Desert Island Climbs #1: Calum Muskett

© Dave Macleod

In this new series of interviews, we'll be whisking off some of Britain's best climbers to a lonely desert island (we might give them a belayer to take along, if they're lucky...) and asking them to regale us with tales of their eight favourite routes of all time, before singling one out to have as their "Desert Island Climb." Alongside their chosen route, our climbing castaways will be asked to select a book and a luxury item to take to the island.

First up is 21 year-old BMC Ambassador Calum Muskett from Bethesda, North Wales. Despite his young age, Calum has racked up a wealth of hard and adventurous climbs in a variety of styles - sport, trad, alpine and winter - in destinations all over the world. From the Dolomites to Yosemite, the Mont Blanc Massif to Patagonia, or indeed in good old Gogarth, Calum has built up an impressive resume of climbs in relatively little it seemed fair to maroon him on an island with just one favourite route, a book, a luxury item and of course the Complete Works of Shakespeare and the Bible...

Calum jumaring back to the top of the 8a pitch, Paciencia  © Dave Macleod
Calum jumaring back to the top of the 8a pitch, Paciencia
© Dave Macleod

"Here are my eight favourite routes. They’re a mix of my most memorable climbing experiences and some perfect routes in amazing areas!"

Golden Gate 5.13a

Central section of Golden gate  © Calum Muskett
Central section of Golden gate
© Calum Muskett

It was a life ambition of mine to free climb El Capitan and when Dan Mcmanus and I teamed up it felt like a good opportunity to slay the beast. We made nearly every mistake in the book, forgetting lighters, losing belay plates and squeezing poo into small plastic bottles. Fortunately we succeeded in making what we believe to be the first joint ginger free ascent of El Cap. There were some very memorable pitches, such as the improbable one move pitch and the airy A5 traverse and throughout the five days spent on the wall I was left in constant doubt of my ability to free climb the following pitch.

Golden Gate
© Tom Evans

Paciencia 8a

The North Face of the Eiger has been a face that has captivated me from childhood and although Paciencia wasn’t quite the experience I’d anticipated from the ‘Mord Wand,’ it still provided an amazing three days of climbing. The limestone in places was amongst the best I’d ever climbed and the climbing remained sustained and testing to the very end. The ambience of the face with cow bells tinkling far below was unique and I had a strange feeling of being both alone and very well connected with the world below.

Bivi on Paciencia  © Calum Muskett
Bivi on Paciencia
© Calum Muskett

The Quarryman E8 7a

Slate is such an interesting medium to climb – one which requires near perfect technique to climb the more difficult routes. The Quarryman sums up many of the things I love about slate. The first pitch has some designer danger thrown in with bolts spaced tantalisingly more distant from the next and tricky climbing to boot. The groove pitch (which I’ve yet to complete) is incredibly frustrating but intensely fun requiring a plethora of chimneying techniques and a lot of effort! The final pitch has a great balance move followed by easier climbing landing you at the top with great views over Snowdonia and Anglesey – a true masterpiece.

Quarryman Groove
© Ray Wood

Divine Providence 7b

I always thought the line this route took up Mont Blanc was the most impressive in the entire massif. A triangular face of steep granite leading to the knife edge Peuterey ridge and thereafter the summit of Mont Blanc. The committing approach leaves the crowds behind and you're soon left alone with your demons as you face the intimidating wall above you. Although the headwall and meat of the route is only short the climbing is superb and very exposed. It’s the sort of route you can only truly experience once and the cherry on top was climbing Mont Blanc for the first time.

Finishing up the Peuterey Ridge after Divine Providence  © Calum Muskett
Finishing up the Peuterey Ridge after Divine Providence
© Calum Muskett

Miles Perkin approaching Divine Providence  © Calum Muskett
Miles Perkin approaching Divine Providence
© Calum Muskett

The Fish E6 6b

The south face of the Marmolada is an amazing limestone wall and generally a fantastic place to hang out with vivid green meadows below a horizon of jagged mountains. I headed out here with UKC’s very own Rob Greenwood and suffice to say we didn’t find the route particularly easy – in fact, I fell about 5m onto a sky hook at one point! We went pretty lightweight with an 18 litre rucksack between us. Our plastic orange survival bags weren’t very insulating for our bivi and two litres of water didn’t quite fill us up. The route itself was amazing though. Interesting route finding and continuously thought-provoking climbing to the half way ledge. The upper half, although easier, was still great fun!

