Hiking in the backyard

One of our goals has been to summit every mountain that we see clearly from our house in Pangnirtung. There are maybe twenty, depending on definition. The smallest of them are around 700 meters high, the biggest reaching up to 1300 meters or more. We have definitely decided that this is something we should do. "We could do one every weekend!"

In our first year here, we did the two closest ones.

HOWEVER, last weekend we headed out towards Mt. Angiuqqa, determined to add a couple more in our tick list. This awesome 1200 meters high mountain is situated a short day hike from Pang. The Angiuqqa area is dense with peaks and glaciers. One definitely does not have to go to the park to complete a very satisfying hike: we simply biked to the end of the road and continued walking for a few hours until we reached a great basecamp location next to Mt. Angiuqqa. It was everything we could have hoped for: mountains, glaciers, rivers and untouched wilderness. For sure the park is a gem for hiking purposes, but does come with the added hassle of pickups, drop-offs and permits. And we often forget what's in our backyard.

We spent three nights by the mountain and hiked on two different peaks. On our last day we headed to Mt. Angiuqqa which has a top formed of ice. Our plan was to follow a ridge and drop off to a glacier leading to the summit. We had lugged ropes, ice axes, crampons and the works for this purpose. Unfortunately the glacier was about 50 % smaller than on our map and reaching it would have been an achievement alone. So we turned back and spent the evening chilling out at the camp, cooking food, analyzing human bowel movement in camp circumstances and bouldering the huge rock next to our tent.

I'll post here a few pictures from the trip. There's more to come!

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Chaos and 7a

It's been long since I last wrote anything on the blog and I find myself struggling with deciding what to write about. The problem is since the last post so many events have taken place that weaving them into a logical sequence would probably drive me bananas. So, I will resort to writing a convoluted, long, messy story that proceeds toward an exit like a car bumping aimlessly in a parking lot because the driver is blind.

Let's start with my trip to Finland in June. It started off with a stop-over in Montreal, visiting Delia's parents and sister Lynn, who has recently become an avid downhill mountain biker after first gaining status as one of the best female surfers in Montreal. Now she's going twice a week to Bromont while wondering whether it's enough. Girl, it's enough. In my country, we don't even have mountains. I was pretty happy to get five trips a year.

On the Saturday that I was supposed to fly to Finland, Lynn graciously took me to Mt. Bromont for a day of adrenaline-filled mountain biking on some of the best trails I know of. Bromont tracks vary from easy cruises to technical muddy off-camber horror shows. The trails are hardly maintained at all, so you can forget about Whistler-like smoothness. Nope, savage, collarbone-crunching, unforgiving trails ready to eat you up. We were accompanied by Lynn's friends Jeff and Phil from Dirt Camp, as well as many others, great guys fast on two wheels. Jeff rented a sweet full suspension bike to me while Phil lent me riding gear flavored with a bit of Bromont's own Chanel No 5. All this was arranged through ingenious logistics, including sketchy drop-offs and pickups of black trash bags on dark Montreal back alleys.

I stepped into the airplane to Finland with a big smile on my face and a renewed enthusiasm for downhill biking. The following week in Finland I spent a considerable amount of time and money on the resurrection of my old war horse. Now it's moving again! Check these photos from Sonka by Aki Sysmäläinen. And here's more from Syväsenvaara by Kimmo from Oulu.

In Finland we have a thing called juhannus, the Midsummer Fest, on the last weekend of June, to celebrate the summer solstice. It's one of the biggest celebrations of the year and people tend to get very drunk and start burning juhannuskokko, big fires. This year my friends and I had decided to hit the road to north and camp by Rahajärvi, Inari to celebrate juhannus. None of us had ever been there but the place seemed good on the map as well as in the few photos that we found online. A random, vague plan usually adds a degree of freedom or two and instills good chaos. If as a result you forget to take plates and utensils, that's just part of the experience.

Back on Baffin Island, I was several experiences richer and one laptop shorter than when I left. I had left the laptop on a trolley in my blurry twelve-hour transatlantic tiredness at Montreal Airport. Probably the chaos from Inari had still been reverberating in my brain.

In Rovaniemi, I had a couple chances to visit the local boulder climbing spots, such as Hiidenkirnut and Toramo's Hyvä Meisinki. This was part of my training plan for 2009. During the 2008-2009 Korouoma "Ice Festival" (Check photos here), the annual gathering of friends bitten by the ice climbing bug, I had yet again succeeded in climbing at my old level without much progress except for slight improvements in general fitness. In the cabin at the bottom of the canyon, I reflected on my whole climbing career and concluded that things were even worse in the rock climbing sector: over ten years of climbing but still couldn't climb a French 7a. True, I had lived for a couple of years in a place where climbing wasn't an option. But Pangnirtung is a boulder field with a village built in the centre, so I no longer had an excuse.

After returning to Pang, I started a vigorous training routine to adjust my climbing grades to where they should be. I've started bouldering several times a week and have a few boulder projects up to, perhaps, 6c+/7a. I hang from the railing at home when I can't go outside and generally obsess about climbing. It's great fun.

Most of the rocks here have smooth faces with big edges - or none - to hold on to. Basically you have to slap your whole hand on corners for friction and heel-hook your way up. For the firs time ever, my hamstrings are sore from climbing (the big muscles connecting your butt to the knees).

Delia and I have tentative plans to do a climbing trip south in September. That's when I will hopefully graduate from my 7a project on some fine sport climbing routes. If I don't, I will continue living my miserable life as a middle-class Sunday climber. The next chance I will have for graduation is December when we will likely fly south again.

The game is on!

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Boyz n the hood

I was heading to the dump when they approached me on the street: the little dudes on their rides.

They looked menacing but the candy bars gave them away. They wanted my name. I gave it to them. The leader in the red touque still looked unsatisfied. I complimented him on his bike, which turned out to be the right move: I was saved from their treatment, whatever it was (probably they would have made me taste their candy).

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