James McHaffie and Ben Bransby have very quickly made the second free ascent of Dave Macleod's Longhope Direct on St John's Head, Hoy, Scotland.
Having visited Hoy last year to have a look at the crux pitch, Caff managed to redpoint the crux pitch in very poor weather conditions, and made plans to return this year, with Ben Bransby. The pair successfully making their ascent on the 25th May.
Caff and Ben were joined by George Ullrich and Alex Mason, who hoped to repeat the 'Turnbull/Arran Longhope' route, and Adam Long to record the ascent.
The trip started off with some 'Extreme Rock' ticking with the team stopping off at Creag A'Bhancair, Glen Coe, with Caff and Ben ticking Romantic Reality, E7 6b. The team then headed North, with high hopes especially due to the warm temperatures.
However, hopes for a 'T-shirt and shorts' ascent were soon dashed as they arrived to a very cold and windy Hoy. After walking the ropes up and abbing the line on the first two days, the pair finally managed to get on to the crux pitch on the third day when the wind died down. Despite having quickly repeated the pitch last year, the full ascent was not a certainty as Caff commented on the crux pitch on his blog:
"The pitch definately felt harder than last year as I couldn't do the last hard move the same way locking a low crimp and getting the jug static, so I did it similar to Macleod with a higher drag/crimp. Having the Meltdown to aim for meant I was much fitter then."
Due to a good short-term weather forecast, Caff and Ben decided to go for a full attempt the next day, waking at 3:30 am, arriving at the top of the route at 6:00 am, the pair made good time up the 'easier' lower section of the route, once they had worked out where the route actually started. Commenting on the lower pitches, the Fulmars seemed to be the biggest problem:
"The first pitch involves climbing like Pacman to avoid the Fulmars... The Vile Crack was slimy and felt like some of the green E3s you get in the Lake District... On the 4a traverse left disaster struck. As I walked along the outside of a ledge system with numerous Fulmars, I crouched past the last one, victory in sight when one got me!... Ben bombed up the guillotine and I actually used my knees to get onto it, very poor style."
Having made good time, reaching the bottom of the last pitch at 3:00pm, the pair were wishing they hadn't got up so early and had a rest day, Caff went up having been on the pitch more than Ben. After using a duff sequence from last year when he was a bit stronger, Caff fell, retried the move and returned to the belay, pulling his ropes.
"I was thinking we we would have to come back up on tuesday if the weather was any good, I was not looking forward to this as there were some great looking new routes to try on the rest of the island. After 30 mins rest I managed to get through the crux. Climbing badly I reached the poor shakeout beneath the last hard moves before rejoining the Arran/Turnbull link. After 10 mins here I spooned my way through the slap to the double knee-bar rest feeling elated... with a heinous amount of rope-drag I nearly blew the very last move for a jug above the last roof. Ben came up and together with Adam Long we had some drams of Orkney Whiskey to celebrate."
Commenting on the difficulty and the quality of the route, Caff said:
"The top pitch is as good as it looks in the pictures and video...I was impressed with Dave Macleods ascent as it was all free and the top pitch is a slippery devil which, when placing kit will feel 8b, to do similar we would've probably needed another session and a rest day... I think the Longhope may be the hardest sea cliff climb at the moment, in terms of having the hardest pitch...something like the impossible wall that the Belgians did is likely to be a possible contender, being super remote with lots of hard pitches."
Ben Bransby has made a short video of the ascent:
Ben Bransby is sponsored by prAna, Evolv, DMM and Western Mountaineering
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