Baffin Big Wall Concert - New Routing for the 'Wild Bunch'

by Natalie Berry - UKC Sep/2016
This news story has been read 4,604 times

This summer the 'Wild Bunch' - consisting of Belgian climbers Nico Favresse and Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll alongside Italians Matteo Della Bordella, Matteo De Zaiacomo and Luca Schiera - spent two months on Baffin Island, Canada, where they established a long list of remote, multipitch trad routes on their latest musical climbing expedition. Nico and Sean are renowned for their quirky climbing films shot in remote places, featuring performances of their climbing-inspired music and plenty of self-deprecating humour.

Approaching on both skis and a sailboat, the team arrived at Sam Ford Fjord to begin their big-wall concert. Armed with musical instruments and trad gear, they explored unclimbed granite and had some adventures along the way: the sailboat became stuck between drifting plates of pack ice - after getting distracted by nearby polar bears - and they were charged at by a 'fat walrus' and jumped into the Arctic Ocean. No doubt we can expect another highly entertaining film of the expedition in the coming months, along similar lines to Jungle Jam, Asgard Jamming, Vertical Sailing Greenland and Dodo's Delight.

Read a brief report from Nico on Planetmountain.com. The list of the team's ascents is included below:

Baffin Big Wall First Ascents

All climbs were completed without the use of bolts.

Down the slope without a ski
Walker Citadel North West Face, in the Walker arm
5.12a/7a+ 1000m climbed in a 32h push camp to camp. Sean Villanueva, Nicolas Favresse, Luca Schiera. The team descended via a snow couloir on the south side of Walker Citadel.

E poi boh
Walker Citadel
5.11d/7a 800m. A route which stops 200 metres from the end of the wall. Matteo De Zaiacomo and Matteo Della Bordella

Coconut connection
Great Sail peak, Stewart valley 
5-12d/7c  700m + 350m (first tier) climbed all free over 8 days. Matteo Della Bordela, Sean Villanueva, Nicolas Favresse, Matteo "Giga" De Zaiacomo and Luca Schiera. This line is a connection between the American route Sodomy, and the Lash (first part) and Russian route Rubicon (upper part) with some major variations in between.

Mascalzone Latino
5.12b/7b & A0 (one pendulum on the last pitch) 600m + easy ridge to the summit,in 24 hours from the big ledge, the crux pitch was climbed on redpoint. Luca Schiera and Matteo Della Bordella

The Northwest passage
Great Sail peak, Stewart valley 
5.12a/7a+ 700m + 350m (first part) climbed from the big ledge after the first part in a 36 h push camp to camp.Nicolas Favresse and Sean Villanueva
We won’t get many opportunites put up such perfect route in a life time. "It’s definitely a king line" said the team. The route climbs mostly Yosemite-style perfect continuous clean cracks. 100m short of the summit Sean and Nico got caught by bad weather and were forced to improvise a bivy in order to wait for better free climbing conditions. After about 8h of shivering fortunately their patience paid off and the sunshine came back allowing them to freeclimb the last crucial link of the free ascent: a 30m unprotectable slab!

The seed of madness
The tree of wisdom 
5.11c/6c+ & A0 (one pendulum) in 24 h from camp, for the mountain we propose the toponym "The tree of wisdom". Sean Villanueva and Matteo Della Bordella

24 h round trip camp to camp
East prow of Copier Pinnacle
5-11d / 7a 600m climbed all free in 25h push camp to camp on the south. Luca Schiera and Nicolas Favresse.

Catacomb
Citadel, Stewart Valley
5.12a OW 900m climbed all free in a 32h push camp to camp on the far right end of the Citadel, Stewart Valley - Sean Villanueva and Nicolas Favresse. This line follows a dihedral just left of the route Arctic monkeys. Our original plan was to climb where the route Arctic monkeys goes, but once we reached the base of the wall we were turned off by lots of ropes hanging on it. So we chose to climb the dihedral system on the left which turned out to be a feast of wet and mossy slots, chimney and Offwidths! A masterpiece for any wide crack addict with a slight love for masochism. The team descended walking on the back side and around via a glacier.

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