Archive

Author: Steve

We’re finally back to civilization (well close enough to it in the tiny town of Upernavik, Greenland) and can report on our last few weeks of climbing.

Two weeks ago we arrived at the impressive Sortehul Fjord just South of Upernavik and happily dug out our climbing gear from the boat’s hold. The position and scale of the cliffs really impressed us and we felt more than a little nervous about the bold plans we’d laid an ocean ago.

Checking out an iceberg that floated right by the start of Impossible Wall

GOPR3067.jpg

First up was the 450m Red wall, ostensibly our warm up, but a 20 hour push in itself.

We split (paper-rock-sissors!) into two parties (Clinton/Steve and Dave/Andrew) and chose two potential new lines on the wall. A short sketchy dinghy ride later, and we were on the wall and ready to go.

Some hours later each party stumbled up to the summit, two proud new lines established on virgin rock. The Clinton/Steve party suffered a difficult night huddled behind a rock after missing Bob’s new anchorage position – eventually traversing an entire fjord with tape bound feet to reach the only other yacht within miles, which was just on its way out as they approached (but could thankfully ferry them to the Dodo’s new position). Lucky! The incident really hit home how isolated we are out here.

Clinton high on Red Wall

IMG_9652.jpg

Before and after. Steve taping up on the summit and then showing off his handiwork 10 hours later

IMG_9699.jpg

IMG_1418.jpg

Looking on the Belgian topo for a new crack in the armour of Impossible Wall

IMG_9757.jpg

After a few days rest we picked out a potential line on Impossible Wall and packed our haulbags: 80 litres of water, 100 cans of food and a mountain of hardware and ropes, over 300 kg in total. After a nervous night of sleep we woke early and sailed across the fjord to mount our assault. Another round of Paper, Rock, Sissors picked Steve to lead the first pitch and with a hop, skip and a jump we were off. We would next see horizontal ground nine days later.

The route in all it’s glory!

IMG_1521_2.jpg

IMG_0913_2.jpg

Steve fighting grass on pitch numero uno

IMG_1559.jpg

Bob’s deck takes one for the team

IMG_9787.jpg


Ready-set-JUG!

IMG_9791.jpg

Wide-cracking it up. Andrew on his scary chimney pitch

IMG_1715.jpg

Ningo seconding the second Sword of Damocles pitch

P7150073.jpg

Steve forging ahead on a recon day

P7140042.jpg

Rather than provide a blow by blow account of our adventure, here are a few fun facts:

1) Midnight Sun. We climbed at “night” when the sun fell on the wall from the North, and slept during the shady “day.” This worked well apart from the occasional sleep-sunburn when we turned in early!

El Cap by the sea? The 850m Impossible wall bathed in midnight sun

IMG_1543.jpg

2) Tuna Surprise. A frequent and particularly unpleasant experience was being puked on by protective mother seagulls. It wasn’t long before everything smelled of roting tuna: hair, gear, ropes, sleeping bags, portaledges, etc.

Very cute, but the reason a lot of semi-digested fish was wasted

P7190235.jpg

3) Hygiene. Given the steeepness of the rock and remoteness of the area we were able to avoid the hassles of carrying a poop-tube, favoring instead the “air-dump” method. This involved abseiling a few metres below camp, unclipping the leg loops of ones harness, pulling down ones pants, and voila, bombs away!

Clinton satisfied with himself after a good execution

IMG_9885.jpg

4) More Hygiene. Virtually all forms of washing were considered too extravagant for our precious water supply (body, clothes, cutlery, etc). But our mothers will be pleased to hear that we did all brush our teeth every night. A surprising comfort when it’s all you can get clean!

Another dirty belay

P7170183.jpg

5) Rock Quality. While the rock was mostly of good quality, there was much grass and mud to deal with, and occasional sections of rotten granite. We all carried heavy gauge wire brushes and nut tools which seemed to do the trick. Poor belayers often dissappeared under growing mounds of debris as leaders carved their way up. One evening we were treated to a massive rockfall. A worried Dave asked rhetorically: “What the hell was that?”. Clinton’s stoic response, “Rockfall. It happens in the mountains”.

