Dave MacLeod has completed his long term project of the direct finish to The Long Hope Route on St. John's Head, Hoy.
This huge sandstone sea cliff has kept him busy for several years and the direct finish final pitch, which is the main focus of Dave's efforts, is thought to be of exceptionally high difficulty, featuring physically hard (high French 8) climbing on soft sandstone with natural protection. The pitch is right at the top of this very long and arduous route, coming after many other adventurous pitches on this huge crag.
"Just a one liner - IN THE BAG!"
And a tweet from MacLeod saying:
"Pulled out the stops and finished the project."
The route is currently being discussed in the UKC Forums.
Accompanying MacLeod on his trip to the island is the film company Hotaches as well as professional photographer Lukasz Warzecha. No doubt the ascent was captured on film as well as in photographs.
St. John's Head is the largest vertical sea cliff in the UK, rising to a height of over 350m. As far as we know the cliff is home to only four routes: The Original Route, Longhope Route, Big John and Testament to the Insane.
The Original Route and Longhope Route were multi day undertakings climbed in 1969 and 1970. Ed Drummond spent seven days climbing the Longhope Route (in a mixture of free climbing and aid), sleeping in a hammock. The route remained unrepeated for 27 years, until John Arran and Dave 'BMC' Turnbull repeated it free over four days at a mighty E7 6c - but they took a logical alternative line to the aid pitch on the headwall.
John Arran commented:
"The whole point of the Long Hope Route was to climb the headwall. What we did was to find an alternative line up the headwall which was more suited to free climbing, the knife-blade crack that Drummond aided up being obviously ridiculous to climb free. So we diverged from the aid line for a pitch or two before rejoining it before the top. Dave has now proved that even the ridiculous is free climbable if you're talented enough!"
Dave MacLeod's new super-route tackles the headwall direct in a stunning position - see a topo on the Hotaches Blog.
"That's great news. Nice one Dave.
Orkney is an archipelago of over 70 islands, of which 17 are currently inhabited. They are mainly quite flat, however the island of Hoy is an exception, rising to 477 metres above sea level and guarded by huge sea cliffs - offering massive new route potential.
The broken nature of the rock means the routes are extremely adventurous, and the large ledge systems provide ample nesting sites for birds. The fertile sea provides plenty of food and as a result Orkney's cliffs support thousands of pairs of breeding sea birds, including puffins, guillemots, razorbills, fulmars, kittiwakes, gannets and bonxies. Loose rock could be the least of your worries.
We hope to have more details soon.