Favresse and Shepton in West Greenland

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 12/07/2010
Agparssuit rises from the waters of Sortehul. Bob Shepton

The Belgian brothers Nico and Olivier Favresse, with fellow countryman Sean Villanueva and American climber and photographer Ben Ditto, have climbed the first of what they hope will be a raft of new routes on the little visited rock walls of Greenland's West Coast.

The four are travelling with British sailor and mountaineer Bob Shepton, a retired chaplain with a 10m Westerly named Dodo's Delight.

Shepton, a former vice-president of the Alpine Club, is perhaps best known on British soil for spearheading the development of Portland in the 'backwater years' of the 1960s and '70s, well over a decade before its renaissance in the late 1980s.

Shepton, who is 76 this year, has made five 'Tilmanesque' expeditions to Arctic Greenland and Canada, and is the only person to have twice been awarded the prestigious Tilman Medal by the Royal Cruising Club.

He has extensive knowledge of the West Coast of Greenland, both its waters and the costal mountains, and has made a considerable contribution to the Greenland section of the relevant Pilot book.

The talented Favresse brothers are also yachtsmen, having sailed with their father as children.

After meeting Shepton in Asiaat, where the boat had been left for the winter after a West Coast adventure in 2009, they helped crew Dodo's Delight 500km north to the Sortehul Fjord, not far from the major settlement of Upernavik.

There, the team opened its account with the first recorded rock routes on Agparssuit, a 540-metre high block of granite guarding the entrance to the fjord.

Jumping from the boat onto the rock, the four climbers unfortunately found the attractive, bright red appearance of the surface to be lichen, and they subsequently had to battle grass filled cracks and guano to create two 400m routes.

Ditto and Nico Favresse climbed the aptly named Seagull’s Garden, while Olivier Favresse and Villanueva put up Red Chilli Cream Cracker, a parallel line to the left.

After 20 hours' climbing, the four topped out and walked down the backside to a fine sheltered beach, where they were picked up by Shepton.

The Sortehul forms the waters to the south east of a large island named Qaesopssuaq, and at the west end of the island lies the impressive Sanderson's Hope (1,042m).

Sanderson' Hope, at N 72°, is a famous navigational headland, named in 1587 by John Davis as he set sail for Baffin Island in search of the North West Passage. The north face boasts a steep, clean, 800m-high granite wall rising straight from the sea.

In 2000 Graham Austick (UK), Paulo Pagini and Alberto Zuchetti (Italy) used Shepton's boat as a base to make the first ascent of the north face via a line named Arctic First Born (E3 5c and A3+).

The following year Canadians Jia Condon and Chris Romeskie travelled to Sanderson's Hope with Greg Landreth on his yacht Northanger. The three added a second route, Down North (V 5.10+ A1).

There are a number of untouched walls of similar height in this region, and the American-Belgian team, who are on a three-month trip, hope to climb several of these tasty objectives.

There will undoubtedly be more news to come from the West Greenland fjords as weeks progress.

In the photograph the two new routes climb the red prow between sunlight and shade, emerging onto the grassy summit.



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