Baffin Island Ski Mountaineering Primer  
 

CAUTION! This primer contains unsubstantiated personal opinions that should not be confused with facts! It is based on two trips to Baffin Island (Clyde & Pond) for skiing trips, with a total of 45ish days spent on the island. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez and Arctic Crossing by Jonathan Waterman are far more authoritative sources, although they have nothing to do with ski mountaineering.

For the purpose of this primer, "skiing" is what I would call ski mountaineering, ie, hiking up, skiing down, avalanche assessment, slopes in the 30-50 degree range, ascending with self arrest poles, crampons and/or skins and a general emphasis on making turns, not skating across the flats. A Google search for "Baffin skiing" will turn up many hits, but most of these are people who are doing crossings or flat day tours using skis.

In 2002, Brad Barlage and I made a trip up to the fjords around Clyde River to check out the skiing potential. We hunted down a few leads for people who might know about the skiing there beforehand, and found that a person or two had done some skiing in the southern part of the island in and around the Att. National Park, but learned of nothing in the mid to upper part of the island. I don't know the history of ski mountaineering on Baffin, but if you are going up there to partake in it, you will be part of it!

The Allure
Why bother? What's the big deal? There are many, many great reasons. First and foremost is that the skiing, especially the monstrous couloir skiing, is plentiful and of incredible high quality. In talking to a group who went up in 2005, I eagerly asked what they thought of the skiing and was dismayed to hear that they weren't that into it as "It's all the same - one huge chute after another. Start at the bottom, boot up three to five thousand feet, ski back down, do it over again." I happen to really like this type of skiing, so I was ecstatic about it. But, as the whiner alluded to, there is not a huge amount of variety of skiing. It is either flat or a splitter couloir. There are occasional open fields, but they tend to few and far between, as well as having shallow, rotten snow. The main draw of the Baffin fjords is the couloirs, and as such, they are unequaled anywhere on earth.

Another very cool aspect of skiing Baffin, specifically the Clyde River area or higher, is that you get your Arctic Circle merit badge as this imaginary and semi arbitrary line crosses through the island at about mid height. What's the big deal here you ask? Nothing really, but if you are looking for some wild skiing, the Arctic Circle is a good place to start. It's cold, windy, barren, remote, wild, and the setting for many adventures throughout history. On the pleasant side, it is not so far north that you are dealing with pressure ridges, ice floe movement, open leads of water or the grim maritime weather.

Baffin also has a nice balance of being seemingly inaccessible, yet still affordable. You can get to major cities on the island with regularly scheduled flights and find people who can help you from there. If you go to a more remote area, say Ellsmere Island or Antarctica, the cost and logistics take a quantum jump upwards.

As a side benefit, you also get to meet the Inuit people, who are some of the most rugged, ingenious people on earth. If there is ever a massive nuclear war that wipes out the world, the Arctic Inuits will either survive it unscathed, or be the last to go.
The scenery alone is also worth the effort to get there. With 24 hours of daylight in the spring and summer, the long hours of low angle alpenglow light illuminating the stark, frozen sea ice, towering granite walls and swirling ground blizzards is surreal. There have been many times that I had to just stop what I was doing and realize that I was witnessing some of natures most beautiful displays. Years later, it still brings chills to my spine to remember seeing a set of wolf tracks down the center of the Walker Spur at 1:00am with the entire scene lit up with orange/gold glow and a strong wind. The scenery can be beyond words, or even imagination.


The Inuits
I'm a devote fan of the Inuit people. For one, we share the belief that ice and snow are the natural state of water and the liquid version is the temporary unnatural state. They are also incredibly durable, mechanically ingenious, resourceful and unassuming.

