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Sea Stack Slaying…water and land adventures in Newfoundland
10th Oct 2012Posted in: Blog 1
Sea Stack Slaying…water and land adventures in Newfoundland

Recently I had the incredible opportunity to explore the East Coast of Newfoundland with Will Gadd and his entourage…Alex and Christian.  I had never been out that far East and have always wanted to.  The landscape and people did not disappoint.  The climbing…that might not have been the highlight, but the adventures on and off land and the people greatly made up for the sometimes lacking rock quality!

Will had originally planned this trip with Pete, a born and raised Newfie.  Sadly Pete could not make it, and lucky for me I could.  We arrived in Newfoundland tired from 2 long late flights.  Canada is a BIG country! The goal…find and try to climb sea stacks. We only had google images to direct our search, and so the first day and a half was spent seeking out these internet images and learning how to get to them.  Amidst the rain and fog, it was clear that Newfoundland was truly a remarkable place.  Excitedly we found a few to set our sights on and Alex arrived that evening, ready for the adventures ahead.

 

I learned a great deal on this trip on how to get things done.  Lesson one, is talk to as many people as you can.  Ask and you shall find:)  A visit in a jewelry shop, had us soon renting the coolest Newfie house around, this in turn had us meeting the owner to the house, Brenda, who had us prepared with a boat ride the next day with the only “climber” in the town, who also happened to run the local coffee and sandwich shop!  luck was on our side.

Christian arrived and the next morning we met our captain and his boat.  Dave is a Brit, had climbed back home and tried once he arrived to Newfoundland but was soon disappointed with the shitiness (for lack of a better term) of the rock.  He and his trusty 5 stroke engined, one speed boat, was going to give us a tour of the local sea stacks.  Ok, admittedly…I am no ocean boats woman.  I have spent about 2 months sailing and sea kayaking in Baja, and hundreds of days as a canoe tripper in Ontario, I even enjoy surfing…but I am also a control freak, and not understanding the limits and abilities of my sea craft and its captain had me…nervous at times.  Ok, alot of times.

The others seemed at ease with the unknown, and so I learned from this too.  If everyone else around you is comfortable..then maybe it is okay for you to be so also…? Even when the engine does stop working and your captain has to take it all apart by hand, while bobbing in the rolling waves of the Atlantic.  Time to fish.

We visited numerous stacks, had lunch on shore and explored some possibilities.  Will even hucked himself into the Jellyfish waters in his superhero dry suit to try and climb the Naked Man.  I thought this would have been more appropriately first ascended by me…but I was not too eager to leap into the waters!  He decided that a rope and climbing shoes would likely make the ascent safer and so we moved on.  Eventually we headed to Money Rock. The story being that there is a treasure chest on top left by some Russians. We were going to find out.

Will managed to climb a nice line on gear and belayed both myself and Dave up for a lap.  We cannot say what we found on top…but we do think we likely were the only ones to enjoy the summit for some time!

The following morning we hiked in the rain along Skerwinkle trail to try and climb the largest of the stacks we found so far.  We rapped in and explored our piece of rock.  Being Rockies climbers, we have pretty high tolerances for choss..but this was unlike anything I had experienced so far. The idea of climbing on gear on this was eventually thrown away and soon we were even questioning the ability of bolts to add much protection.  This rock made the black band on Temple feel like granite:)

Will set to work climbing and protecting with bolts as he went.  This looked like a great deal of work, but I kept busy dodging rock bullets, and adjusting my belay stance from falling pieces and incoming tide waves.  A small piece of me wondered how much we could truly predict with this rock and I tried to chase the thoughts of the whole leaning pillar crashing down, out of my head.  Once again I learned a ton here about perseverance.  I am confident I would have assessed the rock as unclimbable and walked away, but Will took it piece by piece and eventually led up the entire thing bolting on lead.  A strong and determined effort.  We both climbed the route and celebrated the top.  On coming home, Will learned that someone else had climbed it a year earlier…but we didn’t see evidence of it, because that whole half of the stack had fallen off.  Huh…go figure….Lesson three…listen to your intuition, it may not be soooo far off from the truth.

Of note..all the parts to the left of that dudes paddles, no longer exists…and this was a pic from a year ago…

The next day we returned in sunny skies, to climb it again and get some photos.  A gorgeous day.  It was hard to make the decision whether or not to stay or go.  The area was so gorgeous and the house we stayed at, so nice and welcoming..  the rock though, was not something that stained our hearts in any sort of positive way and so we hugged our hostess goodbye, Redbulls in hand and moved on to seek out new adventures.

We drove back to the East Coast trail and were set up by our Bed and Breakfast owner, Mary, with two long term Newfy fishermen to take us to our sea stack the next morning.  Dining on cod every night was not getting old, and at this stage we had experienced all sorts of interesting ways to prepare it depending on the Diner.  Ice in red wine was also a new experience…but not one I need to revisit again.  Also…don’t order burgers in Newfoundland.

