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Honnold, Findlay Nab First Ascent of Massive Arctic Monolith

Alex Honnold(Photo/National Geographic via Getty Images)
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Climbing nerds have a new reason to tune in to Nat Geo’s upcoming series: Alex Honnold and Hazel Findlay just finished a FA in Greenland.

After a 5-day battle with the elements, Alex Honnold and Hazel Findlay reached the top of one of the planet’s most immense unclimbed cliffs on Tuesday.

Composed of 3-million-year-old gneiss, Ingmikortilaq presented the climbers with numerous challenges: loose rock, holds breaking off in their hands, and slick marble-like surfaces that required extra grip strength to hang on; (photo/James Smith, National Geographic for Disney+)

The pair of climbing pros now have the first ascent of Ingmikortilaq, a 3,750-foot cliff rising from a fjord on Greenland’s east coast, a news release said. They finished the climb while filming for “On the Edge with Alex Honnold,” a new National Geographic series for Disney+.

Honnold and Findlay approached the 3-million-year-old granite and gneiss monolith in ocean-up style. They rowed a dinghy from a nearby basecamp and started at the base of the wall’s steepest and tallest route.

honnold greenland
At Edward Bailey Glacier, Greenland, Alex Honnold hangboards on the approach to the Pool wall; (photo/J.J. Kelley, National Geographic for Disney+)

While progressing up the wall, they used a “shiver bivvy” — overnighting in their sleeping bags. After 5 days of battling icy weather, they reached the top of one of the tallest unclimbed big walls in the world.

Facing a summit 750 feet taller than El Capitan, Honnold and Findlay still free-climbed the entire route. Though the climbing pair no doubt felt stoked to add another significant first ascent to their names, the journey to Greenland wasn’t just a climbing vacation. It also offered a crucial opportunity to measure the effects of climate change on Greenland’s fast-melting landscape.

Climate Science on the Edge

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On August 16, 2022, Alex Honnold and Hazel Findlay summited Greenland’s Ingmikortilaq; (photo/Matt Pycroft, National Geographic for Disney+)

Ingmikortilaq (pronounced Ing-mick-ort-till-lack) means “the separate one” in Greenlandic. The monolith sits “at ground zero” of the climate crisis, National Geographic wrote in the news release.

The imposing cliff rises directly out of the Nordvestfjord in the Scoresby Sound region of eastern Greenland. This ice-covered country features prominently in climate news reports for its sensitivity to a changing climate.

CNN reported that during one weekend in July, for example, enough ice melted in Greenland to cover West Virginia in a foot of water.

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The expedition team follow a meltwater river up the Edward Bailey Glacier on Renland, Eastern Greenland; (photo/Pablo Durana, National Geographic for Disney+)

That’s why the Honnold/Findlay expedition included glaciologist ​​Dr. Heïdi Sevestre, who works with the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program. Also on the trip was Adam Kjeldsen, a Greenlandic guide.

Together, the team completed “what might be the first true crossing of the critical Renland ice cap from the Pool Wall,” the news release said. As they traversed the Renland ice cap, Sevestre and the team dragged a special radar. With it, they could take real-time measurements of the depth and density of the snow and ice below them.

According to Sevestre, the scientific community “desperately needs” scientific data from remote locations like Ingmikortilaq.

With Honnold’s team setting up fixed ropes for her, Sevestre could measure the depth and density of ice caps. That will help her discover new insights into the rate of polar ice melt — and our fast-warming planet.

The Disney+ series “On The Edge With Alex Honnold” will stream soon on the platform but doesn’t currently have an exact release date.

alex honnold

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