Baffin Island

Here it is, finally, my favourite Baffin photographs from the 30 days I spent camping and travelling on the sea ice skiing the gullies of the Gods with Michelle Blaydon, Marcus Waring and Tom Grant.

In total we skied 26 lines, 13 are first descents, kited and skinned 230 km and pitched 7 base camps. This was one of the most beautiful and remote places I have been to with the best concentration of skiing I have found on the planet. It’s also got some of the best kite skiing with flat playing field extending 10 km by 70 km which you can rip around at 40-50 kph. And did I mention the 1500 m walls soaring straight out of the sea? If only I was younger I would try wing suiting. I can’t wait to go back for another adventure and explore some more.

 

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-1

 Flying to Clyde River                                                                                                    We got our first glimpse of the mountains from the plane and the excitement starts to  build.

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Travelling with 150 kg each                                                                                    Sometimes just getting through doorways was a challenge. Marcus and myself travelled in advance of the others in order to sort food and logistics. We checked in at Ottawa with 7 duffle bags, a ski bag, a shotgun and a rifle. By the time we got checked in our feet were roasting in our winter boots and we cooled them on the -5C pavement outside the terminal.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-4

 Getting Acquainted with the Locals.                                                                   Michelle checks out this polar bear pelt and starts worrying about the size of the paws.  The local children have seen it all before and are more interested in lollipops.

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Seals on Ice.                                                                                                              Since they don’t fit in the fridge its handy having outside storage. Photo: Marcus Waring 

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-9The Komatic Sled Ride                                                                                                    The komatics packed with our gear and loaded with gas for the 24 hr round trip. The open komatic was particularly uncomfortable with no wind break and forcing you to sit flat legged which drained the blood from your feet. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-10

 Cold                                                                                                                                 On the komatic trip we wore everything we had. My feet got really cold and I was worried  about managing them over the next 30 days. Once out of the exhaust fumes of the  skidoo my circulation was a lot better!Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-11

 When the Hunters Become the Hunted                                                               Tracks from mother bear and her cubs bring the realisation that we aren’t the top of the  food chain out here and remind us to keep our vigilance.

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 A Seal Pup Killed by a Polar Bear                                                                             The noise of the skidoo approaching must have scared the bear away from the fresh kill.  Nothing goes to waste in the Arctic and Ilkoo and John took it for their dinner.

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Ship’s Prow                                                                                                                    This was the first big wall we saw on our adventure. The 600 m Ship’s Prow serves as a landmark for Scott Island to the Inuit and marks the  entrance of Scott Inlet where we were headed.

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Brass Monkeys at Base Camp 1                                                                                After travelling all day we spotted some sensational lines on the South side of Scott Island and asked the Inuits to drop us off just before nightfall. Ilkoo had lived in a tiny settlement here for the first 26 years of his life and gave us some valuable knowledge before leaving us in the playground. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-15Kite Skiing                                                                                                                        The first morning there was wind down fiord and I learned to kite ski pretty quickly in order to keep up with the others in search for our first ski lines.

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Base Camp 1                                                                                                                 Our first base came near Scott Island felt very exposed with nothing beyond it and Greenland over the frozen Baffin Bay.

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First turns on Scott Island                                                                                          After weeks of preparation, admin, travelling, packing and sorting kit, it suddenly felt worth it with those first turns. The S Couloir above was one of 5 lines we skied on the Scott Island which we believe were first descents.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-19Ancient Hallways                                                                                                          The rock on Baffin Island is several billion years old. Overtime the granite has cracked and eroded leaving ancient hallways between the big walls that provide the best couloir skiing on the planet.

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 Smiles All Round                                                                                                          Happy people after finding good snow in this Couloir on Scott Island.

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Aesthetic Lines                                                                                                      Michelle Blaydon enjoying a first known descent on Scott Island.

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The Warm Glow of Evening Light                                                                                 The team returns to camp in gorgeous late afternoon light.  

