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Exotic New Routes on Greenland’s Big Walls

The sailing vessel Dodo’s Delight acted as a floating base camp for Ben Ditto, Nicolas and Olivier Favresse and Sean Villaneuva on their three-month “vertical sailing” expedition to Greenland’s west coast this summer. The four established numerous routes, none of which have been graded yet. Here, Ditto climbs out of Dodo’s Delight onto The Devil’s Brew (850m) on Seagull Wall. [Photo] Courtesy

Three portaledge camps are indicated in this topo of The Devil’s Brew, a new route established on the Seagull Wall in Greenland by the Favresse brothers, Ditto and Villaneuva from July 12 to 22. [Photo] Courtesy

This summer, brothers Nicolas and Olivier Favresse, fellow Belgian Sean Villanueva and American climber and photographer Ben Ditto climbed a string of new routes on the west coast of Greenland. To add to the adventure, they accessed these climbs from a floating base camp; British sailor Bob Shepton hosted the expedition on his 10-meter Westerly, Dodo’s Delight.

Despite a broken engine, Shepton sailed 300 miles in the first week of July through iceberg-filled fjords to Sortehul Fjordin. There, the crew set their eyes on The Red Wall, a face swathed in red lichen and seagulls. They split into two teams with N. Favresse and Ditto tackling one line and O. Favresse and Villanueva climbing another. After jumping from the boat onto the wall, it took the teams 20 hours to establish Seagull’s Garden and Red Chili Cream Cracker, both 400m.

The climbers had Shepton drop them off near Upernavik, on an island where they had seen an enticing rock wall. While Shepton sailed off for five days to repair the engine, the climbers established another route, Brown Balls (400m), which slants rightward up a series of corner cracks to a crux dyno that involves grabbing a fistful of grass.

From July 12 to 22 the team climbed another new line, The Devil’s Brew (850m), on the Seagull Wall. With moss- and sponge-filled cracks, lichen-covered faces, a series of offwidths and an “inbuilt shower,” The Devil’s Brew was their most adventurous route of the summer. The team reported on that the climb offered “incredible beautiful sustained climbing, always challenging, on superb quality granite.” Setting up three camps on portaledges throughout the climb, the team free-climbed the route and topped out without leaving any gear behind.

On August 5, the team headed south on a 900-mile journey to the southern tip of Greenland and fjords of Cape Farewell amid poor weather and choppy seas.

On August 27, the team posted an update about a peak they had spotted, then climbed. After shivering through a bivy on the summit and enjoying northern lights, both pairs descended back to the boat, making it a 36-hour round trip. They had climbed two routes on the peak they named Shepton Spire (450m), after their trusty skipper.

Next they caught sight of more enticing granite walls on the island of Quvernit. The team aimed for a pear-shaped face that featured vertical cracks; they called it Close Call Wall (ca. 550m), likely unaware that a Swiss-German team had reached this summit via a different route in 2004 and called it Angagoq Tower, reported historian Lindsay Griffin for the BMC.

Villaneuva following Pitch 9 on The Devil’s Brew. The Belgian-American team often remarked how superb the granite cracks were for climbing, despite the lichen-covered rock faces and ledges packed full of seagulls. [Photo] Courtesy

Once there, the group again split into two teams to climb parallel lines on the left side of the wall, Ditto with N. Favresse and Villaneuva with Olivier. Assuming the two lines were finger cracks, both parties left behind large cams and nuts–only to find the routes consisted of 14 pitches of offwidth climbing. One of the routes they named Chloe, after the 23-year old Belgian climber who fell to her death on l’Aiguille Noire de Peuterey in Italy on August 21.

The teams reached top just before dusk and shivered through the night. The next day they traversed the summit ridge north. The brothers and their partners returned to the boat 38 hours after leaving.

On September 2, they began their journey across the Atlantic again. Eight days later, they reported that headwinds and hurricane conditions were stunting progress; they’ve turned south hoping to catch better winds to get them home.


Close Call Wall. The Belgian-American team named this route Chloe (450m), in memory of Chloe Graftiaux. [Photo] Courtesy