Directissima, Trident du Tacul

Sustained crack climbing after the easy intro pitch was the order of the day. A beautiful burly route on fantastic granite.

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Me on the 6b warm up pitch.

IMG_2087Gareth seconding the 6b warm up pitch

IMG_2091Gareth engaging the 6C P2

IMG_2100Burly laybacking approaching the belay

IMG_2101 2Bulgy with a gravelly mantel onto the belay ledge

IMG_2102 2My view as I weigh up the physical layback and foot smears that lie ahead

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And the view down from the belay

IMG_2103Gareth arriving at the belay after the crux 7A pitch

IMG_2119A German team behind starting off on the crux

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Pulling hard on finger locks here.

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Wooden wedges on the final traverse pitch

Indurain, Trident du Tacul

Indurain for me is the best of the Trident route with varied climbing on splitter, flakes, laybacks and grooves. So good!

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The Trident

0c390458-e87b-456d-b50b-230ae4cf96f1Me on the initial warm up 6b pitch with required a forceful approach with a toasted body from a hard days cragging the previous day.

IMG_2234Gareth on the diagonal crack

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Grovelling around in the offwidthIMG_2236Spanning out to the layback flake

IMG_2246Burly moves onto the belay ledge

IMG_2254Gareth departing on what I though was one of the finest crack pitches in the massif. A fine 6C hand crack heading up right.

IMG_2265Gareth fully engaged in the hand crack

IMG_2271Nearly there, on the steeper bulge at the top

669aff0e-1f42-44f9-924b-2c0db1d71130Me on the groove 3rd pitch

fb7f4317-8167-41f4-83c7-923067e4e0c0Me on the crux 4th layback pitch

IMG_2272Looking down the layback pitch, Gareth’s white helmet just visible

bd1deff5-3380-4a20-b482-dc82b4de6c7fThe top 5+ pitch, a bit gravelly but the final 6th pitch is worth doing and takes you above Bonne Ethique’s ab line.

Traversing the Peigne, Pelerins, Deux Angles, Plan, to the Midi

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This was a marvellous adventure we did earlier this summer in search of all forms of terrain from splitter cracks, jenga stacks to north face snow and ice as we prepared for our guides test. Akin to the traverse of the Aiguilles, it avoided the dangers of a dry Nantillions Glacier and a descent that would take its toll on our legs invoking a rest day. My partners in crime were fellow aspirant James Clapham and Chamonix regular Andrew Wexler who was over from Canada to work the summer season.

It rained through the night so we elected to take an early bin to give the Carmichael cracks time to dry, leaving Plan de l’Aiguille at 0720 and arrived at the Aiguille du Plan at 2000 hrs after doing the route in guide mode with short roping etc and carrying bivi kit.

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The route highlighted above.

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Carmichael Route on the Pelerins

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Wexler on the Carmichael

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Myself and James at the junction with the Gruter Ridge on the Pelerins

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James on the penultimate pitch of the Gruter Ridge

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Myself and James on the summit of the Pelerins

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Traversing to Col des Pelerins

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Looking back to the Pelerins

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Me climbing up good rock after Col des Pelerins

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Unstable choss in the amphitheatre

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Wexler

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Lush granite on the Deux Angles

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Wex on the 5C pitches up the Deux Angle SW Spur

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James and myself seconding on one rope

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Happy days, on the North Face of the Plan

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Wex and James on the North Face with the Deux Angle behind

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8 pm, time to bivi to avoid the puddles on Midi Plan

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Time to get up and sort our shit on in the morning

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Enjoying the sunrise

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Midi-Plan, Mont Blanc and its outliers

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Mini pano of Dent de Geant to Cham Valley

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Absorbing some warmth from the sun

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Another pano with Grand Jo

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James climbing up the rognan

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A pano but Wex move so ended up with a tiny body

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Whats left of Grand Envers top pitch

My New Badge – Proud

Guides badge

Its been one hell of a summer preparing meticulously for my final guides exams. As with all things, not everything can go your way and there were some ups and downs in the lead up. First Michelle’s Father sadly passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. Being Chamonix based you are surrounded by death and loss, I would never go as far to say we are hardened to it but more that we are used to the strong emotional feelings of loss, sadness, stress. Its hard to comprehend the feeling of loss her Mum has after 50 plus years together.