Compared to other cultures, the Inuits are quite and reserved. There are no joyous welcomes, big hugs or outbursts of joyful emotions. As a visitor to their land, you need them a lot more than they need you. Based on a sweeping generalization, most southerners visiting their land are cold, wimpy, demanding sightseers and almost more of a nuisance then curiosity. While this is the case in the towns, once you get out onto The Land, especially as a self supported group taking it on its own terms, they are very helpful and friendly. I've had horrible experiences in the towns (being shot at with BB guns, rocks through the tents, nasty dogs, gear stolen) yet once out on The Land, all of my meetings have been nothing but supremely positive. The Inuits love to track animals and will go out of their way to follow your ski tracks and make sure you are OK, or perhaps just share a cup of coffee, which they love. As they travel out on the land and meet others, they will pass on word of your whereabouts and if they are in the area, they will stop by to see you. This may be as they are looking to sell you a ride, but I think it is more that they share a communal sense of helping others out in the wilds.

In general, if you visit the island and experience it in the way they have for centuries, they will respect and befriend you. If you show up and expect them to cater to your needs and be impressed with your cash, they will not.

The Inuit approach to money is much different than in America. To start with, they don't really have anywhere or anything to spend it on, so it is not really a consumer culture. They have also survived for generations on barter and communal sharing, and don't lust after cash like most normal people. As a final consideration, I suspect that there is a lot of government welfare on the island, as the people were recently herded into a few manageable communities instead of being nomadic.

That said, Baffin is an expensive place, even taking into account the Canadian exchange rate, which is dwindling rapidly. For example, a can of Coke out of a vending machine was four dollars. This makes sense when you consider items have to be shipped up there either on a once a year barge (everything from premade houses to toilet paper) or flown up on small planes.

Another determining factor is what I would call "The Polar Bear Economy" which is driven by the wealthy big game trophy bear hunters who visit the area. A limited number of bears are allowed to be "taken" every year, and the tags are rumored to be in the $30,000 to $50,000 range.* Plus guides, snowmobile expenses, hotels, etc.. Inuits put skiers and hunters into the same category of "southerners with lots of gear who want to get out to the ice" and charge the same. In all fairness, the Ski-Doos and gas are outrageously expensive, plus the operator's expertise and time, but you can expect a three hour snowmobile ride to be in the $600 to $800 range round trip if you pay full pop.

*(sidenote: large male polar bears are very sought after by trophy hunters. According to one who we met, they are only second behind "elephants with 100 pound tusks" in terms of big game trophies. Many hunters will pass on just shooting any old polar bear, as tags are hard to get and they are holding out for big ones. Trophy hunters must approach their targets on foot or with dog sled teams. Finding the perfect bear is hard, but evidently shooting one is not, as they use huge rifles with powerful scopes. The hunter we met shot his bear while it was mating. ??!!)

The Inuits are a very quite, reserved people. They aren't into small talk and seem to have almost no interest in you, which is usually just the reverse of the interest you might have in them. As one told me after I got to know him "Southerners ask a lot of questions." Part of this is a cultural issue, where the Inuits seem to take questions in the most literal sense, whereas Southerners often think in general terms. For example, we once asked a hunter how many dogs a seal would feed, which was perplexing. "It depends on the size of the seal and the size of the dogs. It could be one dog or 200." The same thought applies to questions like "How cold are the winters?" or "How much snow does this area get?" These seem like normal questions to southerners, but you will get an annoyed look from most Inuits. A common answer is "I don't know." not because they don't know, but more because the question depends on so many variables.

I wouldn't consider myself a chatty person, but even to me, this lack of conversation takes some getting use to. Negotiating a Ski-Doo ride, loading up, doing the ride, discussing the future pick up time and place and then doing the entire trip back might take five sentences. There just is not a lot of idle chatter going on.

Part of this may be due to them speaking a foreign language, English, which most of them do. Learning Inuit is a nice thought that will quickly be dispelled when you first hear it. Supposedly if you are fluent in French you can pick out a few words, but otherwise, forget it.

