Wednesday, 20 October 2010

5 Climbs, 5 Islands part 1

Galta Mor, the Shaints - the location of our first ‘5 Islands’ challenge route; The Puffin Diaries E7 6c,6b
Did you catch it on TV last night? If you missed it, you’ll get it on iPlayer right here and if you are abroad you’ll be able to see it using this website (or wait for the DVD...). Remember to tune in again next Tuesday (26th) at 7pm to catch the second half of the story. If you don’t want to know how we got on in the first two days of the challenge, best stop reading this post here! All pics: by me courtesy of Triple Echo Productions

Cleaning pitch 2 the day before the start of the challenge. 
So first up was the Shiants. We didn’t know of any recorded routes on the islands other than some scary stories of attempts on loose basalt chimneys back in the day. The wave washed basalt in the arch was fantastic stuff. The only problem we had was that all the cliffs with good rock were north facing and the rain was coming down good style until about 12 hours before we were due to start. You saw the result of the damp rock under the roofs - a sudden slip and plummet. Thankfully that arete wasn’t too sharp on the rope! The roofs were about 7c+ but with reasonably good gear. Pitch 2 was a stiff E5 6b finger crack. So the whole route went at hard E7 6c,6b - The Puffin Diaries.

The Shaints have 2% of the worlds Puffin population
The second day was really going to be the toughest of the challenge. As it turned out it didn’t really work out that way, but that’s for next week’s show... The big horizontal roof on Creag Mo was about 7c+ or 8a before the crucial hold came off and possibly 8a+ afterwards. Or maybe I was just getting tired after throwing myself at it several times? On my recce for the production in May I semi-aided/free climbed out to that slot, removing a LOT of loose rock because the roof marks the line of weakness between the Mica Schist below and the bullet hard Lewissian Gneiss above. I dynoed for the slot and had a desperate time trying to get a cam in it along with my fingers and take a rest to clean it. And yet it broke straight off on the crucial lead day! Weird. Anyhow, the result was a harder route and I suppose more entertaining to watch me failing so many times. 

Arriving in Loch Seaforth to head to Creag Mo, Harris
It wasn’t too entertaining at the time I can tell you. The pressure of the entire project’s success or failure for Tim, the crew and the BBC production resting on me getting across that roof on my last try was kind of thick in the air. I think the relief on my face was obvious. The Realm, E8 6c, 6b is one of the best mountain E8s in Britain (The best E8 in Britain is still The Great Escape on Arran by the way). Did you spot the ‘Indian Face of the future’ project just right of The Realm? 

Boat life
It was funny Tim pointing out in the program that I was psyched to do as hard routes as possible on the challenge. I really should have known that choosing to try and do climbs as hard as E7 and E8 back to back that haven’t been done before so aren’t pre-cleaned and have all the unknowns removed would put the whole project at risk. The reason was that I just got carried away by the quality of the lines! It just seemed like if we were going to climb a new route on a brilliant cliff like Creag Mo, then it was obvious it had to be across the roof. When a lot of people’s time and money is being spent on a big crew of people being there to film us climbing and make a good TV programme, making it work is really high on the priority list. I made a judgement call that super high motivation to take the rare opportunity to nail such remote, good and hard routes would win out against having no margin to absorb setbacks. It worked so far...

Sometimes naming routes is hard, sometimes not.

Seconding Tim on day 3 on Lewis… 7pm next Tuesday for episode 2. Pic: Cubby Images/Triple Echo


  1. nigel pearson20 October, 2010

    I've just watched it on iplayer. I thought it was great. I loved the sense of adventure and doubt about whether you were going to be able to complete each climb. You also get to see a lot of the climbing which I liked. Well done to you and Tim.

  2. I watched it on the tv with my 7 year old son. He already enjoys climbing indoors at the Inverness wall, and watching the program, he said he wants to do that when he is older.

    We're both looking forward to next week's episode.

  3. Outstanding stuff lads,an absolute please to watch.Can't wait for next week.

  4. Just finished watching it and it contained some fantastic climbing. I cheered when you made it through the roof to the belay point.
    I'm looking forward to next week!

  5. Thank you, Dave, for warning "best stop reading this post here". I appreciated that. I have just come back from a climbing trip and have not had a chance to watch the programme until now.

    Great stuff! I could sort of feel the tension when you tried to establish yourself above the roof... So gripping. Very well done!
    I can't wait for the next episode!

  6. Colin Moody25 October, 2010

    Great to see some climbing on the telly.
    We did a couple of routes on these islands, they were recorded in the SMC journal.
    The black rock looked the same as on your route, but our routes were a touch easier!

  7. This is good show for nature lovers and mountain climbers. I also watched it using BBC iplayer abroad.