The Cleanest Line


[Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll practicing what his fellow Pataognia Climbing Ambassdor Nicolas Favresse calls
[Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll practicing what his fellow Pataognia Climbing Ambassdor Nicolas Favresse calls "his best skill," in the heart of the high lonesome. Photo: Stephanne Hanssens]

Big Wall Free Climbing on Baffin Island

By Nico Favresse   |   Sep 15, 2009 September 15, 2009

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Patagonia Rock Climbing Ambassadors Nicolas Favresse and Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll recently returned from a month of superlative success on Baffin Island’s numerous remote and wild granite walls. We were thrilled to receive Nico’s letter (below) and have been spending no small amount of time ogling all of the outstanding photos they brought home. We can’t bear to sit on this meaty news any longer but need to beg your pardon – it’s a bit more medium-rare than we typically like to serve up (read: captions are lean on details). We’ll get those updated shortly. Until then, here’s Nico:

Sean Villanueva, Stephane Hanssens, Olivier Favresse and I Just came back from an expedition in Baffin Island. We had an awesome trip! Free climbing in Baffin is amazing and the potential for free climbing and first ascents seems endless. Our main target was to climb around Mount Asgard (in Inuit, Sivanitirutinguak), which is one of the craziest looking mountains I have ever seen. It consists of two cylindrical towers with super steep and long walls all around. (hit the jump for more story and loads of amazing pictures)

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Besides the climbing, one of the main difficulties out there is the remoteness of the place. Over the course of 45 days, we hiked a full month (about 600km) ferrying loads ( 3 weeks up /one week down) for only two weeks of climbing! It seems ridiculous, but the climbing and the place is so unique that in the end it felt well worth it. At least all along the way up to Mt. Asgard, there were tons of incredible boulder fields with perfect soft tundra landings to keep ourselves in shape. Bouldering out there is definitely something to consider.

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Expert aid climber soloist, Silvia Vidal from Catalunya, came on the trip to make her logistics as a soloist easier. After a few days of carrying loads to the base of Tirokwa wall (her original objective), she felt not enough connection with the wall to spend all the effort of putting up a new route solo. Instead she decided to do some trekking.

We decided to invite her to come along climbing Mt. Asgard. For us as free climbers, we found it would be interesting and that we could learn from having an aid climber along. Plus she had a Portaledge which was a nice thing since originally we decided

Whiskygonzales Olivier and I climbed the North-East face of the North Tower on what we believe is a new line following Serenity-Crack-style splitters. We think the upper part of the climb might share some pitches with a line put up this season by Canadian climbers, Jon Walsh and Chris Brazeau. The quality of the climb was amazing; both of us climbed it free with no falls and onsighted it in about 24 hours. The climb is very sustained in the 5.10/5.11 range and the climbing is at times delicate with run-outs on faces between cracks.

Overall we had an awesome time climbing in Baffin. The weather was extremely good with comfortable temperatures and almost no precipitation. In the summer, there are no nights in Baffin so it’s great for long alpine pushes. We didn’t have to use any headlamps the whole time we were there! We will definitely have to go back. The future of big-wall free climbing is out there.

We would like to thank our sponsors for their crucial support: The Belgian Alpine Club, Black Diamond, Patagonia, Sterling Ropes, Milo, Five Ten, Boreal, Petzl, Seeonee, Crux, Julbo, belclimb.net, climb.be, UPMM.

The routes climbed on this trip were:

– First ascent of Le bic rouge d’Odin (5.10, 800m) unclimbed virgin tower climbed onsight in a single push.

– First ascent of Chocolate Boomerang (5.11, 700m) Mount Tirokwa climbed onsight in a single push.

– The Belgarian (5.13 A1, 850m) west face of Mount Asgard’s South Tower climbed in 11 days, big wall style. One aid move.

– First ascent Whisky Gonzales (5.11, 1200m) northeast buttress of Mount Asgard’s North Tower, climbed onsight in a single push.

– Porter Route (5.12 /A4) climbed in a single push, north face of Mount Asgard’s North Tower. 3 pitches not freed.

Nico

The trip was supported in part by the Belgian Alpine Club, which offers an expedition blog with additional pictures and details. Nico’s personal website is also worth a visit.

Routes pictured above: Top – Chocolate Boomerang; Middle – Mt Asgard with the Porter Route highlighted on the left and The Belgarian on the right; Bottom – Whisky Gonzales. Photos: Nicolas Favresse

Keep scrolling for more photos from the expedition . . .

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Le bic rouge d’Odin – Odin’s Red Pen

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Olive and Sean take a break from hauling on Mt. Asgard.

Photo: Stephanne Hanssens

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The whole team on top of the south tower of Mt. Asgard. From left to right : Steph, Nico, Sean, Olive and Silvia. Photo: Stephanne Hanssens

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Olive crimping hard trying to redpoint pitch 6 of the Belgarian.

Photo: Sean Villanueva

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The Favresse brothers and Sean talking about the battle plan.

Photo: Stephanne Hanssens

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Looking out the plane toward the Weasel Valley. Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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Our last Load to Mt.Asgard. Photo: Olivier Favresse

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The team. From left to right : Steph, Olive, Nico, Sean and Silvia.

Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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Steph on pitch 2 of the Belgarian. Photo: Sean Villanueva

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Nico going for it on the heady slab of pitch 1. The granite is incredibly featured allowing us to face climb a lot. Photo: Olivier Favresse

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Silvia finding her way free on the pitch 3 of The Belgarian. Photo: Olivier Favresse

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Our light big wall strategy involved sleeping in a hammock. Only rock, paper, scissors could chose who’s turn it was. Photo: Sean Villanueva

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Olive lost this time 😉 Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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Portaledge party up Mt. Asgard. Photo: Silvia Vidal

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The wall was really sustained, with a bunch of hard pitches on top of each other. Here Steph take his turn to try to redpoint pitch 5. Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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On the way to the summit, Olive take his breath in the middle of an off-width.

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Pitch 12 goes trough a mega hand crack roof! Here Sean is just past the roof enjoying the air. Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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The quality of the climbing is amazing. Here Nico making his way to the summit on perfect hand cracks. Photo: Sean VillanuevaP1120055

The Belgian team. Left to right : Sean, Nico, Steph and Olive.

Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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Sean taking a rest in the hand jams of the incredible pitch 6 of The Belgarian.

Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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Nico pushing it during the making of Whisky Gonzales. Photo: Olivier Favresse

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Olive on one of the many superb thin cracks of Whisky Gonzales.

Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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Midnight light. It didn’t get any darker than this during our whole expedition.

Photo: Nicolas Favresse

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Nico on the final pitches of Whisky Gonzales. Photo: Olivier Favresse

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