The Inuit culture is going through a massive overhaul as of the turn of the millennium. At this time, there are elders who grew up living in igloos and surviving entirely off of the land, their children who are half "modernized" and their grandchildren who were brought up in heated mobile homes with microwaves and satellite dishes showing TV shows from Detroit. The traditional culture is in danger of dying out, and with it, many of the traditional values, which are being replaced by gangsta attitude among the multitude of kids.

The Canadian government's attempt to roll all of Baffin into their system has not worked out very well, and about 15 years ago (1990ish?) they created Nunavut, which is a semi autonomous state unto itself. This is both good and bad. It is good as it lets the people govern themselves, but it is bad as the people are very spread out and have little to no natural resources to provide income, so it is a poor area. They are trying to develop tourism, the diamond industry (Arctic Ice) and cultural art.

Like the American Indians, the Inuits have a very low tolerance for alcohol and are radically affected by even a few drinks. It is not doing anyone any favors to give them drugs or alcohol, although you may be asked repeatedly for both and be sympathic when you consider how harsh the winters must be there. The towns are dry and you are limited to bringing in a small amount of alcohol, but you will not be checked. They have a very high rate of teen suicide, domestic violence and teen pregnancies. If anything, they are into trading for high quality clothes, guns, tents, footwear and electronics.

I've found the Inuits to be absolutely reliable and good to their word. If they say they will pick you up in twenty days at a certain spot, they will be there either early or to within the hour. I've heard of other climbers having bad experiences with them, but behind the scenes, it was probably the climbers own fault that caused the problem.

There are many different types of Inuits, and as a sweeping generalization, they are an indigenous people who live above the arctic circle. The Alaskan Inuits and Baffin Inuits speak different languages, but have roughly similar appearances. The term "Eskimo" is an Anglo slur that means something like "fish eater" or "people who don't cook food." It is tolerated, but disrespectful, and roughly akin to redskin. You won't win any friends by using it.


Logistics
Baffin is all about logistics, and the better you are prepared, the better your trip will be.

The Ski Season
The best time to go skiing on Baffin is mid April to mid May. In a worst case scenario, it could take up to a week each way to get into and out of the fjords, so a three week trip is about the minimum and four weeks is probably better. If things go well, which they probably will, it takes about four days to get from your front door to the fjord of your choice - two days of air travel, a day of organizing and a day to get sledded out.

Arriving in the middle of April is good as it is just beginning to be light for 24 hours a day and the days will be getting warmer. Around late June or July, the ice starts to break up and there is a period of about two or more weeks where you can't get a ski-doo or boat into the fjords, so you will be stuck. The ice break up is gradual. You will not wake up one morning and be adrift in the ocean. For the few weeks leading up to that, the sea ice will start to flood and crack, which makes for tough travel. April and May will be colder, but that is part of the game. You will get use to it, and at times it will be downright hot (skinning without a shirt) and at other times, it can be down in the minus 20c range, or about zero. Camping in the sun instead of the shade will help out with extreme cold.

Contrary to logical thought, even though there is still snow in the late spring/summer, getting to the base of couloir via boat is not feasible as the waters are rough and there are so few flat places to camp. Not only that, but the few flat places there are be shared by hungry polar bears. One German climbing party reported over 20 bear encounters on a summer trip. I've never seen one, for better or worse.


Transportation
The driving factor of air travel to Baffin Island are the First Air flights to and from the island. First Air is the major air carrier up there and they have a website with regularly scheduled flights. Many of them originate out of Ottawa, but I think they also fly out of Montreal as well. Find out when First Air leaves these airports, then plan your arrival accordingly. I remember spending the nights sleeping in the Ottawa airport, so the First Air flights probably leave early in the morning. The First Air flights start out with large planes that get progressively smaller after a transfer or two. Clyde River and Pond Inlet airstrips are basically dirt or snow runways that are turned on/off after each flight. An hour after the flight leaves, there will be no one at the airport. There are no awaiting taxi services, but if you tell people you need a ride somewhere, it will be arranged. It is easy to walk into town from the airports, but perhaps not with a full load of gear.

