In May, a team from the Chamonix-based GMHM (the French mountain military) opened a new route on Baffin Island, Canada. After two weeks of free climbing and difficult aid climbing, the team of four climbers reached the summit of an aesthetic tower overlooking the icy Gibbs Fjord. The team consisted of: Captain Pierre Sancier (Expedition Leader), Chief Adjutant Arnaud Bayol, Master Corporal Antoine Bletton and Mr. Dimitry Munoz, as well as Chief Doctor, Benoit Ginon. The team named the route Réveiller le Méchant (900m, ED- A3/A4- 6a) and the tower 'Tour du GMHM.' Antoine Bletton sent us the following report about their trip.
Translated from French.
The first days involved a detailed reconnaissance of the tower and its potential lines. The one that caught our attention was the eastern ridge, with very steep pitches winding around beautiful granite.
On 13th May, despite difficult weather we set to work and fixed 400m of ropes in one week to a bivouac site mid-route. We went back and forth between the wall and the base camp to complete the route in 7 days. The easy mixed pitches at the bottom gave way to good fights whilst aiding in steep dihedrals, where the position and exposure were almost as striking as the rock itself.
Some slabs were climbed in rock shoes and without gloves, but the temperature was not conducive to freeing the route in its entirety. One day was used as a rest day and to prepare the bivouac and climbing equipment for the final push. On 21st May, we removed the fixed ropes to the base camp and settled on the ledge for the next seven days.
It took a further two days to get to the foot of the headwall. This highly exposed summit wall featured the most aesthetic but also the most delicate moves of the route. A dihedral of 100m in length sported the same red/orange rock as the Mont Blanc massif. It was quickly despatched by aid climbing and would be a stunning free pitch - under warmer temperatures! We then arrived at a critical pitch: the dihedral disappeared and the crack stopped in its tracks. This pitch of 30m in length was definitely the crux of the route and was on the A3/A4 side.
There were two pitches to reach the rocky summit of this tower. A falling rock from the summit belay landed directly onto the pack ice 850m below. There was 50m of uneven snow before the team arrived on top of the snowy cap. On 26th May our goal was achieved:
"The strength of the group allowed us to hold on for the 15 days of climbing. Each day the lead team took turns to progress while the other pair ensured the logistics (hauling, building the belays, cleaning the wall). All four of us were delighted to be at the top of this previously unclimbed tower. We were inspired by these shared efforts and by the aesthetics of this objective that our GMHM elders had flown over and photographed by plane in 2001. In the end, it was thanks to them that we got there!"
As the icing on the cake, Arnaud Bayol descended by BASE jump. He was at the base camp 1.5 minutes later, while the rest of us took 1.5 days to dismantle all the fixed ropes and descend with all of the equipment. This once again underlines the strength of the group for such a project. We left the base camp on Gibbs fjord on 30th May with fond memories of the route and a heightened desire to find more new lines.