Sunday 8 August 2010

A turnaround of fortunes on Harris

My world for the last 5 days - the overhanging landscape of spiky rock on Sron Uladail
Just back from another intense week of preparations for The Great Climb on the 28th on Harris. After the Skye Pipe Band gave us an entertaining ride back across the minch on the Calmac, I drove back to Lochaber like a zombie and crawled into bed.
I have a route to attempt! The most overhanging section of the entire cliff proved the exception to the rule that I’d encountered so far. Every other line I’d looked at worked apart from short sections that were blank, loose or wet. From a previous abseil from the top of the cliff, looking in from a distance I thought a 12 foot section on theses overhangs also looked devoid of holds. But it was so steep I needed to come back with more gear to back-aid across the roofs to get a closer look.
When I did just that on Monday I couldn’t believe my eyes! A line of fingertip flakes and slopers leading out across the big roof to gain the next flake system. The line reminds me of the famous Spanish route Kalea Borroka in Siurana, but even steeper! It’s going to be a mind-boggling adventure climbing this thing. I really can’t wait for the 28th. Pitch 1 looks like the best pitch of E7 I’ve seen anywhere. After a hanging belay, the very first move of pitch 2 is the hardest of the entire route. I could only do the move one out of four tries. But it’s just a very long reach at 50 degrees overhanging. That’s pretty much the same angle as my board so I’ll make a model of the crux section to train on. After that it’s more hard bloc across the roof to get the next flake system and a spectacular climb up these in the most exposed position imaginable. I’m not sure yet but this pitch seems like it will be hard E8 or maybe into E9. After that there are three more E6 and E7 pitches through more spectacular terrain. So it was a turnaround of fortunes compared to the last trip. No doubt it wont be the last. But such is adventure climbing!

Brian Hall begins the highly skilled job of working out logistics to get a sizeable team of climbing cameramen onto the most overhanging cliff in the British Isles.

Brian follows me down my lines. This is one of the least steep parts of the route, but you can see from the other rope hanging free why it’s difficult to clean and remove loose rock from 600 feet of cliff this steep. In other climbing meccas around the world, bolts would be considered the only way to do this without a major epic. Being British, we opt for the major epic.

My rope snaking through the overhangs gives you an idea of the terrain I hope we can climb on the day. 

Old fixed gear I removed from the cliff last week which marks the battles, successes and failures of climbers past. The owners of this gear would read like a who’s who of adventure trad climbers of the past few decades!
...So now I have a week or so to squeeze in more training before the whole team Rendezvous on Harris for the week leading up to the live broadcast. I think it will be a good show.


  1. simon geering09 August, 2010

    Looking forward to this, any details of the broadcast times?

    Is it going to only be on BBC Scotland or will it be on one of the main BBC chanels as well?

  2. Hi Dave

    good luck on the day, i look forward forward to talking about it for 6 hours.

    I will be in the commentary tent with hot drinks, Mr V and a bottle or two of beer. I hope Tim is in fine fettle as well.

    away the lads and good luck. See you in a few days....

    Dunc McCallum

  3. what style will u be trying the route? obviously you have had a play on the 2nd pitch but are you gonna work that one and then try and onsight ground-up the rest or what? i presume timmy will be crushing some pitches on lead too? this looks to be a very exciting load of footage good luck!

  4. 1.30-6pm BBC2 Scotland.

    4-6pm BBC HD channel.

    Streamed live on BBC site.

    Duncan - I've cleaned the whole route on abseil. There was loose rock needing removing. Yes we'll swing leads probably.

  5. Hi Dave

    I just moved to Harris and am delighted that you are helping to give some well deserved exposure to this beautiful island and its magical hills.

    In fact you have just tempted me to plan a quick route upto sron uladail now and have a look at exactly where your gonna be, although im looking out of my window and the wonderful hebridean wind is telling me its not such a good idea.

    anyway im sure the weather will break for your climb, good luck!!!



  6. Just watched you both on the best 5 1/2 hours TV I ever saw. I'm just a 'umble 'illwalker myself so my heart was in my mouth, but was banging the hands bigtime to see the two of you get up there safe & jubilant. Truly incredible stuff, & congratulations both.