Rob Greenwood on The Fish  © Calum Muskett
Rob Greenwood on The Fish
© Calum Muskett

The Devil's Appendix grade VI

Only the best ice climb in the world! I’ve been fortunate enough to climb this route three times and it’s very special to be climbing an amazing ice feature in view of my home town. I do feel it compares very favourably to the best ice route I’ve climbed in this country and the Alps– it’s certainly the best in Wales. The transient nature of ice in Wales makes this route a prized tick.

Devil's Appendix  © Steve Long
Devil's Appendix
© Steve Long

Gulliver’s Travels (Elixir d’Astaroth start) 7a+

On my first alpine trip I made a bee line for the Grand Capucin, a unique pillar of granite which basks for most of the day in sunlight. We departed up the wrong face of the Grand Capucin on this occasion and accidentally climbed most of Gulliver’s Travels. I say most of because I took a whipper four pitches from the top and my partner Francis Blunt stubbed his toe badly on the belay forcing us to retreat. I’ve since climbed the majority of free routes on the Grand Capucin and having returned to Gulliver’s Travels it seems to be the most varied and interesting of the bunch.

Gabby Lees climbing on Grand Capucin
© Calum Muskett

Conan the Librarian E6 6b

Like everybody who’s anybody knows, Gogarth is the best cliff in the world. If you disagree, well... you’re just wrong! Conan the Librarian is one of the best features there, tackling a hanging groove up a sea arch through some seriously steep territory. You also get to finish up A Dream of White Horses which is incredible in its own right. When I first went to climb this route, my partner, Steve Long, took a 20m lob off the second pitch, stripping all the gear back to the belay and swinging through the arch beneath me!

Steve Long seconding Conan the Librarian  © Calum Muskett
Steve Long seconding Conan the Librarian
© Calum Muskett

The Verdict...

Of all these routes I think the Quarryman would be the one I’d bring along with me to my desert island. It’s so interesting, varied, difficult and occasionally scary that it has everything I love (and a little I hate) about climbing.

I’d also bring along my favourite book, ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’; a book full of ideas and quotes which can be read and understood in many different ways. My luxury item would be an MP3 player with a selection of classic 90s Britpop!

The awful Tower to the People bivi on Golden Gate  © Dan McManus
The awful Tower to the People bivi on Golden Gate
© Dan McManus


Calum Muskett
North Wales

Calum was born and brought up on the very edge of the Carneddau mountain range, a simple fact which has been hugely influential in his development as a climber. Calum has known the hills and mountains of North Wales since...

Calum's Athlete Page 21 posts 2 videos

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18 Mar, 2015
What an incredible all-rounder Calum is.
18 Mar, 2015
Calum is my hero! :-)
Read 'em and weep, that's quite a list there Calum. The Fish was pretty memorable, that night in the half-height bivi cave has to rate of one of my all time worst nights sleep - no food, no water, no sleeping bag - truly soul destroying. Furthermore, spooning you for additional warmth would probably have been illegal at the time because you probably only 12 years old (or something like that)!! Anyhow, I digress... Back to work :-)
18 Mar, 2015
Sounds like a great series. Was always the best thing in Climber magazine (and isn't there anymore), so looking forward to more.
18 Mar, 2015
Really inspiring, it'll be interesting to see what Calum achieves in the years to come. The thing that strikes me most about him though is how down to earth he is, he's a lovely young fella and always asks about my photography and what I've been up to when I see him. By the way, he's doing a talk at the Moel Siabod cafe in Capel Curig on Saturday night if anyone's in the area ;)
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