The Indian Face at Cloggy is a route that has attained almost mythical status. Put up by Johnny Dawes in 1986 it was possibly the world’s first E9. The steep slab climbing is apparently not that hard by modern standards but the meaty E9 grade is merited by the combination of poor protection and the huge number of delicate fall-offable moves.
Claire told us that Dave had been psyching himself up for 6 months to climb this route. We filmed the first day’s proceedings and at first it all seemed to be going to script. Dave top-roped the route clean and seemed to be finding the climbing easy. The verdict on the protection wasn’t that bad either. A cluster of RPs at 20m up but all very small sizes; some of them seemed good and should hold provided they didn’t snap under a big fall.
But something was wrong. Dave was not his usual self. He was quiet and withdrawn taking long walks between working sessions on the rope. The atmostphere at the crag was tense.
We returned the next day. Dave top-roped again even more comfortably, able to stand easily to place the RPs. And then up there on the ropes, half way up the route we filmed a fascinating interview.
One of the themes that we explore in the new movie Committed is why there have been so few bad accidents in top end trad climbing. Part of the answer is that there are actually many occasions when climbers say ‘no’ and don’t risk their neck.
For Dave’s explanation you can read his blog and of course see Committed when it comes out this autumn. - My take on the decision is that Dave realised if he had gone for the lead he would be doing it for the wrong reasons. The style of climbing wasn’t his forte and wasn’t what he enjoys. To risk his neck on a dangerous route that he didn't feel totally psyched for would be wrong. Do you climb for the media and CV enhancing ticks, or do you climb routes that you really enjoy?
A sneaky method to get the film crew up to Cloggy - steam power.
The line of Trauma E9 7a on Dinas Mot (taken from the Hot Aches helicopter, obviously)
So back down from Indian Face we deposited Dave at Dinas Mot whilst we all went to the pub. Three hours later he returned and the transformation was dramatic. Back to his usual excited, psyched self.
Dave MacLeod on Trauma (photo copyright Claire MacLeod)
After a rest day he spent a few hours working the route whilst we filmed elsewhere. We had ‘booked’ an ascent for 6pm so rushed up to film him. Despite conditions being non-too ideal Dave despatched the route, though not without a good healthy entertaining fight. – Great climbing.
Dave and Claire, all smiles after the ascent. The steep nose of Trauma in top of picture.