As Stephen was visiting last night we had a quiet night in and we watched the story behind the hardest Sea Cliff Climb in the World on St John’s Head on the Island of Hoy in Orkney. I had bought the DVD a while ago and was waiting to watch it with Stephen it was well worth the wait. Dave MacLeod story is of an incredible journey on a one day ascent of this huge 1150 foot cliff with Andy Turner and his efforts to climb this amazing cliff is proof if it is ever needed of his dedication and his place in world climbing. I have been on Hoy many times with the RAF Teams on the Old Man of Hoy and have seen the huge Sea Cliffs of St John’s Head. It is incredible and dwarfs the Old Man. It is one of the most impressive sea cliffs in the world, with its sheer cliffs dropping to the sea and the constantly changing weather and of course the fulmars on every ledge. When I was at RAF Kinloss in the Mountain Rescue Team we went there on one specific trip just to look at St Johns Head with the local Coastguards team in the mid 70’s. They were worried about a rescue on this wild cliff, I remember we had a bit of an epic at the time and thought that rescue from this cliff would be extremely difficult, to say the least. It was never discussed again by us!
Over 40 years ago climber and poet Ed Drummond and partner climbed the cliff in 7 days, sleeping in hammocks and it was another incredible feat. This was the first route on the cliff and a venture into the unknown, with loose rock and wild climbing it was a huge breakthrough at the time. Dave’s film involves interviews and archive features with Ed and also takes him on a pilgrimage back to St John’s Head to look upon the route one last time. Ed is now in his late sixties and suffering from Parkinson’s disease it is very moving filming and a wonderful insight into climbing and the effects of old age.
The story of the climb is one of patience, preparation and skill and Dave is so driven on his quest to climb this route. I will not spoil the story but what an adventure it is and the filming is superb, considering where it is taking place. It is a huge breakthrough in climbing and Ed Drummond reckons it is equivalent to effect that the first 4 minute mile had on athletics. Dave MacLeod is an incredible man, a world-class athlete and unlike many in the small world of mountaineering he is so approachable, unassuming and likeable. A real visionary and a great advert for Scotland, I would recommend this DVD to all.
It may be worth watching with an Island Malt!