SEA STACKS CLIMBING: CHASING PIRATE TREASURE
- Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken climbed Newfounlands often-photographed but never climbed Sea Stacks -
TORONTO, ON – October 12, 2012 – Four-time Canadian national climbing champion and all-around mountain athlete, Will Gadd (Canmore, AB) has spent the last three decades exploring the world's wildest places through paragliding, rock and of course, ice climbing. From conquering icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland in 2006 to climbing 300-plus metre frozen drop—Hunlen Falls—in British Columbia in 2009, i, it's sufficient to say that Will Gadd has climbed a lot. On September 23rd, Gadd and his friend, professional climbing guide Sarah Hueniken (Canmore, AB), braved what Gadd called, "The worst rock I've ever climbed" to become the first non-pirates to reach the top of Money Rock and start their quest to climb Newfoundlands often-photographed but never climbed sea stacks, geological landforms consisting of steep and often vertical columns of rock in the sea near a coast, isolated by erosion. Time, wind, and water are the only factors involved in the formation of free-standing stacks.
"The pirates buried their treasure on top of Money Rock because it's impossible to climb. They had to lean the mast of their ship over to get on top, or so the theory goes." With a line like that as an opener, no climber could resist trying to get to the top of Newfoundland's "Money Rock," a tower of rock or "Sea Stack" thrusting out of the sea near East Trinity. "These towers are like icebergs made of rock. They are geological jewels, like finding a grain silo coming out of the water. They are beautiful, and best of all no one has ever climbed many of them. We wanted to see what was possible, and of course to check out some of the old rumours about treasure on top," said Gadd.
Gadd and Hueniken next climbed Skerwinkle rock, also near East Trinity, Newfoundland. At low tide, it was possible to access the tower by hopping from rock to rock between swells, but horrible weather and worse rock made the climb of the 100-foot tower a really desperate experience. "It sure looks like nice climb from afar, but it was far from nice once we were on it," said Gadd. The loose rock literally crumbled under their hands, and the layer of wet lichen on top of that didn't help the situation any. Gadd and Hueniken persevered and reached the top after two days of work. Gadd said, "The only treasure on that one was a small meadow filled with hundreds of crab shells and sea urchins. The birds fly up there to eat their catch unmolested by other animals. But it was a stunningly beautiful climb!"
The pair shifted their location to Bay Bulls, about an hour from St. John's, and climbed, "The Pulpit," which was rumoured to have been climbed by some Russians in the late 60's. There were also rumours the Russians had left a trove of soviet-era memorabilia on top, but Will and Sarah found the crux to be just reaching the rock. Two tyrolean rope traverses and some long-jumping made it all work in the end. They found no Russian artifacts on top, but called the setting, "One of the most beautiful places we've ever been. To be on top of a new summit in such a beautiful place is a rare reward. A small city has stood on top of Everest, but nobody on top of these spires."
THE SEA STACK NEAR SPOUT
The biggest adventure on the trip came last, when Gadd and Hueniken found a friend with a boat and used it to reach a remote, water-access only another tower rising out of the ocean near Bay Bulls, Newfoundland. This "Sea Stack" is probably the most famous stack along the coast of Newfoundland, and appears in every Google image search of Newfoundland's coast. The ocean-surrounded 200-foot high tower near the famous "Spout" on Newfoundland's East coast had reportedly been tried before, but the climbers failed due to the difficult water access and hard climbing. Gadd and Hueniken had a really horrible experience getting out of the ocean onto the tower's base when their dingy became snagged on a ledge. Says Gadd, "Falling into the maelstrom of waves smashing through the rocks could have been fatal. Our Newfoundland friend in the boat kept saying, "Oh Jimmy!!" as the boat crashed around. I'm from Alberta, I did not enjoy the experience nor did our Newfoundland boat guy!"
After three rope lengths of hard technical climbing Gadd and Hueniken reached the top of the spire. On the small porch-sized summit of the spire Sarah said, "That was the climb of a lifetime. I just don't want to go back down and have to get off the rocks into the boat!" Gadd said, "The Rock on the "Spout Spire" was absolutely great. After the desperately loose climbing on Skerwinkle Rock we were worried that sea stack climbing had no future; but the rock on the Spout is just awesome, some of the most fun climbing I've ever had. I hope more climbers see these stacks as possible, they really are the most spectacular rocks I've ever climbed." The team named their route, "Oh Jimmy!" after their Newfoundlander friend's excited commentary. They plan to return and climb more of the stacks, and also to see if they can find some treasure and the rumoured Russian memorabilia!
ABOUT WILL GADD
Gadd grew up mountaineering with his family in the Canadian Rockies and scaled his first waterfall at age 12."I think climbing is one of those fundamental human things," Gadd muses. He has played a big role in channeling that human drive into the ever-more-popular sport of ice climbing. Gadd has won numerous ice climbing titles from the World Cup to the Winter X Games to and broke the world distance record on his paraglider not once, but two times. For more info on Will Gadd, please visit: http://willgadd.com .
ABOUT SARAH HUNIEKEN
After taking an Outward Bound course at the age of 15, Hunieken pursued paddling and worked as a canoe tripper for various camps, youth-at-risk organizations, and Outward Bound schools throughout North America. Following this, her passion for climbing leaded her to Wyoming to work as a mountain instructor for NOLS. The lure of the Canadian Rockies brought her back to Canmore, AB to pursue her ACMG Rock and Alpine certifications. Huenieken is currently one of only 10 women to hold this level of certification in Canada. She traveled to various places throughout the US, Mexico, South America, Europe and Asia to explore the mountains of the world. For more information on Sarah Hunieken, visit: http://saraghunieken.com .