American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Great Cross Pillar, South Face, Non-Conceptual Time

North America, Canada, Baffin Island, Sam Ford Fjord

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Climb Year: N/A
  • Publication Year: 1999

Great Cross Pillar, South Face, Non-Conceptual Time. Three days of rough travel brought my partner, Sean “Stanley” Leary, and I to the Great Cross Pillar in Sam Ford Fjord. We said goodbye to our Inuit friends and guides, then busied ourselves establishing a base camp in a wind-sheltered alcove west of our line. For three days we fixed through blustery weather; on the fourth we committed to the vertical world. After a week on the wall, life became routine.

As the days passed by, we watched springtime take effect on the world below us. We couldn’t help but wonder how much more time we had before it was no longer safe to travel. We climbed onward,ascending a pitch, perhaps two each day, pushing to finish before summer left us stranded. When we had three, sometimes four ropes fixed, we’d haul our five bags and set up a new camp. Our favorite camp was our last one, high on the headwall. It had a luxurious ledge five feet long and two feet wide. With 12 days of fatigue catching up, and a terrific castle to relax in, we found it all the more difficult to motivate for the arduous work of climbing upward.

We spent the next two days fixing three pitches, and, without knowing exactly how close we were, decided it was time to make a summit push. We set out after seven hours of rest, jugging our lines in blue skies and mild temperatures. To our excitement, one aid pitch and two mellow free pitches later we were at the top of the technical summit. After a mile of ridge climbing and hiking, we were as high as one could climb on the Great Cross Pillar.

Resting at Base Camp, we waited patiently for the Inuit to arrive, which they did, and not a day too soon. We took off across the melting expanse of sea ice, navigating through gaping crevasses and talus fields made of ice. Twenty hours into the journey, I peered over at Stanley, perched peacefully on a mountain of foam and caribou fur in the back of the sled. His calm, peaceful grin caused a wave of excitement to wash over me. We had accomplished what we came to do: Non-Conceptual Time (VI 5.11 A3+, 2,800', 20 pitches, 15 days), the third route on Great Cross Pillar.

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