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 time...so 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...
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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