Sam Elias and Mark Syn­nott re­flect on a sail­ing trip to Dover Is­land

Gripped - - FEATURE -

This sum­mer, top Amer­i­can climbers Sam Elias and Mark Syn­nott sailed from East­port, Maine, to Nova Sco­tia to take part in Boul­der­fest, the an­nual boul­der fes­ti­val on Dover Is­land. “As some of you know, I’ve been dream­ing about sail­ing to Nova Sco­tia since I got my first sail­boat back in 2005,” said Syn­nott on day one of the trip. “It’s hard to be­lieve, but it has taken me 13 years to pre­pare for the voy­age, which just be­gan to­day.”

They set off from East­port, Maine and ar­rived in North Head Har­bour on Grand Manan on day one. “We cut it close with the day­light but we were re­warded with a beau­ti­ful reach along the is­land’s north coast as we watched the sun­set along­side a pod of whales,” Syn­nott said. “To­mor­row we are set­ting off at 4 a.m. to catch the ebb tide for our cross­ing of the Bay of Fundy and on through Petite Pas­sage on Digby Neck.”

Syn­nott is a big wall climber who has climbed new routes in Alaska, Baf­fin

Is­land, Green­land, Ice­land, New­found­land, Patag­o­nia, Guyana, Venezuela, Pak­istan, Nepal, In­dia, China, Ti­bet, Uzbek­istan, Rus­sia, Cameroon, Chad, Bor­neo, Oman and Pit­cairn Is­land. Go­ing on a boul­der­ing trip has never been on the top of his list, but with the ad­ven­tures that come with sail­ing he’s right at home. “We will be stop­ping in many places along the way and we look for­ward to ex­plor­ing and meet­ing any Cana­dian climbers who live along our route,” said Synott on his way to Dover. “I have to imag­ine there must be a few se­cret crags hid­den out there.”

Dover Is­land is just off shore of West Dover, N.S., and it’s con­sid­ered by many to be the best boul­der­ing area around Nova Sco­tia and the pre­mier boul­der­ing des­ti­na­tion in At­lantic Canada. There are high qual­ity boul­der­ing prob­lems and amaz­ing ocean scenery. It is home to over 120 prob­lems that range from V0 to V10 with many new lines wait­ing to be climber.

“We sailed right on past Dover Is­land, where Boul­der­fest will be tak­ing place this week­end, in fa­vor of an an­chor­age

a bit fur­ther east called Rogue’s Roost,” said Syn­nott. “We’d been told it’s the best an­chor­age in all of Nova Sco­tia, and its rep­u­ta­tion is well de­served. The cove is so well hid­den it took us two passes to find the open­ing. Once in­side we fol­lowed a nar­row, twist­ing chan­nel lined with fields of heath, gran­ite boul­ders and wind stunted spruce. We capped off our day with a dinghy ex­plo­ration of this mag­i­cal wilder­ness area which com­prises 22 is­lands, all of which are un­in­hab­ited. On one of them we fi­nally got our hands on some Nova Sco­tian stone. I’m told by some lo­cals that we are prob­a­bly the first peo­ple to climb on this is­land. Need­less to say, this is my kind of place.”

When Elias and Syn­nott fi­nally ar­rived in Dover Is­land, they’d been sail­ing for two weeks. They spent a few days at the boul­der­ing fes­ti­val with dozens of lo­cals who were send­ing hard prob­lems. “Com­mu­nity Ser­vice V9 was one of my favourites from the Boul­der­fest week­end,” said Elias. “It was put up by my friend Nick Sagar a while ago. I did a lot of climb­ing on lit­tle Dover Is­land over the week­end, un­til mid­night both nights. It’s pretty sur­pris­ing my soft skin and swollen boat feet were up to the chal­lenge af­ter two weeks of noth­ing but sail­ing from Syn­nott’s scrappy boat, Camelot.” Dover Is­land draws far more boul­der­ers than route climbers, but it does of­fer a hand­ful of short and high qual­ity roped climbs. Lo­cated at the mouth of West Dover’s har­bour, there are two short gran­ite cliffs with about fif­teen trad lines from 5.7 to 5.11. The gran­ite is very coarse and sim­i­lar to Joshua Tree mon­zonite. The base pro­vides a sandy beach to be­lay from. “I was very im­pressed with the set­ting and the qual­ity of the stone,” said Elias. “The com­mu­nity was re­ally wel­com­ing and stoked to have us there.” Some of the clas­sic climbs the lo­cals were giv­ing the tour of in­cluded Or­gas­ma­tron V0, The Cof­fin V2, Bull­dog V6, Orange Crush V6, and I Heel Good V7. “This was my first trip with Sam, but he’s heard the sto­ries about some of my wild goose chases in the past, so I couldn’t blame the guy for be­ing a tiny bit skep­ti­cal about what we’d find to climb in Nova Sco­tia,” said Syn­nott. “I wish you could have seen the smile that lit up his face when we stepped ashore on Dover Is­land for the first time. By his se­cond prob­lem, a body length

roof on which ev­ery hold was a sloper, he was beam­ing as he de­clared the climb­ing on Dover as world class.”

Elias was raised on com­pet­i­tive alpine ski rac­ing, has a dou­ble de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of Idaho in bi­ol­ogy and art/ ce­ram­ics, and he has climbed new routes up to 5.14+. He even placed se­cond at the Ou­ray Ice Fest in 2010 and has climbed hard win­ter routes. He’s spent many months climb­ing in and around Europe, Venezuela, Turkey, and Asia, and once tra­versed Rus­sia by train to com­pete in an ice climb­ing world cup in Kirov.

“Much of our stoke was fu­eled by the fact that we were be­ing spot­ted and cheered on by dozens of Cana­dian kin­dred spir­its who wel­comed us into their tribe as if we were old friends,” said Syn­nott about the in­fec­tious en­ergy that all climbers bring to Dover. “Of course, it was fit­ting that we were sur­rounded the whole time by the At­lantic Ocean, the power of which was felt by ev­ery one of us. Be­tween climbs, I would gaze out at the churn­ing sea.”

Dover Is­land has long been one of Canada’s pre­mier lo­ca­tions to boul­der. Next time you plan a trip, con­sider fol­low­ing in the wake of Elias and Syn­nott and take your time on the open seas.—BP

Top: Sail­ing to Dover Is­land took Sam Elias and Mark Syn­nott past end­less coast­line of flat gran­iteAbove: Syn­nott charts the course

Top right: Boul­der­fest draws dozens of strong east coast climbers

Right: Syn­nott’s sail­boat called CamelotBe­low: Elias poses dur­ing a small weather break from the fog

Right: Base­camp was used to rest, but ev­ery­one was climb­ing un­til late in the nightBot­tom: Crowds gather for long days of boul­der­ing on Dover Is­landOp­po­site top: Elias on Com­mu­nity Ser­vice V9 Op­po­site bot­tom: Syn­nott leads a short and burly crack

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