After the dust started to settle I put my head back to the grindstone and was in the mountains training nearly every day practicing guiding techniques with peers. Then I caught a nasty D&V virus that had me feeling nauseous, weak and sleeping for hours after work. It seemed to go away after a week but after a Grand Paradiso and Mont Blanc week it made a return and I started to get nervous that I’d get my strength back in time. Another week went by before I felt better enough to try a 2 day alpine route. On the walk in I sharted, all was not good and that was a stinky couple of days.

With 10 days to go the viral fatigue disappeared and I started to eat properly again. Back on track. Then I took a call from my sister that started with ‘are you at home?’ and ended with the shocking news my Mum had died unexpectedly. The funeral couldn’t be delayed and I flew back to Scotland to be with my family on this sad occasion. With only a few days to go before the exam I needed to get back to Cham quickly, sort gear, prepare, acclimatise and gain some head space. On the way to the airport in Aberdeen I got a text from British Airways to announce they had cancelled my flight from London to Geneva. I couldn’t imagine anywhere more lonely than stuck in a airport hotel at heathrow on my own the night of my Mum’s funeral.

I made it back to Cham the next day and had to wait until the day before our exam briefing before there was weather to run up Tacul to acclimatise.  I carried quite a bit of emotional stress into the exam but after a couple of days my motivation returned and it was a good weak with a great bunch of people. Somehow I made it though it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

 

Bada Boom 7b – Grands Perrons

As the first snows of autumn start to coat our mountains in a scant white negligee causing us to fantasise about winter adventures, I finally have some time to write about some of the things that kept me busy this summer. Working as an aspirant mountain guide has kept me busy and taken me to many new areas of the Alps as well as revisiting some that I haven’t been to for 20 years. This didn’t leave me any time to train for rock and I often wanted to be free of ropes on my day off and ride my bike but I did make a conscious effort to do at least one quality rock route every 2 weeks to keep a base level of fitness.

The Grand Perron offers swathes of impeccable Gietroz quality gneiss with unparalled views over the Mont Blanc Range. With a breeze blowing onto the sunkissed crag taking the edge off the sun, we were set for primo friction conditions. My partner in crime for the day was Andy Perkins who never fails to impress me with his no nonsense, positive and forceful approach. Mix in some brilliant banter and it ranks as one of the most memorable days of the summer.

 

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Me eyeing up the moves on the first hard pitch.

21104239_1527169794008518_879985664_oPretty pumpy start fresh off the deck.

 

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Andy making dynamic moves on another 6C pitch.

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Andy arriving at the belay.

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The pitch. Andy makes the hard start on the 7a+ crack. Felt like E6 6b to me seconding. We took a spectra line for the raps and hauling our sac reckoning that was the most efficient system.

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Andy mid pitch. Stunning

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On and on like a lot of the Perrons pitches – full value.

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The crux 7b pitch. I found this hard to read and technically hard on feet. When you havent been climbing a lot it was tough sequencing the moves. Andy took one flier and I hung out twice after reading the rock wrong.

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Balancy technical climbing on the 7b pitch. Me figuring out the last few moves. After that all that remained was a few ‘easy’ pitches to the summit ridge.

Arctic Tanning

Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition-1-25

In 2014 I gazed up Gibbs Fiord into the milky afternoon sun. After 5 days exploring this zone with Marcus Waring and Michelle Blaydon we had an inkling of its potential but hadnt even scraped the surface. In this moment I knew I would have to come back. Finding and convincing a team to spend all their hard earned cash and a lot of time to travel to go ski lines on one of the harshest environments on planet wouldn’t be easy. Fellow Scots Si Christy and Chipie Windross (Chipie has a Scottish granny hidden away somewhere) were first to be recruited. My final victim, although he didnt yet know it, was one of my university wingmen, Dr Evan Cameron. Originally from the Kingdom of Fife, Evan emigrated to New Zealand where he works as a consultant A&E doctor. As luck had it, I would see him during a ski trip to NZ in 2015. Over beers in the warm Christchurch sun I told him how Baffin was just like the Cairngorms except way bigger. He signed up for the trip and I never told him how his piss would freeze before it hit the ground. And so it was, a team of Scottish skiers were Baffin bound.