You will most likely get a major ding on overweight luggage on First Air. I've never done it, but it might be worth seeing if they have a major carrier partner, where you could pay the fee once, then have the switch of carriers (say from Delta to First Air) be considered a continuation of the flight. Paying both First Air and another carrier for overweight luggage, each direction, can almost double your air fare costs!

You will also most likely have to travel with a shotgun, which is a pain in the ass. You have to declare it all the time, which causes frenzy at the airport and a $50 fee at Canadian customs. More on this later. It needs to be in a locked case, which can be just about anything - I've used a locked softshell case and also seen a locked plastic case which could be easily pried open with your bare hands. Check with the airlines, as they are quite anal about this.

From the towns, you will most likely want to arrange a snowmobile ride out to your fjord of choice. Bring a map, as the Inuit names for things have no relation to the Anglo names. From Clyde River, it is about 30ish miles to the nearest fjord where you can start skinning or kiting. This could be walked, but it is across tundra and rolling terrain that would be ugly with a heavy sled, plus, people are buzzing by there all the time (well, a couple of times a day perhaps). It would take you a couple of days each way, at least, to walk it, which would add another week or so to your trip. It may be worth it to you, but this is not the real Baffin Island goods, so I think it is worth a sled ride.

The sled rides are best arranged once you get into town. This seems a bit sketchy to most Americans, myself included, but there are many people with Ski-Doos (generic Inuit term for snowmobiles) who are willing to take you out there. If you arrange it from the States, you will have to deal with an existing guiding agency, which means you'll be paying the Polar Bear price. By meeting and negotiating with a local, you get to see the person face to face and will get a better price. The Inuits love going out on The Land and will make it happen. You can find a person to do it by walking down the main streets and asking. Someone will most likely have a friend or cousin that will do it. If all else fails, you can default to the established guide services.

The standard load for a Ski-Doo is a driver, plus two people and their gear towed behind on a komotic, better known as "A Box of Pain." Ohhhh. Be prepared for this! It is better than walking, but you'll be having doubts after a few hours. They slam down over every little ice ridge, gear flies all over, they are cold, filled with exhaust smoke, seal blood, ice and spindrift. Wear all of your clothes, including mittens and goggles. Tie your gear down inside the box if at all possible. If offered, ride on the back of the ski-doo. Sometimes they hit ice and flip.

A Ski-Doo and komotic combo ride costs the same whether it is full or not. They can't overload them as it burns out the clutch and they won't have enough traction to make it up hills, so even though it looks like they could cram more stuff in there, it is not practical. On flat sea ice, this may not be the case.

Hauling skiers and climbers out to the fjords often doubles as a hunting trip for the guides and you may be sharing the sled with a perforated seal sporting a gushing head wound. It's just part of the experience.

Once you have reached the town of your choice, it is permissible to camp just about anywhere, but usually the sea ice is a good spot. Hotels are super expensive! Water is tanked in from lakes, and as such, a bit of a precious commodity. Long, hot showers are a luxury.

The Inuits have a tradition of communal sharing that can be at odds with an expedition. When they would get food, they would share it with everyone and eat it all right away. When the Inuit kids see you with a ton of food, they don't understand that you are going to need it for the next twenty days out on the ice. Or, if they see two ski poles, they don't see why they can't have one. This is just the way it is and the best thing to do it put everything in your tent. Stuff left out is fair game for the kids.


Wildlife
Seeing wildlife on Baffin Island is a treat. During the winter/spring, most of the animals have a beautiful white coat that makes them almost invisible. Tracks are common, but it is kind of rare to actually see an animal unless you have good eyes, which I don't. Fox tracks are common, as are rabbit (arctic hares) and the occasional ptarmigan. Big black birds (goraks?) are common, as are seals which pop back down into their hole when you get too close. Wolves are rare, but not inconceivable.