The next morning we were greeted by Louis and Mike, both in their sixties, and their much larger then our previous, watercraft- Kathy Michelle II.  We loaded up and headed out to the ocean.  I felt much, much safer on this boat, and enjoyed the trip out to the stack.  Part way out, we stopped briefly to fish for some Cod.  It was the local cod fishery season and so locals were able to catch a number of fish per day for personal consumption.  We each had a chance to catch our own cod…and yes, even I caught one purely by holding the line in the ocean.  Obviously no skill required, but still pretty darn exciting!  We dropped Alex and Christian off in a little bay so that they could hike around and shoot our potential ascent.  We then carried on towards the stack for the highlight of our trip.

Hard to put this part in words.  It was a little intense. Boat anchored, bags and people in Dorry, and off we paddled towards our stack.  Will back in his superhero suit, bravely jumped to “shore”, and held onto dorry as it proceeded to bash and scrape along the rocks as Louis and I tried to chuck very heavy bags out to Will.  At times, the boat would rise with the water, get caught up on the rocks, and we would be suspended momentarily as the water would get sucked back towards the ocean. It would leave us stranded high centered, until, like someone hitting a button on an amusement ride we would drop back down.  So remember when I said, if everyone else around you is calm , then you should be…well…Louis, my veteran shipman, was not so calm anymore.  And as he and I got bucked and reared by our wooden raft, shouts of “Oh Jimmy”, had me thinking this was not common practice, even for him!  Eventually I too got out of the boat, with much relief and soon, Will and I stood on the stack alone, amidst our wreckage of ropes, and hardware.  As i watched the dorry get pulled back to the main ship…I wondered…how the f&^$ are we getting off this thing!  Of course, that was not the first priority…and so, we got to the task at hand. Sadly I have no footage to prove the truth to any of the above, but you will just have to take my word for it:)

A line was chosen and off we went.  The climbing actually was AMAZING!  Hard to say what this rock type was still…but it was good, with good pro and good friction and really, really fun.  I led the first easy pitch and then Will led the next two harder ones to the top, probably at about 5.10+.  The top was a little island…literally i guess, of trees and grass, with one big anthill.  Bummer about that anthill part…and curious how they ever got so established up there…but good on them!  High fived, and headed down.  Yes…getting back into the boat was as much as an adventure…but eventually we were back on board and picked up Alex and Christian.  On a high from the day, our captains put the icing on the cake by harboring us in a little inlet, as the sun set and fed us the most scrumptious meal of cod and potato stew….and yes…it was the very cod that we ourselves caught that morning.  Does it get any better than that????? A super memorable day, ended with some iceberg beers…

The last morning, we set our sights for the small and seemingly very doable Pulpit. Of course the easiest way to get to the Pulpit would have been to leap into the chilly waters and swim over to it.  Of course, again, this wouldn’t be as much fun as  hurling ones body across big gaps with consequence, setting up crazy tyroleans off seemingly sketchy blocks, and using just about every piece of equipment we brought down there:)  This was Gadd style..and it did prove to be a hell of a lot more fun then freezing in the water! After our amusement park ride of ropes were set up, we climbed the mighty 15 meter Pulpit.  Atop this fine piece of stack…is grass… and bird poop…and nothing else.  So with a wide straddle of the top, learned from a career in guiding:) I belayed Will up, and hoped he would come up with some idea of how we were going to then get down!  Another mighty stack conquered.  The remaining sun and ocean were enjoyed and we all headed back to St John’s.

So what do I have to say about Sea stack climbing and future sea stack climbers?  1) I would do it again in a heartbeat…go do it!  2) With that said…I don’t see it becoming the next fad in the grand scheme of the world of climbing 3) Go prepared for all types of rock,  and means of getting up said medium 4) Come with a sense of adventure, and maybe some meds to fight sea sickness 5) Be prepared to love the people you meet and fall in love with the landscape of the area…and 6) check out George street!!

In the end this trip has really re-inspired me to keep seeking adventure.  Whether it be across the ocean, in your own country or even in your own town…adventure fills the soul.  Looking forward to a winter of more!  Thanks Will for the opportunity and for all the learnings:)

To see more check out a 6 minute clip on the Daily Planet:

http://watch.discoverychannel.ca/#clip785371

Go to like minute 7:40…pretty fun!

 

One Response

  1. David Ellis says:

    Hi Sarah
    Just read you article when looking for Will’s video again to show to a friend who is staying in Trinity East with us. I was your trusty captain on the very small boat that broke down on the ocean and you decided that we were all going to perish at sea! Thanks for the great read – lovely memories. My boat is still going – better than ever infact – I hardly breaks down at all now!

    All the best,

    David

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