The Great Stack of Handa. Photo: Triple Echo Productions
*Update* The programme now has a provisional slot of Nov 22nd at 19.00. Adventure Show special, BBC2 Scotland, iPlayer.
Last month I was working on two great film shoots with the Triple Echo team for the BBC at either ends of the UK. First off it was up north to the Stack of Handa to play the part of Donald McDonald, a Lewis farmer from the 1870s.
Myself, Donald King and Dave Cuthbertson going climbing on Handa. Photo: Triple Echo Productions
Three rather intrepid men from Lewis rode across the Minch in 1870 and made the first crossing onto the stack by rather inventive means. They lugged 600 feet of fishing rope across the island and walked it out across the headlands , pulling it tight until the rope (just) rested over the summit of the stack. McDonald then rather boldly hand-over-handed across the sagging rope without any backup to get onto the stack. The climb up the far side of the rope stack sounded like a fight for his life, the rope basically running almost vertically at that point. With encouragement from his partners, he made it and brought the others over the re-belayed rope in a breeches buoy.
Crossing the fishing rope to the stack. Photo: Triple Echo Productions
It’s hard to see any other reason for them taking the considerable trouble and risk to make this expedition for anything other than the sheer challenge of it. There are plenty of birdy cliffs for harvesting that are a lot more accessible nearby. Therefore, according to Murray writing in the journal, it may be the first recorded instance of an ascent like this in the country.
Cubby following in the breeches buoy. I.e. an oversized nappy! Photo: Triple Echo Productions