Monday, 13 June 2011

Major New Climbing Film

This year's major film project is about to commence. We are shortly heading to the island of Hoy with Dave Macleod and Andy Turner to film an ambitious ascent of the Long Hope Route on St John's Head.

The Long Hope Route, Pic Dave MacLeod, Click to enlarge

But first, a bit of history. The Long Hope Route was first climbed in 1970 by Ed Drummond and Oliver Hill. They spent 7 days on the wall, sleeping on ledges and in hammocks, and several of the 23 pitches involved some aiding. A first free ascent was made by John Arran and Dave Turnbull in 1997, but this avoided the final pitch up the steep headwall, taking instead a slightly less direct line. Both ascents were landmark achievements for their time, both being onsight and showing real audacity in an unusually inhospitable environment. St John's Head is a 1000 feet of sandstone, making it the highest vertical sea cliff in the British Isles.

Topo drawn from memory by Oliver Hill, 40 years after the first ascent.
Click to enlarge.

This summer's challenge is for Dave and Andy to climb the Long Hope Route in a single day, freeing the final pitch up the headwall which Dave considers will come in around a hefty F8b+. Quite a challenge after 850 feet of sandy sea cliff and several pitches of E5 and above. This will certainly make it among the biggest undertakings in British climbing.

We have already interviewed John Arran, Dave Turnbull and Oliver Hill about their respective experiences on the wall and are privileged to have Ed Drummond joining us on Hoy this summer. The film will tell the story of the previous ascents as well as Dave and Andy's one-day mission.

Ed and Oliver gearing up for their 7-day epic (Pic. Oliver Hill)

For those of you who know sea cliffs and particularly sea cliffs on the Northern Isles, the varied challenges will be easily acknowledged. For starters, Orkney seems to have it's own weather system. While here in Edinburgh we might be basking in sunshine, St John's Head might be caught in a raging storm with gale force winds and lashing rain. In June, one needs thermals and Goretex. Having dressed for the weather, one is then left to contend with the wildlife, more specifically, the vomiting fulmars. As luck (or nature) would have it, the time when the weather is most clement for climbing coincides nicely with the seabird population reaching maximum density. Not least of the challenges is the approach. First, drive to the very northern tip of mainland Scotland. Then catch two ferries, followed by a stiff 2 hour walk-in and a horrific 1-hour scramble down a treacherously steep, grassy slope.....roadside it is not.

Dave at the top of pitch 1.

We had an unsuccessful attempt to film this route last summer. With a limited time available we had only one day to attempt the climb. The day started ok with footage of the first 2 pitches captured. But things started to unravel when a camera and tripod met with a gust of wind and a rock pool. Enough said. By the time I had scrambled back to the top of the cliff, soggy camera in tow, the mist was rolling in. As Dave reached pitch 5, the rain had started. Climbing and filming now both impossible, we abandoned ship. We've added some pics from last year to our Facebook page:

Soggy kit


Shooting plan for the crux pitch, Click to enlarge

Cameraman's view....birdseye

So this year, we're going back with the big guns. We have much more time, more crew and more film kit than we can possibly carry!! Mountain Equipment are key sponsors of the project and Stoats Porridge Bars will be keeping us well fueled.

Keep up to date with the trip via our social media pages:

Hot Aches:
Lukasz Warzecha:
Dave Macleod:

Hot Aches:!/HotAches
Dave Macleod:!/davemacleod09
Lukasz Warzecha:!/LukaszWarzecha

Lukasz Warzecha's blog:
Dave Macleod's blog:
Andy Turner's blog:

1 comment:

Lee Cujes said...

Awesome stuff guys. May the fulmars vomit gently on you.