Sandersons Hope, northwest face, new route. On July 2 the yacht Northanger set sail for Greenland from Port Kirwan, Newfoundland. On board were the captains/owners Keri Pashuk and Greg Landreth, climbers Chris “Beeker” Romeskie and I, and crew Angela Rivers and Duncan Kemp. The crossing to Faeringehavn took place during eight days of calm, with beautiful sailing among the sea birds, whales, and Newfoundland fishermen, who were shocked to see a sailboat so far off shore. A day later we were in Nuuk, the capital city, where final preparations were made for the long trip ahead.
Duncan completed his part of the journey, returning to Victoria. Northanger and crew continued for 18 days up the west coast, stopping occasionally to stretch our sea legs and do some exploring along the way. We sailed as far as 800 miles north of the Arctic Circle to the land of the midnight sun, our “planned” climbing area. Unfortunately, while there were many cliffs, the rock had the consistency of porridge. The sea was dangerously thick with both ice and massive icebergs, making for an easy decision to head back to Sanderson’s Hope, the most impressive objective we had seen on the way “down north” (Newfoundlanders call north down and south up).
Sanderson’s Hope has an amazing northwest facing sea cliff, which received its first ascent in the summer of 2000 by the Reverend Bob Shepton’s “crew” (I say crew reluctantly because his crew flew to Greenland, bypassing the sailing experience.) A stunning prow remained unclimbed and became our objective.
We obtained a secure anchorage in view of Sanderson’s Hope and sailed to the wall for a dramatic step off the bow onto rock. Greg, Beeker, and I spent a few days sorting and preparing gear, then fixing ropes before committing to the wall. The climbing was free but for 15 points of aid. The rock was generally solid with many cracks, but there were also features on sections of blank face. However, the initial cracks entailed some digging with a nut tool to obtain good protection and/or finger locks. In total, the ca 800-meter face took 10 days of effort with five nights on the wall (six days climbing, three days hauling, and one day off due to rain). Four 3/8- inch bolts were placed for our two camps and four 1/4-inch bolts were placed on lead for protection. Everything was hauled to the top and we walked off the back, greeted by Keri and Angela with champagne and cake. We christened our route Down North (V 5.10+ A1).
With the darkness descending and the chill of a coming winter in the air, we headed back down (or was that up?) the coast. From a small village called Attu, we crossed the North Atlantic again, making a more direct passage to the East Coast of Labrador. The crossing took six days and this time included stormy weather and intense sailing, with more than a few crew members seasick.
Overall, an amazing and challenging adventure with some great friends, lasting three- and-a-half months…and did I mention the romantic nature of a sea-faring life? Angela and I are now planning a life together.
Jia Condon, Canada