Friday, 17 February 2017

Boulder Scotland new edition in the shop


We have delivery of our stock of the new Scottish Bouldering guide by John Watson. It’s fantastic to see John put so much effort into updating this excellent and much needed guide. It’s an important contribution to Scottish climbing. Just flicking through the new expanded book, it reminds me not only of the infinite amazing boulder littered all over our country, but also of the great many memories I have of developing many of the areas myself over the past two decades. I just had, and continue to have, so much fun. From lurking at Dumby - its polish refining my technique, to hitching every day to Glen Croe for a whole summer, to more recent perfect days out in amongst the grand highland scenery of the Skeleton Boulders in Glen Nevis.

If you live in the UK, and especially in Scotland, and you boulder, please don’t let your life go past without visiting many of the spots in this guide. Don’t wait for years to discover just how good the Torridonian sandstone is, or drive up the A9 without ducking in to the Ruthven Boulder. I don't really need to say this - if you just look through the guide, you'll see straight away the depth of bouldering that has been developed across every corner of Scotland in the past decade or two.

Even better, let this guide encourage you to pull out a map on your rest day and go for a wander down some random glen or headland and look for new boulders. They are out there. And when you find them, it will be worth it. Just make sure you tell us about them!


The guide, 336 pages, full colour diagrams and photos, is in our shop here. You can also see that we have the new training guide Gimme Kraft AIR in stock too, as well as our daily ship-outs of Make or Break and 9 out of 10 climbers...

Here are a few videos of some recent days out, just to remind you of a wee snapshot of the boulders out there.


Drag Race 8A Rannoch Moor from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.
The Anatomist, Torridon from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.
Gimme That Swing 8B, Glen Nevis from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.
Good Drying, 8A+, Arisaig Cave from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Urban Uprising ambassador

Dave MacLeod speaks to URBAN UPRISING from UrbanUprising on Vimeo.

I’m delighted to say I am now an ambassador for the charity Urban Uprising, which takes children from deprived backgrounds climbing. Sounds simple, but it can transform people’s lives, as it did mine. It shows them that someone believes they are capable, it shows them a new world of the outdoors and adventures. Climbing and the outdoors also offers some respite from the stress these young people have to face. I think that being given a window into another world like this, a sense that good experiences are possible, is critical for these people. So I’m right behind it, and encourage you to be as well.

I'm joining other great climbers on their team such as Robbie Phillips, James Pearson, Caroline Ciavaldini, Niall McNair and Natalie Berry. I hope that through any influence I have, I can help raise some awareness and ultimately, raise funds to make the Uprising projects happen. If you are able to donate something directly, do it! It’s easy (instructions here). Another cool way of helping is to buy one of their T-shirts. One T-shirt gets one child climbing for the day. That is pretty cool.


Monday, 6 February 2017

Knuckleduster on the Ben


Dave Almond approaching the bulge on pitch 2 of Knuckleduster Direct (the original version goes right, the direct goes left to continue up the general corner feature.)

Yesterday was a fun day climbing Knuckleduster Direct VIII,8 on the Ben with Helen Rennard and Dave Almond. It was also my first day leading trad since breaking my leg in the autumn. I was very slow placing the gear, and placed a lot. But otherwise fine. It was certainly a good idea to have a gentle break back in to trad leading again. The route was first climbed by Greg Boswell and Guy Robertson in 2012. All four pitches were really good fun, with mostly positive hooks, especially where you really need it. In fact, I got my tools stuck in the crack twice on pitch one!


The highlight of the day was the lovely moonlight as we abseiled back down. The Ben is a little worrying right now, with a lot of loose blocks which are not keyed-in as they normally would be since it’s been both very dry and snowless this winter so far. It still feels like November up there.


Helen seconding pitch 1

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Fort William Mountain Festival time is coming again

FWMF Showreel 2017 from Fort William Mountain Festival on Vimeo.

The Fort William Mountain Festival is always a highlight of the year for me. In fact, aside from climbing trips themselves, it’s the most important mountain-related date in my diary. It’s always an inspiring gathering of all the like-minded outdoor folk of the UK. We socialise, watch films, coach climbing and see some lectures that you just get at the many mountain festivals around the world (I’ve been to most of them, many times). 

Anyway, I would say that. The festival weekend itself also marks the end of the busiest work period in my year. Each year I edit the festival showreel, the mountain culture award films and also my own films for the festival. This year has been maybe my busiest. I’ve just finished seven pieces of film and I’m exhausted. As the last one uploads to dropbox, I was straight back on my board and felt much better, and tomorrow morning I’ll be heading off into the fresh snow that finally arrived on the hills today. Great!


