Monday, June 6, 2011

We're up here: Looking like ants in a giant rock garden, intrepid climbers become the first to scale uncharted 1,000ft structures in a land that time


Making history: Two of the climbers ascend the 'Wine Bottle' rock for the first time in Chad's remote Ennedi desert after travelling hundreds of miles across desert

If you blinked, you might miss these two intrepid climbers, looking like ants in a giant rock garden.

But they made history by being the first mountaineers to ascend an awesome formation in a remote part of Chad.

Untouched by humans, this is the stunning desert home to the stacks, arches and 1,000 feet walls of rock that dominate the Ennedi Plateau - long regarded as the holy grail of the climbing community.

'It's fair to say we were like kids in a candy store', said climber and photographer Jimmy Chin. 'This was like finding a new continent for climbers, literally. I was stunned at the rugged nature of the landscape.'

Climbing: James Pearson is seen making the first ascent of the 'Citadel' formation in the Ennedi desert in Chad

He travelled last December with a crack team from his home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to the 20,000 square miles of virgin African climbing territory in central Chad that are reminiscent of Utah's Monument Valley.

Equipped with three trucks and provisions for three weeks, Jimmy, 38, and his team slept in the desert and braved armed bandits - just so they could make each climb there the first.

After flying 8,000 miles to the country, the team spent four days driving hundreds of miles across the desert on dirt roads to reach the remote and almost inaccessible Ennedi Plateau.

Occasionally, they would cross paths with nomadic camel troupes.

Is it much further? James Pearson climbing the Arch of Bishekele with the backdrop of the stunning Ennedi desert

'There was some element of a long shot about this, but you know if you go on a trip with Mark it is going to be difficult, it is going to pose problems, it is going to question you as a climber.'

Likening the journey into the wastelands of the plateau as like travelling back in time, Jimmy and the team came across the local people who spent their days hiding from the 38-degree heat in straw huts.

'Even in December the temperature was extreme,' said Jimmy. 'In summer the thermometer can exceed 47 degrees. '

Able to support themselves with petrol, food and shelter the adventurers were stunned when the open expanse of the desert exploded into the land that time forgot.

'Visually it was just like the canyon lands of Utah,' explained Jimmy.

Swinging time: An awesome shot of Alex Honnold and James Pearson rappelling off the Arch of Bishekele after climbing to the top

'We saw arches, stacks and walls that we knew had never been ascended before. This was a dream scenario, there was unlimited potential there.

'You are talking about 200ft high stacks, 1,000ft high walls, all there ready to be climbed.'

Faced with an enormous amount of choice, Jimmy and his team approached the Ennedi methodically. 'We decided to climb the 12 most impressive features we could see in the three weeks we had.

'We climbed the fabled Aloba Arch, which at 700ft tall and 300ft wide is the tallest free standing arch in the world.'

In the middle of their ground-breaking tour, the team faced off against possibly their greatest challenge - bandits.

Ready to rock: Crack climber Mark Synnott racking up gear for the ascent in the Ennedi desert which is located in a remote North African region of Chad

Jimmy said: 'At one point after a climb, all of us but James were confronted by a gang of four armed with ten-inch daggers.They were trying to edge us away from our cars, which were still some distance away.

'They were gesturing for our cameras and equipment, dressed in head scarves and they were extremely aggressive. James appeared on the scene off the side of one of the rock formations and I indicated to him to run back to the cars.

'I managed to document over 5,000 photographs during my time there and it was one of the pleasures of my life to be the first to explore such pristine and virgin climbing routes.'

Base camp: One of the climbing team gazes at the stars during the four-day drive across the desert to the Ennedi Plateau in Chad

source: dailymail

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