The small island measures about 2 miles across and was once home to over 100 hardy Scots. Now it is uninhabited and ownership has passed to the NTS, National Trust of Scotland. It is quite a strange place to spend a week. Visitors to the island are few. In fact the NTS restricts numbers to only 12 at any one time, and the visitors all tend to be climbers.
The Great Arch, Pabbay
The ethic in this part of Scotland is for routes to be climbed 'ground up' and on sight. This means no top-rope practicing, it also means no inspection of the line on abseil or cleaning away of loose rock.
Ali Robb seconding Niall McNair on the first ascent of Jonny Scuttlebutt) E5 6a
Tom Charles-Edwards, Fiona Murray and Tony Stone at the start of Prophesy of Drowning E3, next to The Great Arch
Niall McNair on the first pitch of Redemption Ark
Those of you that know Niall will be aware of his distinctive climbing style. Reminiscent of Johnny Dawes he has tremendous ability to adopt different shapes with his body, feeling his way through moves with great creativity. At last he finished the pitch, ecstatic about the climbing and quality.
Dan McManus on the second pitch of Redemption Ark
Next it was Dan's turn and he had been dreading this, for the next pitch - an exposed traverse - was to be his. Following a band of shattered looking rock he just knew this was going to be loose and chossy. And so the epic commenced...
Huge Wall. l-r, Tony Stone onsighting and E4, Diff on abseil filming, Dan McManus on pitch 2 and Niall McNair belaying.
...After trying a few different ways to cross the rockband, eventually the second belay was reached. 5 pieces of gear at the belay, all rubbish. As Niall arrived to swap over the lead rack a warning not to weight any of the gear.
Pitch 3 was even worse. Niall removed loose rock from every hold, blocks flying down past the head of a very worried looking Dan. Now with his faith completely shattered, expecting every piece of rock he touched to just break away, Niall gibbered his way through more hard moves before at last reaching easier and more solid ground. A 'Mick Fowler-esque' adventure. Topping out at 10.00pm. Fortunately at mid-summer it's light until 11.30 in these parts.
The result. Redemption Ark, E6 6b XS. Those not familiar with that grading scale suffix, the 'XS' stands for 'extremely severe', or maybe it should be 'extremely stupid'. The first pitch was quite brilliant. Finding the line and climbing it clean, on sight is extremely impressive. There after - not to be recommended.
Those damn Bonxies (Great Skuas), is that how you spell it? Anyway they do like to dive-bomb you.