Clinton getting his grass on

IMG_1671.jpg

6) Balls-to-the-wall. Given our boat-side start combined with the fact that Bob disappeared for most of the wall, retreat was all but impossible. Nothing like a little forced commitment to focus the mind!

IMG_1646.jpg

7) Hanging out. Living on two large postage stamps (portaledges) for nine days had a certain charm, but also brought with it a raft of inconveniences. Everything needed to be tied in at all times, desired gear was always at the bottom of the haulbags and midnight bathroom escapades involved coordinated counter-shifting of bodies, an awkward abseil and then a jumar to get back up. Tea and meals were cooked from stoves hanging above the ledges, and there was always the possibility of the ledge flipping–an interesting proposition given our long leashes (sometimes up to 5 metres in length.) All that said, the cool-factor definitely outweighed the inconvenience. Theres no better way to enjoy a good horizontal sun-rise!

The finest portaledges around, thank you Black Diamond! These pictures were taken from the same position – one looking down and one up.

IMG_9804.jpg

IMG_9801.jpg

8) Awef-haul days. Some days were devoted to moving our camp up the wall. These were miserable days filled with never-ending logistics and an even greater number of opinions on how to solve them. Luckily, after we finally reached our new camp spot, erected the ledges and circulated a few cups of hot chocolate, all was well with the world again.

P7170215.jpg

9) The Route Name. We named our route Improbability Drive after the propulsion unit on the Heart of Gold spaceship in the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. By calculating exact improbability, the Drive allows you to travel to any point in space and time; the only way to scale an impossible wall?

Steve emerging from his rotten overhanging corner and on to a changing corners move – one of several lucky links on the climb

P7170161.jpg

10) Celebrations. How to celebrate, once safely back in the boat? Nothing beats a round of pancakes with speculoos (in honor of the Belgians) and chocolate spread!

And, of course, Greenlandic beer joined the party once we hit town

IMG_9305.jpg

Here are some more pics from our journey:

Scoping out Red Wall

IMG_1408.jpg

IMG_1409.jpg

Time for a dip!

IMG_1539.jpg

Careful where you stand! Sometimes perfectly normal looking ground turns out to be mud-soup

IMG_9696.jpg

Bob sails by Impossible Wall

IMG_1656.jpg

Ledge-mates Dave and Steve on set for their upcoming rap video

IMG_9854.jpg

Chief Safety Officer Dave gives thanks to the 11mm static as we top out. No rope has done finer service!

P7210278.jpg

Enjoying the views high on Impossible Wall

P7140036.jpg

P7190237.jpg

Ningo, showing off his chicken-legs on the summit

IMG_1931.jpg

Back in camp at last – now to wait for the elusive Captain Bob

IMG_9929.jpg

Our trusty jetboils ready to fire out some victory hot chocolate

IMG_9933.jpg

Pickup!

IMG_9942.jpg

Four amigos ready to celebrate

IMG_1970.jpg

IMG_1966.jpg

IMG_1965.jpg

IMG_1964.jpg

On to the next adventure. Baffin here we come!

IMG_1324.jpg

Helmets ready for action in case of a rock-sighting!

IMG_1425.jpg

Advertisements

Since Andrew’s Rock and Ice article comes out this month, I figured it was a good time to upload our full video to the interwebs. I’m going to do one last edit for a few film festivals next year so please let me know if you have any feedback or ideas.

 

Also I came across this amusing list of animals we saw and ate during the trip that we never published:

Seen
Musk ox
Musk rat
Caribou / reindeer
Bobcat
Arctic fox
Arctic hare
Dolphin
Phosphorescent jellyfish
Pilot whale
Humpback whale
Beluga whale
Bowhead whale
Arctic char (the one that got away)
Snow goose (This one didn’t get away!)
Ptarmigan
Bearded seal
Ringed seal
Many other unknown whales, seals, fish and birds!
Alas no Polar bear – as far as we know we’re the only boat that made it through last year without a sighting… boo

Eaten
Musk ox
Caribou
Moose
Whale meat and blubber
Seal meat and blubber
Narwhal blubber (Muktuk)
Amershuk (the fish that saved Greenland apparently)
Dried arctic char
Halibut

It’s been a few weeks since we hung up our winter gear and settled back to our former lives. Since personally that means lounging about Miguel’s at the Red River Gorge, I thought I’d take the opportunity to post a few pictures from the end of our adventure.

