You can say that Zodiac is a piece of cake, but I was so proud, when I alone topped out in October 2006. I felt a certain calm contentment after my first climb in Yo thinking that I couldn't climb anything better... and I was wrong.
In that October, drinking my last coffee in the Caff just before setting off on my journey home, Tom asked me – What next after the Zod, Regan? What next? Then during the next 6 years he asked me the same question continuously - season after season. Till the last autumn, all my answers were written on the El Cap, but when I finished my MescaMondatta last year, I answered Tom differently– "I am going on Baffin Island".
This is a trip report regarding that answer...
Polar Sun Spire, north face
About 2 years ago, I got an email from Yeti:
Do you want to climb on Polar Sun Spire on Baffin Island?"
I answered immediately:
"Yes, I do"
Easier said than done, but step by step we were organizing the trip and solving all problems including the one at the top of the lengthy list – NO MONEY!!!
I never in my life said as many good things about myself as during the presentations of our project. I wasted the whole previous year ,when trying to kill my ego, but thanks to the meetings, we achieved healthy sponsorship.
We packed all our gear in six bags (and my ego in the seventh) before flying to Canada and meeting Ottawa Doug at the airport. I knew him from the Valley. Ottawa Doug did his solo on Mescalito in 2007. He played Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones and all good tunes from 70s and 80s. Doug , thanks for entertainment on my evenings on South Seas, and for hospitality during our short stop in Ottawa.
Next day afternoon, we were in Clyde River...
A window at the airport in Clyde River.
Our agent – Levi, picked up us from the airport...
...and we pitched our tent, because we had no money in the budget for 250$ pp/pn room in a local hotel. It was cold (minus 25 C. degree), but cheap (free), so we were happy...
Next day we did sightseeing and paid a short visit to the local store. I have never been in Beverly Hills, but the prices there must be similar to Clyde River, so we only sent some postcards and took some pictures...
...and came back to our igloo. After another cold night, we packed all the gear and...
...it was the time to go to the mountains.
The first stop was next to an iceberg. We had a chance to warm up frozen feet, take some pictures, chat with guides (Denis and Esa) and recover after a crazy ride in a box on a sled with no suspension system...
At another stop, we met some hunters with dogs. We shook hands and I realized that this was yet another local guy who had missing fingers...Hmm, it's not only me who finds this a really cold place.
Late afternoon, we set our BC at the base of the wall.
Checking all the gear, I realized, that the seventh bag was missing; I was ready for the wall. :) On the right was The Great and Secret Show (J. Chapman, W. Hollinger, M. Synnott, 1996), on the left was Norwegian Route (B. Bo, H. Hagen, T. Roisli, O. Wiik, 2000), but on the middle we put some dots saying: we gonna link them !!!!
Some sources say, that PSS is 1300m tall, other than over 1500m, regardless this was a huge wall
Next morning, my watch shows – 14/04/2012, 6:00 am, minus 20 C. degree...
It is time to go. We were hungry for a climb. No time for bla, bla, another coffee, taking pictures etc – The time is NOW!!!!
We took the first picture in the second day, when we were on fixed ropes.
Yeti was super effective on mixt climbing section below Camp II (M5-M7+/A3). The rock was loose, but The Boomerang crack was beautiful...
Day by day, we changed perspective. View from Camp II ledge. I was on the fixed lines...
21th of April. The Camp II is ready...
Daily cold news:
Yeti lost feeling in toes. Warming up of white toes took over an hour after breakfast, then he lead two pitches as we planned.
Thanks to the belay sit, we can take off the pressure on legs and keep warm feet. Belay exercises are necessary all the time. Do not be lazy, do not loose you toes...
Do not forget to empty your PPB ( Personal Piss Bottle), otherwise you need to step outside of portaledge...
Yeti makes the portions for meals. I am a cook. Perfect team work.
Temps in the portaledge – minus 10 to minus 20.
The Boomerang above the Camp III
Jugging on fix lines was a daily nightmare...
The second half of the wall
Yeti just before the entry to The Fridge
Yeti in The Fridge
The last return to the Camp II
21 hours hauling day to the Camp III
The middle of The Boomerang
At 2:00 in the morning we set the Camp III, then we had a day off
Daily cold news:
Every evening our Primaloft sleeping bags are like frozen balls ,except the down one which is like ice ball, as a result we can use only that Pimaloft bags.
Every day, My Gore Tex jacket sticks to the Primaloft inner jacket by ice. I have to rip one from the other...
In some really cold days, we can shot no more than 10-20 photos, because of flat batteries. Thanks to solar panel system we can recharge them. We took over 6000 photos plus some videos...
The crack on the Headwall reminded me climbing on The Shield – beautiful and clean...
The start was hard and exciting - hooks, head, rivets, and many, many beaks...
Short explanation for some of you who already started to laugh because of the orange poo bag : On this wall we carry our drilling set in the orange bag. It was scary start to the pitch, but not that much...:)
Return to Camp III after another pitch on the Headwall
A bird has been flying around the mountain for the past two days. Black, silent and lost. Unfolding his wings and embracing the wind. He is alike the birds of the Inuit sculptures. When he flies away we will be alone again.