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 Gibbs Fiord                                                                                                                        Lined with magnificent rock features this zone is truly stunning.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-26

Getting the Angle                                                                                                Sometimes the opportunity presented itself to get on a ledge for overhead shooting down couloir. A couple of cams would have been useful for added security while looking through the view finder. Marcus skiing in a first known descent in Gibbs.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-1-2

Gibbs Fiord                                                                                                                     The iconic cliffs in Gibbs could be seen towering above the fiord from 35 km away beckoning us to come explore. Shame those lines opposite had breaks in them but there were plenty stella 1200 m + lines to chose from like this one abobe.

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Tight and Technical                                                                                                    One day Marcus and myself skied an 800 m line on the North side of Gibbs Fiord, which turned out to be the the most technical and steepest line we skied with off camber skiing and a couple of steep steps on wind sculpted snow. First known descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-29

 Seal Holes                                                                                                                     The seals depend on breathing holes and keep them open all winter long. We disturbed a  seal here which had been sitting eating fish on the ice. It was the first living thing we had  seen in 3 weeks.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-31  The Fortress, Gibbs Fiord                                                                                           We took the left hand couloir which was dubbed ‘Stairway to Heaven’ as it spiralled           through the rock to the summit plateau 1200 m later.

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 The 1200 m Stairway to Heaven                                                                                This was our second route of the day and we topped out on the plateau around 11 at  night excited about dropping into this line. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-30

 The Best Couloir in the World? Probably                                                                       With tired legs after 1800 m of bootpacking during the day, this line required precision  turns in the upper half where the walls kept it tight. The overnight snow mean we found  cold, sluffy powder that was sensual to ski on. First known descent and one the best lines I have ridden anywhere.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-33

Base Camp 2                                                                                                                      In Gibbs Fiord we were surrounded by dream lines and incredible vistas. The morning sun was a welcome addition to the breakfast table. Goal Zero solar panels combined with a Yeti 400 and Sherpa 100 system kept our electronics powered.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-34

Local Wildlife                                                                                                                      We were always on the lookout for polar bears but this brown bear caught us off guard. Actually, Michelle was so cold she grew a beard. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-35

Into the Wind                                                                                                                   For 3 days we sled hauled into the wind. Sometimes it was downright cold and I wore every single item of clothing I had with me. A continual supply of High5 powered us and I kept my camera and batteries in plastic bags within my mid-layer pockets at all times to protect them from moisture and ice.

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 Fresh Water Ice on Lake Stewart                                                                                   It took a while to get used to walking across this clear fresh water ice. You had to remind  yourself that it is a couple of metres thick. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-37

 Sled Hauling into Stewart Valley                                                                                 We gained access to the Stewart Valley from Refuge Harbour with relative ease as we  followed a channel of ice through the moraines. The unravelling mountains that lined the    lake kept us entertained as we progressed with the glimpse of Great Sail in the far  distance.

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Base Camp 4 Stewart Valley                                                                                       Sheltered in a snow scoop we savoured the time out the wind were able to enjoy our morning coffee from the relative comfort of seats dug into the snow drift. It was also our first boulder toilet which was a relatively civilised affair in comparison to exposing your bum to the Arctic elements.

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 Features in the Ice                                                                                                       The sea fiord ice is opaque but on this freshwater lake you could see deep into the ice. It held millions of air bubbles and other features  like this dove like image which kept the mind occupied while sled hauling.

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Great Sail Peak                                                                                                             We sat in a wind scoop sheltering and preparing hot soup while celebrating Marcus’s birthday and taking in the stunning view under Great Sail Peak. The guns were always ready just incase we got any uninvited gatecrashers.

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Stewart Valley                                                                                                                 The absence of snow from the ice gives an idea of the strength of wind that is drawn down this valley from the Walker Arm. We donned crampons while sled hauling through the valley over 3 days.