These photographs tell the tale of an epic trip that I wanted show which no magazine article with its  restrictions on column inches could ever do justice. Never in our wildest dreams could we have imagined finding so much powder in the Arctic desert. In the end the team skied 19 lines, all believed to be first descents except for my repeat of the 1300 m Cantal.

A big thanks goes to the support and sponsorship from the following without which it wouldn’t have been possible:

Arctic Club

Black Crows Skis

Berghaus

PLUM

Scarpa

Julbo Eyewear

Mountain Boot Company

Lyon Equipment

Exped

Petzl

Hydrapak

James Clapham

Marcus Waring

Dr Phil Barron

Our friends in Clyde River, Nunavut Territory, Baffin Island

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Our last minute food shopping was done in Ottawa. Our 2 hotel rooms looked like they had been ransacked by a Rock band by the time we got done repacking.

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Our first glimpse of Nunataks (isolated peaks projecting from the ice/snow) on the flight

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Ice runways in the Arctic

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Thats what we are here to do!

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Home sweet home. Moving into the shack in Clyde where my Baffin love affair started in 2014. This time it temperatures were a lot more civilized

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Packing and repacking. Chipie finds the highest calorie freeze dried meal.

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Evan, Myself, Joamie and Ilkoo discussing thin ice and safe routes through the fiords and showing the Inuit just how deep we wanted to go. I reckoned 15 hours of torture on a komatic (sled) pulled by a snowmachine to the drop off all things going well.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Getting the knowledge from Master Jedi Ilkoo.

 

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Si is about 6′ 4″. This guy had repeatedly tried to come into town.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

After seeing the bear pelt the next stop was to get some weapons. We had a short session on gun safety and how to load, fire, reload and deal with jams. Our 1942 Enfield 303 rifle was light and robust. Perfect for the harsh environment.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Come on John, I know you have some whiskey for us!!;) Showing Evan how to load, shoot and reload the shotgun with magnum slugs in the event of a bear attack. We were a team of 4 and needed a minimum of 2 weapons

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The now infamous komatic box. I spent about half an our getting thrown around inside this box before nearly barfing up and making an excuse that I needed to sit on a skidoo and help navigate. Si and Chipie seemed quite happy lying down inside for 15 hours and even managed some sleep!

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Unfortunately Chipie let Evan choose these ‘damn hot’ salamis for the trip that caused mass evacuation every morning

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Trevor Qillaq and Chipie in Sam Ford Fiord

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Si, Evan, Iikoo and Chipie shooting the shit near the Sam Ford Fiord hut

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Running repairs as the snow machines run hot pulling through deep snow. Jean-Marc, Trevor and Joamie testing their resourcefulness. The Arctic was suffering badly from climate change warming in 2016 and despite the Canadian Arctic being significantly less effected than the Norwegian and Russian Arctic, temperatures were hovering near 0C instead of being in the -30C range. Around lunchtime I was stripping off layers and Joamie quipped ‘its like being in a sauna’. At this point its seemed our trip might be really short if the mild weather caused an early ice break up.

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Crossing the mouth of Sam Ford Fiord the weather clears and we get first glimpse of the eye candy

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

The overhanging 600 m Ship’s Prow has served as a landmark for the Inuit for generations and marks the entrance to Scott Inlet which leads to Gibbs Fiord. This is John Barry Angutijuak back in 2014 which was significantly colder.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Joamie Qillaq and Evan Cameron and the Western tip of Scott Island

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Evan, Chipie and Si excited at the prospect of finding deep powder in the Arctic

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Not so excited or not excited in the same way upon finding the prints of this bear family

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

‘How big is that, 4000 ft? 5000 ft? 6000 ft?’

