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Expeditions

Axel Heiberg Haute Ski Traverse 2005

A team of four skiers recently completed a six week unsupported traverse of Axel Heiberg Island north of Resolute Bay, Nunavut. Their route crossed many of the ice caps and icefields of this island. Hence the expedition name, Axel Heiberg Haute Ski Traverse 2005. The original Haute Route is a world famous high ski route in the Alps from Chamonix France to Saas Fee Switzerland.

The team consisted of Greg Horne and Louise Jarry of Jasper Alberta, Sarah Boyle of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia and Vicky Lytle of Anchorage Alaska. Collectively the group has previous experience on Ellesmere, Baffin, and Bylot Islands and in the Antarctic. The four were dropped off on April 19th by a Kenn Borek ski equipped Twin Otter on Rens Fiord near the northern end of the island. Each skier pulled a pulk or sled 1.75 meters long, weighing 80 to 100 kgs, with all their equipment, food and fuel for 47 days. No re-supplies or caches used. Their rate of travel ranged from 2 to 24 kms per day depending upon snow conditions, terrain steepness obstacles present. In total, including all side trips about 450 kms were skied. On May 31st there were picked up by Twin Otter and returned to Resolute Bay.

The principle route was from Rens Fiord into the headwaters draining to Aurland Fiord, across a watershed divide to the lower Bukken River. Then skiing up the Bukken through its spectacular canyons to its headwaters. Next across the length of the Müller Ice Cap to Eureka Pass, they continued south across another icefield to Strand Fiord Pass and two more icefields to the pass separating Wolf and Strand Fiords. Then the traversed the Glacier Fiord/Steacie Ice Cap and finishing at the head of Surprise Fiord. Seven mountains were ascended enroute, most probably as first ascents. One previously climbed mountain they ascended was Outlook Peak, 1980 meters high, possibly the high point of the island.

The 2006 Canadian Alpine Journal will feature a complete detailed account of the traverse. The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and the Mountain Equipment Co-op provided partial financial support through their expedition grant programs. As well, The North Face (Canada), Integral Designs (Calgary) and the Mountain Equipment Co-op donated equipment or provided special discount pricing to support the expedition.


Axel Heiberg team: Greg, Louise, Sarah and Vicky
Axel Heiberg team: Greg, Louise, Sarah and Vicky


Tent in wind storm
Tent in wind storm


Three skiers with sleds
Three skiers with sleds


Toe glacier with fallen blocks
Toe glacier with fallen blocks

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