On 24th May 2010, Mike ‘Twid’ Turner, Stuart McAleese and Mark Thomas completed their objective of making the first ascent of a previously unnamed peak and Big Wall in the Stewart Valley, Baffin Island.
The wall is located in Sail Peaks, an area full of gigantic rock faces, many of which have never been scaled. This is the first time a UK team has made a first ascent here and indeed are one of only a handful of teams world-wide to even attempt such a climb.
In 1977 a Canadian team were the first on record to climb in the area, scaling 22 peaks and naming one of the summits Sail Peak.
Then in 1998 a US team climbed and filmed the North East Face of a neighbouring summit to Sail Peak, naming it Great Sail Peak. Rum, Sodomy and the Lash (VI 5.10 A4+) was their Big Wall route, but they came back with film of a wall to the east which became known as the Citadel. The Citadel was climbed the following year by a team which included Twid and Louise Turner (neé Thomas), creating Endless Day (900m: 25 pitches: VI A3+).
Most recently a Russian 5-person team succeeded in establishing a second route on Great Sail (1,150m: VI A4 5.11 85-90°) with Valeri Rozov spectacularly base-jumping from the top.
The team spent 18 consecutive nights on the face. Contrary to expectations, the weather was often harsh with driving snow and high winds hampering the climb at times.
Warming water for hot drinks and rehydrating meals took an hour and a half before it reached a temperature which was usable, whilst belaying required two duvet jackets to combat the extreme cold. The team ran out of fuel and food on the last day before they made the summit but decided to press on. They were rewarded with bright sunshine as they topped out. Temperatures averaged around -20°C for much of the expedition, warming considerably on the last day.
Late spring is the ideal time of year to climb in this area. The weather us generally stable and access by skidoo across the frozen fjord is relatively easy. Any earlier is too cold, any later and there is the risk of the ice starting to thaw making it difficult to get out.
As it was, an early thaw did begin to occur. With the skidoo unable to reach base camp the team opted to make a quick escape, having to wade through freezing slush for around 25 kilometers to meet their Inuit drivers.
Twid, Stu and Mark would like to thank all the organisations who supported them on this expedition: Sponsers were Comvergent, DMM, Mountain Equipment and Lyon Equipment, whilst grant support came from the Mount Everest Foundation, the British Mountaineering Council and the Mark Clifford Mountaineering Grant.
Take a look at the latest raft of pictures from the Expedition: