Dave MacLeod and visiting Japanese climber Keita Kurakami recently added three new hard trad lines to Creag Mo on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides. Dave had already added four new lines to the crag in the past, most recently The Mighty Chondria E7 in 2017 and vowed to return for one particularly stunning slab line at the right hand side.
Dave told UKC:
'On Creag Mo we added three new routes between us. I got on a hard E7 line I'd cleaned on a previous trip but was rained off. It's a real top quality line - a 50 metre just off-vertical wall with good thin cracks for gear and perfect rock and really interesting and varied climbing. I don't really know why but it still surprises me that these lines are on such accessible crags and remain unclimbed. I got on fine leading this although I had to fight a bit towards the end of the hard section because my feet were getting tired.'
Dave named the line Hard Drive E7 6c, in reference to the adjacent route Drive Station, but also as a tribute to Scottish pioneer Andy Nisbet. Dave explained on Instagram:
'But I also wanted to make a reference to a friend Andy Nisbet who died earlier this year. It will be the first time I will post a new route without having an email from Andy drop in my inbox asking me for a description for the SMC guidebooks. His meticulous work of compiling route information in Scottish climbing for decades was unrivalled as far as I have seen in any other countries I have climbed in. Besides his guidebook work and personal new routing, Andy was also known for tearing around the highlands at high speed in his car. So I thought it would be nice to name the route after @fredmorrisonpiper's mental tune.'
After Hard Drive, Dave spent a couple of sessions figuring out another, harder line. 'I was just about ready for a lead on that one, but some rain on the last day got in the way. I think I'll return very shortly to get involved with that one again,' he explained.
In the meantime, Dave had turned his attention to opening From the Depths E6 6c, 5c, a 90 metre line up the middle of the crag. He told UKC:
'I was really keen to climb this obvious 90 metre overhanging flake line running up the left side of the amphitheatre. It's another incredible line and it didn't disappoint. I took a fall right at the very start when a jug broke off as I was placing some gear. I was actually lucky to get away without hurting myself. I had two cams in and one ripped and I stopped just above the ground. The next time up was fine and I got through a little E6 6c boulder at the start and onto the soaring flakes, which were just excellent climbing in two pitches.'
Creag Mo ranks high on Dave's list of favourite crags. He told us:
'The crag reminds me of my local mountain crag Binnein Shuas - definitely a mountain crag in character, but quite accessible and with lots and lots of E7 and above climbing of great quality. Over the next month I'm hoping to be back on both those crags on various projects. I have a super hard one on Shuas which I'm really excited about, but it is a bit scary.'
Although this was Keita's first trip to the Outer Hebrides, he is no stranger to hard UK trad, having repeated James Pearson's Walk of Life E9 6c at Dyer's Lookout in Devon in 2017 (UKC news report). Last year, he made headlines by making the first all-free rope solo (and only the fifth overall free ascent) of The Nose on El Capitan. Keita told UKC:
'U.K. trad is one of my most favourite climbing styles in the world. I feel at one with nature when I climb trad routes, and I'm always very impressed by U.K. trad. The Walk of Life (E9 6c) is one of my most memorable climbs in the U.K. This time, we (my climber friends Masa Sakano, Chris Prescott and my climbing hero Dave Macleod spent one week on Harris to open new routes at Creag Mo.'
Keita tried a quality three pitch line leading into a big corner feature, which he named Mega Bracket (Kagi-kakko). The first pitch was a bouldery E7 with just enough gear. The corner pitch was E5 6b and exposed. He told UKC:
'I saw the main wall of Creag Mo first. I found a striking corner just left of the big overhang on the wall. The corner reminded me of Yosemite climbing and it looks like the Japanese quotation marks, "Kagi-kakko." I was fascinated by this characterful line. I took a few days to clean the route and then I opened it as a 3-pitch new E7 route with Dave.'
Describing his first experience of climbing in Scotland, Keita wrote:
'I had a very, very good time on Harris. We woke up in the morning (not so early), had a few cups of tea, drove to the crag, walked the grassy approach, found a new line on our gut feeling, cleaned up the line, then climbed it.'
'Not only the climbing, but also everyday life on Harris was very simple. I definitely love it and I hope to return to this beautiful island.'
Masa concentrated on the left side of the crag and added Memory-Lane Arête HVS 5b.