By Nico Favresse, photos by the Wild Bunch
July 15, 2014—We are off again on an exciting adventure! Reverend Captain Bob Shepton is very excited to have the Wild Bunch—Sean Villanueva, Olivier Favresse, Ben Ditto and I—back on board the Dodo’s Delight for some jamming and big walls. Already four years have passed since our last expedition in Greenland with captain Bob. This time though we brought more musical instruments, more fishing equipment and more whiskey for our captain, all of which we hope will help us with our new assignment: testing the acoustics of some massive big walls located in the fjords on the east coast of Baffin Island.
We left Aasiaat one week ago and we’ve have had good moments so far but also harder ones. Yes, indeed, we missed the World Cup final and the ice hasn't melted enough for us to cross to the Baffin Island side. Our captain is becoming very impatient and we are afraid that he would be quite willing to take some risks for us to reach Baffin Island. If we did get stranded by the pack ice and its pressuring current, Dodo's Delight would most likely get crushed and sink. The good thing is that our captain is very familiar with that. He has two boats in Greenland, one of them he keeps below the water's surface!
Above: The ethic of our captain is very strict: There will be no bolts allowed on board!Four days of sailing with occasional stops for bouldering sessions brought us to the fjords of Uummannaq and its mountains. The ice cap and the ocean, filled with icebergs, look so unreal. It feels like we are on a different planet. There are some nice big walls here but it's not easy to evaluate the rock quality from a distance. So yesterday we decided to go have a closer look and attempt some climbing on a nice looking 400-meter wall right above the settlement of Ikerasak.
We split into two teams and went for two different lines. Ben and Oli chose the east ridge, a line that seemed not too risky or more suitable for committed married men (almost) while Sean and I chose the right prow with its overhanging headwall. The climbing turned out to be a lot better than we anticipated. The granite here is very rich in holds and fun to climb. There were also some sections of rotten rock but fortunately we found our way through it alive.
Now we are cooking up some organic, free-range local meat and look forward to a nice lunch for recuperation. We'll be in touch as the next exciting steps unfold. Stay tuned!
Greetings from the Wild Bunch and Reverend Captain Bob Shepton. We are very excited to be back. Four years have passed since our last time on Dodo's Delight.
August 1, 2014—It's raining but we aren't sleeping in today! The ice chart we received yesterday showed a very positive evolution in the ice melting over on Baffin Island so we are very excited. Now it's time for us to get ready to cross Baffin Bay.
We have just restocked with wine, whiskey and condensed milk. We have checked the sails, tightened up the cables of the mast and fixed everything well on the deck. Basically, for a crossing like this and with a fiberglass boat like we are on, you need to be ready for the worst to happen! We'll have to pay a lot of attention to icebergs and mermaids, especially if the thick fog settles in or the wind blows too hard, or if both happen at the same time. But we are ready for it, at least we think so!
We are now really looking forward to the walls on Baffin Island. Our last climbing experience on this trip was pretty intense. As usual we sailed around and picked a wall to climb. How we choose the walls we climb is not always very rational. It definitely has some logical aspects like the steepness of the wall, the acoustics (for jamming), lines and rock quality. But it's also a general feeling about what looks appealing, and it tends to fluctuate. Some days you feel more confident and steep things don't seem so difficult, or a wall that looks loose can still catch our interest. It's all pretty dependent on our mental state and how we read it. Well, we must have been in a pretty high mental state when we chose to climb this last wall.
When we reached the base things that looked good from afar started to look different and way more intimidating. Me and Oli chose to aim for an obvious dihedral system while Ben and Sean chose a line of thin cracks and dihedrals. Right as I left the ground I understood the whole wall was shattered and it would be impossible to fully trust any of the holds or protections. I worked my way up about 20 meters and the rock began to crumble so I downclimbed and tried a different start. Again, I got about 20 meters up and got shut down by a bunch of loose flakes blocking my progress. Again I downclimbed and took a better look at the rock face. It all seemed loose so Oli and I opted to go fishing instead of climbing. This wall wasn't meant to be climbed by us. Somehow being confronted by your limits and accepting them is, for me, one of the most interesting parts of exploring new climbs. Of course, it wasn't without a little knot of uncertainty that we called our captain to come rescue us.
