(PLS see message below about the fact that this is postponed to August 2018 and that only part 1 would take place this summer (details below). If you are interested, make sure to contact me as it will take place without been posted again next year if enough interest is secured with this posting by mid September 2017 and a team will be put together on the basis of the participants interested at that time)
Hello, I am looking for partners for a demanding alpine / backpacking trip next August.
In addition to backpack a wonderful valley for about 30 m/ 50 k (60 m / 100 k in total) with a few river crossings and rough terrain in the shadow of the highest uninterrupted cliff in the word (Mt Thor), the trip has two other objectives. First, climb the highest Baffin’s peak (Mt. Odin which is 7000 feet / 2150 m) over 5 days. Second, hike on dry glaciers for 2 days with a night at Asgard basecamp.
The setting of this trip is unique as it is in a wonderful arctic glacier-edged valley surrounded by big walls. In fact, it is a fjord that was recently vacated by glaciers and has been used by Inuit as a traditional route where glaciers line the edges of the valley. While nothing of this magnitude can really be compared, I believe that it is a place similar to Yosemite in California with one notable difference: you replace the crowd with numerous glaciers. In 2004 Outside Magazine voted the Auyuittuq Backpacking trip one of the top "Trips Of A Lifetime".
Without doubt, this is an amazing place with the majority of the trip above the Arctic Circle. Auyuittuq means "The Land That Never Melts" in Inuit and this National Park has two mountains very famous around the world that draw a few world-class climbers every year. Mount Asgard consists of two flat-topped and cylindrical rock towers that may have seen in a James Bond movie (“A spy who loved me”) when a stuntman performed a BASE jump, skiing off the mountain with a parachute for the opening sequence of the film (see the end of). Mount Thor features the greatest vertical drop in the world (i.e., 1,250 m or 4,101 ft), with the cliff overhanging at an average angle of 15 degrees from vertical. To illustrate, climbing this cliff, visible for days during the trip, takes about 30 days on the most technical routes.
I did most of the south part (up to Thor) in 2012 and the whole south part (up to Battle) last August, including an attempt at Mt. Odin, a successful climb of Mt. Battle and a great night on Turner glacier at Asgard Basecamp. A description of the south part can be seen at http://www.blackfeather.com/hike/hike_auyuittuqgetaway.htm.
The scenery is great from the valley but it got just amazing once you climb up a bit to see the Penny ice cap (i.e., 6,000 km2 or 2,300 sq mi), which is thought by scientists to be the last remains of the massive Laurentide Ice sheet that covered most of Canada and a large portion of northern USA during the last ice age. In 2012, I scrambled to the end of the Niflheim glacier, which is very close to Thor, and the view just got incredible on the Ice cap such as Highway glacier. Last August, the views from the summit of Battle and during the Odin climb were fantastic.
Last year, summiting Mt Odin was not possible for three main reasons. First, the days that could be allocated to that project were too limited. Second, the idea of an advanced base camp at about 1000 m / 3000 feet was not accepted broadly within the group. Third, we lacked some climbing gears for rocks and ice.
My research is all done and I could coordinate many aspects. Next summer, the best dates to go, weather wise, would be from August the 16th until September 3rd when the river levels are usually lower and lower temperatures at night can allow safer travel in tricky parts at night. At that time, the average temperature ranges between 4 and 10C or 39 and 50F in the valley. As well, this allow you to join in the other trip on Baffin (which is strictly backpacking without technical routes) that I also posted from August 2nd until the 15th (Canada’s Arctic - Baffin Island Longest Backpacking – KATANNILIK TERRITORIAL PARK – ITIJJAGIAQ TRAIL OVER META ICONGNITA PENINSULA ALONG THE SOPER RIVER BETWEEN IQALUIT AND KIMMERUT (15 days - next August)).
This is an arctic trip that is reasonably affordable, safe and logistically manageable as you can get there with scheduled flights and the Park maintains emergency shelters approximately every 10 kilometers where communications with the outside world is possible twice a day to call for help and to get weather forecasts. There are even a few food and gear caches if something really bad happen. If you want to do some research, you can start at
http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nu/auyuittuq/index.aspx with the Visitor Information Package.
The main risk is the crossing of the glacier-fed rivers and it is possible that few crossings may have to be done very early in the day like 4 am. Regarding the polar bears, they are rarely seen in the south part of the Park as they prefer to stay on the north coast of Baffin island. Of course, the Odin climb would have to done safely such as doing a couloir at night when the glacier is frozen. Regarding glacier travel, the crevasses are easy to be spotted.