Polar bears are by far and away the creature of the landscape. If you are there in April/May, and skiing in the fjords, you are unlikely to see them as they are about 10-15km out to sea at the edge of the ice floe eating seals. They are the top of the food chain and not afraid of much, if anything. They will approach camps, but perhaps more out of curiosity than anything else. Despite all of the urban (?) legends of people shooting them as they tore down the door of their tent and died with their mouths on the person's chest, you stand a better chance of being killed by lightning than by being eaten by a Polar Bear. Still, it is a lively image and a hard one to shake out of your mind. As the Inuits say, you shouldn't worry about it anyway-they can sneak up on a seal, run at something like 40mph and kill you with one swipe of a paw. With the tent flapping and noise that goes on, you will never know of you are being stalked. They also bury their black nose in the snow when they are closing in on a seal, so they can't be seen even at a distance of a few hundred feet, let alone at a mile or so. An excellent reference is a National Geographic video called something like "Polar Bear" which gives you a huge amount of respect, horror and awe for them. I'd rather cut my hand off than kill an animal, but after seeing that film, I decided it was worth buying and carrying a shotgun when out on The Land in Baffin. It would be a grim way to die.

According to locals and wildlife officials, most of the time if a bear approaches your camp, they are just curious. If it is summer and they are weak and hungry, they will be looking for food, but in the spring, they are interested in the nice fat seals. Humans smell funny and make noise, but are interesting. As such, the preferred method of determent is to fire a "cracker" bullet into the snow ahead of them. These make a big noise and will scare them away. Don't fire over their heads as it will scare them into you, not away! Shotguns carry something like five shells in barrel and one in the chamber. The first is the cracker, then the rest are slugs. If the bear keeps coming, you are suppose to fire off another warning shot. At this time they will be getting close. It is unlikely that a single shot will kill a polar bear, unless you are a master marksman. Shooting a bear is not good - you will be heavily fined. My favorite piece of polar bear advice comes from a poster they have in the airport, which suggests the #1 way to avoid them is to "Get back into your car." Considering my car is 3,000 miles away, that's going to be hard.

Cooking and storing food away from your tent is a bit unrealistic in the arctic environment. Most of the time, we cooked directly in the tent. I would however be careful with any raw food you get, such as fish or anything like that, as the bears are familiar with that smell. I don't know how familiar they are with Sweet & Sour Pork.
All of that said, again, you probably won't see one unless you go out of your way to find them. You will however probably see their tracks at some point, which are VERY impressive!

Sled dogs are a huge element of Baffin Island. Most of them are a hybrid Husky mix that are not exceedingly large, but are turbocharged bad ass mammals. They are left out chained to the ice and thrive at 20 below zero! I love dogs, but these should be treated with a bit of caution as they are one step removed from wolves. They love to run and it's a beautiful sight to see them out ghosting along on the ice with a small hunting sled behind them.

The dogs are not treated very well compared to most American poochies and it can take some adjustment to see dead ones frozen in the ice, sled drivers whipping them mercilessly and all of the cuts and missing eyes that the bearded walrus whip have claimed. Personally, I'd love to stop it, but also realize that it is not my place and thus make up for it by spoiling my dogs at home. As an animal lover, it can be painful to see a chained dog beaten.

Occasionally they get loose and wander around out on the ice. According to some Inuit friends, these dogs can be dangerous as they are accustomed to people and visa versa, but are basically wild, feral animals. We've had some stalk our camp and another time I had a seemingly friendly one trail me, only to try to attack whenever I turned my back. The Inuits suggested shooting them if they attacked.


The Snowpack
For skiing and avalanche concerns, the Baffin snowpack is an anomaly. On one hand, it is right on the ocean, so it could be considered maritime. On the other hand, it is extremely cold and dry, so it has a large dose of continental characteristics as well. It may be jinxing it to say this, but in my two trips and 25ish ascents/descents there, the snowpack has been wonderfully stable, perfect recrystalized powder. The most I've seen have been sluffs and ice fall, but no crown lines or slab avalanches. I've heard from people who have been there in the spring that the big couloirs let go with canon-like thundering wet snow slides, but that is another concern, and you most likely won't be in there skiing that late in the season.

