Archive for March, 2011

Chad Expedition - First Ascents in the Ennedi Desert

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Here are a few images from my most recent trip to the Ennedi Desert. If you’re wondering where the Ennedi Desert is, that’s OK most people have no idea where it is. I didn’t either until a few days before my trip. The Ennedi is in the northeast corner of Chad, Africa. To get to the Ennedi, you fly N’Djemena, then drive about 50k outside of the city on a narrow two lane highway. At what seems like a very arbitrary point on the road, you make a right hand turn. We drove for four long hot days across the desert and never saw another road again until the last day of a month long trip when we hit the highway on our way back to N’Djemena. Needless to say, it was a wild trip into the heart of the north central African desert.

I ended up in the Ennedi Desert the same way I’ve ended up in a lot of very strange places and situations around the world. It starts with a call from Mark Synnott asking me if I want to go with him on his next trip. Despite my better judgment, I’ve always agreed to go. Some of my fondest memories with Mark include almost drowning in a freezing waterfall 2000ft up a big wall in Borneo, eating coconuts with Fletcher Christian’s very freaked out descendants on Pitcairn Island and, most recently, facing off with a gang of desert marauders trying to rob us at knife point. I often wonder during my trips with Mark if I should have paused for a moment to reflect on our previous experiences together before I had agreed to follow him on another half cocked adventure. I don’t necessarily think it’s his fault that we end up in these situations, but he certainly seems to attract mayhem.

All that being said, Mark is an exceptional person, hilarious to hang out with and definitely makes a pretty good choice for a teammate on expeditions. His nickname has always been Scrappy which he picked up during his years living among the dirtbags in Yosemite. I figured that the moniker was a reference to how scrappy he looked. In Chad, I found out, he is great to have around if there are a bunch of thugs with knives trying to mug you. When the shit hit the fan, Mark was standing by my side with a large spiny branch in hand ready to scrap. He looked rather menacing. “Scrappy” took on a whole new meaning for me.

This is all a bit beside the point. We went to the Ennedi with Alex Honnold, James Pearson, Tim Kemple and Renan Ozturk to seek out unclimbed sandstone towers. We found thousands of them. Since no one had ever climbed there, we went around picking off the most iconic formations we could find. The Ennedit Desert is one of the coolest landscapes I’ve ever been in. Check it.

James Pearson on the first ascent of the Arch of Bishekele.

James Pearson on the first ascent of the Arch of Bishekele.

Our camp below the Arch of Bishekele.

Our camp below the Arch of Bishekele.

James Pearson and Mark Synnott climbing the first ascent of the Wine Bottle.

James Pearson and Mark Synnott climbing the first ascent of the Wine Bottle.

Libyan desert traveller offering camel's milk.

Libyan desert traveller offering camel's milk.

James Pearson and Mark Synnott on the first ascent of the Arch of Bishekele.

James Pearson and Mark Synnott on the first ascent of the Arch of Bishekele.

Basecamp cooking scene.

Basecamp cooking scene.