BIG NEW AID ROUTES IN BAFFIN

Posted on: August 15, 2007


The north face of Kiguti, Sam Ford Fjord, Baffin Island, showing the line of the Norwegian Route (VI A3+, ca. 900m, 23 pitches, Felde-Hetland-Lied-Nessa, 2007). The original route on the wall, Nirvana (VI 5.9/5.10 A3+, ca. 900m, Ascaro-Ballester-Chaverri, 1995) takes a line up the nose to the right. [Photo] Lars Nessa

In April a four-man Norwegian team arrived in the Sam Ford Fjord of Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, hoping to add another route to the great north face of Kiguti. In 2000 another Norwegian team, Bjarte Bo, Halvor Hagen, Torkel Poisli and Odd-Roar Wiik, had enjoyed a very productive trip to this area with new routes on Polar Sun Spire, The Turret and Great Cross Pillar. It was their photos of Kiguti that motivated Sigurd Felde, Audun Hetland, Ole Lied and Lars Nessa seven years later.

Kiguti was possibly first climbed in 1993 by Conrad Anker and Jon Turk during a kayak trip to the region, an expedition Turk had originally planned with Mugs Stump. This pair ascended a fairly easy route to the summit. A couple of years later and Sam Ford was the place to be. During that productive year of 1995, three Spanish climbers, Daniel Ascaro, Javier Ballester and the late Pepe Chaverri, made the first ascent of Kiguti's big north wall, climbing the 900-meter nose on the right side face in eight days, establishing Nirvana (VI 5.9/5.10 A3+). There appear to be no other recorded ascents of this face, though in the spring of 2002 Brad Barlage and Andrew McLean investigated the potential for couloir skiing in the region and, amongst many other descents, skied six different lines in the Kiguti massif.

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The four Norwegians knew the north face had been climbed before but had no detailed description of the route. They spotted one very obvious line on the right side of the face, but afraid that it might have already been climbed, opted for a less conspicuous but more direct line just to the left. Both lines were the same for the first two or three pitches but after this the proposed Norwegian route broke out left up a compact slab to reach a half-moon-shaped diedre. Above, a line of thin cracks through the steepest section of the face led directly to the summit.

From the base of the wall two mixed pitches led to a large snow ledge, above which full scale aid climbing began. Ten days working from the comfort of a base camp in the fjord resulted in ropes being fixed to a small ledge at 300 meters. The Norwegians then installed portaledges and two large blue barrels of ice (for cooking) at the top of these ropes and committed to the wall. The first pitch above camp proved to be the crux with much difficult hooking (A3+). Above, the line offered many pitches of exquisite A2, though the cracks were often compact and shallow, and the rock quite porous. After fifteen days and 1000m of challenging climbing the team reached the top: a rock dropped from this point took twelve seconds to fall through space until it hit the big snow ledge above the base. The Norwegian Route has twenty-three pitches with only a little free climbing.

During the first ascent of the Norwegian Route (VI A3+, ca. 900m, 23 pitches, Felde-Hetland-Lied-Nessa, 2007) on the north face of Kiguti, Baffin Island [Photo] Lars Nessa

After this Felde and Hetland tried a 400-meter aid line on the neighboring Fin but gave up after three days due to strong winds and low temperatures. Lied and Nessa were more fortunate with their choice of a largely free line in the same vicinity. Gud har ikkje gloymt oss, han gir bare faen (5.10 A0, 12 pitches, 700m of climbing, Lied-Nessa, 2007) gave continuous crack and corner climbing on a beautiful pillar.

At much the same time but in the nearby Gibbs Fjord, the French team of Sam Beaugey, Martial Dumas, Jean-Yves Frederiksen, Jean Noel Itzstein, Yann Mimet and David Ravanel spent seven days opening Nassariit on the north face of the Ship's Prow. This was a 14-pitch line up a system of vertical cracks with difficulties of A3/A4. The wall was absolutely vertical for 650 meters, making it an ideal line for a wingsuit BASE jump. This was achieved by Beaugey, an experienced BASE jumper who lept from Trango Pulpit after climbing a new route there in 2005, together with Itzstein. The Ship's Prow is actually located on Scott Island at the mouth of the Gibbs and Clark Fjords. The north face was climbed solo in 1999 via a line just right of the prow itself by Mike Libecki: The Hinayana (VI 5.8 A3+, 600m, Libecki, 1999).

A washing line of cams. Some of the gear used to make the first ascent of the Norwegian Route (VI A3+, ca. 900m, 23 pitches, Felde-Hetland-Lied-Nessa, 2007) on the north face of Kiguti, Baffin Island. [Photo] Lars Nessa

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