Scotland isn’t very well known for its climbing throughout the rest of Europe, but a few routes put up by Dave Mac Leod are among the hardest and most famous trad routes in the UK. Especially Dumby has some historical trad milestones like „Requiem“ the first E8 in the UK put up in 1983 by Dave Cuthbertson. or „Rhapsody“ the world‘s first E11. Ever since Jacopo and I had seen the movie we knew, that a climbing trip to Scotland would be very special. That was exactly ten years ago and at the time none of us thought that we would end up in Dumby together climbing these routes.
After a long break from climbing on mobile gear it was time for some trad climbing again. It was Jacopo’s idea to travel to Scotland. His dream was to try the most famous route there – Rhapsody – known for one of the biggest whippers you can take in Scotland and , that should be mentioned, not on to the biggest gear you want to fall on. Therefore I was not really sure what was on my agenda for this trip. Of course, I wanted to try this route a bit in toprope. Just to find out how it is to climb on such an iconic trad testpiece. And I knew, if I could not make real progress on this one, there would be some other interesting trad lines around on which I could have some fun.
I was immediately stoked to check out a new place, a new country and most important of all:
I wanted to see the Scottish Highlands ! Somewhere in the back of my head there was „Braveheart“ and a picture of Mel Gibson fighting in one of the most beautiful landscapes you can imagine. Soon I learned that most of the footage of this film had been shot in Ireland. 🙂
But apart from this annoying fact the Scottish Highlands are for sure a highlight to see and worth a long car drive through this incredible landscape. Although you really need good weather to actually see anything there. It took a second attempt to experience the whole beauty of this place.
The first week of our trip was a test of patience and it took all my motivation to climb in this place. Six degrees is not really a problem on it’s own but the stormy wind made it freezing cold.
I was wrapped in two big down jackets and it was really hard to find the motivation to take them off for some climbing. I kept asking myself what I was doing there. At the end of the first week I was convinced that this was not fun. You need a project route for which you are mega stoked or long climbing days with fun climbing on different routes. For both it was the wrong place and the temperature was way out of my comfort zone. Anyway – we tried to stay motivated and kept on doing something….climbing in toprope, hanging out at the coffee shop and driving back to make another session, warming up in the car, belaying while it was snowing etc.
Still we saw some Scottish climbers walking around with T-shirts. I thought: „This is it ! These are the great conditions, that’s the deal !“ Maybe the people here are a little harder compared to the softies in Austria and Italy ? I felt relief when a local climber told us it’s not normal for the time of the year.
After the first week it got much warmer and the wind calmed down. One down jacket was enough and the motivation was higher than ever. Jacopo made some really good progress on Rhapsody and I had a hard time on the first hard section of the upper wall. I searched for hours to find a good solution and some footholds to figure out how to climb the reachy moves. I finally found a solution but it still felt too hard to connect the sequences in the crux. So I didn’t spend one single thought on a lead try on Rhapsody. For me it made much more sense to check out another line. But first I wanted to climb the logical exit of this wall named „Requiem“ wich is for sure one of the must do’s in Dumby. I had some scary moments on the last hard move…putting my trust on one really small Camalot. But at the end it is a quite safe climb. On nearly all of the routes in Dumby you don’t risk a ground fall but of course you can hurt yourself in case of a bad uncontrolled whipper.
Compared to most of the climbing crags around our home, the Scottish make use of every piece of rock they can find. Simply everything that slightly resembles of stone gets developed. There are a lot of variations and combinations of routes and it is not always the best and most solid rock. But the approach to climb on mobile gear if possible is really exemplary. A pure style where you have to keep it all together to actually climb a route. Sometimes you have to invest a little bit more and the challenge may be bigger but in the end you feel much happier having achieved something where you had to overcome fear in addition to the climbing. This is what makes such climbs so satisfying and memorable.
While Jacopo made the first lead attempts on Rhapsody, I started to check out another Dave Mac Leod classic called „Achemine“. First of all I had to search some holds and to do some brushing. It did not seem as if somebody had tried the route recently. I took some time to figure out how to do the hard boulder part and then it still felt quite hard to connect the single moves. First the route follows the well known „Chemin de fare“, the biggest crack of Dumby wall and a real classic line. Where the crack turns off to the right— „Achemine“ goes straight up through the headwall which is faceclimbing. It is also in the crack that you can place the last piece of gear before you start a really long runout to the top. I took two big whippers before I could get over the crux. On the last meters I really had to keep all together and stay calm. It is not really hard there but also no option to fall about 13m above the last cam.
The definite highlight of our trip though was Jacopo’s send of Rhapsody!! I was so happy for him. He invested a lot of energy and had some close tries before he finally sent the route. Finally the big goal of the trip was more than ticked off and we had time to check out some other places as well. A few days later we went to the Highlands to climb at tunnel wall. Another highlight of our trip was definitely the cobbler in the Arrochar alps. We went there for one special route called„ Dalriada“. This place has quite a long approach…about two hours. But the view there and the crazy arete are absolutely worthwhile. A real gorgeous place to be in the best weather we could imagine.
After some more sightseeing we ran out of ideas and day trip plans. So we decided to do a little cleaning up at Dumbarton wall. Before we arrived at Dumbarton we heard some rumors about this place; that it is not the most beautiful and it is not the cleanest place to go to on a climbing trip. I didn’t pay much attention to that. When we stopped the first time on the parking lot, we quickly understood why. This place is quite known for young people to hang out on weekends and spend time together. Sometimes it seemed to be the party place of Dumbarton 🙂 There is a lot of garbage everywhere, next to the boulders and directly under the blocks so there was definitely some work to do. We know that the local climbers are trying hard to keep this place clean and we wanted to contribute as well.