“Dunno but its fuckin huge”

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

More enough for us, twin sisters, left and right. After 2 years in the planning with nothing to go on but an inkling of gullies from Google Earth, we arrive deep in Gibbs Fiord around 1 am after a hellish 15 hour snow machine ride to find pure gold. That night we had a dram to celebrate the start of what we hoped would be a successful exploratory expedition.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Heading out of camp on day 1 with no idea of what we will find armed with kite & rifle

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Si heading up fiord to our objectives which lie under the sun

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

No wind and mild temps made things feel very pleasant allowing us to slowly adjust to life on the ice

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Let the torture session commence.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Si and the guys about 600 m up. Evan and Chipie have yet to accept that towing skis here is way more efficient that carrying them.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Up, up and ever onwards. Approaching the 1000 m mark

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Deep powder in 2016 meant bootpacking took an inordinate amount of energy and time unlike 2014 where encountered chalky snow.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Nearly there, Si still smiling at the rude 1200 m warm up line

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

At 1200 m we encounter mixed ground and its finally time to ski the first line of our trip

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And its skiing great

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Si Christy skiing as Chipie makes final preps

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Chipie making his first turns of the trip

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1200 m of boot deep powder to the fiord

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Chipie getting into the flow zone

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Ancient hallways, the faults in the rock provide perfect skiing. The granite on Baffin is some of the oldest on our planet at 3.5 billion years and volcanic rock there has been dated to 4.5 billion years old when the Earth’s crust was still being created.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

This photo still induces a lot of emotion: that moment when you realise the snow is so good the next stop will be on the fiord 1000 m below.

 

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

The stoked team regroup and savour a moment on Baffin without a biting wind. We have all made a massive commitment in time and money to come here. Without the backing and support of various grants and organisations it would never have been possible. Fortunately that leap into the unknown has paid off.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Late afternoon sun on the chalkier apron

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

The last carefree turns to the fiord

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Expedition

Camp may as well have been on the dark side of the moon as the hard frost bears down in the shade.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Day 2 and the weather was far from civilized. We quest off down fiord to see what we can find, armed as usual.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

An hour from camp. That’ll do nicely.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Evan putting the booter in while I slipstream

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Time for me to break trail. Evan feeling happy about our find

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Nearly there

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The team having a spot of lunch on the plateau – could be cairngorm apart from the plethora of 1000-1500 m lines to ski and the presence of man eating bears.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Chipie slotting it through the narrows

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Evan about to get a facefull

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

To give a sense of scale check out the skier on the boulder

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Back on the fiord there is enough wind to fly. I wave goodbye and set sail to solo another line I spotted on the way out. Si has his first kite experience and flies back to camp in a few minutes and is instantly sold on the energy savings from kiting. The others have the drudgery of and hour or so skinning back.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

I top out on my second line of the day to find this haunting view down Gibbs Fiord

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Line 2 of the day

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Sheltering out the wind in the mouth of the 1200 m Mel Gibb’s Couloir which was first skied by Francois Kern’s team in 2014. Extreme coffee drinking was the order of the day before a massive drop in temperature as the sun disappeared. This was a long way from out from base camp 1 and after skiing straight for a couple of years I’d not really made allowances for the lower fitness of the team who had full time jobs doing other things. Any ways things werent to be as the warm sun of pervious days had brought down the winter cornices on the south facing slopes leaving ice glazed snow. Drinking coffee was the best thing I ever did in this couloir!

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Turn around deep in Mel Gibb’s. 3 attempts all ended in failure due to bad snow or high wind.

 

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

With the return of settled weather we returned to the twin sister of line 1.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Couloirs on a grand scale filled with cold sloughy powder

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The team strung out deep in their own battle against the pain

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Nearly there

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Near the top we hit wind loadings that created enough doubt to wait for a group decision – it was an easy one to make!

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Me leading off on the steep initial turns

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Si following while Evan and Chipie transition.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

As the angles eased the snow just got better and better

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Me trying to ski fast and not run out of leg power

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Yes – Chipie thrilled about another sunning ski line. An early finish meant we arrived back at camp to enjoy an afternoon coffee drinking session in the sunshine.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Enjoying the sunshine at camp

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Looking up fiord. Our camp was situated west beyond Sillem Island

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The sabre tooth makes the start of 30 km of the grandest rock architecture on the planet

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The following day brought poor visibility and high wind so Evan and myself went to the hanging glacier line that was opposite camp. We had all spent many days conjecturing about the angle of the hanging glacier that looked like a Rond from straight on. In the end it turned out to be about 40 degree max and very ameniable. It cleared for a moment on the plateau and we started out for the summit several kms away. Unlike 2014, the regular snowfall had meant a good snowpack even on the plateau. However its soon closed in again and armed with only a rudimentary GPS we were not equipped to navigate to the summit and turned back. (compass performs poorly here due to the massive magnetic deviation).