Above is the festival showreel. Putting it together always gets me psyched not only for the festival, but for the start of the climbing season proper in Scotland. Here we go!

Hopefully see you folks from all over the UK and Europe at the festival in a couple of weeks. I'm running coaching masterclasses all weekend during the days at my wall (there was a cancellation on one booking yesterday - ring Claire on 07813060376 if you would like to fill it!). We also have a stall at the festival nights as always, selling books and films, so come and say hello.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Time to focus

Good Drying, 8A+, Arisaig Cave from Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.

As ever I’ve found recovering from being broken and stuck on crutches a long road without many shortcuts. I’d definitely lost sight of light at the end of the tunnel for a while. But since Christmas, things have begun to look up quite a bit.

My gait has normalised, I have much less pain, I feel a bit more agility coming back. But most importantly, I completed another phase of my long running diet experiments, a phase which definitely didn’t work. It had caused me to put on quite a bit of fat. After the experiment I switched back and even after one week started to get leaner again, and feel like I can climb!

I’d put a bit of effort into training for winter climbing. But winter does not seem to be coming this year. So on with the boulder projects. Readers of this blog will know that last winter I did a straight-up 8B in the Arisaig Cave called 4th Wave. Its an absolutely brilliant piece of climbing, and so it was a shame the journey was over when I completed it. But the obvious thing in my mind ever since I fist visited the cave was to do the big link from the cave entrance and finish up 4th Wave. I felt pretty sure this was Font 8C territory and a great project to work on (skin friendly, nearly always dry, perfect in the middle of winter and in condition nearly 6 months of the year).

But it did seem rather too hard. So I was a bit scared of trying it. However, over the past week I have made a great start. Re-working all of the 50-odd moves. The first half, to a kneebar rest before 4th Wave is around 8A. There is another straight-up 7C that starts from the kneebar, so I figured I could finish up this also as a kind of 8A+ ‘warm-up’. It would also serve as a good link to do laps on when I was too tired to have more redpoints on the proper finish.

Yesterday, I climbed the 8A+ link, on my first redpoint attempt. My foot also slipped off mid-crux on the exit problem, and I still managed to stay on and finish it. Quite a good sign. 

It makes total sense at this point for me to get serious on this project now. I have three months of good conditions ahead, a great start already done, and I’m really motivated to work on it. I still don’t think it will go. But that is the point of a hard project!

There are several stages for the prep. First is just to repeat 4th Wave, and work up to being able to do it a few times in a session. Second is to drop 3/4kgs back to my fighting weight. Third is to go beyond just knowing the moves of the first half, to being able to climb them with much greater speed and efficiency - putting the hours in, in other words. Lastly, I need to work a bit on my specific body strength to be able to hold the strenuous kneebar rest position for twice as long as I currently can. 

The great thing about climbing in the cave is how powerful the climbing is, you walk back to the car with every muscle in your upper body ‘singing’ with fatigue. And if you need a break, you just watch the otters and sea eagles dotting about the bay for a moment.


 View from my house this morning (Jan 21st) of Aonach Mor. Basically no winter yet.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Lucky man - part 1


A minute away from breaking a leg. And I just thought I was about to climb a great new trad first ascent. Photos: Masa Sakano

During August and September I was a wee bit frustrated, bothered by my decision to stay in Scotland and do mountain trad projects, only to be met with a dire wet summer. Still I was aware how lucky I was to have these sorts of problems to worry about. I did a ton of training and felt pretty fit, waiting for a weather window for a cool project on Binnien Shuas. My time finally came. As soon as the rain stopped I headed up with Masa, finished cleaning the line and tied in to lead it. Although it was a tough route and I didn’t expect to succeed first try, I was relaxed and just so delighted to be outside, with a cool breeze in my face and starting up a hard rock climb.


Inspecting the new line. It will be an amazing route, when I get the opportunity to go back to it!

I was just getting started, two moves up the route and was lifting my feet ready to place a good wire when suddenly I found myself hurtling backwards without warning. The big sidepull I’d been holding onto had broken off. I landed on one foot on the rock slab below the route and somersaulted backwards, also knocking Masa to the ground. We picked ourselves up in a tangle of ropes and heather and Masa asked if I was ok. ‘Yes, but maybe not my ankle’.

For a couple of minutes, I had a rather powerful adrenaline buzz, which faded to a looming feeling that things were not good. My leg and ankle were clearly ‘not right’. Sadly I am all too experienced with this situation and I defaulted to considering the immediate issue that I was at the top of a mountain with a broken leg and one hour’s walk and 30 min cycle away from the road. 

