Tuesday 7 June 2011

Fresh visits to Orkney begin

St John’s Head, Hoy, Orkney. It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? I am in the picture, but you'll probably not spot me.
I just got back from two days work on my project on Orkney with progress made. Fitness is starting to materialise at last, a finger injury is becoming less and less of a bother, and logistics are ironing out.

Cleaning a new finish
I was keen to see if it was possible to finish the route over a series of roofs right at the top of the wall. So rather than the original finish skirting out right around the roofs for an easy escape, the last pitch is a ~ 70 metre pitch of around 8b+ on the top rope. Although I don’t how it’ll feel with a rack of big camalots for such a long pitch on my harness? I had thought it was going to weigh in around 8c but a miniscule foothold discovery on the crux on this trip might just take the edge off it. It's funny how a foothold about 1mm square will probably determine the overall difficulty of a 500m climb. Pics by John Sutherland.

A long pitch, and there’s 450m of climbing to get here!

John feeling the space

Brushing steeeep rock

It turns out that I should be able to lead this final 15m section through the roofs on three small cams. Since taking a belay instead would have been on two Camalot 4s, I'm actually saving weight on the crux pitch rack by pressing on all the way to the top. Happy days.

A fine rack

1945 bomber wreckage, Cuilags

Shootin the Stromness breeze


  1. What fantastic photos! Brings back memories of the original descent, the inside view and the outside view, and huge fear as I dropped 10 feet from where the hanging person John is.
    Really excited that you have managed to free on top rope the direct finish that I was hoping John Arran and Dave Turnbull would do, but that appeared impossible to them on sight.

  2. Good stuff. So does your line now follow the line of the 1970 aid route, or is it a new variation?