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Baffin Island

Listed under Frozen Landscapes in Arctic, Canada.

  • Photo of Baffin Island
  • Photo of Baffin Island
Photo of Baffin Island
Photo by Andrew McLean
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I’d like to think that by getting blown off course and having our gear crushed by the sea-ice, we were upholding a long standing tradition of exploration on Baffin Island . While we were able to avoid the un-pleasantries of being marooned for years, death by starvation or being eaten by polar bears, it’s a dubious honor to join the ranks of Sir John Franklin and many others who had underestimated the complexity and ferocity of Baffin Island and have been forced to reevaluate their plans mid trip.

Our plan had been to start at Pond Inlet on the northern tip of Baffin Island and then ski and kite-ski our way down to Clyde River in the middle of the island. The trip was to cover roughly 400 miles of wild terrain that wove in and out of fjords, across open sea-ice, over glacial passes and through crevasses. In a classic case of “Be careful of what you wish for – you just might get it,” our first day started with little to no wind for our kites and slow progress. A few hours later in near hurricane force winds, our dreams of a big traverse were crushed by a 30 mph excursion into a jagged ice floe that left one of our sleds splintered and broken.

With one unreliable sled, it was time to reconsider our options. Betting a few weeks salary on a snow machine ride out to Coutts Inlet, we reassembled our gear and established ourselves in the Nova Zembla Island area roughly 30 miles southeast of Pond Inlet.

Our first quest was to work our way up a receding glacier toward the high point of Qiajivik peak. Climbing through a moraine filled with old animal tracks, we reached a high point just as the temperature hit a low of -10c at 10pm. Retracing our steps back down to the sea-ice camp, we spent the night in a tent bolted to the ice with ice screws before heading off the next day in search of the elusive monster couloir.

We didn’t have to go far. Within a few minutes of skinning, we came to the base of a 4,000’ beauty - we didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be one of the best lines of the trip, with soft snow, a striking fall-line and sunny weather. For the following weeks, we fell into a pattern of climbing and skiing a couloir per day and then moving camp when an area was skied out. This area, Coutts Inlet and the North Arm of Coutts, had some descent couloirs, but not of quite the quality and quantity of the Sam Ford Fjord area. They also suffered from exposure to the sun, which cooked the snow into a firm, icy base. This made for some sporty turns, especially in the “Gnarwhal” couloir which had an attention grabbing 55 degree upper section to it.

Although nothing on this trip went according to our plans, it did follow the Baffin Island master plan, which guarantees nothing more than wild terrain, striking scenery and unexpected adventures. One of the more telling examples of this concept was the discovery of the Northwest Passage, which is a major part of Baffin Island ’s history. After 200 years of trying, the secret northern passage from England to Alaska was finally pieced together, only to be immediately discarded as being unrealistically difficult to navigate. To this day, the act of discovery and exploration on Baffin Island remains perhaps more important than any end goal.

Full Article on Andrew's website.

Written by  Andrew McLean.

Other expert and press reviews

“Canada: my adventure cruise to Baffin Island”

By Erica Wagner for The Times First Published May 9th 2009 Just off the coast of Devon Island, the Zodiac is pitching and heaving. Shannon Fowler, five-foot-nothing in her socks, is in command. She is not, of course, wearing only socks, but rubber boot… Read more...

Written by press. Continue reading on

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