So I apologised to Masa and asked if it was ok if he would carry my lead ropes down the hill and if I could set off right away as I might be walking slowly! Masa agreed and said he would also retrieve my static rope which was also still hanging down the wall from having finished the cleaning.


Broken rock, broken leg.

I set off, every step becoming more painful and more worrying. However, with the help of my walking poles I arrived back at the bikes in good time and could kid myself on that my leg was not too bad while I had it immersed in the cold water of Lochan na-h Earba. Masa was a long time behind me and by the time he appeared out of the darkness, my heart was pounding out of my chest with worry. He did in fact have his own considerable adventures en route to the top of the crag, opting for the quicker route by soloing a v-diff gully climb which I normally use to access the top myself (so knew how steep it was). He slipped on wet grass on the final moves of this and fell 30 metres down the gully, apparently landing on his back, on his rucksack full of ropes and gear. Bruised but otherwise ok, he staggered off the hill behind me.


A fair walk with a broken leg. Bikes left at the beach at the end of the loch.

While he relayed this story to me as we limped onto our bikes in the dark, I wondered if I might be hallucinating because I was so worried to see Masa appear again that my brain might be inventing the image. I was nonetheless relieved to be on the bike and wobbling off down the track back to the road. Perhaps with the reappearance of Masa and the elapsed time since the injury my endorphin hit was wearing off, but I found it particularly challenging to get off the bike, walk it through the gate and get going again. By that point I was realising the game was up and I started to feel a bit low. 

After several days of lying low, Masa was back out on the crags and climbing again. When I returned home, Claire retrieved by crutches out of the shed and I got used to the idea of being off my feet and off the hills again. My MRI confirmed a broken Tibia and various bits of damage to the ankle I had repaired in March 2015. 

I reasoned with myself that after getting myself through three ankle surgeries in four years, and over a year of that time on crutches, I was well equipped to just do it again. And anyway, what else would I do? It didn’t work out quite like that, as I will describe in the next part of this blog.



 Masa attacking the roofs of Ardanfreaky E3 5c, earlier in the afternoon.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Urban Uprising


Myself and my friend Niall McNair who also spoke at the Urban Uprising event at TCA Glasgow the other week

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk at a big boulder comp/party event at TCA Glasgow organised by the charity Urban Uprising. Various talks I’ve done in the past have raised money for Climbers Against Cancer, various mountain rescue teams and others, but I mention this one specifically, just because I really like what they do and want to encourage you to support it.

Urban Uprising take deprived or otherwise at risk kids climbing. Usually it’s the first time they’ve had an experience of an adventurous sport like climbing. In my view, this is a pretty special thing to do. I’m biased of course, because one experience I happened to have as a kid (randomly going out on my bike and finding mountains) totally changed my life. I have no doubt at all that this one experience not only set me on a path to make far more of myself than I otherwise would have, but it also allowed me to gain expertise I could then use to help others.

I was lucky enough to have a bike, and the freedom to choose to go out on it and have this life changing experience without any direct influence from anyone at that moment. So many others have neither the freedom or the resources. One of the great problems with helping young people to help themselves is that no-one ever values them. So why would they value themselves? They are seen by so many others in society as a problem. Actually they are an opportunity. When someone takes time to show them something good, it will have a positive effect on almost all. For a subset, it will change everything. That is worth supporting.


If you want to support them, head to their website, buy a cool T-shirt. Or just donate. 

Friday, 2 September 2016

Summer ups and downs




Completing my hard yellow circuit on the board for the first time yesterday. A small training milestone for the summer. If you would like to join me for some coaching at my own wall, I just announced some dates for coaching in December, and then in February. The details are here.

As the wet summer continues, my plans of mountain trad projects continue to wait in limbo and my body is broken on a daily basis with tough training. This is all good, I am fit! I've also used the time to tie up some other skills I've wanted to learn and am now a qualified drone pilot!

I got a day in Binnien Shuas and revisited a potential project I tried to abseil down about 5 years ago but gave up on. I say tried to abseil down - the line goes through a huge barrel shaped too system, and I couldn’t get any gear in to pull myself into the wall and get a look at it. Now armed with better aiding skills and kit, I managed fine this time and cleaned it up. It looks around 8a with fantastic moves and a thank-god cam near the crux, although the crux will be placing the cam and managing to keep going!