Meanwhile, Ben and Sean managed to take off on their line with very little protection and lots of loose rock. Ben led half of one pitch and backed off the loose dangling blocks. From the ground we could hear him reasoning with Sean to bail, but Sean was too excited to bail: “No way man, it’s too good!” They committed to the wall and spent 24 hours battling through 500 meters of steep challenging choss.
“For me, the climb was a metamorphosis,” says Ben. “At first I was super stressed about the risk of climbing such extreme choss, but soon I found a rhythm that allowed me to enjoy the climbing, thanks to Sean leading every pitch.”
Sean had found his happy place among the maze of loose blocks and circuitous cracks. Though by the end, the continuous difficulty pushed him near his limit. We are a little worried because he has now expanded his capability of taming the inner beast and physical difficulties seem trivial. We aren't sure when he will again find this nirvana, but we hope it isn't soon—and not with any of us as his partner.
The ascent was accompanied by a host of whales and dazzling lightshows that kept Ben entertained as he belayed Sean on the two-hour-plus leads. They compromised on a name for the route: No Place for Humans, aka, Sunshine and Roses.
We are glad they are back from their adventures safely, and we’re super psyched for the next stage.
Nico Favresse is a Patagonia ambassador from Brussels, Belgium. In 2010, the same crew—Nico, Sean Villanueva, Ben Ditto and Olivier Favresse—joined Captain Bob Shepton for a sailing trip through the fjords of Greenland, eventually crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Scotland. Along the way they found virgin big walls and a bunch of good climbing, including the Impossible Wall. If you missed it, check out our coverage and watch the five-part video series.
By Jim Little
We just finished our 2014 Environmental & Social Initiatives booklet and would love to share it with you. In it you’ll find a pretty comprehensive accounting of everything Patagonia did this year to conduct ourselves in an environmentally and socially conscious manner. The booklet includes stories about our efforts as a business and as individuals, and a list of all the environmental groups (770 of them working in 16 countries) we helped to support.
Above are some shots from the booklet’s table of contents to give you a taste of what lies within, and below the fold, an easy to digest number-by-number approach (ala Harper’s Index) that quantifies some of our work. If you’d like to dive in deeper, click the booklet at the end of this post and flip through the pages. We hope you enjoy!
Photos: (clockwise, top left-right) Eli Steltenpohl, Mikey Schaefer, Lindsay Walker, Tony Clevenger, Ben Knight. Artwork: Amanda Lenz
IT ALL ADDS UP
QUANTIFYING SOME OF OUR ENVIRONMENTAL & SOCIAL WORK
61 MILLION: Dollars and in-kind services we’ve donated since tithing program began in 1985
6.6 MILLION: Dollars we donated this fiscal year to fund environmental work
10: Fair Trade Certified™ styles now in the Patagonia line
15 MILLION: Acres of degraded grassland we hope to restore in the Patagonia region of South America, by buying and supporting the purchase of sustainably grazed merino wool
$98,185.11: Amount given to nonprofits this year through our Employee Charity Match program
1,711: Hours this year employees at our Ventura and Reno campuses worked through company’s volunteer program
100: Percentage of Traceable Down (traceable to birds that were never live-plucked, never force-fed) we now use in our down products
7,162: Volunteer hours worked this year through the internship program
136: Number of employees who volunteered this year through our environmental internship program
20 MILLION & CHANGE: Dollars we’ve allocated to invest in environmentally and socially responsible companies
74: Number of activists and employees who received skills training this year at Patagonia’s bi-annual Tools for Grassroots Activists conference
770: Number of environmental groups that received a grant this year
100: Percentage of Patagonia products we take back for recycling
726,404: Single-driver car trip miles avoided this year through our Drive-Less program
100 MILLION: Dollars 1% for the Planet® has donated to nonprofit environmental groups since it was founded in 2002 by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews
1996: Year we switched to the exclusive use of organically grown cotton
"I remember really quickly going from, 'Wow, I'm home, this feels great', to 'Holy s***, what did I do to my mom'?" says alpinist Kyle Dempster. "And that was the first time I saw how truly difficult it is for mothers."
