INTERVIEW: Boswell & MacLeod on The Hurting & More

by Jack Geldard - Editor - UKC Feb/2011
This news story has been read 6,544 times

Greg Boswell has recently repeated The Hurting (XI,11) on the Fiacall Buttress at Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorms.

Following on from our initial news item last week, we now have more details on Greg's ascent, as well as thoughts from first ascensionist Dave MacLeod.

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+Greg Boswell happy at the top of The Hurting, 148 kb
Greg Boswell happy at the top of The Hurting
UKC News, Feb 2011
© Greg Boswell collection
+Greg Boswell on The Hurting, 149 kb
Greg Boswell on The Hurting
UKC News, Feb 2011
© James Dunn

Interview: Greg Boswell on The Hurting:

Jack: The Hurting - it gets a big grade, it looks intimidating, and it's a Dave MacLeod route. All these things must have been weighing on your mind?

Greg: Yeah, the biggest thing was the grade. I was a bit worried that it was going to be beyond my ability and if I was going to be able to do the starting moves. But I was also super charged to see how I'd get on something at this level.

The wall seemed very intimidating when I looked at it from the corrie floor, but once I was at the bottom of the route it actually didn't look too bad.

The fact that it was a MacLeod route wasn't a worrying thing for me. Dave has done some good routes and he raved about The Hurting, so I knew it was going to be good fun.

Jack: What was the turning point that made you go for it?

Greg: Well I had been thinking of getting on it for most of the season, but seeing Andy [Turner] top out on the second ascent gave me the kick in the behind that I needed.

Jack: How did it compare to other routes you have been on this season?

Greg: It's definitely the thinnest and most technical route I've done this year, but not the most strenuous/pumpy. To Those Who Wait still takes the medal for the most pumpy winter route I've done!

Jack: There has been some discussion, as ever, on climbing summer lines in winter. What do you think about this topic in regard to The Hurting?

Greg: As usual for most of these debates, I think that it is up to each individual climber whether it is justifiable to climb a particular summer line in winter. But as The Hurting is seldom climbed in summer and is described in the guide book as being pretty dirty and mossy, then climbing it in winter is not a massive problem. In my opinion, I think it's pretty cool to get a three star winter route that comes from a one star dirty summer line.

Jack: Would you consider an attempt at Anubis?

Greg: Yeah, I would love to have a go on Anubis one day. It will probably not be this season, but I will definitely give it a shot in the future.

+Greg Boswell on The Hurting, 164 kb
Greg Boswell on The Hurting
UKC News, Feb 2011
© James Dunn
Jack: Pushing yourself on potentially dangerous routes is obviously not without risk. Have you justified this risk in your own mind? Are you climbing in control on these routes? Any thoughts on safety when winter climbing on hard mixed routes?

Greg: The only reason I climb is to enjoy myself, and I personally enjoy climbing the most when I'm pushing myself at my limit and sometimes to push yourself you need to take risks. So I would say that as long as I'm having fun on the route, then the risks a pretty much justified

I like to think that I am always in control when I'm climbing, one way or another, mentally or physically. But being in control doesn't stop you from getting scared now and again.

The best way to keep safe on mixed routes that are at your limit, is not to climb anything unless YOU want to. If it doesn't feel right and you feel like you don't want to be there, then this is when you are more likely to get into trouble. If your mega psyched and hungry for the route, then you'll probably have a good shot at success. So don't rush into the hard grades if you personally don't feel ready. I would recommend working through the grades a bit, so you know what level you are cranking at.

Interview: Dave MacLeod on The Hurting, Greg Boswell and the future of Scottish winter:

Jack: It was six years ago that you first climbed The Hurting. It has now seen two repeats in the last month, after waiting so long.

Dave: Yes It was funny thinking back to that time. The Hurting was one of the first climbs I did with modern tools and I was still a total amateur with them (still am). At that time grade VIII was still considered quite hard. Now folk are getting a lot better with leashless tools and look how much that's changed. VIII isn't hard now is it? That's great - real progress in standards. I think the consolidation of VIII and IX is done now and the top level routes will rise accordingly.

Jack: It seems Scottish winter climbing is on a real roll at the moment. Would you agree? And do you have any thoughts as to why?

