NEW WALL IN BAFFIN: TRIBUTE TO THE LATE HANS COPIER

Posted on: September 13, 2007


The southeast face of Copier Pinnacle, showing the line of A Little Less Conversation (VI A3 5.11a, 650m but 800m of climbing, Fickweiler-van Veen, 2007). In 2006, Fickweiler and two partners had attempted the face, enduring harsh conditions to make 300 meters of progress. Fickweiler returned with Niels van Veen to complete the route and give tribute to his late friend, Hans Copier. [Photo] Martin Fickweiler

In late May this year, Martin Fickweiler and Niels van Veen stood atop the summit of a rock peak on the northwest side of Stewart Valley, Baffin Island. There was no sign of any previous ascent, and they took some trouble to build a small cairn before making their descent. Inside the cairn they carefully placed a small jar.

In May 2006 Fickweiler and fellow Dutch climbers, Roland Bekendam and Rens Horn, set out for the Stewart Valley in an attempt to climb a virgin 650m-high face on a broad rock formation opposite Great Sail Peak. The steep granite wall faced southeast, and from its foot the view across the glacier encompassed the two big wall routes of Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash (VI 5.10 A4+, 1150m, Catto-Child-Lowe-Ogden-Synnott-Wiltsie, 1998) and Rubicon (VI A4 5.11 85-90 degrees, 1150m, Davy-Klenov-Odintsov-Rozov-Ruchkin, 2002) on the imposing face of Great Sail, and The Endless Day (VI A3+, 900m, Gore-Hutson-Turner-Thomas, 1999) on the adjacent Citadel.

The three struggled with the cold, bad weather, loose rock and loneliness to get 300 meters up the face but eventually had to abandon the climb, returning home after a fifty-day Polar adventure. During their final day on the wall, Fickweiler left a small jar on a tiny ledge, making it impossible for him not to return. He also stashed gear in the Stewart Valley.

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On April 16, 2006, two weeks before the three had set off for Baffin, Hans Copier, Fickweiler's best friend, committed suicide. Fickweiler's greatest wish was to place some of Copier's ashes on a virgin summit.

In May 2007 Fickweiler and van Veen set up base camp below the wall at N 70 degrees 44' and W 71 degrees 27'. Above, a 900-meter slope led to the base of the left side of the southeast face, attempted exactly one year previously. Although conditions on this occasion were much colder, the two made good progress, generally aid climbing to A3 but having to free the wider sections at 5.11a. In a capsule-style ascent they spent seven consecutive nights in a portaledge before reaching the summit on May 20. The Dutch pair named this mountain Copier Pinnacle.

Going down. After making the first ascent of Copier Pinnacle in Baffin's Stewart Valley and successfully descending the wall, all Martin Fickweiler and Niels van Veer had to do was hike ninety kilometers across the frozen wilderness to find a phone. [Photo] Martin Fickweiler

Back at base camp two days later, they found their satellite phone blocked by the provider. Three weeks earlier, on their approach to the Stewart, they had passed close to a big base camp near Sam Ford Fjord. Having no means of communication with the outside world, and more especially their local outfitter, who needed confirmation of the pick-up date, they set off on a lightweight push, noting perversely that in this day and age it was pretty unusual to have to walk ninety kilometers to make a phone call. Fortunately the camp was occupied by a team of BASE jumpers, lots of great food and a satellite phone. Their new route, which gave fifteen pitches and 800 meters of climbing up to A3 and 5.11a, was named A Little Less Conversation.

Sources: Martin Fickweiler and Niels van Veen



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