Baffin Island – story, pictures and facts to all the first ascents
Big Wall Climbing in Baffin Island was a personal dream for many many years. A dream which was always in my mind, but simultanesly too far away to become reality. Baffin Island has the highest concentration of Big Walls on our planet.
But this year I put all the effort in organising a Baffin Expedition. And finally I experienced one of my craziest time in one of the most remote places of our world. During the 43 days in Base Camp we established four free climbing first ascents. “The Door” (8b), a 16 pitches long route along the East Face of Belly Tower with a super hard crux pitch freed by Iker and me. Furthermore we opened “Hotel Gina“(6b+) and “Hotel Monica” (6b+) on the 45om high White Wall. The last route got the name “Levi is coming” (6b/11 pitches) on the North East Pillar of Mt. Cook.
The climbing areas of Baffin Island has always been a place to make history. Legends like Doug Scott and Charlie Porter climbed the first major problems in the region of Mount Asgard in Weasel Valley in Auyuittuq National Park. But climbing on the East Coast is a different story. The logistic is much more complicated, the region is a way more remote, the temperatures are much lower and the polarbear is a serious fact to know. The knowledge of all this makes things not easier. But in the end all these facts are increasing the challenge of an expedition to the East Coast of Baffin Island.
I can´t tell you everything, but I want to share some thoughts with you out of my diary to the route „The Door“ on Belly Tower. The hardest free climb on Baffin´s East Coast with difficulties up to 8b.
Start of the route:
Stormy and cold. We stay our second night in the portaledge. Not in the wall, but on a big boulder at the entry of the wall. Yesterday we came up here. Ricky, Matteo, Ben and I have seen unbelievable rivers. Within days they became un-crossable. We had to look for a different way. Over the moraine on the western side towards strong headwind we walked up to the entry of the wall. Iker and Eneko waiting in the base Camp for our call. Today we managed to climb two pitches. Two pitches?! It was unbearable due to the strong, cold wind, after a while I did not feel my toes anymore, not to even mention my fingers. Not a good state to do technical climbing. When I reached the first stand I immediately went back into the portaledge to warm up. In the afternoon it was Ben’s turn, traversing to the right in difficult conditions. The two pitches today were very important. It was a tough fight under those circumstances but I hope that the weather will change soon.
First day of free climbing:
What a day! We free climbed the pitches till the end of the arch. I climbed pitches number 1 to 5, Iker did the 6th pitch. Four climbers working on the same project. The next day. Blue Sky. Iker and I are laying in the sun in front of our tent. Actually the weather report was correct, but the wall still looks wet. If everything goes as planned then Ben and Eneko will open the upper part of the route while Iker and I will free climb. But now it should get really difficult, the cracks above the arch are rounded with a hard move on the top.
I lay in the sun right under the Eastern wall of the Belly Tower. I am super exhausted and very tired. Yesterday at 1pm we reached the peak, a really nice moment. The end of a long project, even though we are not at the end of our climbing. At 5 in the morning we started from basecamp, and everything went perfectly. The others let me open the last pitches to the peak. Now I only need to free climb the last key part of the route, I placed the bolt for it yesterday.
The day of free climbing the crux-pitch:
Oh yeah! Yesterday was a perfect day – Amazing. A spectacular ending at Belly Tower.On the fixed rope I go up to the key pitch of the route. I warm myself up. Iker will be my belayer. The mind game starts. I start to climb but cannot hold the key part. I try it again but cannot hold the edge of the roof. Oh my god. I take a break. Then I start again, I can barely hear the cheers from the guys at the bottom. Can this be real? But I stay surprisingly calm today, even if this would be the perfect moment to get nervous. I take off my jacket, today is the warmest day on the wall so far. Suddenly I can climb the move and I clip the second bolt. Now the scary part starts, the rest of the length to the stand is super technical and you cannot make a mistake here. But I feel really good and only once it gets critical when my left foot slips. After around 15 minutes I reach the stand. I am super happy. Amazing. It could not had a better ending than this. I hang at the stand and still cannot believe it. Within the last hour Iker and I have been able to free climb the last missing pitch and finished probably the hardest free climbing of Baffin Island. At around 9 in the evening we put down our 40 kg haulbags in the basecamp. What else can you say to an experience like this? Today we all sit together at basecamp, enjoying the sun and thinking back to the project. You can see a look of relief in our faces. Everybody is happy.
Thanks to all the sponsors and to all who were involved making this dream becoming true. Big thanks to Ben, Iker, Eneko, William, Matteo and Riky as well.