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Spitzer Winner Completes Stunning Baffin Solo

Posted on: July 8th, 2009 by admin

Dave Turner's base camp site, with the north face of Broad Peak in the distance. Photo by Dave Turner.

Dave Turner's base camp site, with the north face of Broad Peak in the distance. Photo by Dave Turner.

Icy Dave. Photo by Dave Turner.

Icy Dave. Photo by Dave Turner.

Turner below the crux headwall during his single-push new route on Broad Peak. Photo by Dave Turner.

Turner below the crux headwall during his single-push new route on Broad Peak. Photo by Dave Turner.

A severely foreshortened view of the 1,450-meter new route on the north face of Broad Peak (ca 1,800m). Photo by Dave Turner.

A severely foreshortened view of the 1,450-meter new route on the north face of Broad Peak (ca 1,800m). Photo by Dave Turner.

Dave Turner, winner of a 2009 Lyman Spitzer Cutting-Edge Award from the AAC, soloed a major new route in Baffin Island during a 65-day expedition this spring. Turner climbed the 1,400-meter north arête and face of Broad Peak (ca 1,800m) in a remarkable lightweight, single-push effort.

Turner traveled with Inuit guides by snowmobile to Sam Ford Fjord and then set up base camp below Polar Sun Spire. His plan was to ski and explore during April, and then attempt one or more new routes once the weather warmed in May. For much of this time he was alone, although hunters, BASE jumpers, and kite skiers occasionally visited, and he enjoyed a pleasant diversion climbing Broad Peak by its moderate south side with four female Scandinavian skiers (www.baffinbabes.com). However, Turner suffered frostbite on his toes during that climb and ski descent—an incident that would affect his ambitious climbing plans.

In early May, Turner attempted the unclimbed north face of Beluga Spire, a circa-1,300-meter face rising directly from the sea ice. Turner started up an obvious line of stacked pillars with a haul bag and two lead ropes, but no bolts, portaledge, or static rope. After three days, he had climbed 650 meters of the route, mostly along mixed snow, ice, and rock in a steep crack system. However, when he tried to switch to rock shoes to begin pure rock climbing, he found his frostbitten toes quickly went numb. After a bruising fall, he retreated. A week later he tried the route again, climbing 500 meters in two days with even less equipment, but his damaged toes still hindered his free climbing, making an alpine-style ascent impossible.

After returning to base camp, Turner spent two weeks skiing and exploring while his injured toes recovered. With one week left in the expedition and his toes feeling better in rock-climbing shoes, he chose to attempt the unclimbed north face of Broad Peak by a 1,450-meter line consisting of an elegant curving arête, a steep snowfield, and a rock headwall.

New snow and warm temperatures created dangerous avalanche conditions that stymied Turner’s first attempt. Two days later he returned and started up the route at 8 p.m., making the most of the nearly endless daylight above the Arctic Circle. A few mixed pitches gained the sharp rock arête, which he climbed for hundreds of meters to the broad, easy snow slope; the climbing to this point was about 5.8 M5 60°. On the headwall, he found seven pitches of aid up to A3, with a final mandatory free-climbing slab move and mantel (roughly 5.10+) to reach a moderate ice arête leading to the summit.

Turner descended the gully and ridge he had climbed previously on the south face to reach his skis. He regained base camp after a 39-hour nonstop push. He used no bolts and left only two equalized beaks for a tension traverse—“no other gear or garbage was left on the peak,” Turner said. His unnamed new route, only the second known line on the formation, went at VI 5.10 A3 60°.

Turner, who received the 2009 Robert Hicks Bates Award for young climbers from the AAC, has posted a wonderful first-person account of his expedition, complete with many photos of climbing, kite skiing, and exploration, at the Supertopo website.

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