Today, we bring you two stories—one from Hilary Oliver, and one from Kyle Dempster and his mother, Terry—about the struggle of loving an adventurer. The struggle between loving them so much that you don't want to see them hurt, and loving them so much that you want to support them in pursuing their dreams—in doing the things that make them tick.
This story was originally inspired by one of Kyle's blog posts by the same title. You can find more of Kyle's writing at Through My Eyes.
You can find Hilary's writing at TheGription.
Visit dirtbagdiaries.com for links to past episodes, featured music and to pledge your support. You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, RSS, SoundCloud and Stitcher, or connect with the Dirtbag Diaries community on Facebook and Twitter. The Dirtbag Diaries is a Duct Tape Then Beer production.
[Graphic by Walker Cahall]
By Dylan Tomine
It’s difficult to put into words exactly how it feels to experience the newly free Elwha River. Gratitude, for sure, for all the people and organizations who put so much into bringing the dams down. And awe, as nature takes over and the river finds it’s new-old path to the sea. And fun, of course, to be there taking it all in with my good friend and DamNation producer/underwater photographer, Matt Stoecker.
We floated the Elwha under crazy blue skies and warm air, with the winners of the Patagonia/DamNation photo contest and our gracious hosts from Olympic Raft & Kayak. All around amazing experience. Despite what the dam-removal critics said, the sediment load in the water has settled out quickly, leaving the water clear, with the slight milky, blue-green tint one expects of a glacial river in summertime.
Above: A painted crack and message on Glines Canyon Dam foreshadowed its removal over two decades later. Elwha River, Olympic National Park, Washington in a scene from DamNation. Photo: Mikal JakubalAs we came into the former reservoir zone above the lower dam site, I was blown away to look up 40 feet above us and see the old water line still clearly defined on the rocks and trees. It was like finding a river at the bottom of a lake, which is essentially what’s happened here.
At the actual dam site, after much discussion and scouting, we decided to become the first commercial trip Olympic Raft & Kayak had taken down through what they’ve named That Dam Rapid. A short, steep, highly technical Class 4 drop through what used to be Elwha Dam proved to be as hairy as it looked, and provided plenty of adrenaline to jolt us out of the all the dreamy wonder and gratitude we were feeling. Great ride, and a perfect end to the float.
Tom O’Keefe of American Whitewater scouting the riffle on the Elwha. Photo: Dylan Tomine
That night, Olympic Raft & Kayak hosted an outdoor screening of DamNation in the warm and amazingly, for the Olympic Peninsula, dry summer night. Mikal Jakobal, the activist who painted the now-famous crack on the dam here back in 1987, made a surprise appearance, much to the crowd’s delight.
Finally, the next day, Matt and I drove down to the where the Elwha runs into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This was, perhaps, the most tangible evidence of a river reborn, and an uplifting view of what a free river is supposed to do. Instead of the river channel running straight into saltwater along a sterile, clean-cobble beach as it once was, the Elwha had built a tremendous delta. Sediment, trapped behind the dams for 100 years, is now creating a complex system of barrier islands, sloughs, ponds and wetlands. The most perfect juvenile salmon habitat imaginable. We stood there in the wind, absorbing what it all means and feeling the uplift of a rare and valuable victory.
Dylan Tomine is a Patagonia fly fishing ambassador and the author of Closer to the Ground: An Outdoor Family’s Year On The Water, In The Woods and At The Table. He lives on the coast of Washington with his wife and two kids. You can read an excerpt from Dylan’s book right here on The Cleanest Line or check out Dylan’s blog (the origin of today's post) for more musings on family, foraging and fly fishing in the northwest.
Thanks to everyone who entered DamNation film’s #thatdamcontest. There were a ton of entires and we struggled to pick a winner. Here are the photos from the finalists and eventual winner, @mikfish.
Grand prize winner @mikfish. We chose this photo not for what it shows, but for what it hides. Submerged below the waterline is Hetch Hetchy Valley a place described by John Muir as "one of nature's rarest and most precious mountain temples." The valley can be restored to its former grandeur if O'Shaughnessy Dam is removed, and our friends at Restore Hetch Hetchy are working to make it happen. Please join them.
You can browse all of the entries at damnationfilm.com/contest.