Last stop in Canada, Tuktoyaktuk

IMG_0906.jpg

Pingos (mounds formed by thawing and refreezing tundra) rise in the distance

IMG_0907.jpg

Another failed fishing attempt by Dave (moments before Ningo nabbed the onsight!)

IMG_0867.jpg

Dave checking out the local ice-cave, an underground freezer dug into the permafrost

IMG_0843 - Copy.jpg

Ever heard the phrase “sitting ducks”? Dave finds out what that really means on his hunting trip with some locals!

IMG_0812.jpg

Tuk is at the mouth of the Mackensie river so there is a LOT of driftwood

IMG_0743.jpg

A critter swims across a puddle

IMG_0764.jpg

Dave caught with his figurative finger in another pie

IMG_0791.jpg

Andrew surveys the bridge of a very kind tugboat that hosted us for a few days

IMG_0780.jpg

The Dodo entertains for a change. Hard liquor (a novelty in a dry town) mixed with game and dried Arctic Char (kind of like smoked salmon), not a bad evening!

IMG_0784.jpg

An early warning base (remnant of the cold war)

IMG_0872.jpg

A scene from another early warning base (this one torn down)

IMG_0663.jpg

IMG_0669.jpg

IMG_0674.jpg

Steve coming in for landing on an abandoned airstrip

IMG_0660.jpg

A cool license plate

IMG_0771.jpg

Locked and loaded! The guys load up their lockers with treats for the final stretch to Alaska

IMG_0787.jpg

Stormy seas hit us hard on the final stretch

IMG_0728.jpg

IMG_0692.jpg

IMG_0696.jpg

Steve showing off his handiwork (a 2 metre rip in the main)

IMG_3800.jpg

We sailed by some crazy colored slopes…

IMG_0943.jpg

…and enjoyed some amazing slow-motion sunrises

IMG_0948.jpg

IMG_0683.jpg

Dave taking down the sail for the last time, a somber moment

IMG_0938.jpg

Bob making the final peach and rhubarb crumble of the trip

IMG_3778.jpg

Steve, as usual video editing while the real work gets done

IMG_3783.jpg

Clint giving his famous celebration pose

IMG_3784.jpg

And finally we reach the US of A!

IMG_1032.jpg

IMG_0942.jpg

The land of gas-guzzlers!

IMG_0770.jpg

Our last port of call, former gold-rush town, Nome Alaska

IMG_4143.jpg

After we landed in Alaska we rented a car and explored some of the surrounding country including an amazing hot spring in the middle of nowhere

IMG_4035.jpg

IMG_4045.jpg

IMG_4029.jpg

IMG_4042.jpg

IMG_4001.jpg

IMG_4002.jpg

IMG_4003.jpg

IMG_4008.jpg

A creepy abandoned homestead near the hot spring

IMG_3964.jpg

IMG_3955.jpg

IMG_3952.jpg

IMG_3969.jpg

First-ascentionist of the Northwest Passage (1903-6), Roald Amundsen

IMG_3840.jpg

No, we couldn’t see Russia across the strait!

IMG_3828.jpg

IMG_3842.jpg

Nome’s primary industry these days? Extreme gold digging, performed with giant under-water vacuum cleaners and men in wetsuits (under the ice in winter), all filmed for reality television of-course. Pictured here is one of the many trawlers that cruise around.

IMG_4135.jpg

IMG_3837.jpg

Local bling, moose antlers

IMG_3822.jpg

Yup, it ends here…

IMG_3838.jpg

Another faux-la-bear sighting

IMG_3843.jpg

Hangin’ out at the local saloon

IMG_3844.jpg

Andrew peering out from a bright pink outhouse toilet

IMG_3883.jpg

Snow capped peaks around Nome

IMG_4062.jpg

IMG_4064.jpg

IMG_4066.jpg

Our first caribou sighting!

