Weekend Warm-Up: The Towers of Ennedi

Totally off the tourist radar, rarely seen by the human eye, except for a few camel teams moving from oasis to oasis, Chad’s Ennedi desert is a labyrinth of sandstone towers and natural arches rising out of vast sand dunes, comparable to Utah’s Canyonlands.

Veteran climber Mark Synnott, known for his far-flung adventures, joins North Face athletes James Pearson and Alex Honnold on an expedition to this isolated northern African desert.

In 2017 Honnold became the first person to free solo 900m El Capitan in California’s Yosemite National Park. His climb was documented in the Oscar-winning film, Free Solo. Pearson, an established star of traditional climbing, has nailed some deliciously dangerous routes on the sea cliffs of England.


The Ennedi desert’s surreal sandstone spires. Photo twgram.me

Synnott learned of the Ennedi several years ago and kept it a secret. “It’s a bonanza I have been waiting to harvest for a long time, and the time is now,” he says. “Some of these towers are shockingly tall and slender. I’m certain no climbers have visited the area. Any climber would drool over the prospect.”

To reach Ennedi’s towers, the team set out from Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, and traveled more than 800km over three days by 4WD vehicles over largely roadless, sandy plains.

Otherworldly landscapes and incredible photography (by veteran pros Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin, who directed Free Solo) make this a must-watch film.