Dave: Yes lots of people have commented that Scottish mixed is having a wee explosion of popularity and I can see it too. And why not?! Good climbing, great winters, lots of information. I'm not totally sure why, but maybe the past two good winters have really helped. In a crap winter it really takes a die hard to maintain the psyche, especially if you are into other types of climbing. Now that leashless is mainstream people see how it makes mixed more fun. I don't know, but I'm sure the flood of nice stories and images that are coming through online do help get folk psyched too.

Jack: Greg Boswell is having an amazing season for such a young climber. He obviously is extremely talented. Any advice for him as he pushes his, and perhaps Scotland's, standards?

Dave: Yeah it's alway great to see talented climbers get out and use their talents. Greg has done great repeating all these routes and I'm sure he'll open some great new routes in seasons to come. Advice? Pick something HARD for the big project, much harder than the current routes. I'm sure you'll manage it. Pick what you know noone else could do, and do that!

+The Pinnacle - Dave MacLeod Climbing Minus Three Gully on Ben Nevis, 171 kb
The Pinnacle - Dave MacLeod Climbing Minus Three Gully on Ben Nevis
Hot Aches Productions, Dec 2010
© Paul Diffley
Jack: Gazing in to your Fort William crystal ball, what do you see next for Scottish winter climbing? Where are we headed either generally or specifically?

Dave: That's really interesting and I've been thinking about this myself a lot. Last year I did Anubis which was the best of a series of projects I'd seen and wanted to climb - The Cathedral for the big roof, Don't Die because it was a mega feature, The Hurting because it was a nice mix of technical and bold and then Anubis because it was just a bigger steeper pitch than I'd seen. The next level needs to go onto some really steep sustained terrain I think. The Hurting is kind of a dead end for that style of off-vertical bold walls and slabs. Sure you could get harder ones, but they can never be that hard because they are on your feet. They'd have to be bolder. But it gets really serious and sooner or later someone takes a bad fall. A bit like Indian Face routes are really out of fashion and held in higher regard than they were years ago.

I know about three winter projects I'd really like to try. I'm pretty certain they'd need several attempts, at least if climbing them as a new route. I'm not so into climbs I know I can do first go. I like a good challenge I can get my teeth into - a project that doesn't lie down on the first day and that gives me something to think about! I'm not really good enough for them at the moment but hopefully sometime soon. Maybe I can team up with Greg for a look at them and he can show the way? So there are many glaring projects. Stacks of obvious routes to do of similar standard to Anubis etc. What would be cool is if someone took on something really full on, something grossly overhanging for a whole ropelength but not like a corner or big sinker crack. Something like the Tempest but tipped over by 20 or 30 degrees.

The challenge is for folk to climb these routes in a Scottish approach i.e falling of minimally because of the danger. One big change in recent years is that people fall off Scottish mixed routes a lot. It's also interesting seeing foreign visitors on our routes. They totally go for it, but I think that approach wouldn't last too long on hard onsights of new routes at the very top level. On the Hurting I fell off the last move on my first try and stopped on a micro cam that partially ripped onto two cams. If it had ripped I would have had a 100 footer or maybe more. To have a long progressing career in Scottish mixed I think it's important to avoid having too many falls because the odds are some of them are going to be nasty. Iain Small and Guy are exemplars of this approach. It's a fine balancing act! Harder to get right than summer trad. Go for it, but make sure you don't go too far into the red above icy cams too often. I think on the future Scottish XIIs and harder, being a technical master with tools will become more the pre-requisite and as with summer climbing the ultimate limiting factor will be increasingly reserves of strength and stamina.

You got me started...

Massive thanks to both Greg and Dave for their time for this interview. Good luck to both of them for the 2011 climbing season.

Also huge congratulations to Dave and his wife Claire on the birth of their daughter Freida.


Greg Boswell is sponsored by The Mountain Boot Company - which is: Scarpa , Grivel , Deuter , Outdoor Research , Ski Trab , Lorpen . He is also sponsored by Edelrid .

Dave MacLeod is sponsored by GORE-TEX , Scarpa , Black Diamond and Mountain Equipment


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