Two Baffin Big Wall Aid Solos by Marek Raganowicz

by Natalie Berry - UKC May/2017
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Polish climber and Scottish resident Marek Raganowicz has established two new aid routes in rope solo style on the East and North faces of the Ship's Prow, Baffin Island, Canada. Marek spent 7 weeks alone on the island - except for the brief and thankfully uneventful company of some curious polar bears - and was out there for 12 weeks in total.

Marek on Secret of Silence, 207 kbMarek on Secret of Silence
© Marek Raganowicz

Marek and fellow Polish climber Marcin Tomaszewski arrived at Sam Ford Fjord on 3rd March with the intention of establishing a new line. Extremely cold conditions (feeling about -50°C) and very strong wind forced the pair to give up. Marcin returned to Poland whilst Marek moved further north to the base of the Ship’s Prow North Face on Scott Island.

Red: Secret of Silence, North face of Ship’s Prow Green: Hinayama (Mike Libecki, 1999), 267 kbRed: Secret of Silence, North face of Ship’s Prow Green: Hinayama (Mike Libecki, 1999)
© Marek Raganowicz

Marek told UKC:

'I spent a couple of days fixing my eyes on walls and faces around me wondering where it would be possible to lead new lines. I found my perfect route, but it was still too cold for climbing. In the meantime, I found out that coldness on the east side was bearable for a couple of hours when the sun shined. '

photo
The striking Ship's Prow
© Marek Raganowicz

Although his priority was to climb the taller and steeper North Face, Marek would have had to wait a long time for better conditions. Concerned about wasting time, Marek decided to pack up his gear and start climbing on the East Face as an alternative option. The style of the ascent was key:

'My main goal was to climb without drilling. I wanted to keep my routes natural in character.'

Mantra Mandala topo, 171 kbMantra Mandala topo
© Marek Raganowicz

Following 17 days on the East Face, Marek had established a new line, which he called MantraMandala (VI, A3+) and after a further week of resting, he fixed the first pitch on the North Face. Unfortunately, wind picked up and climbing conditions became more difficult. Marek commented:

'I topped out on 1st May 2017 and I called my second route Secret of Silence (VI, A4). On the last day conditions became worse, lots of fresh snow and very strong wind made the descent and carrying bags down quite risky.'

Evidence of a polar bear's visit to Marek's camp, 125 kbEvidence of a polar bear's visit to Marek's camp
© Marek Raganowicz

Marek sent us the following details about the two lines:

  1. MantraMandala, VI, A3+, 450m, East Face of Ship’s Prow, Scott Island, 6 bathooks, no rivets, no bolts, all belays natural, no fixing from the ground. 23.03-08.04.2017
  2. Secret of Silence, VI, A4, 600m, North Face of Ship’s Prow, Scott Island. No drilling at all. 4 pitches fixed. 16,18,20,22,23.04-01.05.2017

Marek Raganowicz: Big Wall rope soloer extraordinaire, 167 kbMarek Raganowicz: Big Wall rope soloer extraordinaire
© Marek Raganowicz

Marek's ascents come five years after he established Superbalance (VII, A4, M7+) on Polar Sun Spire on Baffin Island alongside frequent partner Marcin Tomaszewski. A self-sufficient climber with some committing rope solos to his name, Marek more recently made the first winter solo ascent on Troll Wall (Trollveggen) in Norway, with a rope solo of the 18 pitch route Suser gjennom Harryland (6/A3) (UKC News Report).

Marek is sponsored by: Atest, CAN Offshore, D4 Big Wall Gear, Edelweiss, Grivel, Monkey Grip, Patagonia, Polish Alpine Association, Sea To Summit and Zamberlan

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