SAFT WALL, 21

Posted on: December 1, 2003


The Saft Wall, Igdlorssitt Havn Bay area, Greenland. Approximate route lines are as follows: Cryptic Crossword (not shown; out of view around the left-hand skyline; V E3 [5.11], 500m, Heason-Jackson, 2001). Ben Heason and Simon Moore repeated this route in 2003; Heason then soloed it. 1.21 (V E7 6b [5.13a R], 900m, Gibson-McClure, 2003) 2.Waiting for the Sun (V E7 6c [5.13a], 830m, Boden-Briggs-Jebb-Mirfin, 2003) 3.Turning Point (V E6 6b [5.12+ R], 1000m, Heason-Moore, 2003) 4.Action Manís Purple Head (V E2 5b [5.10+], 1000m, Garnett-Harris, 2001) 5.Long Walk to Freedom (V HVS [5.9], 1000m, Grindell-Shea, 2001) [Photo] Matt Heason

The most obvious feature on the Saft Wall is a huge, soaring corner more than 400 meters high. As soon as you see it you know it's what you came to do. Unfortunately, the corner is bottomless and lies above 250 meters of blank walls. I teamed up with Miles Gibson, famous for his incredible bouldering strength. A sport climber and a boulderer go big walling?!?

There looked to be only two ways into the corner. The left-hand start involved laybacking, jamming, placing gear and then belaying on a one-inch-thick, one-hundred-meter-high flake that didn't appear to be attached to the cliff at all. After two pitches we got the fear and bailed. Binoculars showed the climbing above to be impossible anyway.

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The right-hand groove system was better; an intricate leftward-trending line along well-protected cracks was followed by unprotected aretes and slabs. Eventually, after thirteen pitches, we hit the base of the massive corner. The way ahead looked climbable; it was time to cast off the fixed lines, drag up our ledge and leave the five-star base camp behind. Though there was no need to worry about route finding now, there was the niggling problem of a massive roof at the top of the corner only eighty meters short of the summit. The roof niggled more as we got closer. Luckily for us, there was a crack in it. Unluckily, it was also a drainpipe. Forget the onsight: this was desperate. We made four intense, slithering battles each; our hearts were setting faster than the sun. It was just too wet, too painful, too knackering, and basically, too hard. So far the route had gone all free, with no pegs, no bolts and not a single point of aid. The whole route now rested on two moves out of about two million! On the last go, after hanging from a soaking chicken wing for ten minutes, I somehow rocked over into easy ground and almost collapsed from exhaustion. It was Pitch 21. I looked at the watch — 21:21:21. Hence the name of the route, 21 (V E7 6b [5.13a R], 900m).

— Steve McClure, Sheffield, United Kingdom



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