Dave MacLeod has completed his long-term project at Binnein Shuas, Lochaber, to make the first ascent of Mind Riot E10 7a.
Fellow Scottish climber Iain Small has been prolific in adding new routes to this crag and between Iain and Dave around seven E7s and four E8s have been added over the past three years, most of which are on a section called 'The Fortress' with a large barrel-shaped overhang running along the crag. Dave described the situation of his latest addition:
'Mind Riot is at the left end. It connects two big flake features (the upper one is Iain's Siege Engine) via a 30 degree overhanging groove which provides the crux. There is also a sting in the tail finishing roof which is 8a+ (E8) in itself. The runout up the overhanging groove is pretty sustained and hard and it's quite likely you'll hit the slab below the route if you fall near the end of this section.'
Comparing Mind Riot to his previous top-end trad ascents - which include Rhapsody E11 7a (2006, UKC News) and Echo Wall (ungraded, 2008, UKC News) and Die by the Drop E10 7a (2010, UKC video) - Dave estimates that Mind Riot ranks near the top of his hardest trad ticks. He explained:
'Overall the route is around 8c in difficulty, so with the danger on the runout and the mountain situation it makes it a pretty demanding route. I think I've only climbed one trad route which is as hard or harder, Echo Wall.'
Dave's return to double figure trad grades comes after a few years of unfortunate accidents and injuries, one of which occurred at Binnein Shuas while attempting a neighbouring new route. He told UKC:
'In 2016 I broke a hold trying to do my first new route there. It was near the start but I landed on a rock slab and broke my leg. It was a long and painful walk and cycle out and three months on crutches, but I came back the following spring and finished that to give Stronghold E8 6c. Later in 2017 I did Dun Briste E8 6c, which shares the same finish as Mind Riot. I repeated Iain's routes Siege Engine E7 6b, Isinglass E7 6b and Brae's of Balquither E7/8 6c after that. Then I did Horrible Histories E8 7a this June and after that turned my attention to Mind Riot.'
Dave describes the textured rock as a micro granite with unique climbing. On the day of his ascent, conditions were far from ideal with October weather drawing in and chances of success looking slim. Having cycled to the foot of the crag with strong winds suggesting a write-off, Dave suspected that the line could be sheltered and climbable. Dave placed the gear up to the crux for a warm-up before downclimbing and getting ready for the lead. Despite the crux move feeling easier than ever, he fell unexpectedly - but safely. Rain arrived and threatened to blow Dave's chances of getting the route done, but the wind acted in his favour and soon he was back on the lead and topping out on his hardest and riskiest trad route in ten years.
In a pre-ascent vlog called 'I have made a decision', Dave spoke about feeling 'full of fear' ahead of the lead attempt and reflected on his mindset before attempting Hold Fast Hold True E10 7a six years ago, when he took a ground fall and broke his ankle. Having perhaps not respected the seriousness of the route at that time, Dave's mental approach while preparing for Mind Riot was more considered. Watch his vlogs below, in which he outlines the journey to making the first ascent.
Stay tuned for a full interview with Dave about new-routeing, ahead of the upcoming film Undiscovered about his passion for first ascents around Scotland.