This year Hazel Findlay embarked on an expedition to climb the rugged cliffs of Devil’s Bay, Newfoundland, Canada. The result was a trip that fully tested both their patience and equipment. Read on for her account of the expedition, and be sure to check out The North Face Facebook Page on February 9 for a behind the scenes video of Hazel on the trip.
We go climbing to challenge ourselves, but when the weather doesn’t play ball, being unable to climb can actually be a greater challenge. In the UK the rain often prevents me from climbing on rock. But at home, I can climb in the gym, or if I really want to – take a flight to Spain! On a trip to Newfoundland with The North Face, we were about 4 days travelling via car and boat from the nearest gym, stuck in tents with little to do but stew in our own thoughts.
We woke up early each morning with the hope that the fog and rain would have cleared, only to find we couldn’t even see each other’s tents let alone the wall. We spent most of the time in our one saving grace, the huge dome tent, listening to the pitter patter on the roof and strong winds pulling at the guidelines. Nights were spent wide-awake weathering out 70 mph winds, which by some miracle barely missed destroying our tents and taking everything with them. I remember a particular moment during one of these exhausting nights when I went out to check on my tent, I realised that the tent had actually moved a long way from where I had pitched it and the only thing stopping it from blowing away was me in it! With one hand I held on to the tent and with the other I battled to reattach the guidelines to something immovable.
In the evenings we would cook, chat and read in the dome tent. If we had been climbing this would have been a highly enjoyable experience. People say that happiness can only be appreciated in contrast to sadness. I think this is the same with rest and work. Sitting in a tent, eating and relaxing can only really be appreciated when contrasted to a hard day outside. Too much climbing can take its toll on the body and mind, but no climbing at all can also take its toll. As people accustomed to long days outside, we had taken our fill of relaxation and our bodies and minds were starting to grow stale.
We decided to take long exploratory walks, to vent some of the frustration. On a particular day despite a thick blanket of fog, the rain subsided a little and I needed some exercise. I left basecamp and made my way up the river basin to the top of a high peak. At its top I broke through the fog and the cloud to be presented with clear blue skies and a view of the land above the fog. I could see far into the distance with the low fog blowing dramatically through the fjords below me. At that moment the beauty of the place hit me right in the face and I questioned why I couldn’t be satisfied with just being there. Why I couldn’t be content with good company, the blue sea, the heather… even the fog.
That’s the irony of having a passion like climbing; there is an uncomfortable fact that what you enjoy so much becomes a burden when it can’t be satisfied. We went to Newfoundland to climb but we only climbed one day and it was hard to appreciate being there because of it.
But you always take away more from an exploratory trip like this than just climbing. We experienced the unique beauty of Newfoundland, we hung out with the friendly, odd-accented people who live there, we learnt about the dying fishing industry and the struggles of living in such an isolated place. And we got to know one another. We took a chance, an adventure, and a journey. And what’s more, we learnt the lesson of how to appreciate these things, even when we couldn’t climb.