Dave MacLeod repeats Odi Social 8c+
Dave MacLeod has climbed his first 8c+, "L’odi Social" at Siurana, Spain to discover how this compares to cutting edge trad routes in Britain, such as his Rhapsody E11 7a.
On a recent trip to Siurana, Spain, Dave MacLeod repeated his first 8c+, "L’odi Social". Dave was motivated to repeat the limestone bolt route not only due to the beauty of the line and moves, but also in order to explore further how far he can push his personal, physical limits and how this maximum compares to cutting edge trad routes in Britain. In particular, how this compares to Rhapsody, Britain's first ever E11 ascended by the Scotsman in April 2006. We decided to find out more from the man himself.
Dave, congratulations for this repeat. With this you confirmed in your own mind that with bolts Rhapsody would be 8c+. Can you compare the two?
It's not a fair comparison because on Rhapsody you could die! However, Rhapsody is still a much harder route even if it was bolted. The crux of Rhapsody is maybe V11 and that's right at the end of a long route. On L'odi the crux is halfway and maybe V8.
You travelled all the way from Scotland for this route...
For me it is very important to travel to other crags. I like to see what is going on elsewhere in climbing in terms of both nice climbing areas and also seeing what the standard is there. I don’t think the standards in Scotland are higher than elsewhere, but I feel they are higher than credited. To climb an 8c in Scotland is many times harder than to climb an 8c in the continent. Hence we go to places like Spain to try to break new sport grades! Soft grades are one part, but the main part is that every day you wake up and the conditions are good. All you have to do is get to the crag and climb. And keep trying until you are fit enough to reach the belay. To climb at a high level in sport climbing in Scotland you first have to justify to others that you want to use bolts, then you have to wait long periods for a dry day to try to climb it. If you need to train for it then this means waiting for more dry days, or maybe for the midge season to end. Developing good fitness and avoiding getting psyched out is harder under these conditions. That is not a complaint, quite the opposite. Climbing should be a challenge and that is what we look for.
Climbing cutting-edge in many disciplines is something beyond the ordinary. What can you put this down to?
I love climbing and I love making impossible climbs possible. I also don't like to leave things unfinished. I mean, I really don't like it!
As I said in my blog, 8c+ is by no means cutting edge in world terms these days, within sport climbing at least. But there are still not many all-round climbers who have managed it I suppose. In my earlier years of climbing, this level was still extremely rare, and only the most dedicated of athletes had reached it. So, although it’s just a meaningless number, it represents something that was inspirational to me when I started climbing and training furiously in my late teens.
Climbing as a pysical and mental challenge. How do you equate?
I don’t find that my physical strength fluctuates that much. I seem to just get a little stronger each year. Mentally I was really fried after doing Rhapsody. Not so much exhausted, although I was at first, but more that it was difficult to adjust from being so focused on one thing to opening up to more possibilities and giving these a chance to develop and generate some sort of new direction or focus. I am also quite competitive and I want to climb hard routes in every discipline in each year. As my goals get higher this gets to be a really tricky juggling act. I am certain I could do 9a in 6 months if I just sport climbed, but I’m not sure I could repeat more E10s, and do new routes on Ben Nevis on ice and on rock as well. It would be really hard to fit it all in.
What about fear?
To summarise my feelings I would say that fear is important in understanding and following what's important to you. When you have to risk injury or death on a route, and you have fully faced up to that possibility (as opposed to kidding yourself it isn’t there, which might be successful in the short term) then it helps you to understand what your life, your health and your experiences mean to you.
Recently you've climbed Rhapsody, been awarded the Golden Piton by Climbing Magazine for this ascent and have repeated an 8c+. Things seem to be going well at the moment...
It's great if Climbing Magazine appreciates the effort I put in with Rhapsody. I am certainly inspired by the other climbers who have been recognised for their efforts. About my current situation: I don't think too much about past routes, I am always trying to focus my attention in the present challenges, and there are plenty!