada, Baffin Island
Stu McAleese, Mark Thomas, and I (from Wales, U.K.) spent three weeks in May completing a new big-wall aid route on a previously unclimbed formation in Baffin Islands Stewart Valley. I had spotted the line in 1999 when Jerry Gore, Shaun Hutson, Louise Thomas, and I created The Endless Day (900m, 25 pitches, VI A3+) on the Citadel. I had been itching to return for more than ten years to try this route.
Located on the prominent buttress left of Great Sail Peak, our 1,100m wall was guarded by 300m of tricky mixed terrain. The climbing on the wall proper was difficult aid with most pitches requiring pegs, hooks, and beaks. We generally climbed for 12 hours a day with the two most challenging pitches taking three days each to complete. Life on the wall at that time of year is harsh with temperatures averaging -20° C. Warming water for hot drinks and rehydrat- ing meals took an hour and a half. Belaying required two duvet jackets to combat the extreme cold. We ran out of fuel and food on the last day before we made the summit, but decided to press on. We reached the top at 4 p.m. on May 24, having spent 18 consecutive nights on the wall. We called our new route Arctic Monkeys (1,400m, 31 pitches, VI A4) and dubbed the formation Welshman’s Peak.
Climbers typically opt for late spring to tackle the eastern fjord walls because of the generally stable weather and relative ease of access by skidoo across the frozen ocean. Any earlier and it is way colder; later and you risk an early thaw, which can make escape problematic. An early thaw proved the case for us—the skidoo was unable to reach base camp and we had to make a quick exit, wading through freezing slush for 25km to meet our Inuit drivers.