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After skiing the hanging glacier we dropped out the cloud and enjoyed perfect fresh powder to the fiord.

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What took hours to climb was despatched in seconds on the descent

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

After skiing the hanging glacier line it was time to eat and in the sanctuary at the start of the line we got the stove going and had our long overdue lunch. I wasn’t finished skiing and said goodbye to Evan and went for a quick sprint up the booter left by Si and Chipie before kiting back. At camp the wind was hellish and it was a grim vigil minding the stove out in the open knowing the others were tucked up in warm sleeping bags.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Thanks to Si and Chipie for this boot pack which allowed me a quick bonus lap

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The next day the wind blew hard down fiord dampening spirits to ski but by late afternoon it had abated slightly and I wasn’t keen to lose a day. Si was up for some sport so we headed up fiord to try another line. In theory the couloir should have been sheltered but updraught turned to downdraft and around 900 m up we bailed due to new accumulations. Skiing in the evening is my favourite time of day and the mellow light was well worth going out for.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

After nearly a week at camp 1 it was time to move.  Having seen the enticing view down Gibbs Fiord past the hidden entrances to Mel Gibbs and Cantal to our own Stairway to Heaven some 15 km down fiord we knew  our 2nd base camp would be located under the square cut tower. We had gone into the fiords loaded with real food to supplement the lighter freeze dried food and help maintain a healthy digestive tract but after only a week behind us we were still heavily laden. With sleds piled high it was time to beak camp. I pulled as hard as I could against tow rope but couldn’t move the sled. I put up the heal raisers on my bindings to mimic starting blocks on the athletics track. The sled pulled forward and i was underway. The next six hours were brutal as we all pulled at our limit down fiord into a biting wind. At one point my 5 mm cordalette tow line broke, the breaking load on that is around 500 kgs!

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

First night in Camp 2 with our bear perimeter fence and cooking area already set up

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Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The next day all of us were feeling it in the hamstrings after such a hard hauling session moving camps.  With cold powder still available on the North facing side we decided to go check out the hidden gems awaiting on this face. One reoccurring feature of Baffin is the most unlikely looking lines often twist and turn beyond sight and actually go to the summit. The only way to find out is to give them a go.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Line of the day was a straight 700 m of relatively easy angle to a small col. Perfect rest

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

After several days of strong winds which had us building walls to protect the tents, it finally dawned clear and still. The days objective was the couloir in the background.

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Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

500 m up the line and things were heating up fast. The rest of the couloir was in the shade and the sun moving off. I was keen to up the pace into the sanctuary of the cooler air with Si while Chipie and Evan bailed.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Cold snow in the upper couloir took us to a col behind the square tower

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Steep, deep and narrow in the upper section

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Si getting to grips with the S bend

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Me skiing. Still techy here with some ice under the new snow

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The final steep section before the couloir opened out in its lower 3rd

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Si enjoying some of the final powder turns of the trip

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Milky afternoon sunlight on route back to camp

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

I wasn’t done for the day and the big ramp line (next to the kite above) on the north facing side was calling to me. After a big lunch at camp I swapped out Si for Chipie and we launched our kites and sailed the 4 km across fiord to the ramp entrance.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Chipie enjoying the late afternoon light as he secures his kite to an ice screw

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

This elegant couloir led up to the ramp

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Now late in the season even the North facing slopes were catching a lot of evening sun

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

We found sweet cold powder on the ramp which was about 100 m wide. A nice feature after all the couloirs!

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Chipie

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Me in the exit couloir. It was getting late and with the temperature dropping fast we had a push on to get back to camp and have a hearty meal to sustain us through the polar night. After 1800 m of bootpacking that day I was starving!