Baffin is cold and snowy, but doesn't really get huge dumps of snow. I'm guessing, but would say that if might be in the 60 - 100" range per year, or 2-3 meters. The tundra and any slopes that see sunlight are generally thigh deep rotting facets over rocks.
What makes the couloirs so skiable is that they are really just huge vertical wind berms of transported snow. As the wind blows down the fjords, it carries snow that is then swirled and deposited in these vertical gullies, which creates a very deep snowpack. You can go from no snow on the sea ice to a twenty foot deep snowpack within a few steps when you enter a couloir. The couloirs are usually very deep, like, 200 foot walls or higher on each side, so they don't get a lot of sun, and thus the snow stays soft. A "standard" couloir is in the 100-200' wide range and 2,500 to 3,500' tall. The biggest one I've found was 4,900' and a trophy couloir would be in the 3,600' or above range.

The best conditions are in the north facing couloirs. East and west see some sun and southern exposures can be crusty, shallow and icy. For the most part, it they are in a deep, recessed couloir, the snow will be soft and stable.

I've carried crampons, but could get away without them most of the time. It you need them, it is probably too steep and icy to ski anyway, although at times they can add a bit of security. Aluminum 10 point versions work well.

As a word of caution, if the couloirs did avalanche, it would probably be fatal as they are long, steep, straight and end on the flat sea ice. There are not a lot of obvious protected pockets as you are climbing up them.

There are some good websites with current weather and historical temperature and snowfall stats available. I can't remember the exact address, but the best ones were from the Canadian government.


Kiting
Baffin is a snow kiting dream, with steady reliable winds, huge open expanses, no crevasses and stunning scenery. In general, the wind either howls, or is nothing. There is not a lot of in between. The sea ice ranges from hard, blue ice to perfect corn snow.

For kite sizes, I'd bring something along the lines of a 5 and 14m2 NASA wing and a 4m2 Ozone or ram air type of kite. A 2.3m2 NASA wing is very useful as well, but the Ozone would probably cover that range.

The winds are predominately from the NW and blow down the fjords and out to sea and Greenland. A good strategy is to watch for inland winds, and if it occurs, ride it down the fjord as far as possible, since it is a safe bet that the winds will shift back to the NW soon.

Between the strong winds and smooth, hard sea ice, you can hit near freeway speeds with a kite - crazy fast and potentially quite dangerous in poor light conditions. Like a river, the center part of the fjords is often smooth, but around the edges, you can get a lots of broken ice that is hard to walk through, let alone navigate at 30mph with an angry sled behind you. Of all of the accidents and near misses I've had on Baffin, they all had to do with kiting. Then again, kiting has also provided some of the most fun and intense experiences as well.


What to bring/not to bring
Clothes - plenty of warm clothes, with down working especially well as it is a cold, dry area. A neoprene face mask and goggles are good for wind protection. For sleeping bags, a -20 down bag works well. Two sleeping pads - an inflatable and a foam one are key, as you will be sleeping directly on the ice. Caution - don't camp too close to the walls, as sometimes when the tide is up, water creeps through cracks and can flood your campsite.

A good tent is important, although the Inuits get by with some amazing cheap-o's. More than anything, pitching it out of the wind is key. Most of they time you will be camping on the sea ice, so bring something like ice screws to secure the tent. Pickets and stakes work alright, but tend to shatter the ice. Snowcaves are generally impractical on Baffin, but as thousands of years of evolution prove, igloos work very well, assuming you can actually build one.