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Crosshairs Couloir                                                                                                       The top of this classic 1000 m couloir offered a commanding position over the Walker Arm and Stewart Valley while the Couloir was a very worth ski.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-47

The NW Face of Walker Citadel                                                                              Home to classic ski lines like Debris Couloir on the left and Broken Dreams on the rightBaffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-48

Sled Hauling in the Walker Arm                                                                                  We all had enough kit, food and fuel for a couple of sleds each. Here Marcus is hauling in the Walker Arm with the Ford Wall 20 km away in the background. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-49Base Camp 6                                                                                                                Our First base camp that caught the evening sun that made for more pleasurable meal times.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-50Debris Couloir                                                                                                        Another McLean and Barlage classic which provided 900 m of powder for Marcus and myself. (above & below).Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-51Overhead Blower                                                                                                         Don’t going to Baffin with expectations of overhead blower as it usually chalky snow and the area is effectively a desert. We got lucky on a few occasions and found some great snow.

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 Our Guide Ilko                                                                                                               Ilko enjoying a meal of Arctic  Char the way he likes it – frozen. Ilko and his son’s John and  Michael took us into the fiords. Ilko grew up in a tiny settlement surviving by solely by  hunting until he was 26 years old when he moved to the  larger settlement of Clyde River  (population cicra 900 now). Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-53

The Walker Citadel                                                                                                      This enormous rock bastion is surrounded by the sea on 3 sides with a neck of land connecting it to Stump Spire on the 4th side. Home to hard core grade 7 big walls like Superunknown and Mahayana Wall. Debris Couloir is seen on the right. We skied off the summit plateau down the South side in a probably first descent.

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Happy Smiley People                                                                                                     Tom Grant, Marcus Waring and Michelle Blaydon in Broken Dreams Couloir.

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Broken Dreams                                                                                                        Michelle starting off skiing down Broken Dreams couloir just as the sun set fire to the NW wall of the Walker Citadel.

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The Berghaus Team                                                                                                        Standing in front of Walker Citadel, (L-R) Ross Hewitt, Michelle Blaydon, Tom Grant, Marcus Waring. We all felt immensely privileged to get the chance to go to Baffin which would not have been possible without the sponsorship from Berghaus, High5, Black Crows skis, Julbo, Gino Watkins Memorial Fund, The Wilderness Fund, The Alpine Ski Club, and many others. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-58

Polar Star Couloir, Beluga Spire                                                                                 Possible the most hyped couloir on the planet which has become an uber classic. 1100 m to the col. First descent by Maclean and Barlage. This summer saw a Canadian team free climbing the first ascent of the North Face by the pillars bounding the left edge of the couloir. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-59

Bootpack Torture Sessions                                                                                         These couloirs are long but fortunately start at sea level with firm snow so the going is fast.
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Skiing Polar Star Couloir                                                                                             With all the hype surrounding this line it was definitely top of my adventurelist heading out to Baffin. Close to the top we found a thin veneer of snow over the glacial ice and down climbed a few metres to a point that allowed us to transition. The skiing up there is steep and with low margins for error our initial turns were cautious. but as the snow thickened we were able to ski more aggressively. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-64Post Polar Star Celebrations                                                                                    Even with Tom on tip toes he still couldn’t reach our shoulders.

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 Arctic Fox                                                                                                                     This guy came to visit us one night and started hoovering up the scraps from Ilko’s Arctic  Char. They normally scavenge from bear kill’s and we instantly increased our vigilance.

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On the Sunny Side                                                                                               Opposite base camp 6 was a south facing line that turned out to be a 1450 m monster. We were not used to the heat and sweated buckets on the way up. Marcus caught this shot of me skiing as I hurried down to get the stove on a drink some water.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-68

The Walker Arm                                                                                                             View of the Walker Citadel, Walker Arm and Northwest Passage.

