I've been a little quiet recently, and for once I have a very good reason... For the last 3 weeks I have been in the middle of the Ennedi desert, amidst a sea of sand and sandstone towers, in north eastern Chad! The expedition was part of The North Face's annual expedition program, which every year sends teams of its athletes to some of the most random and remote places in he world, in search of something magic.
This adventure in particular was the brainchild of Mark Synnott and had been lurking in the dark depths of his mind for the last 10 or so years. Based on some stunning pictures from a photostream on flickr and some information from local hero Piero, who has been guiding out of the Sahara for almost 40 years, Mark decided now was the time to drop the clutch and head off on an adventure.
The team consisted of Mark and myself, Alex Honnold, Tim Kemple, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin. The information available online regarding travelling in Chad is varied to say the least and not one of the team knew what to expect. Ideas ranged from kidnap and torture, to a beach holiday without the ocean - and so it was with a large amount of uncertainty that we boarded the plane from Paris to N'djamena...
The result was an expedition to never forget! Lost among an endless expanse of desert towers, in what felt like the most remote place on earth, yet almost always in view of other humans, we battled through the sand climbing some of the most memorable and iconic routes of our lives. The scenery and sunsets were enough to make believe you were on another planet.
The guys from Camp 4 worked their magic, and by their own admission captured some of the best stills and video they have ever shot. In a place where dropping a camera would likely capture a cover-shot this may not come as so much of a shock, but some of the crane shots and time-lapses are more than just eye-candy - they are works of art.
All will be released in good time, after each of the guys takes a well earned rest with their families for Christmas. The 4 day jeep ride home was the straw that broke the camels back and we all boarded or planes home feeling completely worked, half dead, but ultimately content. Although I am desperate to see the finished piece, I can forgive the guys a little time to wind down and relax before the madness resumes in 2011. In the meantime I am going to release a selection of the expedition blog you might not have seen from NeverStopExploring.com along with some simply beautiful stills.
Here is dispatch 1, courtesy of Alex, who managed to hold his bowls together long enough to type a few words like only he can...
Coming on this expedition to Chad was kind of unnerving. Nothing was really known and all the information I found on the internet made it clear that Chad was not a good place to visit. The whole team met up in Paris, which is always a good start. The only problem was that I had horrible food poisoning and spent the majority of my travel and flights sitting on the toilet vomiting or curled up in agony. Not such a good start for me. But amazingly we all made it to N'djamena without a hitch. Our outfitter met us inside customs and helped us chaperone all our oversized bags out of the airport. We spent the first night in a hotel in the city, then packed up our jeeps the next morning and set out for the desert. And that pretty much brings us up to present. We've driven for 2 days across Chad. We've seen a lot of camels, a lot of nomads, a TON of sand. Let's just say we're all a bit dusty. Everything has gone perfectly. Good food, good company, everyone is in good spirits. Tomorrow we should make it to the Ennedi, where we will hopefully find some decent climbing. Our outfitter is a climber himself so he has a lot of good ideas for things we should climb. Lines that he's scoped over 15 years of visiting the desert. We're all thinking of folks back home. But psyched that this is going as smoothly as it has, and pretty optimistic about doing some amazing new routes. Alex Honnold