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Dave Macleod making the first free ascent of The Long Hope Route at St John's Head, Orkneys, Scotland
Photo by LW Images
Dave Macleod at St John's Head, Orkneys, Scotland
Photo by archive Dave Macleod
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Dave Macleod frees The Long Hope Route on Hoy

22.06.2011 by Planetmountain

Scottish climber Dave Macleod has freed the The Long Hope Route at St John's Head, Hoy, Orkneys, Scotland

41 years. That's how long it took for The Long Hope Route to be freed at St John's Head on the Orkney islands high up in Northern Scotland and the man to do it yesterday is, yes, you guessed it, is Dave Macleod.

The massive sandstone outing up St John's Head - the highest sea cliff in the British Isles - had been established in 1970 by the highly talented British climbers Ed Drummond and Oliver Hill. In 1997 it had been repeated by John Arran and Dave Turnbull, but this avoided the main difficulties, an A2 crackline on the final steep headwall.

Two summers ago Macleod turned his attention to the route and worked the crux headwall, which is somewhere in the region of 8b/8b+ and comes after circa 400m of climbing, but success eluded him. Last week he told us "The original aid line was 23 pitches over 7 days. The free version by John Arran and Dave Turnbull circumnavigated the crux pitch and was also 23 pitches (E7 6c). They did it over 4 days ground up. 2 days to a highpoint and then came back and abbed in to their highpoint and climbed the last 4 pitches. My plan is to do it in a day, in 8 long pitches, all 60/70 metres. All trad, no fixed gear."

Feeling fit he returned to work the route recently and yesterday, after waiting out some bad weather, a succinct sms "Pulled out the stops and finished the project" confirmed the first free ascent together with Andy Turner. On his blog Macleod now stated "Most of the world’s hardest multipitch routes with climbing of 8b or above are essentially sport routes, protected by bolts, insitu pegs or trad with bolts wherever there isn’t good gear available. My idea was to have a super hard long route that was bold, loose, birdy, hard to climb in a day - as pure as possible. That’s absolutely what Scottish sea cliff climbing is about."

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