NICOLAS FAVRESSE, SEAN VILLANUEVA, OLIVIER FAVRESSE, SILVIA VIDAL, AND STEPHANE HANSSENS
These days, big-wall free climbers are a dime a dozen, and it’s hardly news when new walls are freed. So, how did we sift through the dozens of “noteworthy” ascents to choose Nicolas Favresse, Sean Villanueva, Olivier Favresse, Silvia Vidal, and Stephane Hanssens as winners of this year’s Big-Wall Golden Piton? Simple: the 45-day, Belgian-Spanish trip to Baffin Island this summer was in a league of its own.
In order to have temps warm enough to free-climb on Baffin, the team approached in July, eschewing the standard pack-ice approach via snowmobile. Big deal? Uh…yeah. They ferried enormous loads for an entire month (about 375 miles), bouldering on glacial erratics along the way “to keep ourselves in shape,” said Nico. All this for just two weeks of climbing, but what a fortnight it was! The hyper-motivated team fired five new free and mostly free big-wall routes, squeezing all they could from the 24-hour daylight.