The required budget could be as follows:
1) Approximately 300$ for the Park entry and two boat rides.
2) Accommodations costs can be avoided completely by camping in communities as hotels are, otherwise, very expensive. This is what I am going to do.
3) Lightweight and rich food.
4) Leaving aside the gears, the most expensive thing is the airfare. For example, the return flight from Ottawa is approximately 3000$ Canadian (First Air via Iqaluit to Pangnitung) but it is still a lot cheaper than other arctic trip as you don’t need to add the cost of a charter plane. I also know some cheaper options provided that booking is done enough in advance. If you are very interested and the airfare cost is the only issue, we could talk about this specifically.
As the packs would be heavy (approximately 35 kg or 75 pounds), a few weather-bound days are possible and well-though planning for weeks of autonomy respecting food and gears is critical, the composition of the group is very important. It is therefore important that interested persons be able to do at least one short group activity over the next few months, most likely in the New York State’s Adirondacks, in order to make sure that participants are compatible, capable, well equipped and fit enough. While I am asking how tall you are, it is not a key criteria by itself since the river crossings are not expected to be extremely challenging and someone that is relatively short can still manage the crossings up to Half hour Creek for sure.
I am experienced, well-organized, mature, tall and fit. In addition to my personal gear, I have a light tunnel 2 person winter tent that can stand the possible katabatic winds. Regarding the Odin climb, it should involve four class scrambling, glacier travel and a few pitches of 5.7. The itinerary on the glacier would stay on area where crevasses can be easily spotted. The same is true for the hike to Asgard Basecamp.
Here is the precise itinerary with the days, the objectives, intensity and, as needed, clarifications:
August 16 (Wed.);
YOW-YFB (First Air (FA) 9:15-12:25) for those starting from the south;
YFB-YXP (FA 15:00-18:45) for those continuing from previous trip and those starting;
Low Intensity (I); (Pack needs 16 days of autonomy (noon on the 17th until noon on the 2nd)
17; Park Orientation – Gas - Boat ride – Ulu Shelter; Medium I;
18; Ulu Shelter – S. Falls; High I;
19; S. Falls – Odin Base Camp (OBC); High I;
20; OBC; Low I; Short hike-Thor Shelter for weather forecast at 8 :45
21; OBC (200 m) – OAdvancedBC (OABC) (1200 m) ; Very High I;
(Leave at 1 :00 (AM) to go up couloir before sunrise with 5 days of autonomy / explore beyond OABC)
22; OABC – Odin (2143 m) - OABC; Very High I;
23; OABC; Low I;
24; OABC - Odin – OABC; Very High I;
(2nd chance for summit or, if 1st time successful, 2nd time on summit)
25; OABC – OBC; Medium I; Leave at 1 :00 (AM) to go down couloir before sunrise
26; OBC - Half hour Creek; High I; Bring 5 days of autonomy
27; Half hour Creek – Turner Glacier Moraine; High I;
28; Turner Glacier Moraine – Asgard Base Camp (ABC); Medium I;
(Explore Turner Glacier above ABC such as going to base of Mt Loki)
(Option: going down to Summit Lake over Parade and Caribou glaciers with more gears to rappel down. If so, the next two days are replaced by that route)
29; ABC – Turner Glacier Moraine ; Medium I;
(Before heading down, explore Glacier above ABC
such as going to the drop between Parade and Caribou glaciers)
30; Turner Glacier Moraine - Half hour Creek; High I;
31; Half hour Creek – S. Falls; High I; (Recuperate food and gears at OBC)
Sept. 1; S. Falls - Overload ; High I;
2 (Sat.); Boat ride and YXP-YFB (FA 16 :30-17 :30); Low I;
3; YFB-YOW (FA 13 :40-16 :45); Low I; The 4th is Labour Day
If you are interested, the next steps would be to participate into a discussion on Skype or phone in the next two weeks. In order to participate in that discussion, please send me an e-mail ([masked]) with your skype id or phone number as well as your age, weight and height with a description of your relevant experience for this trip (backpacking, climbing or other similar trip) and whether the airfare is an issue. If you are interested but can’t make it the next two weeks, please let me know and send me the above information as I will arrange other discussions in the following weeks.
The first get-together weekend is been planned for October 28 to 30 at Marcy Dam near Lake Placid. Another one should be arranged at the end of November or early December. During these weekends, peaks would be climbed and rivers will be crossed without using bridge to recreate as close as possible the Baffin’s trip.
As you can expect, participation to this event would be subject to future decisions by the team leader in consultation with participants that have been accepted up to that point.
Stephen from Ottawa, Canada
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