Arctic Roundup: Ice Caps and Ski Lines

In our latest arctic roundup, veteran Will Steger has set off into the Barren Lands, two teams take on Devon Island, and a unique ski line is opened on Baffin Island.

The Barren Lands

Will Steger is making better progress than anticipated. He is averaging 32km per day and has already reached the headwaters of the Hood River. His 1,600km ski/canoe expedition includes one resupply, around halfway through, and should take 70 days.

Steger’s Barren Lands route includes a resupply. Photo: Will Steger


Ahead of schedule, Steger took a rest day yesterday. The 77-year-old will continue with his 10-hour shifts today. His last update reported colder temperatures and easier travel conditions.

Devon Island

Canadians Dave Garrow, Frank Wolf, and John McClelland look to already be a bit under halfway through their 310km ski tour exploring the North Water Polynya, an area of open water in Baffin Bay in the Canadian High Arctic.

The team flew to Ellesmere Island on May 1 and set out on May 5. Their tracker shows that they’ve crossed over to Devon Island and worked their way east along the northern shoreline. At each waypoint marker, they are posting a daily haiku. My favorite so far: “Heavy northwest wind/Floe edge pounded by cold surf/We wake to the roar.”

Devon Ice Cap

Ingrid Ortlieb and Jose Manual Naranjo have completed a similar route during their 30-day expedition on the Devon Ice Cap. They started from the Sverdrup Glacier and completed a 260km line that took in the three highest points on the ice cap.

Ingrid Ortlieb on a previous expedition. Photo: Ingrid Ortlieb


Ortlieb has previously completed a 600km Greenland crossing in 2016 and a ski crossing of the Barnes Ice Cap in 2012, also with Naranjo.

Axel Heiberg Island

John Dunn and Graeme Magor’s two-month, spring-summer ski traverse of Axel Heiberg Island has begun. They set out on May 1, crossing Glacier Ford with their four sleds in a train behind them.

The early going included some altitude gain and the pair made slow but steady progress. By the end of their first week, they had covered 90km, “which needed about 90 hours of sleep!”

Dunn and Magor are now 12 days in and their updates remain positive, though they do report “much sled abuse.” Hopefully, their gear is holding up.

They have seen bear and wolf tracks but the only wildlife they have encountered is a snow bunting. The 950km traverse of the world’s largest island wholly above 78˚N should take them around 60 days.

A new Baffin ski line

Polar Moon Couloir is an evocative name; skiing down it sounds sublime. Brette Harrington and Christina Lusti recently opened this 1,200m line on Mount Qulliqtaliujaq above Kangiqtualuk Agguqti (formerly called Walker Arm). This area of enormous granite towers on Baffin Island is best known as a mecca for big-wall climbing and BASE jumping.

Walker Citadel, in Walker Arm. Photo: Jerry Kobalenko


The 45-degree line required some rappelling to avoid a hanging serac roughly halfway down the run. The pair completed their ski descent on May 4.


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Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh is a writer and editor for ExplorersWeb.

Martin has been writing about adventure travel and exploration for over five years.

Martin spent most of the last 15 years backpacking the world on a shoestring budget. Whether it was hitchhiking through Syria, getting strangled in Kyrgyzstan, touring Cambodia’s medical facilities with an exceedingly painful giant venomous centipede bite, chewing khat in Ethiopia, or narrowly avoiding various toilet-related accidents in rural China, so far, Martin has just about survived his decision making.

Based in Da Lat, Vietnam, Martin can be found in the jungle trying to avoid leeches while chasing monkeys.