Friday, January 1, 2010

Mike & Mike's AAC Flag Expedition to the English Mountains

Canada, Southern Labrador, English Mountains, M & M Ridge.

In early spring, fellow New York Section-AAC member Mike Barker and I set out to explore this low subarctic range that comprises the easternmost and highest part of the Mealy Mountains. These wilderness mountains are under consideration for National Park status. They reach elevations of approximately 4,000 feet with bare alpine summits and are flanked by cliffs of clean anorthosite and granite. The English Mountains have no record of technical mountaineering or climbing.

On March 27, 2009, we traveled by turbine single-Otter ski plane from Goose Bay to a dramatic cirque at N53.626° W58.506°, where we established a base camp for a week. Several harsh, extended arctic windstorms hampered our climbing efforts. However, we had a sufficient break in the weather to climb the snow and rock ridge (“M & M Ridge”) that rose NNW from our base camp. It took three days, but we found a route that bypassed four cliff bands, and put us onto moderately steep, exposed snow slopes.

The English Mountains have lots of untapped climbing and winter sports potential. There were abundant, continuous, fully-formed water ice falls and very steep, narrow, firm snow chutes, some well in excess of 1,000 vertical feet, on very stable, featured rock, much of it clean granite. During our stay, there was almost no evident rock fall or avalanche activity. There was also ample skiable terrain. Scenically, this truly wild area struck me like a cross between a lower elevation Baffin and an inland Norwegian fjord, with some granite faces reminiscent of the southern Columbia Mountains of British Columbia. All of this in an area about the same air distance from Columbus Circle as Miami Beach.

We would like to thank the AAC-New York Section for giving us the honor of carrying its expedition flag. We are also grateful to Big Agnes for their support, and to AAC-NY Section member Martin Torresquintero, our communications coordinator, duct tape consultant and weatherman.


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