Haywire, the short film by Cheyne Lempe big wall climbing on Baffin Island
Ben Lepesant reviews Haywire, the short film shot and directed by American alpinist Cheyne Lempe who in May 2015, together with Dave Allfrey, forged a worrying new climb called Deconstructing Jenga (VI, 5.9+, A3+) up Great Cross Pillar on Baffin Island, Canada.
Stories like this one have often unfolded in the past: Yosemite Valley lays the foundations for great big wall climbing partnerships. It is the place to meet like-minded people and learn the ropes for even more majestic playing fields. A more obvious “bigger” destination to aspire to is the East coast of Baffin Island (Canada), where Sam Ford Fjord in particular offers an unparalleled line-up of granite walls 600 - 1500 meters tall. More than a decade after the likes of Josh Helling, John Middendorf, Mark Synnott, Warren Hollinger and Mike Libecki (to name just a few that were “born and bred” in Yosemite) helped forge the Golden Age of these peaks, Cheyne Lempe and Dave Allfrey, two of the Valley’s new generation big wallers, ventured up north to put their skills to test.
Allfrey is among his generation’s most accomplished big wall climbers and well known for being constantly infectiously motivated; a trait that would come in useful in Baffin. Lempe, while not lacking motivation to explore the mountains, is a thoughtful person, someone who, as he himself admits, looks for direction and balance, and who doesn’t speak out loudly. His numerous short films that recount his adventures prove his climbing abilities and extraordinary ability in telling honest tales.
On the Great Cross Pillar, just across from the famous Polar Sun Spire, the pair made the first ascent of Deconstructing Jenga (VI, 5.9+, A3+) in capsule style in May 2015. As the name of their new route suggests, the main challenge was dealing with horrible choss and loose flakes, a characteristic that this climb shares with most of the more natural lines in the area.
Once back in camp, they chose a less obvious, harder line on the same formation as a second goal before being picked up by their Inuit guide. After establishing only the first pitches, disaster almost struck. Hit on the back by a falling rock, Allfrey had no choice but depart early to receive medical attention. During the entire expedition, Lempe was racked by inner torments, debating whether or not he was in the right place, being out in the wild instead of at home. Often he leant towards the idea that he would rather go home.
It is rare that the focus of a short film about a rock climbing adventure homes in on the real story of its protagonists, and not on logos and clichés, and most importantly that the story is relayed in all its rawness, without omissions – so rare indeed, that one might have become unaccustomed to storytelling of this sort. Even more of a reason to have a look at Haywire, the short film that without a doubt marks the hitherto apex of Lempe’s development as both filmmaker and climber.
Ben Lepesant: born in Luxembourg in 1990, Ben studies physics in Innsbruck and likes book, climbing and combining both.