No excuses in a team of two and no ego in a team of two.
Yeti said: We were like soldiers in the trenches. We had no choice , we had to fight arm by arm from the bottom to the top...
Bad conditions are not a sufficient excuse. We resolved to climb every day...
Racking up before pitch 27
The next day was the last hauling day
3th of May. 20th day of climb. Camp IV is ready...
Nobody ever makes any noise here. No animals, people, or flowing water to be heard. Apart from the sounds of our climbing and falling rocks in the course of 25 days we heard only:
a skidoo - 3 times
a jet plane - 3 times
beckoning huntsmen - 1 time
Silence is solitude...
Pitch 27 was one of the most spectacular.
Every time we passed that pitch we enjoyed the space...
The top is very close...
7th of May 2012. Yeti on the top
We had a little party, when we came back to the portaledge.
Straight after our celebration, Yeti began to read his book and I started to write my notes, then when I looked my climbing partner he seemed to be a little strange; more motivated, more ambitious, I would even say aggressive. Maybe it was the effect of his devotion to our ethos of "total commitment" or maybe I should not to drink that particular whiskey....
I soon realize, that after this wall we will never be the same...
The next morning, we dropped ropes for the descent and in ten hours we got to the fiord.
Behind us , we just left the wall with linked dots...
Fishermen who shared some food with us...
Hunters in a hut on the way to Clyde River
The last negotiation with Levi...
In Ottawa Yeti said: Every time I do some new wall, I go to some local barber shop...
We went to the towns Little Italy. Doug mentioned something about our climb. The guy from the left , was peeling of a pear, then in silence just cut the fruit on 4 pieces and shared with us. That was a great prize for me...
At the airport, we shook hands with Yeti and we went back to the ordinary life...
I would like to thank our sponsors: Polish Alpine Association, CAN Offshore, Goal Zero, Grivel, Zamberlan, and also Olympus, Timex, Monkey's Grip, Petzl, MSR, Black Diamond, Uvex, Lyofood, Atest, EPA.
Of course behind all brands and companies are people who shared our enthusiasm and crazy idea of climb that piece of rock...You guys rock!: Adam, Miriam, Piotr, Nathan, Alistair, Pawel, Mark, Dominique, Siobhan, Wojtek.
Thanks for any help, info and thumbs up: Ottawa Doug, Bjarte Bo, Mike “Twid” Turner, Mark Synnott, Maciek Ciesielski, Pete MacPherson, Tom Evans ( special thanks for the question), Adam, Russ, Levi, Denis, hunters who shared food with us, all friendly people on check-in desks at the airports and security guys who understood what we had to do...:)
Anyone who needs more info, feel free and drop me an e-mail ( I always respond).
More details (topo, gear list, day to day diary, blog, etc) you can find on my website : http://www.reganclimbing.com/index.php?lg=12
See you in the Valley...
Trip report gold! Really fun read. After a BASE jumping trip to Baffin... i have no idea how you guys tolerate that cold. Proud. Great photos and captions. Was that Noah in one of the last photos? I listened to a lot of Tupac and Snoop with that guy. Great times. Sam was our other guide. Would love to be back there, with warmer clothes.
Hi, Thanks for all comments, grats and responses.
You all rock!!! Thanks
Some short answer regarding cameras:
I had Olympus TG 820 and DSLR Olympus E-3. I had no problem to minus 10 and even in lower temps, but I could not keep the cameras outside all the time. Using a camera in that conditions we had 2 problems - coldness and humidity in portaledge during cooking.
I had some LI batteries, but in that temps nothing works fine. The most important was recharging system, solar panel+battery+inverter ( Goal Zero). You can check all technical details on my website.
There is only one thing to say - YOU GUYS ARE BADASS!
I only saw a few of the pics at my home, but this TR really tells a big chunk of the story. Amazing vertical spaces, hard climbing, harder weather and two climbers fully committed. As always those of us reading this TR who weren't there think we know how tough it was, but actually don't fully understand.
I can't imagine what else there is for you guys to go climb. As always your TR's are funny and informative at the same time. I love that opening picture beside the title Superbalance. Good art! Huge hello to Marcin (Yeti) and to you also Marek (Regan). Looking forward to the next time we meet in the valley.
Yeti and me want to thank you all for your comments. Also, I want to thank all guys who climbed the wall before us. They inspired us for taking the challenge. It was like sharing a flame of a candle...
Ottawa Doug - special thanks and see you in the magic Valley.
The true about being Badass is that we are Badass when we are back home. When we are on the wall, we are always lost softies like Sierra Ledge Rat said...:))))))
Paul Souza - What weird is with the rope?
Color? The shot has been taken with Magic Filter.
Zig zag? Because of back cleaning...
The angle? because during the shot, I kept the camera very close to the wall.
