Sam Bendroth and Bayard Russell recently returned to Newfoundland's remote Blow Me Down sea cliff to complete a 12-pitch new route; Betrayer of Hope. Named after a character from the Wheel of Time fantasy novel series, that Sam was reading, the route includes one 5.12a pitch and six 5.11c pitches - all 5.11c or harder, with the exception of one 5.11a pitch.
Betrayer of Hope climbs to the right of Lucifer's Lighthouse (5.12c) sharing its starting twenty feet. Sam and Bayard began establishing the route in September 2014, free climbing the initial four pitches, including the crux, ground-up. This high quality 1,300-foot granite cliff, on the southeast coast of Newfoundland in Canada, was first explored in the early 1990s.
Sam sent us this account of their first ascent.
"Getting to the climb was an epic in itself. Setting out from North Conway, NH, we drove for 12 hours to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, then took an overnight ferry to Newfoundland. On arriving there we drove another three hours to Bergeo and left the truck to get on a costal ferry... five hours later you’re in Francois. Then you hop on the Royal Oak. This is a fishing boat that belongs to George Fudge or George Sam – apparently everyone out there is called George so you have to tell them apart somehow! This takes you to the foot of the cliff, called Jabo by the locals, where the granite slabs fall right into the ocean. After a short row ashore you hike your gear up 400 foot of slab… and you’ve finally made it to base camp!
One of our friends, Joe Terravechia (a formidable exploratory climber with many wild first ascents across North America to his name) had seen a picture of the cliff in a sailing magazine in the 90’s, and had spent a lot of time developing it. Joe is a total badass and if he says something is good, you know it’ll live up to expectations. We’d already had a couple of misadventures on Cape Trinity (another epic sea cliff near Quebec) involving rotten rock and hurricane force winds, so decided that was good preparation for Blow Me Down.
Our route, Betrayer of Hope, is 12 pitches long and goes at 5.12a/b. The first four pitches were done ground up on a previous trip in September 2014, and went very smoothly – every time the question of where to go reared its head, crucial holds would appear. However, we ran out of bolts and the drill ran out of power!
This year we returned with more bolts and a solar panel to charge the drill. This time we took a top down approach because of question marks raised by huge roofs and scary loose blocks. A ground up approach would have given us a partial aid climb, and we wanted the route to go free. We ended up getting round the roofs with some down climbing and then traversing back over them. When we first rapped in I was disheartened with the roof section as it didn’t go straight through, but Bayard kept the faith and figured out the connector pitch to get us above them. The upper pitches were incredible, with a finger crack corner followed by a discontinuous crack featuring juggy face holds.
The first week of our trip felt a lot like work, with not much climbing – our joke was that we should go on a climbing trip after our ‘climbing’ trip!
The ascent was definitely a long, tough day. Oreo biscuits before the last 5.11 pitch were the key to success! We’d been talking about the project all winter, spring and summer, so psych was high, and sending felt great!
After a trip like that everything takes a while to sink in and you just need a while to mellow out. As it happened work kicked in full steam as soon as we got back. Next up I’ve got some big trad projects at remote cliffs with long approaches. I went to check one of those out recently and hiked up to find the cliff wet and cold. I want to get those ticked so I don’t have to do the walk in again. After that I’m looking forward to just going sport climbing for a while!
A big shout out to the George and the people of Francois, they are so nice and hugely welcoming… George has let us stay on his boat every year when we’ve been there and given us slabs of moose meat on our return!"