— By Dave Reid
For those who may think giants are the stuff of myths and legends – think again ! Residing silently, secretly hidden on the remote east coast of Baffin Island, monolithic spires, towering granite walls and needle-like columns, cast their spells on all who spend time in there presence.
… The experience of standing on the Spring sea-ice below the overhanging massive Polar Sun Spire, looking up nearly five thousand feet to its summit, is to come face to face, with a monster.
Towering over the landscape, Great Sail Peak, Polar Sun Spire and Walker Citadel are certainly not easy to get to. They grace the deep valleys hidden in some of the longest and most spectacular fiordds in the world – some close to seventy miles long.
The fith largest island in the world, Baffin Island is part of the Precambrian Shield, comprised of granites, gneisses and metamorphic schists. Volcanic activity formed these rocks two billion years ago. The sedimentary (softer) rocks were over time eroded away by the forces of wind and rain. The giants Baffin Island – incredible examples of what nature has chosen to leave behind – inspire those who willfully choose to travel on their shadows.
Towering over the landscape, Great Sail Peak, Polar Sun Spire and Walker Citadel are certainly not easy to get to. They grace the deep valleys hidden in some of the longest and most spectacular fiords in the world – some close to seventy miles long. The famous and mighty Yosemite Valley in the United States does but pale in comparison. Who then is drawn to spend time in their company ? Climbers, BASE jumpers, skiers and photographers from around the world, are those who most often dare embrace the inevitable challenges and risks just to commune with these monolisths of nature.
Sport and pleasure are not new to Baffin Island – the earliest forays began here in the mid 1930s. It was however, the mid -1990s lens and vision of notable photographer Eugene Fisher, that pulled back the curtain to shine a bright international light upon Baffin’s sleeping giants. Place names, such as Ford Fiord, Walker Arm, Broad Peak and Scott Island are spoken about within the climbing fraternity with awe and reverence. Still, as captivating as Fisher’s photographs are, the experience of standing on the Spring sea-ice below the overhanging massive Polar Sun Spire, looking up nearly five thousand feet to its summit, is to come face to face, with a monster.
And so it was that five friends set out to ski in the ever-looming shadows of these Baffin giants in May 2007. Settubg iyt from the tiny Nunavut hamlet of Clyde River, the team negociated rough sea ice, (including a slight detour to view a polar bear) to the expedition drop off via snowmobile and qamatic (sled) . That leg to the start-off point took the better part of the first day. It is one thing to navigate with a finger on a topographical map, quite another to make one’s way through a concrete-hard maze of jagged pack ice that at times reached five or six feet in height.
Our expectations were immediatly brought into question upon reaching the Stewart Valley. there the team encountered what can only be described as a sand strom. The wind tunnel effect created by Artic winds on this region’s deep valleys had stripped long stretches of the area’s frozen lakes bare. Devoid of any snow-cover, the skiing and sled pulling became difficult, at times precarious. Fierce gusts shredded the surrounding glacial moraines hurling sand and any debris smaller than a pebble head-on into our path. Still, it wasn’t long before the first giant was encountered. Glances up from the tips of our skis were met by the striking, impossibly sheer wall of Great Sail Peak, leaving us transfixed by the sight of its sheer size. No passing glance this – it felt as if we were being watched, surveyed, judged as intruders, by a giant so huge that it took hours to ski beyind its form.
Upon reaching the junction of Walker Arm and sam Ford Fiord, it became difficult to know precisely in which direction one should look. This particular junction of fiords, ice and rock, in April or May, represents one of the most amazing and spectacular places on earth. The Turret, Great Cross Pillar and The Fin, now joined the other giants in attendance, keeping whatch as our expedition continued on the Revoir Pass – the gateway to Eglinton Tower, and the other giants waiting. With broad smiles and the sun shining bright on our faces, connections worked for and made, enhanced all friendships, old and new.
… viewing a four thgousand foot wall granite glowing in the clear Artic light, thinking it was close, discovering and realizing its base was in fact a three hour approach on skis.
The last two days heading back toward Clyde River were negociated though blizzard contditions. An experience that was in stark contrast to viewing a four thousand foot wall of granite glowing in the clear Artic light, thinking it was close, discovering and realizing its base was in fact a three hour approach on skis.
Although they are aloof and detached – oblivious to the weather and events that occur far, far below, the granite giant of Baffin Island’s east coast stand guard – sovereign, solemn, and full of characters in the ever-changing Artic light. Yes, myths and legends are often questioned, but let there be no doubt, these giants do exist. They are forever alive and well, waiting only to be met.
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