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The Vast East Face of Walker Citadel                                                                    Home to the grade 7 big wall adventure Mahayana Wall. The first ascentionist ran out of food after completing their new route and with the sea ice gone they were too weak to walk out the 160 miles to Clyde River.  Without a satphone they waited over a week after their last food before some Inuits out fishing rescued them. this summer the Favresse brothers put up the 1000m E6 6b Shepton’s Shove on the SE (Drunken) Pillar. Sean Villeneuva and Ben Ditto climbed a 1000 m E3 5c on the Superunknown Pillar which is a pretty remarkable grade for the terrain.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-72 Hanging Out on the Tops.                                                                                           The summits tended to be a lot warmer that the fiords giving us the chance to sit and  savour the views after the long bootpacks. Here Marcus and Tom check out the South  Couloir on the Walker Citadel which we are about to ski.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-71Judging Scale                                                                                                                The 1450 m South Couloir on Walker Citadel. The small dot in the couloir left of centre is me skiing. Photo Marcus Waring. First known descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-73Wet Dreams                                                                                                            Marcus skiing the first known descent of the South Couloir on the Walker Citadel. The Stump Spire sits in the background and the obvious couloir was next on our list.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-75North West Passage                                                                                                Another uber classic first skied by the Maclean-Barlage partnership. It hangs ominously over the Walker Arm. From head on it looks improbably steep.  We skated 10 km there from our base camp under the Walker Citadel and another torture session landed us on the summit where we hung out on in the sun and trundled some rock in an attempt to hit the fiord below. Tom Grant skiing.

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Low and Fast                                                                                                                 After 3 weeks of continuous boot packing and skiing we were joined by Tom Grant whose fresh legs still allowed him to get low.

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 Powder                                                                                                                          We went to Baffin with low expectations of snow quality but were pleasantly  surprised to  ski a large proportion of lines with great snow. Looking back up North West Passage  makes it look decidedly mellow but the top was steep enough to make you think.
Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-78Scoping the Joint
                                                                                                              An Inuit hunting party stopped by our camp on the way inland to let us know they had seen a Polar Bear not far away down fiord. Marcus spent the next hour scoping the area and we double checked the ammunition and placed our weapons by our beds that night. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-79

Frozen Nutella                                                                                                      Sometime simply getting at your food required special tools. Here Tom scrapes slivers of frozen nutella from the jar with his ice axe. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-80

Wet Dreams                                                                                                            Marcus shared this couloir on the South side of Walker Citadel with us. He had a go at it on his previous trip but the top section wasn’t skiable. This time it had snow top to bottom and is the only continuous line on the 1450 m high rock bastion that is The Walker Citadel. With a line called Broken Dreams on the North side, surely this should be Wet Dreams. First known ski descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-82Milky Evening Sunshine                                                                                                 Tom Grant enjoying the descent from Stump Spire. First known descent.

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Basking in the Sun                                                                                                   Whenever we found a sheltered spot in the sun it gave us a chance to relax and soak up the little heat there was in the rays.  We had a long way still to go to collect our sleds waiting at the corner of the firod where sun meets shadow and then haul another 15 km towards Ford Wall.

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 Polar Star Couloir, Beluga Spire                                                                               After a long day which started with breaking camp under the Walker Citadel then skiing  Stump Spire, we hauled through the night watching the sunset on the Beluga Spire and  Polar Sun Spire until eventually arriving at Ford Wall at 3 am.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-84

The Boys                                                                                                                 Marcus Waring, Tom Grant and myself Ross Hewitt at the top of AC Cobra on Ford Wall. By now it was warm enough for the Go-Pro to work more than 5 seconds!

