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Slip—River Crossing, Poor Position, Miscommunication — Baffin Island, Auyuittuq National Park, Mount Thor


Baffin Island, Auyuittuq National Park, Mount Thor

On July 10, 1984, a climbing group from Japan was returning to Pangnirtung after an ascent of the West Face of Mount Thor on Baffin Island. Their requested transportation on the fiord from Overlord to Pangnirtung (30 kilometers) could not be provided because of broken ice. They decided to walk along the fiord, a route that requires crossing a river at Aulatsivikjuak.

The wardens at Overlord advised them to make the crossing on the tidal flats at low tide. They apparently did not understand, and made the crossing above the tidal flats on July 11 at 0500, a time of day when the glacial runoff was minimal, but when the tide was in, forcing a crossing above the tidal flats, where the river descends more steeply One climber crossed successfully. The second climber slipped, fell, and was carried down river. She apparently managed to undo the hip belt of her back pack, but not in time to avoid being washed out into the fiord, with fatal results. (Source: R. Breneman, Auyuittuq National Park Reserve)


The party’s limited comprehension of English resulted in a failure to cross the river at the recommended point. Climbing ropes might have helped for the crossing, and backpack hip belts should always be unfastened prior to stepping in the water. A backpack submerged for several minutes fills with water and becomes too heavy to lift. (Source: R. Breneman, Auyuittuq National Park Reserve)