The first Blind Lead the Old Man of Hoy, off Orkney, Scotland
On the 4th June 2019, I successfully became the first blind person to lead the classic East Face Route (Original Route) E1 5b (6 pitches) up the Old Man of Hoy. I led all 6 pitches clean, placing my own gear as I climbed. To be honest probably most of the trad routes I have led are a blind person first, but this iconic Scottish Sea Stack which figures in Hard Rock seems special.
This is the most adventurous hard trad rock route I’ve done, it was truly epic! The climb was only half the story. Wild camping and then an hours walk to the headland. A tricky descent on treacherous grass slopes and scramble across to the base. A late start waiting for the wind to drop, leading to a top out at 10:10pm. Followed by 3 massive abseils back down, it was dark when we hit the deck. Then repeating the tricky and slippery scramble to get back up the cliff relying on step by precarious step instructions from Molly. And lastly the hour long walk back to the tents, reaching my sleeping bag at 2:45am with the sun threatening to rise again. It was such an amazing day, unreal!
There has been great media interest and I’ve received hundreds of messages from all round the world congratulating me on the historic ascent! It’s been quite surreal to say the least. It’s appeared in newspapers, the Scottish Parliament and I was also invited to BBC Broadcasting House in London for a live TV interview! If you missed it, here is my first TV appearance:
A few media stories came out following the ascent:
BMC – The Paraclimbing Man of Hoy
UKC News – Blind Climber Leads the Old Man of Hoy
Planet Mountain – Blind Paraclimber climbs the Old Man of Hoy
The Independent – Blind Man Sets Record
BBC News – Blind Climber leads ascent
Montane – First Blind Lead Ascent
Old Man of Hoy Triumph for Blind Climber
I even got a mention in the Scottish parliament! WOW!
Scottish Parliament Motion
A couple of broadsheets featured me too:
Leading the Sloth at the Roaches
The infamous Sloth at the Roaches has long been on my tick list. Earlier this year, I felt strong and more confident than ever and was ready to finally give it a go! I’d been holding off trying it, for fear of messing it up…it’s not a forgiving route. I needed to build up my endurance as I knew I’d be hanging around up there searching for holds and the gear.
Alastair Lee wanted to film my non-sight attempt (no pressure!) and brought along a special guest, the one and only Neil Gresham! It was such a fantastic day climbing with Neil, he was a true gent and we had a great laugh. I led the Sloth clean non-sight and Neil seconded me with a blindfold on. Huge respect, it must have been terrifying!
“Simply incomparable to anything else I’ve seen in climbing” was Gresham’s fitting conclusion, while GB Paraclimbing team coach and manager Robin O’Leary has described this as “up there with one of the most impressive ascents on grit!”
Kind words guys, but you really need to get out more! Haha..
A couple of magazines ran the story: