Baffin Island: The Best Climbing Destination You Never Heard Of
If you're a mountaineer, you're probably familiar with all the big names— Everest, Denali, Rainier, and all the other famous peaks of the world. But have you heard of Mount Asgard? What about Mount Odin or Mount Thor? These mysterious peaks with their Viking names are found in the Baffin Mountains, a range stretching the length of the northeastern coast of Baffin Island.
Baffin Island is the fifth largest island in the world, and is located west of Greenland across Baffin Bay. It's part of the Canadian territory of Nunavut and almost entirely in the Arctic Circle. The prevailing airflow makes it significantly colder than Greenland, despite being at similar latitude. As you might expect, this makes Baffin Island a freezing, inhospitable place even during the warmer months. If your sense of adventure sends you in that direction, summer is the best season to visit— in fact, it may be the only season you can get into the island at all, as planes are frequently grounded by inclement weather.
The Baffin Mountains are an exciting place for climbers because of the challenging nature of the terrain. Mount Asgard can be described as a pair of imposing granite pillars with sheer vertical sides (it's the mountain James Bond jumped off at the beginning of The Spy Who Loved Me, as a stand-in for the Austrian Alps). Mount Thor is a brutal cliff that boasts the Earth's greatest vertical drop of 4,101 feet. Mount Odin, the tallest of the Baffin Mountains, is a steep and jagged testament to the tectonic forces that shoved this Arctic range into existence over millions of years.
True explorers will be interested to know that much of the Baffin Mountains remain relatively uncharted, and there's still the possibility of a first ascent among countless unnamed peaks. None of these mountains are particularly tall as mountains go— Mount Odin reaches 7,044 feet— but their shapes offer very challenging climbs nonetheless, not to mention the intense weather. Make no mistake, this is one of the harshest locations in North America and you should be prepared. An Iridium satellite phone will give you coverage even in the Arctic, thanks to their fully global network. Visibility can be very low, so being able to broadcast your GPS coordinates in an emergency can save your life.
If you want to take a break from climbing, there's plenty more to do. Baffin Island has a rich cultural history conserved by the native Inuit population. You can go dogsledding, whale watching and of course skiing! Or learn to build an igloo, go ice-fishing, and visit ancient settlements founded by mysterious pre-Inuit settlers thousands of years ago. There's plenty of wildlife to be found, including walruses, Arctic wolves and foxes, polar bears, and narwhals. You'll also have many opportunities to sample famous Arctic dishes like caribou stew, fresh Arctic char, and even muktuk (whale blubber)!
Whether or not you go for the climbing, Baffin Island will be an unforgettable trip you should add to your "bucket list." Make sure you contact Outfitter Satellite to get set up with an Iridium satellite phone and stay safe.