The Baffin Big Walls Expedition 2010 has safely returned back home from the high Arctic with a major new route on an unclimbed summit under their belt. The British trio of Mike ‘Twid’ Turner, Stu McAleese and Mark Thomas established the monster big wall route, Arctic Monkeys VI A4 V+ 1400m, over a period of three weeks with 18 consecutive nights in portaledges.
Reaching the summit at 1600 hrs on 24th May they were back down at the base of the pillar by 0400 hours in the morning – continuous daylight has its advantages as does using 100 metre ropes.
Seasoned big wall climber, Twid Turner, said: “It was a great route, an amazing line on a big, big wall and vertical all the way. Ever since I went to the area in ’99 the potential line had bugged me to go back and it was definitely as good as I remembered it.”
Stu McAleese described the trip as: “Totally full-on! At every level, it was an amazing experience. From the start to the very end of the expedition it required hard work every day. Living and climbing in such a remote place for a month non-stop in such extreme conditions was tough.”
The route is situated in the remote Stewart Valley among the Sail Peaks, 100 km north of the small Inuit settlement of Clyde River. Back in January DMMreported on their preparartions for the trip. The challenge of the sheer pillar taken by Arctic Monkeysinvolved consistently difficult climbing including 350 m of mixed snow and ice climbing.
The team experienced extremely cold temperatures (average -20°C), regular snow showers and windy conditions. Twid commented: “The cold made life harsh all the time. Belaying was the hardest thing to do, often requiring you to wear two duvets. ”
“The team worked hard every day and there was no let up. It was a very physical route. The climbing was hard aid with lots of serious climbing.”
Rotating leads on the climb they reached the summit on an amazingly clear day having run out of food and fuel. Twid described summiting on the virgin wall and peak in perfect conditions as: “Justification for all the hard work and suffering in the bad weather.” For Twid it was around big wall number 30 and 20+ major walls in the greater ranges.
Stuart McAleese said: “The trip finished unexpectedly when we had to leave base camp quickly to escape the thawing fjord. The skidoo’s that brought us in couldn’t reach us and we had to wade through freezing slush for 15 miles, all too aware that it was polar bear territory, in order to meet up with the Inuit recovery team.”
Twid thought getting out was one of the hardest days of the whole trip; just when you thought climbing what is likely to be one of the stand-out routes of the year.