First Ascent of Asgard's North Face


8/22/12 - Joshua Lavigne, Ines Papert, and Jon Walsh climbed 29 pitches up the north face of the South Tower of Mt. Asgard in late July, completing the first ascent of the 4,000-foot Baffin Island wall almost entirely free.

After several days of hiking and load carrying deep into Canada's Auyuittuq National Park, the three did a one-day ascent of the south buttress of Mt. Loki, probably making the first free ascent (2,100 feet, 5.10+). Following a rest day, the trio then launched up the wall on Asgard with three days of food and fuel but no portaledge. Despite deteriorating conditions, they managed to climb the face in two long days, free-climbing every pitch (onsight) with no bolts, except for a 15-section of icy squeeze chimney they said would have gone at 5.10 in dry conditions, plus one aid move on wet rock on the final pitch. Overall, the route, Sensory Overload, went at a surprisingly modest 5.11+ A1, and at his blog Walsh said "the route would be a good candidate for one-day, all-free attempt, for a two-person team."

They reached the summit late at night in thick fog and increasing wind, and began rappelling down the south face. However, rain and snow forced them to stop for an uncomfortable second night out just above the glacier. In the morning, the sun appeared and they made it safely back down.

Read Walsh's account and see many photos at his Alpine Style blog.

In 2009, Walsh and fellow Canadian Chris Brazeau enjoyed an extremely successful trip to Auyuittuq National Park, including the probable first free ascent of the South Tower of Asgard, via the south face, as well as two ascents of Asgard's North Tower.

Meanwhile, in far northern Baffin Island, South African climbers Steve Bradshaw, Dave Glass, Clinton Marteningo, and Andrew Porter completed the likely first ascent of a tooth-like pinnacle above Pond Inlet. The quartet free-climbed the route in a 14-hour round trip from the boat they'd used to approach, Dodo's Delight, captained by the septuagenarian British sailor Bob Shepton. The route went all-free with difficulties up to mid-5.11. Shepton had previously dubbed the peak the Polar Molar.

The same crew recently completed several new routes on Greenland's west coast, climbing on the walls pioneered by a Belgian-American team in 2010, also approaching via Shepton's boat. After leaving Baffin Island, the South African team is sailing with Shepton through the Northwest Passage across the top of North America. See their blog here.

Dates of ascents: July 2012