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Free Longhope

Macleod just before the crux pitch. [Photo] Lukasz Warzecha

On June 21, Dave MacLeod, with his partner Andy Turner, freed an old aid route on the sea cliffs of Northern Scotland’s Orkney Island. MacLeod’s free version of The Longhope (8b/8b+) saw its first aid attempts in 1970, and after seven days and twenty-seven pitches, Ed Drummond and Oliver Hill reached the sea stack’s summit. Later, Johnny Dawes, John Dunne, John Arran and Dave Turnbull made attempts to free it; though, none were completed in a single push. When MacLeod took to The Longhope, he completed it in a single day with eight pitches; fifteen fewer pitches than the original aid line. His route also included a sixty-five-meter A2 crack that spans the final head wall. All other parties had avoided this crack, believing it to be too hard for a free ascent.

When Hill tipped off MacLeod about the climb in 2006, he suggested that MacLeod bolt the run out and exposed sections of the route, MacLeod disagreed. Bolting it, he said, would contradict the spirit of his adventure. “My idea,” he said in his blog, “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.”

After numerous days studying sequences and scrubbing grime from the wall, MacLeod and Turner began The Longhope’s first free ascent via the A2 crux. About 400 meters below the ominous crux pitch was relatively easy said MacLeod. And, despite a forlorn sense of failure, MacLeod stormed up the crux. “On the final crux before joining John Arran’s E7 section,” he said in his blog, “all I could see was the outline of the jug above me. I grabbed it and screamed with utter relief.”

Sources: Dave Macleod,