Imagine a landscape that resembles the Canyonlands of Utah: an endless expanse of sandstone rock towers and natural arches rising out of sand dunes. But this landscape is visited only by a handful of camel teams as they move from oasis to oasis. That is the Ennedi desert, a remote location in eastern Chad, in northern Africa.
Team leader Mark Synnott made it the mission of his climbing career to seek out the unknown and the unclimbed, wherever on earth that might be. This quest has taken him to far flung outposts of stone in the South Pacific, the Arctic Circle, and in the jungles of the Amazon Basin. For Mark, exploration is the cake, but finding new climbs is the icing. He learned of the Ennedi several years ago and kept it a secret. But he says, “It’s a bonanza I have been waiting to harvest for a long time, and the time is now.”
“Some of these towers are shockingly tall and slender, and I’m certain no climbers have visited the area,” Mark says. “Any climber would drool over the prospect of climbing them.” To reach their destination, his team set out from Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, and traveled for three days by 4WD vehicle over largely roadless, sandy plains, to the surreal spires of the Ennedi.
Joining him were a crew of The North Face® Global Athletes. James Pearson, a rising star of extreme traditional climbing, has produced some deliciously dangerous routes on the sea cliffs of England. The youngest of the crew, Alex Honnold, an American prodigy whose solo climbs of Moonlight Buttress and Half Dome, both 5.12 and both multi-pitch routes, brought him headlines in the adventure media. Adventure photographer Jimmy Chin and video auteur Renan Ozturk recorded the expedition.