click to enlarge Virgin rock with strong unclimbed lines are scarce in England. The climbing magazines used to be full of news reports documenting major ascents, and battles between competing teams vying for plum lines. Now it is slim pickings. Areas get makeovers (read: requipped or retrobolted) and micro-lines between lines are claimed and more often than is known reclaimed for the passing glory of the new router out to make a name for themselves. More often than not these days the climbing media headlines concentrate on an improvement in the style of ascent: onsight, ground-up, solo or by headtorch, and rightly so as style is important. Doing a route in good style is harder than doing it in poor style. But there is nothing like snatching a classic new route. Last great problems exist, but they are few and far between, and very, very hard.
Where is the promised land? The sea cliffs and especially mountain crags of Scotland, when the weather holds, still give up their secrets for those prepared to put the effort in.
One such climber prepared to do that recently is Dave Birkett, who, as we reported last week, climbed "the most awesome wall of rock in the UK, a real plum line", situated beyond the Dubhs Ridge and Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye, a 300ft wall of virgin gabbro that dwarfs a human. Acting on a tip from Tom Walkington, Birkett journeyed north from the Lake District with Bill Birkett, Alan Steele and Alastair Lee. A boat ride, then an hours hike got them to basecamp, then a slightly longer, rugged hike up to the crag ...with no paths.
Alastair Lee of www.posingproductions.com takes up the story:
"Tom Walkington told Dave about this amazing cliff a few years ago. With the forecast being bomb proof, we went up last Thursday (3rd May) night to arrive in Elgol for 3:30am. We dossed down in the carpark then got the 10am boat. It was big day of not much sleep. As we got up to the wall, Dave and Alan abseiled in and inspected the line. This was meant to be just a reccy trip, but Dave was so excited about the route he decided to get on the lead the next morning, even though his tips were very bruised from practicing the line the day before. The rock is super sharp gabbro.
Dave fell off above the crux with poor gear below. My heart was in my mouth but the no.1 held, but only just. It's now a no.2 placement! The temperature was unbelievable and the heat had really taken it out of us so we called it a day and bombed back down the valley to catch the 2pm boat.
Two days later and we're back. This time leaving Burnley at 5am for the 2pm boat. The next morning we all got up too early and headed upto the buttress. Dave got on the lead straight away. The temperature was already rising and Dave's fingers hadn't healed properly. He fell off at the same place, but grabbed the gear as not to risk falling on it. He cursed a lot and complained about how warm it was, which is fair enough as preparing for the heat in Scotland isn't something you'd expect. Anyway he was pissed off now and lowered off, and without even resting got straight back on the lead and fired off the line in fine style. The route is vertical to just off vertical, so not Dave's normal style which is probably why it took him a bit longer than normal. The moves were generally thin balancy and pretty scary. A fall on that sharp rock wouldn't be nice.
Sky Wall E6 6b 25m, E7/8 6b 30m, VS 60m; FA: Dave Birkett, Alan Steele 5th May 2007
See more photos at - www.posingproductions.com. Don't miss clicking on gallery two and three. This ascent will feature in a new DVD by Posing Productions to be released later in the year.
Dave Birkett is sponsored by Scarpa.