An MSR Whisperlite works great on Baffin as you are at sea level. The Inuits use camp stoves, so getting Coleman fuel is not a problem. It comes in gallon containers and is available at the hardware store or market, which may be one-in-the-same. I've use about 4 fluid oz per person per day there, which is about .125 liters. This is using an MSR heat exchanger with a Backcountry Pantry asbestos "cozy" over the top and burning conservatively. A thin plywood board with tin foil on it makes a nice stove platform.

Sleds are good for hauling your gear around. The little plastic kiddie sleds work well, although for both of our trips I've made custom sleds for kiting. In the end, these were probably not necessary, but they looked cool. For kiting, you should have two sleds clamshelled over your duffle bag so that when/if the sled flips, it will keep going.
I've used and prefer climbing skins for traction, although some people just use kick wax. For the flats, this is probably fine, but for any sort of steep skinning, skins are the way to go.

The shotgun of choice is a basic "home security" 12 gauge model with an 18 " barrel. It should have the ability to fire 3" magnum slugs, although the 2 " work better. I found mine at a pawn shop for $150 and ended up leaving it in Baffin, where I traded it for part of a Ski-Doo ride and the promise that I could use it again in the future. Considering the hassle of transporting them, the value they have to the Inuits ("I'm going to hunt Beluga whales with it." Groan) and the relatively few uses they have at home, this isn't a bad strategy. The best one I found was a Mossberg 500A, which was solid, but basic. It had a plastic stock instead of wood, which made it a bit lighter. It is illegal, or at least very difficult to bring hand guns into Canada.


Food
You can buy food in the towns, but the stores are a step above 7-11's as far as variety and much more expensive. The stores generally carry "durable goods" like canned food. I would suggest bringing all of your food from home. Cheese and butter are good items to purchase once you arrive on Baffin.

For trips like these, I like the Lipton noodles or rice that come in packets. They are easy too cook, inexpensive, mix well with other items and clean up easily.


Expenses
Aside from gear, it seems like a month long Baffin trip is about $4,000, of which most of that is in travel expenses such as plane fare, overweight luggage and Ski-Doo rides.


Misc
It is rare that the weather is so crappy that you can't travel on Baffin. When this does happen, it is usually due to a vertigo inducing white out. Storms are mainly wind events with a bit of snow thrown in.

Finding couloirs is pretty easy as there are a lot of them. A good strategy is to spy them from across the fjord, then kite over to them, establish a camp, then spend a few days skiing them as day trips, move on and repeat. Sometimes they are not very obvious from below or close up - you need to see them from a distance to see if they connect.

The best chutes are the ones that go all the way through, as they tend not to have melting snow above them. If they get really steep and have a melting cornice at the top, it will most likely be icy and unskiable for the last segment. No big deal, but if you are going to go all that way, you might as well ski complete lines!

GPS's work very well and the available topo maps have UTM grids on them. Maps are available on line at MapTown.com (I think that was the name of it). Look for "Clyde River" and go from there. I haven't found any affordable digital maps of the area.
We used an Iridium satellite phone, which had good reception most of the time. If the sky is blocked by big rock walls, you will lose the connection, then get it back when the next satellite comes by, which may be about 10 minutes. Data transfer (sending digital pictures) would be hard.

Being right on the ocean, the environment is very corrosive to all non stainless steel metal. Stoves, shotguns, ski equipment and other bits & pieces get rusty in a matter of a few weeks.

As of this writing, you do not need any sort of permits to go into the fjords area, nor do you need to check out with the RCMP, although it may not be a bad idea. They won't rescue you, but they do serve as a good contact point for people who call and have questions about your well being.

 
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
 

Related Links
First Air
Trip Report - Clyde to Pond
Baffin Weather
Arcs Over the Arctic - Trip Report 2002
Baffin 2004 - Clyde River Trip Report
Nunavut Maps - MapTown.com

NASA Wing Kites - buy one
NASA Wing Kites - Build your own
Canadian Gov't Site with Nunavut Info
Ozone Snow Kites