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Chipie in the exit

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

This Dru like spire rose like a clit out of a crucible and so the name Clit Route was born

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

After a foul weather day I left camp at 5 pm and skinned over to the Clit Route. Although it had barely snowed on the fiord, the soaring spires around the couloir were creatng their own weather and it was snowing massive flakes leaving a continuous accumulation of chest deep powder in the couloir. It was an eerie and spooky solo mission; every so often spin drift avalanches would come out of the mist down the vertical walls and there would be a few seconds delay before it engulfed me where I would keep doubt at bay and remind myself it was just spindrift.  I arrived at the col soaked to the skin, physically completely spent from wallowing up the powder and mentally stimulated. I’d pushed myself beyond my normal comfort zone into that area ‘where the magic happens’. After 2 years of planning the expedition with many the ups and downs along the way, this was the moment I had been hoping and looking for, 10 pm and about to drop into a deep powder filled 900 m line sandwiched between walls that soared overhead to 1800 m. Excited to say the least.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

One stop on the way down just to snap a photo for nostalgia

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

I arrived back at camp in the small hours buzzing from my nocturnal excursion. The next day Si and Chipie couldn’t hold back and went off to repeat the line. In my mind Chipie captured the shot of the trip as Si blasted down deep slough spines in the sun.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Me looking beat the next day

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

One stormy day I flew my kite about 20 km upwind down fiord to check out lines. Reaching the far point of our 2014 expedition brought back good memories of a nightshift spent climbing and skiing the 1250 m Stairway to Heaven.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

More fresh snow overnight meant it was time to ski pow

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Deep

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Oh so good

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Faceshots in the Canadian Arctic – would you believe it?

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Overhead blower, that’ll do nicely

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Chipie on another wallow fest

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The twist and turns in the couloir architecture are typical of Baffin and mean its an adventure to climb up and see if they go anywhere

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Heading pack to camp

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Last rays before the thermal crash

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The north wall of Gibbs Fiord looking east

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Mel Gibbs and Cantal Couloirs. As the weeks went by the sun was getting stronger and bringing the south facing lines into play. As you can see these lines are rarely straight up and the sun might hit one part of the line first thing before moving round onto the rest of the line. Or it may just not work well as a spring line with the trajectory of the sun. My next mission was to repeat the 1300 m Cantal on the right, first skied by Francois Kern’s team in 2014.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

5 am on the fiord. Only Chipie and myself are up and getting ready but with different objectives. Chipie had his eye on the 500 m line to the right of the camp tower while I was headed for the 1300 m Cantal.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

At the top of Cantal after a long solo bootpack. No wind but in a hurry to ski before the upper couloir dropped back into the shade.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Ready to ski. 1300 m of corn harvest to the fiord

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

For a few minutes out of a month long stay we enjoyed a brief windless moment – the shear luxury of no frigid breeze and no worrying about stuff getting blown to Greenland or destroyed by the wind. And then the sun set behind the mountain and tit dropped to -30C again.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Si, Chipie and Evan just enjoying the moment

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The corn cycle continued and with Evan and Si we hit an 1100 m line just down fiord from the camp.

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Si Christy

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Me skiing

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

A moments rest under Scott island on the way out. I reflect on our awesome adventure that started here in 2014 with Marcus Waring and Michelle Blaydon.

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Kevin Qillaq at the Ellington Fiord hut 30 hours into a driving mission to get us out

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Sitting relecting on what had been an awesome trip. Dreading getting back on the komatik but also wanting to get it over with. 3 hours should see us in town. All that remained to do was get Chipie and Evan out of the fiords.

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Si in the Ellington Fiord hut. We had been on Baffin for a month and awake for nearly 24 hours. A shower and a pint were long overdue.

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Simon Christy

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Evan Cameron

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Stephen Chipie Windross

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Ross Hewitt

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Gibbs Fiord

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Base Camp 1

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Rifle practice

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The North wall of Gibbs

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The Clit Route left of centre

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

The south facing side of Gibbs

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View from

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Dawn starts

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Free climbing?

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Base camp 2 couloir tops out on a col behind the square tower

Ross Hewitt Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Expedition

Arctic tanning