Friday, December 10, 2010

Chad Dispatches

Hey All, I just got back from one of the most remote and wild expeditions to date. We carefully logging all the footage to hopefully share at mtn film fests this spring. Here a few video screen grabs and little wrap up from the adventure. You can follow the entire backlog of such posts on The North Face Blog.
From the moving jeep, during the ride out:
“Expedition Time Distortion”: I think this could describe what the whole crew is experiencing at this point out here in the remote Chadian desert. Although we have only been gone for a matter of weeks, and it probably seems like a blink of an eye to all those back home, to us it truly feels an eternity lost in the endless sea of unclimbed sandstone, micro barbed picker grass and roaming camels.

Despite the looming homesickness, today the moral is high. We convinced Piero, our tireless guide, to go for a final hail mary quest to the most remote part of the region to check out what seems like the most inspiring formation from our research: a tower/arch that we have deemed “the delicate arch” of the Ennedi. Piero is skeptical of the whole journey after the incident with the knife bandits (see dispatch 4) and tried to ward us off from the idea: “You know there are vipers and cobras in camp-- definitely maybe!!” Even though we will only have an afternoon and morning worth of water to explore the location before have to turn back we all agree it’s worth it.

More 4x4ing through the heat and we arrive at the objective. It is even more inspiring than we could have possibly imagined: a helix of two spindly towers ~160 ft tall connected by a tiny arch that truly resembles Canyonland’s famous Delicate Arch!

With our limited time the team quickly sprung into action and headed up the talus cone in the brutal midday heat to scope the line. Each side had distinct cruxes of chossy unprotected slabs or decomposing cracks. Eventually Mark and James decided on the slab. The rest of the day was spent battling for protection in the decomposing sandstone. At one point Mark tried to place a bolt and it was so loose in the hole he had a double stack pitons around to make it even remotely passable as protection. Jimmy, Kempy and I scrambled around trying to document the madness we could here James cursing after Mark relinquished the lead: “Its like bloody Caster sugar up here, after you break the outer surface the rest just explodes, #(*)&#@#&!!!”.

Feeling a bit antsy at the base Alex took matters into his own hands and went for the kamikaze onsight free-solo first ascent of the crack up the other side. At this point it was a free for all with time running out to find a way to the summit. “Here you go dude, take this wireless mic,” I suggested and he clipped it on. After sending half the formation I could hear his breathing elevate with is knee stuck in a wide crack unable to commit to a loose flake transfer. Displaying good judgment and some extreme skill he carefully retreated down the lower tech face as we all watched clenching our teeth. Darkness set in James and Mark also decided to play it safe and descend, hoping to get it done with an alpine start the next morning.

During the night as the climbing teams rested for the morning we stayed up most of the night documenting a moon-rise we will never forgot: The nearly full moon rose directly behind the arch and tracked a perfect path slitting the formation. For the Camp4 Crew this was a mind-blowing coincidence for us to be able to share the beauty of this place. We ran 3 timelapses through the night, one on a motorized Kessler dolly tracks to add another layer of movement to the tracking stars and moon. I have to say it was kinda gripping scrambing around wondering if the aforementioned snakes might be lurking under any rock.

Before sunrise the games began again. James took the final leap of faith. I’m sure the details of his moment with God will come out in his and Mark’s own detailed descriptions but all I have to mention is that Mark could barely force himself to belay the pitch. If he fell he would have ripped the entire pitch including the anchor...

After some victory screams he brought up the rest of the crew for some truly feel good moments. Its so rare that in this day and age that such iconic first ascents are still a possibly. Looking out over the expanse of rocks and village life below it was an unsaid realization how special this experience has been. . (The Arch of Ba-Chikele)

Our time here is coming to a close. By Marks’s vision of putting this adventure together, Piero’s 20 year knowledge of the landscape/people, Alex and James’ bold summit leads and the Camp4 Collective crew photo/video efforts we all hope to bring back a greater understanding of the Ennedi to share with those back home. However haggard, diarrhea ridden, sand caked, starved and exhausted we all may be there is no doubt we are vastly grateful for the experience and the opportunity to be the first to climb in this remote region.
Cheers from the whole team out here in middle of nowhere! ~reo

1 comment:

  1. inspiring. i go to bed now and dream about that stuff. can't wait to see some video footage.

    best wishes from germany, flo