Friday, 10 August 2007

The Great Climb – I might try and climb something a bit harder??!

The chopper flying off from the top of Hell’s Lum crag yesterday morning, dropping off the first of the equipment for shooting The Great Climb for the BBC. They did offer me a lift up from Glenmore Lodge, but that would be unthinkable for any self-respecting climber so I declined and trekked off up the path ; ) I’d only been in a helicopter once before as a kid as well…

After I’d wiped the sweat from my brow from the slog over Cairngorm to Hell’s Lum I abbed into the depths of the Lum for the second time for another 8 hour shift of cleaning and prospecting new routes.

On my first day I looked across at a beautiful smooth marbly wall which looked utterly inspiring. I abseiled down it quickly and found a perfect line of miniscule brick edges running up it, but very (extremely) little protection available. “E11” popped into my head. But yesterday I got stuck into it and found that I could actually pull on those holds. That was quite a surprise, and after a while I linked it in one go at hard 8a+. Thing is, falling from the hard part or the sustained moves above would mean certain death, no question. So where Indian Face is 7b with bad pro, this is top end 8a+ with even worse pro. Hmmm E10 for sure.

I’m psyched!

It’s probably the best quality rock on a new route I’ve ever tried, so the motivation to climb it is so strong. What better day could you choose than when such a momentous event as the great climb will capture such a great route on film?

Well yes, but it’s not as simple as that. At E8, even E9, I could wait until the filming team were ready and wear a radio mic etc so they get the grunting they want. But E10 is very very close to my limit, and the consequences of blowing it as high as they could get. So to climb this next Saturday, the temperature and humidity must be right, the build up must be right, the social vibe must be right, the resting times must be right. If anything upsets the necessary rhythm of preparation, I will have to make a cold decision to pass up the opportunity to complete this amazing project and go back to my plan for the E8/9 just to the right. Exciting!

Some more details on the programme:

BBC 2 Scotland between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
BBC 2 Network between 5.25 p.m. and 6.35 p.m.
The BBC High Definition Channel between 5.25 p.m. and 6.35 p.m.
The Web – all day, streamed live from The Great Climb site.

So anyone on the planet with either a telly or an internet connection will be able to catch it. The Great Climb’s website is live on Monday

In typical Scottish style, a deep autumnal low with flooding and gales are forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. Well, the Scottish weather gods were never going to make it easy for us were they?

The line I tried yesterday with some notes on it describing the full horror… I sooooo hope the conditions are right for it next Sat. Do a sun (plus fresh breeze) dance for me.


  1. This is the coolest thing I've heard all year. Can't wait to watch!

    Good luck.

    Cheers, Tom

  2. Very cool post, keep it up. I have a question tho...if Indian Face is 7b and death and E9, then surely an 8a+ and death must be harder than E10. Dave says it was only 8a+ so couldn't be E11, I don't see that. Rhapsody is E11 and 8c+, but not death. How hard does a chop route need to be to get E11?
    From this thinking, 7b can be E9, 8a+ can be E10, what about 7c+ death for example? What is that?

  3. Hi Nick, Using french grades + protection as a formula to roughly calculate an E grade works OK as just that - a rough guide. But it assumes knowledge of he routes being compared.

    Indian Face is very easy climbing for E9, but a few snappy holds increase the danger and it's not a danger which is completely under your control. Hence a high E grade considering the physical difficulty. If the climbing was steeper and the holds more solid and positive, but the gear just as bad, it would have to be 7c+ or harder to earn E9. But a 7c+ version of Indian Face would surely earn E10.

    This Cairngorm project is 8a+ but the rock is the best quality I've ever climbed, so only an error can make me fall - all the factors are within my control. So although the gear is just as bad as Indian Face and the climbing many grades harder, I can be more in control of my chances of falling under the right conditions.

    The more you consider all the factors involved in grading dangerous climbs, the more the grading system will make sense. If you see it just as numbers without looking at the cliff, it will be confusing.

  4. errr, is it just me who can't open the picture come description of the route thing?

  5. Sam

    To open the large picture, try using the link:


  6. Dave, good answer, and good points.
    The open groove line of the lh ab rope looks awesome as well, would that be one of the E7/8 lines that are a back up?

  7. Good luck Dave!

  8. I'm so excited for you, Dave! May the weather gods be with you, enjoy it and good luck! I'm practising the sun/breeze dance; so far it's working here :-)


  9. Pull hard man and ride that flow... Enjoy which ever line you end up on!

    We'll be doing our best to distract the rain clouds from you towards Eire and North Wales!

  10. Hi Dave, you're such an inspiration to a beginning climber like myself! I hope the conditions are right for you to go for the big 'un!

    Good luck, and be strong!


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