By Nico Favresse, photos by The Wild Bunch
Three weeks have passed now since we arrived on Baffin Island. [Editor’s note: Get caught up with Part 1 here.] Our first encounter with the local population already happened miles away from the coast when we met eight polar bears drifting on chunks of pack ice. It was quite a surprise running into them while weaving through broken up pack ice in thick mist.
After a quick stop in Clyde River to clear Canadian border formalities, we set sail for the big walls of Sam Ford Fjord. Right away our minds were blown away by the amount of huge rock faces and how little this place has been explored. It feels incredibly wild here, beautiful but also very powerful—we feel small and somehow vulnerable.
Despite of our daily jam sessions, the weather conditions haven't been cooperating very much. In three weeks we haven't had more than 24 hours of good weather! We did go climbing but it was full on adventure with snow storms, strong wind and loose rocks. It wasn't really what we had expected but it did enhance the experience a little.
A week after arriving in Sam Ford Fjord, we received our first visit by another sailboat. The weather had made it impossible to climb so all we’d been doing was jamming. As Navaro was a much bigger boat, they kindly invited us for dinner, but they didn't know what they were getting themselves into. For dessert we brought our musical instruments and jammed away as the wine was flowing. It was a powerful evening because at last we could perform and enjoy the fruits of all our hours of practice. When the concert was done, the weather cleared up and we made the impulsive, and not so wise, decision to go climbing at 10 pm.
Energy levels were high. Oli and I started a 1000-meter rock pillar while Ben and Sean chose a smaller (600m) but steep rock feature across the Fjord. Midway through the night we realized what we had gotten ourselves into but we kept riding the positive vibes of the evening. Slowly the weather deteriorated and by midday we were climbing in a snow storm. Fortunately for Ben and Sean, they were already on the final pitch of their feature and were enjoying the snowflakes which reminded them of Christmas time. But Oli and I still had a long way to go. After 20 pitches and with the snow building up on the ledges we finally turned around and thought about trying again in better weather. We did and it helped!
All in all we managed to put up four really nice new routes from 600 meters to 1000 meters climbed in non-stop pushes—some of them up to 36 hours long. We also failed a couple more times due to the weather or loose rocks which made us appreciate even more when we did pull one off.
After one of the climbs, Sean and Ben got stuck for five days because the sea was too rough for the boat to come and pick them up. They had to put their survival skills to practice especially since the fishing didn't prove to be very successful. They slept with a flare between them to protect themselves from the possible attack of a polar bear.
On the boat, the challenge has been to find good sheltered anchorage because the fjords are very deep and the wind changes direction all the time. A few times we used three different anchors and a line to shore to keep us safe. By night, a watch system had to be kept in case the anchor system failed.
Today we are sailing north to the big walls of Gibbs Fjord under perfect blue skies. It's the best weather we have had so far in Baffin Island so we hope it will hold on a bit longer. We feel the winter is slowly coming back with temperatures steadily dropping and daylight diminishing rapidly. The north faces are covered with fresh snow. We want to climb more… Let’s see!
Greetings from the sea,
Nico, Sean, Oli and Ben
(Read the conclusion in Part 3)
Nico Favresse is a Patagonia ambassador from Brussels, Belgium. In 2010, the same crew—Nico, Sean Villanueva, Ben Ditto and Olivier Favresse—joined Captain Bob Shepton for a sailing trip through the fjords of Greenland, eventually crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Scotland. Along the way they found virgin big walls and a bunch of good climbing, including the Impossible Wall. If you missed it, check out our coverage and watch the five-part video series.