IMG_4086.jpg

Found in the Nome museum! Unfortunately we couldn’t find any locals who would play it for us…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well, that’s all folks!

Congratulations Andrew for his feature in SA Mountain.  Almost forgot that we climbed something on the trip it’s been so long!

Here is an excerpt of the article from their website

Below me are 29 pitches of free climbing on a new route on the so-called ‘Impossible Wall’ in Greenland. We are on day nine of our push up the wall. Above lies a wet, mossy chimney capped by a large wet roof. Dave Glass and Clinton Martinengo are hauling below – we have packed our portaledges for a final push to the summit. Steve Bradshaw had put it really nicely as I started the lead, ‘This one’s for the team, Andrew.’
I shuffle my way up the mossy wetness, trying to stick the foot smears, and struggling to stick hand jams in a perfect-sized crack. The roof gets closer, and I see a wet traverse under it leading to the left. It will involve underclings on wet rock to exit onto a small grassy ledge. I cannot see it, but I know that the ledge will home a nesting seagull, ready to protect its young with warm fish puke aimed at my face (at this point virtually all of  our gear reeks of semi-digested tuna).  Read more...

COVER IMAGE: Steve on the upper flake pitch belayed by Dave. Photo Andrew Porter
INSET IMAGE: Andrew in his element on the offwidth pitch. Photo Clinton Martinengo

Welcome to the Dodo’s Delight, our very special home base for the last few months.

The boat is 10m in length and sleeps 5 comfortably (well, fairly comfortably). We have a lot of climbing junk that is stashed in the forepeak next to Dave’s berth. Several months of food is stored in big lockers below the beds.

We have both solar and wind power, although on most occasions the engine is needed to give the batteries a good charge. We have three separate GPS plotters (all with slightly different roles and charts) and a few portable spares.

The stove is gimballed so you can cook in rough seas and runs on propane fed from a tank at the aft of the boat. It has a nice grill for toasting sandwiches along with a convection oven to bake bread. Clean water feeds from a tank at the fore, although we use bottles which we refill to keep track of stores. Washing up and some cooking is done with sea water to conserve our fresh supply.

In short, the Dodo is a well-worn but sturdy little vessel that packs some charm for its size. Perfect for a little adventure.

DSCF0064.jpg

We have been privileged to base ourselves out of the Hunters B&B while here in Tuk this week. It’s nothing short of an oasis compared to the hotels and guesthouses we’ve been through over the last few months so we’d like to give them a quick bit of promotion.

So, if you’re looking for a remote spot on the northern coastline of Canada look them up. (The manager Patsy can be reached at pcyakeleya@hotmail.com)

Beach bonfire made from the endless driftwood brought in by the Mackensie river

IMG_3644.jpg

IMG_3612.jpg

Tuk is a cute little town at the end of the Mackensie river. Local attractions include fishing and hunting, ice caves (used for refrigerated storage), beach bonfires and hiking trails on the tundra.

IMG_3657.jpg

At present there is an airport and a winter ice-road that connect to the rest of Canada (featured in Ice Truckers), but there is also a year-round highway project underway that should be ready in about five years time.

IMG_3661.jpg

IMG_3665.jpg

IMG_3675.jpg

IMG_3679.jpg

IMG_3691.jpg

IMG_3681.jpg

IMG_3680.jpg

IMG_3669.jpg

IMG_3667.jpg

As we come to the end of our expedition (just a few more weeks to go) we want to say a big thank you to First Ascent, our clothing sponsor.

Based in Muizenberg, South Africa, First Ascent have a great range of outdoor performance clothing and sub-zero sleeping bags. They are also a great champion of local climbing and have backed a number of South African teams around the world.

Virtually everything we wore and several sleeping bags were provided by First Ascent. Here is a quick walkthrough of the clothing we brought with us and why: