Although I was glad to have done Once I was a little worried that I was ridiculously unfit having not climbed at all for a month over exams and not properly for a few more before that. Then having finished, only done one route; a slab.
A day at Cheddar struggling to get half way up 7b+s and a few days in Pembroke struggling to hang on to E5s certainly confirmed these worries. Newfoundland was to be a North Face-organised trip with Alex Honnold, James Pearson and Mark Synnot plus camera crew, routes of steep granite up to 14 pitches long… no worries right? After all 7b+’s at cheddar are no joke…
As chance would have it I wouldn’t need to be particularly fit for Newfoundland and neither would I get any fitter, since we spent most of it in a tent. It rained and it rained and it rained. 10 days we camped under the wall and of those days we climbed three, and of those days, only one was actually a ‘nice’ day.
But, it was a good trip anyway. A real adventure: with lots of driving, sailing, camping and getting to know nice people. This route took 4 days
Highlights included meeting the Newfies. Newfies are a rare breed of people, with a rare accent. You’d be hard pressed to even call it an accent considering it isn’t particularly clear that they are speaking English at all. The best description we could come up with was of an Irish man with a mouth full of marbles. George Fudge, our boat-man and host in the little town of Francois was certainly one on his own in terms of incomprehensibility. At best you could discern key words like FFFAAAAAAGGGGGGG (fog), which sounded a little bit like Brad Pitt’s ‘dags’, (“you like dags?”) in Snatch. Negotiating our early pick up from the cliff was challenging to say the least.
Other highlights were feeling like you were in Pocahontas discovering the ‘new world’. The landscape is beautiful but barren. Even in it’s most populated areas Newfoundland is basically empty compared to the UK (we saw about two cars on our way to Burgeo), so sailing to one of the most remote villages of Francois was quite the cultural experience.
Climbing highlights? Summiting the mountain was pretty special. Mark and I climbed Leviathan a stunning 5.12 that keeps you interested even on the easy pitches. And Alex and James finished an incomplete line to the left. We had initially wanted to put up some new routes on the wall but since the wall was either wet or getting rained on for the rest of our time there, we didn’t get the chance.
Lowlights? The fog. Rain and wind can stop you from climbing but fog can stop you from doing almost everything. Most mornings we couldn’t even see each other’s tents let alone go on long hikes. We also had a pretty rough storm one night with very high winds ripping through the camp. Mark’s tent was close to being completely destroyed and mine would have definitely blown away had i not been in it. After almost a week of fog and/or rain, motivation for life was wearing thin. By day 10 our love for the dome tent was running as low as the beer supply and we were ready to leave “the grimmest place on earth” – harsh words from Alex… it wasn’t that bad.
But the boat journey back to Francois was that bad. Judging from the shades of green we turned on that hour-long journey all of us (except from Mark) were clearly wanting of sea legs. Games of ‘fake vomiting’ played by the camera crew in attempt to set the rest of us off left a particularly bad taste in my mouth. The only thing that kept me going was the comforting fact that Alex looked far greener than I felt.