The Land of Maybe: Climbing in the Faroe Islands

The North Face's new documentary shows a group of elite climbers taking on Europe's highest sea cliff

By Zane Henry
Published 1 Aug 2018, 21:00 BST, Updated 14 Jul 2021, 16:24 BST
Photograph by Getty Images

When climber James Pearson discovered that Europe's biggest sea cliff remained unconquered, he saw his opportunity to explore uncharted territory. Pearson, along with fellow climbers Cedar Wright and Yuji Hirayama, assembled at the foot of Cape Enniberg, the northmost point of the Faroe Islands. They looked up at 2,473.75ft of loose rock, patchy grass, and certain danger. Would they be the first to summit it? Maybe.

The Land of Maybe grants unique access to the logistical, technical, and emotional challenges that elite athletes must endure to achieve the extraordinary. The film tells the story of the group's drive to tackle uncertainty head on.


Meet James Pearson

What mentality does climbing require?
In hindsight, anybody that wants to climb up Cape Enniberg is probably a little unhinged — that was a genuinely dangerous climb. Speaking a little more generally, pushing yourself to do or try something new is something I think most people can understand. It's nothing special, you just need a curious mind and a little confidence in yourself, and in your friends.

Is it within reach of the average person?
Climbing a 'big wall' requires technical knowledge and specialist equipment. It's not something anybody could just decide to do on a Friday afternoon, but if you really wanted to do it, with a few months of dedication, it's definitely possible. There are many different styles of climbing out there, so if the idea of 'big walling' seems a bit much, start with bouldering at the climbing gym.

What prep is needed?
Climbing a big wall like Cape Enniberg is 'rather unique', and the stability of the rock and the weather conditions make the climb particularly difficult and dangerous. There are however many more accessible big walls around the world that can be climbed with only a little more preparation and knowledge than a single-pitch rock climb. One would need a good understanding of the basics of climbing, belaying, and rapelling, then you just rinse and repeat, one pitch after the next until you get to the top. There's obviously a lot more to learn than that, but the basic principle is very simple. If it all still seems like a bit too much, professional mountain guides can be hired to take you up classic routes and show you the ropes. It's not cheap, but it'll be an incredible experience that you'll never forget, and it might be enough to boost your confidence to tackle similar challenges.

Your favourite places for adventure, climbing and chilling?
That's a tough question with some long answers… I'll force myself to be short. Adventure — Mount Kinabalu, Borneo. Climbing — The New River Gorge, US. Chilling — sunny South of France. I'll leave you guys to do some research to find out why, after all, that's half the fun of exploring…

Published in the Adventure guide, distributed with the September 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

And another thing…

Think you know pop-ups? Think again. The North Face has created a roving mountain boutique like no other. With the aim of paying tribute to the pinnacles reached by adventurers, the alpine store is auctioning an eight-piece collection of adventure gear worn on recent expeditions by intrepid explorers such as Alex Honnold and James Pearson with all proceeds going back to the mountains. But, you've got to be quick; the pop-up boutique will only be in its current location — in the heart of the Italian Dolomites — until Sunday 5 August. Get your hiking boots on. Follow the journey at #PinnacleProject.


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