Dave Turner returns from two-month solo mission to northeastern Baffin Island
Black Diamond athlete Dave Turner has just returned from another highly successful solo big wall expedition, this time from the frozen wonderland of Baffin Island, Canada. After spending more than two months alone in the Arctic, Turner had quite a few tales to tell and sent us the following email and photos shortly after he returned home.
From: Dave Turner
Date: June 21, 2009 08:00:41 AM MDT
Back from Baffin, and wow, what a place!!!! I spent over two months alone in the arctic, climbing nad skiing my heart out. Yes, it was cold! But not cold enough to keep my off the walls and from skiing the couloirs.
I wanted to thank you guys for helping me out, yet again, and believing in me and helping me out along the way to make this trip a reality. I am very grateful, and appreciate it immensely.
Baffin was absolutely amazing to say the least. It is a landscape of frozen fiords, exotic wild life, massive big walls, and sea ice as far as the eye can see. I went to the island in the first days of April, and did not return until the second week in June, having the experience of a lifetime along the way.
Not knowing exactly what I would find in way of objectives, skiing, and climbing, I took the full arsenal of toys- big wall and alpine climbing gear, randonee skis, touring equipment, and enough food and fuel to last a few months. My outfitter dropped me off in the Walker Arm of the Sam Ford area, right in the middle of a climbers/skier’s paradise. I set up the base camp right at the foot of the impressive Polar Sun Spire, in a centrally located spot.
I climbed or skied almost every day, despite the -30 temperatures! The skiing was great, with an abundance of couloirs and chutes to ski, and there was actually a nice deep layer of powder snow in the couloirs. I also made many little forays into the other fiords, sometimes traveling 35 miles at a time to go out and explore. On the windy days I would set a kite, and race across the sea ice, being pulled by the kite at 40mph!! This was exciting stuff!!
Once the temps went up in the beginning of May, I started my climbing missions. The biggest unclimbed wall in the area was a tower called Beluga Spire, situated between Polar Sun Spire and the Walker Citadel. It was a 1,400 meter monster that had been base jumped, but never climbed.
I slimmed my gear down to a minimum to try this peak, leaving behind the portaledge, bolts, static rope, and partner obviously! After three days of climbing, I made it to halfway, but had to turn back due to very cold temps which was affecting the frostbite on my toes that I had sustained a few weeks earlier on a ski mountaineering adventure. I tried Beluga Spire again a few days later, going in even lighter style- no second rope, haulbag, or anything unneeded. I was going as light a possible, but got shut down again due to my toes going numb in the climbing boots, and had to leave a good deal of my rack to get down.
After getting shut down on Beluga Spire, I shifted gears, and switched objectives to a new route on Broad Peak. The route I was contemplating was a giant! A 1,400 meter rock and mixed route, sitting right on the impressive north face of Broad Peak. I knew I could do it if I brought all the gear needed for a big wall first ascent, but I wanted to continue my light and fast strategy, and try for this route in a continous ascent. I took just one 70m rope, my one man tent, and food and fuel for 48 hours. The route was amazing! I spent 39 non-stop hours on the ascent, taking advantage of the 24 hour sunshine of the arctic to climb this route without a bivy. The line was beautiful- a few pitches of mixed to get onto this spur, then a difficult knife-blade arête which led to an easier hanging snowfield for a short time, and then the 400 meter headwall which went at 5.10 A3 as the crux, and a super rad ice arête to the summit! A route of a lifetime! One of my biggest climbs, set in the most beautiful area I have seen.
By the beginning of June, it was getting time to go home, and eventually my Inuit friend came to get me, and the trip wound down. But not before I got to see polar bears, seals, caribou, foxes, crazy big walls, super couloirs, virgin peaks, and so much more that can be described in words.
After getting home, I took my dog and headed straight to the Sierras of California for a few days of quiet hiking, to kind of re-enter civilazation after and adventure like Baffin. I am back in Yosemite now, looking at plane tickets, and about to decide upon the next big adventure!!!
Glad to be back in Yosemite!
— Dave Turner