Laughingman - We had the gun, but fortunately we didn't have to use...
inspiring report--although for some reason i'm not inspired to undertake this.
pretty cold temperatures, but would i be right in assuming the weather is more reliable in april than july or august for a long climb like that? i think april is preferred for denali climbs because of that--deep chill but good weather.
congrats on keeping all your fingers and toes. FYI, i lived in beverly hills for a year quite cheaply, but didn't eat in any of the restaurants and didn't stay in any of the hotels.
And way to stay psyched, and keeping after it for days on end.
It's really hard to convey the scale and magnitude of that wall. When Lovelace and I were below it on our way in to Walker Citadel in '95 we were in AWE. What wasn't conveyed here is that Polar Sun faces east, so it doesn't get much sun that far north. It's also right where the main fjord forks, with the Walker Arm heading off to the right. Because of this aspect the face is right in a wind tunnel as the wind barrels off the ocean, and down the main fjord - headlong in to this face.
Tony Bird - temps in april are really low, but feeling of coldness is even worse. The difference between Winter and Summer is that in the Winter snow storm you can climb (slowly but you can), but in the rain/snow storm this is impossible or much harder...
Paul Gagner- yes, we had 20 min of sun on the Camp II on north face during a sunset starting at 9:00pm, then all the time cold north shade.BTW your story about return in 1995 is really epic. Did you write something about it...? After 23 days on the wall you hike back nearly 200km!!! Believe me, on some belay I tried to imaging your trip. Respect...
Wrote an article for the '95 AAJ. We didn't finish the hike out. Hiked out three days before we realized we were on a suicide mission, and turned around and hiked back three days. We had all these raging river crossings, at peak snow melt. Eventually picked-up by some guys from Clyde River.
Be in the Valley this fall for an EC route - I'd love to buy you a Cobra. Super Proud!!
That is at least 10 times more bad-ass than anything else that i've ever heard of anyone doing ever. I am literally speechless as i look through your photos in a state of total bewilderment. My eyes are wide open and i'm actually drooling. That is fcuking incredible. How can you possibly live a normal life now? Was it even possible to return to civilization without some sort of massive culture shock? You guys are an inspiration.
Not much I can add to what has already been said. Wonderful TR, freaking cool send, I'm impressed beyond words, envious on many levels...sounds like the adventure of a lifetime times a thousand. Thanks so much for sharing that.
These guy's should get a chapter in the second addition of "Freedom Climbers." I think this may be the best trip report I've ever seen on this website. How he keeps a sense of humor about such a clearly very serious and dangerous climb is beyond me. I'd love the AAC Journal to publish it as it is. It'd be a great statement.
wow! thanks for putting this together.. you guys are badass...
i came back from a trip to baffin yesterday and this is the third thing i see on the internet!... hardcore!!
baffin is such a wild, mind-bending place!
those pics are the most interesting climbing pics i have seen in a long time.
...and we thought we had bad weather... ;-)
only ever did one wall--the nose. love bouldering, never did any winter climbing. but anyone with the tiniest bit of a climbing soul can see that this is an incredible project. It's really a privilege to read about it. If rank were based on views, I bet this report would rarely leave the front page...
I don't even know what to say. I mean...
that reset my whole notion of what is possible.
I didn't even know it was possible to stay on a wall that long, in that kind of cold, and live to tell about it.
Are you guys human?
What also amazes me is that you liked doing it.
Big congratulations, 110% commitment for sure. Way to keep going up.
What's next!? I shudder to think...
Pete - a few answers...
We had 3 gallons of white gas. In a fact, we carried four, but one was not even opened.
We used multifuel stove MSR GXT Ex and we had another one as a backup (Edelrid)- not any problems at all.
30 belay bolts have been hand drilled and we place 15 rivets. 13 rivets for bypassing loose rock sections (10 on the end of the Boomerang and 3 on the beginning of the Arena) and 2 on A4 pitch. The detailed topo you can find on my web page or I can email you.
April/May is a cold time on the east coast of Baffin, but the weather is more stable then in summer season (see the last TR from Baffin). Generaly we called this climb as big wall alpine, because of winter conditions and mixed climbing techniques. BTW Synnott/Hollinger/Chapman climbed in May-July...
OMG, mouthhangingopenjawonthefloor! WOW! What an effort. It's mind boggling the conditions that you guys were operating in. Mixed climbing to M7+ with all that aid gear hanging off and jackets and giant boots...
Happy, Exciting and Successful New Year!!!
Thanks again everyone...
Yeti has been made some short video as an example of about 4 hours wall short films we have. We are ready to work on some short movie project with any filmaker, who is interested in that idea.
Feel free and drop me an email.
le_bruce, the music is by Dj Shadow - Giving up the Ghost.
We did not drop too many stuff. As far, as I remember just one pulley, which by a mirracle uncliped from a harness during jugging. That effect on our hauling, but Yeti is strong, so no problem...:)I couldn't clean some BD cam, so anybody will do a second ascent can get Nr2 or 3 just below the Fridge...
Falls? Yeti - one, leading M7 pitch. Me - three on aiding. Two on the Boomerang, one on A3 section, just above A4 on the Headwall.
Thanks, that photo from the Headwall is my favorite too...