/ NEWS: Epic Route Freed - St. John's Head, Orkney
The route was first climbed by Derren Fox, Ross I. Jones, Iain Miller & Les Gorhamover in 2004. It was an epic 26 hour ascent, involving a short bivvy. An 8m leader fall was taken on pitch 8 and one point of aid used on lead, the pitch was then freed at 5b by the 2nd. On the recent free ascent, the team straightened out the first and last pitches, taking a more direct line. Pitch 8 was this time overcome without recourse to aid.
Read More: http://new.ukclimbing.com/news/older.html?month=07&year=2008#n45203
Utterly monstrous. Looks like the kind of route that would benefit from frozen turf and ice gear!!
That looks seriously minging - congratulations!
Bonkers.... and a 4 day Scottish E7.... that really is bonkers!
Great effort! Being a fearty when it comes to seacliffs, the cliffs of St J's Head fill me with an utter fascination/horror which makes me feel rather nauseous just thinking about it! I'm quite in awe of those who can actually climb these sorts of routes.
Your lead! Can't be any worse than some of the more adventurous cheddar routes.
We had in fact gone up with the optimistic idea of freeing LongHope (well - except probably the headwall), but when we got there and saw the soaring crackline leading up to the left edge.....
Judging by the fun John & Dave had on LongHope I think we made the right decision ;-)
Interestingly, when Andy Donson & Kath Pyke freed Big John in 96 they met by hazard Mick & Crag who were there freeing Original Route, having just beaten John Dunne to it
yeah - but if you're in the right place at the right time you can see some wonderous sights
like when Mick was carefully climbing over a fulmar which spewed and hit another fulmar on the ledge below - the ensuing fight was a joy to behold
Fantastic. Well done Iain & co.
It was our ascent and it was Leo Dickenson
> yeah - but if you're in the right place at the right time you can see some wonderous sights
> like when Mick was carefully climbing over a fulmar which spewed and hit another fulmar on the ledge below - the ensuing fight was a joy to behold
Lol :-) WE just got the Northern Lights on our Bivvy :-)
I don't mean to sound dismissive, and I am all for big adventures, especially on remote sea cliffs....
....but, am I the only one who thinks this looks (at least from the photos) like a tottering heap of vegetation (which probably smells of fish).
Feel free to correct me, if I've missed the point completely!
I think that IS the point :-)
Yep, definitely the point. It's a big adventure, not a grade-chase. The first ascent they did a couple of years ago was route of the year for my money.
> I don't mean to sound dismissive, and I am all for big adventures, especially on remote sea cliffs....
> ....but, am I the only one who thinks this looks (at least from the photos) like a tottering heap of vegetation (which probably smells of fish).
> Feel free to correct me, if I've missed the point completely!
Can I refer you to the names of some of the first ascencionists
Ed Ward Drummond
and me :-)
Al - I'm afraid you've completely missed the point!
My post refers to this route, not the cliff in general.
Big John has been on my to-do list for years, and if you read my final Rock Notes column in the last ever High, you will recall that I commented that John Arran and Dave Turnbull's free version of Long Hope route was perhaps the most significant UK climb of my 18 year tenure...
But, as far as I am aware, those two are largely rock climbs...
> But, as far as I am aware, those two are largely rock climbs...
From memory, the guidebook describes several pitches of VS grass and general looseness for all the routes there.
Yes, I think that is right. But it is a matter of the rock to grass ratio. In this case it looks more like grass to rock...
Have a look at the photos on the orkney-seastacks website (I'd post them in this thread if I could) and compare how continuous the rock on the front of St John's Head is, compared to the stuff round on the right, where this route is.
Anyway, as I said in my first post, I am not in any way trying to put these lads down. I'm sure they had a great adventure! It's just it looks a bit too grassy for my liking...
Has Mick Fowler ever climbed anything that had actual rock on it? :-)
> It's just it looks a bit too grassy for my liking...
I see the smiley, Niall, but anyway, just in case you have never done any Fowler routes, you are missing a real treat!
> I see the smiley, Niall, but anyway, just in case you have never done any Fowler routes, you are missing a real treat!
I know he's regarded as Britain's premier Moss-and-Rubble-Ascent Mentalist :-)
> Has Mick Fowler ever climbed anything that had actual rock on it? :-)
A very silly and misinformed question, I wont even bother to list what he has done on grit!
> Yep, definitely the point. It's a big adventure, not a grade-chase. The first ascent they did a couple of years ago was route of the year for my money.
Totally agree, full respect to the lads. No matter what the quality of the route, setting off into the unknown on something like this is so impressive.
Just goes to show you can still have a really amazing pioneering experience in the UK without having to be climbing at the top grades. Really inspiring.
"....but, am I the only one who thinks this looks (at least from the photos) like a tottering heap of vegetation (which probably smells of fish)."
You're quite right Neil all of the cliffs on Hoy are a tottering pile of rotten sandstone, vegetation and smells of fish with the occasional secton of good rock. This includes the Old Man (climbed by 1,000's) which is slowly disintegrating, and falling into the sea. When climbing the Old Man you are likely to met and get puked at by more Fulmars on the Ordinary Route than you are on Testament - well that's my experience having climbed both routes twice. We called our route Testament to the Insane back in 2004 because it was and remains so. I personally wouldn't recommend it to anyone, unless Hoy is your kind of thing. So Neil don't go there, you wont enjoy it ;o) :o) As Al and Carless know The Head is a very special and commiting place. It is also slowly falling down.
Iain and I had a cracking day out last Wednesday on the only day the Head was clear of cloud that week and it was great to go back and whip up the route this time, now we knew it would go and do it cleanly and in a more sensible time. We had some cracking climbing qnd I still have to go back for another trip up the main face having previously been rained off the second pitch and having to bail. I like the analogy with the Dolomites, bailing from the top of the second pitch of the Original Route involves 250m of abseil back to the beach and then reascending the cliff by the rotten vegetated descent route further up the coast.
And who says you can't have an adventure in the UK? Sounds marvelous!
Great, well done Ross and co'
Ross - thanks for the insight, and I am glad you had such a great adventure.
Adam - I don't think anyone's "respect to the lads" was ever in doubt!
I remember meeting Les Gorhamover in 2003 when he came to the BMC office to pick my brains about St Johns Head. He was one of those slightly mad unstoppable enthusiasts - I told him it was pretty hairy place and I couldn't quite believe it when he went through with it and climbed 'Testament to the Insane' the following year. His death whilst sea stack climbing on Orkney shortly afterwards was a sad business indeed.
Anyway - many congrats to Iain and Ross. Having lived on Orkney for 6 months when doing my MSc I can confirm its a great place and that anyone who manages to get to the top of St Johns Head deserves a medal. Incidentally - John Arran and I always felt Longhope Route could be climbed in a day by a strong team with an accurate route description; its an amazing place to be do if anyone's up for up.
Les had apparently been looking for someone to take him up the Head for quite sometime and eventually found Iain willing enough to let him join an attempt. He was really very chuffed to have succeeded. His death a couple of days later was very tragic.
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