German Team Explores Remote Baffin Walls

By Dougald MacDonald ,

Stefan Glowacz climbing Take the Long Way Home in Querbitter Fjord, Baffin Island. Despite the cold, Glowacz was able to free passages up to 5.13, likely the hardest free climbing yet done on Baffin Island. Photo by Klaus Fengler, courtesy of Haeberlein & Mauerer.

A five-man German expedition led by well-known climbers Stefan Glowacz and Robert Jasper has completed an arduous expedition along the coast of northeastern Baffin Island, including the first ascent of a 2,300-foot big-wall route. They are believed to be the first climbers to venture into this remote region of Baffin—more than 100 miles northwest of the better-known Sam Ford Fjord.

Leaving the village of Pond Inlet on April 25, Glowacz, Jasper, Klaus Fengler, Holger Heuber, and Mariusz Hoffman traveled southeast with Inuit guides by snowmobile and sledge. After five days and about 165 miles they reached Querbitter Fjord (aka Qernbitter Fjord). At his blog at, Glowacz wrote, “Yesterday we were only able to imagine the huge rock faces and the overwhelming scenery behind the curtain of clouds. When we stick our necks out of our tents this morning under streaming sunlight we’re absolutely speechless. We pitch camp directly in front of the “China Wall,” a granite wall over 1,000 meters high, which protrudes directly from the frozen fjord. In the 1990s the American Eugene Fischer flew over this area. His aerial photographs of this wall inspired us to take the expedition…. As far as we know, no other climber has ever been active in this region.”

The Bastion, a 2,300-foot-high wall at the mouth of Querbitter Fjord. Photo by Klaus Fengler, courtesy of

Robert Jasper free-climbing on Take the Long Way Home. Photo by Klaus Fengler, courtesy of Robert Jasper.

After exploring Querbitter Fjord and neighboring Icy Fjord and Cambridge Arm by snowmobile, they decided to climb a steep formation called the Bastion, rising above the entrance to Buchan Gulf. After 14 days of climbing, with a majority of aid but free passages up to 5.13, they climbed 21 pitches to make the first ascent of the formation. For most of the climb, they camped at the base and ascended fixed ropes to their high point. Four nights were spent on the wall. All five team members reached the top, and they called the route Take the Long Way Home.

With the climb in the bag, the team then headed southeast on foot and skis, occasionally towed by kites, fearing the ice might melt out beneath them. After 16 days and more than 200 miles across sea ice and inland valleys, they reached the Inuit settlement of Clyde River on June 2, completing a remarkable five-and-a-half-week wilderness adventure.

Dates of Expedition: April–June 2008,,

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Polar bear tracks are big! The team carried rifles and built elaborate bear fences, but they still feared attack. Photo by Klaus Fengler, courtesy of

Skiing toward Clyde River after the climb: 16 days and 210 miles to civilization. Photo by Klaus Fengler, courtesy of

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