Four Canadians have returned from a month-long expedition into the heart of the Sam Ford Fjord. Crosby Johnston, Joshua Lavigne, Paul McSorley and Tony Richardson spent the better part of July and August in the Walker Arm of the Sam Ford Fiord on Baffin Island in Nunavut.

By Paul McSorley

After multiple flights to Clyde River and an eventful ten hour boat ride through shifting pack ice, our team arrived in the Walker Arm July 29th and set camp along the Broad Peak Glacier. The next day, we motored a leaky two-horsepower tin can under the imposing Polar Sun Spire to the base of Beluga Spire, staring up in awe at the pinnacle rising 13,00 metres out of the sea.

Over the next 48 hours we made the first ascent of Beluga Spire’s north pillar. The 1,100-metre route was christened Harpoon VI 5.12 A1. Two of the 29 pitches required short sections of aid and were freed by a second.

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A few more mild days gave way to two weeks of unsettled weather. During this time we made two attempts on the south pillar of the Turret but were beaten down by storms. On the eighth of August, Crosby and Joshua established a new route up the north pillar of the Turret enduring near freezing temps and wet rock. Their line the Johnston-Lavigne was 700 meters and went at VI 5.12 A1.

Most teams visit this region in spring, when the fiords are still frozen, access is by snowmobile or dog sled and most objectives are climbed using extensive aid. The warmer temps of summer (end of July through August) allow for free climbing but the fickle nature of the ice break up and burly winds makes access and egress by sea, more problematic. We feel like this is one of the great climbing arenas of the world and were humbled by the scale of the place which blends a most unique cocktail of coastal, alpine and arctic environments.

North Pillar of the Turret with the Johnston/Lavigne  on the 2014 Baffin Island Expedition with Paul McSorley, Tony Richardson, Joshua Lavigne and Crosby Johnston Photo Joshua Lavigne

North Pillar of the Turret with the Johnston/Lavigne on the 2014 Baffin Island Expedition with Paul McSorley, Tony Richardson, Joshua Lavigne and Crosby Johnston 

Beluga Spire's Harpoon on the 2014 Baffin Island Expedition with Paul McSorley, Tony Richardson, Joshua Lavigne and Crosby Johnston Photo Joshua Lavigne

Beluga Spire’s Harpoon on the 2014 Baffin Island Expedition with Paul McSorley, Tony Richardson, Joshua Lavigne and Crosby Johnston 

Paul McSorley is based in Squamish B.C. 


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