Ines Papert’s FA on Mount Asgard in Baffin Island
Our short stay in Baffin was very, very intense. The tough approach, the intimidating rock avalanches that often robbed us of sleep, respect for polar bears, rockfall and a storm on the route, the dangerous descent in zero visibility—it was tough for all of us in Baffin.
Accompanied by Jon Walsh and Joshua Lavigne, two Canadians, I travelled on the 17th of July to Pangnirtung, a village of 1500 inhabitants, located on southeastern Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean. Arrived in the "Place of Many Bull Caribou" a fishing boat took us 30 km across the fjord before we started walking, loaded down heavily, toward Mount Asgard, following the morainal landscape of the Weasel River Valley in Auyuittuq National Park. After a three-day, 60-km hike—sometimes struggling through hip-deep water—the Mount Asgard basecamp could be pitched on the Turner Glacier. After a rest day, we climbed the 700-meter south buttress on Mount Loki for a warm-up (New Zealand route). Possibly the first repeat of that route and the first free ascent at 5.10+.
Since it never gets really dark during the polar summer on Baffin Island, we got a 2 am start the next morning our objective: the northwest face of Asgard's south buttress. In bright sunshine, we climbed through the very rotten base toward the centre of the face. Because of heavy rockfall—triggered by the high temperatures on the face—and a lack of alternative routes, we had to bivouac, well protected under a roof.
The next day, we reached the sum
mit of Mount Asgard after 1000 metres of climbing alpine style. A sudden storm and high winds made the last two pitches hard and prevented us from seeing anything from the summit.
Under those threatening conditions, the descent over loose, wet and extremely slippery rock on the south side became the real crux. After an extremely uncomfortable bivouac the weather improved so far that we could continue descending down the glacier.
We had not anticipated such a fast success. So we are very satisfied. To climb 29 pitches, 1200 metres of wall, with no portaledges, no fixed ropes, light and fast, in our favoured alpine style, is a quite acceptable result. Except an iced-up chimney and a move that was wet from heavy rain in the last pitch, we could climb everything on sight. Jon Walsh received the sad news about his father's death when we arrived in basecamp. That's why we left Baffin earlier than planned.