Shepton's crew climb major new rock routes in West Greenland

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 26/07/2012
The Red Wall of Agparssuit, now home to five ca 350m routes. Bob Shepton

Travelling aboard the yacht Dodo's Delight, skippered by Bob Shepton, a South African team has put up big new rock routes alongside those of the American-Belgian team awarded a Piolet d'Or in 2011 for its Greenland ascents.

In 2010 Shepton took the "Wild Bunch" - Ben Ditto, Nico and Olivier Favresse, and Sean Villanueva - to the Upernavik region of northwest Greenland, where they put up four major routes on the huge granite sea cliffs that characterize the region.

On what Shepton dubbed the Red Wall, on the headland of Agparssuit at the southern end of the Sortehul Fjord, Oliver Favresse and Villanueva put up Red Chilli Crackers (350m, 5.12- R or E6 6b), while Ditto and Nico Favresse climbed Seagull's Garden (400m, 5.11 or E5 6a). It was on the latter that one bolt was placed to protect a compact slab - the only bolt placed during the entire expedition.

Last year Shepton joined an Italian team on the super-yacht Billy Budd and during this productive trip three Italians, Luca Argentero, Michele Maggioni, and Beppe Villa added another route to the Red Wall - Little Auk (450m, 7a) -  on the east face well right of the American-Belgian lines.

Now there are two more, albeit a little shorter. South Africans Steve Bradshaw, David Glass, Clinton Marteningo and Andrew Porter climbed Flight of the Dodo (350m, 511d) and Can't be Gull-able (300m, 5.10d and A1, gear pulled on to surmount a roof). The climbers accessed the wall by dinghy.

Following the example of the American-Belgian team, the South Africans walked off the back of the peak, but ended up on the wrong side of the final col, as Shepton had been forced to move anchorage due to a wind change.

They were discovered by another boat, having been forced to make a long walk... with feet bound in climbing tape.

The team's main goal was to add a new route to the nearby Impossible Wall, climbed by the American-Belgian team to produce Impossible Wall and the Devil's Brew (850m, 19 pitches, 5.12+ or E7 6c). This route was put up without bolts in 11 days using three portaledge camps. It is likely the hardest major rock climb in West Greenland.

The South Africans chose a parallel line a little to the right of the existing route and climbed it over nine days, redpointing all pitches; Impossible Drive (850m, 5.12b/c). This time they started the route straight off the yacht, moored to the sheer cliff with cams.

The South Africans have impressive rock climbing CVs, Marteningo is thought to be the country's top all rounder, having climbed 8c on bolts and 7c+ trad. Bradshaw has climbed 8b and the others are no less capable.

Shepton, 77, has now been on 10 Arctic expeditions and has twice been awarded the Tilman Medal.

Ice permitting, the team's next objectives are large sea cliffs in Arctic Canada, after which Shepton wants to investigate the possibility of taking Dodo's Delight through the Northwest Passage.

The British team of Lee Roberts, Dave Rudkin and Olly Sanders, supported by grants from the BMC and Welsh Sports Association, should be arriving in the Upernavik region about now, intent on exploring rock walls in a fjord Sanders had briefly seen on a previous visit.


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