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-85

Cold Sluffy Powder                                                                                               Throughout the trip we were blessed with both great weather and often amazing snow.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-86

AC Cobra                                                                                                                   Marcus Waring powering a turn on the steep upper section of AC Cobra Couloir on Ford Wall. A cornering couloir named after the Ford car that cornered well. We skied the 2nd couloir from the right from an impasse at 1000 m on the towering buttress across fiord which was a first known descent.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-87

 Inuksuk                                                                                                                             A cairn at the top of Mustang Couloir on Ford Wall. Another great classic. The Corvus 184s were the perfect ski with slight tip rocker and a real tail for power and edge  ability. Think Mantra but 10 mm wider and you get the idea.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-88

 Icons of Lust                                                                                                                 The eclectic collection of incredible mountains that formed the backdrop to base camp 7.  The Beak, The Turret, Polar Sun Spire, Beluga Spire and the Walker Citadel some 20 km  away.

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-89

Base Camp 7                                                                                                                Our final camp and what a relief not to have any more sled hauling to do.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-90

Kite Skiing                                                                                                               The wind could be infuriating, there one minute gone the next. But when it did work we travelled for free, free in the sense of calorie expenditure.  Our first camp move of 35 km was kite powered. On our last day skiing Marcus and myself kited 10 km down fiord where we met Tom. He had to walk because he couldn’t fly. After skiing a 1000 m line we found the wind had changed direction and we kited back to camp. The near flat sea ice is a perfect medium for kiting around at 30 mph.

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-91 Model T Couloir                                                                                                               Another classic. The 2nd line from the right on the opposite wall caught our attention and  was another  possible first descent. Photo Marcus WaringBaffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-92

The Base Jumper Wall                                                                                                 This incredible wall overhung so that any rocks trundled took 8 or 9 seconds to explode on impact. The gully below formed a natural amplifier transmitting the incredible explosions up to us. In total we must have trundled a tonne of rock and laughed till we were sore.

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-93

Arms at Hand                                                                                                                    The threat of Polar Bears was ever constant. Even with a perimeter fence rigged to an air horn, we slept with loaded weapons by our sides. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-94

 Bronco Couloir                                                                                                                Me setting off down the rough riding Bronco Couloir. Photo by Marcus Waring.

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-95

 Flying in High Winds                                                                                                          We rigged a tow line so that 3 of us could piggy back onto Marcus and provide some  ballast so he didn’t land in Greenland. Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-96

 Marcus Waring                                                                                                          Skier, hunter, kite rider and 2 times veteran of Baffin ski trips.

Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-98

How Far and How Long                                                                                                 Tom ponders the boot back as we begin to get cooked by the warm mid May sun.
Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-97

Skiing the Sunny Side                                                                                                     This was a novelty for us since we spent the majority of the time skiing North Facing lines which for me held the best snow.That said, this was a lot of fun too.Photo: Marcus Waring.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-99

 Last Turns                                                                                                                    And oh so sweet. Our 1000 m East facing line down Fiord from Great Cross Peak  provided and a suitable finale for our trip. Ford Wall is in the background.Baffin Berghaus Black Crows Ski Mounatineering Expedition-100Break Up                                                                                                                        Ilko looking for a safe route for the skidoo and komatic through the cracks. 

Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition-1-60 Ilkoo and John                                                                                                                 On the way out the guys stopped at the half way hunters hut. Photo: Michelle Blaydon.

2 thoughts on “Baffin Island

  1. Breathtaking photos Ross! What an extraordinary adventure this was. Places like this seem unearthly when sitting in my kitchen! Question is …what is next? There must be some other far flung corner of the earth you have not experienced! Thanks for sharing these (:

  2. Very,very thanks for images so mutch spectacular! Many congrats to you and to your friends. Ale

    2015-02-10 9:00 GMT+01:00 Ross Hewitt :

    > Ross Hewitt – Skiing, Climbing, Photography posted: “Here it is, > finally, my favourite Baffin photographs from the 30 days I spent camping > and travelling on the sea ice skiing the gullies of the Gods with Michelle > Blaydon, Marcus Waring and Tom Grant. In total we skied 26 lines, half of > which are probabl”

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