I was hoping to get in there today for a lead, but it was rain 15, dave 0. Meanwhile, back in the wall where I have been racking up the circuits each day, I have been making some progress, It’s always hard to tell how much progress, since I have not had a rest day in some time, but you get clues. The clues seem promising but not mind-blowing. The main issue has been the need to eat some carbs to fuel the anaerobic sessions. My body does not get on well with this and so I’ve been working hard to arrive at a strategy to keep these to an absolute minimum required for specific sessions. Manipulating the amounts and timing has been tricky and the trial and error process has contained a lot of error! I’ll get it right yet though and I continue to learn much about this, and about how my body responds to different regimens.

Eating in my own personalised formulation of a ketogenic diet while I was only bouldering was both highly effective and very easy for me (once I had learned quite a lot of prerequisite knowledge and corrected various early mistakes). I know many people don’t get on well with it. My hunch is that this is down to lack of knowledge or planning in many cases rather than inherent unsuitability of the strategy. Managing inclusion of some CHO in the diet for CHO-based anaerobic training is probably very easy for some, but not for me, and even small amounts kicks on many of the problems that led me to the ketogenic diet in the first place. I did wonder whether maintaining this style of eating would actually be the better end of the trade off for me for sport climbing too. At the moment, it looks like the optimal route for me will be some sort of periodised balance between minimal carbs during anaerobic sessions and moving back into ketosis as quickly as possible at other times could be the best. I emphasise ‘could be’ - I am not yet sure. What the optimal regimen will look like I’m not sure either. I am sure that it will take fairly meticulous planning though. 

The trouble with experiments of any kind in sports science, especially when they include both training changes and nutrition is that so many variables are moving at the same time. Attributing an effect, positive or negative, to one change is an exercise in something between futility and careful guesswork. Was it the sleep, the protein, the fat, the carbs, the type of food, the training, the conditions, your mental state or a whole host of things you hadn’t even thought of that were responsible for what you observe?

Overall, it’s fair to say I have stepped up my game in all aspects of the organisation of my training though. One thing can always throw a spanner in the works regarding training is life outside of climbing. I’ve had a couple of ups and downs outside of climbing lately. Being totally honest, I’ve stopped a couple of training sessions after warming up purely because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to train (putting it mildly). Sometimes training can actually be an outlet for difficulties in ‘real’ life. In fact I’d say climbing has been utterly essential in getting me through some tough times. Sometimes though, I’ve just not been able to do it.

Summer ups and downs




Completing my hard yellow circuit on the board for the first time yesterday. A small training milestone for the summer. If you would like to join me for some coaching at my own wall, I just announced some dates for coaching in December, and then in February. The details are here.

As the wet summer continues, my plans of mountain trad projects continue to wait in limbo and my body is broken on a daily basis with tough training. This is all good, I am fit! I got a day in Binnien Shuas and revisited a potential project I tried to abseil down about 5 years ago but gave up on. I say tried to abseil down - the line goes through a huge barrel shaped too system, and I couldn’t get any gear in to pull myself into the wall and get a look at it. Now armed with better aiding skills and kit, I managed fine this time and cleaned it up. It looks around 8a with fantastic moves and a thank-god cam near the crux, although the crux will be placing the cam and managing to keep going!

I was hoping to get in there today for a lead, but it was rain 15, dave 0. Meanwhile, back in the wall where I have been racking up the circuits each day, I have been making some progress, It’s always hard to tell how much progress, since I have not had a rest day in some time, but you get clues. The clues seem promising but not mind-blowing. The main issue has been the need to eat some carbs to fuel the anaerobic sessions. My body does not get on well with this and so I’ve been working hard to arrive at a strategy to keep these to an absolute minimum required for specific sessions. Manipulating the amounts and timing has been tricky and the trial and error process has contained a lot of error! I’ll get it right yet though and I continue to learn much about this, and about how my body responds to different regimens.

Eating in my own personalised formulation of a ketogenic diet while I was only bouldering was both highly effective and very easy for me (once I had learned quite a lot of prerequisite knowledge and corrected various early mistakes). I know many people don’t get on well with it. My hunch is that this is down to lack of knowledge or planning in many cases rather than inherent unsuitability of the strategy. Managing inclusion of some CHO in the diet for CHO-based anaerobic training is probably very easy for some, but not for me, and even small amounts kicks on many of the problems that led me to the ketogenic diet in the first place. I did wonder whether maintaining this style of eating would actually be the better end of the trade off for me for sport climbing too. At the moment, it looks like the optimal route for me will be some sort of periodised balance between minimal carbs during anaerobic sessions and moving back into ketosis as quickly as possible at other times could be the best. I emphasise ‘could be’ - I am not yet sure. What the optimal regimen will look like I’m not sure either. I am sure that it will take fairly meticulous planning though. 

The trouble with experiments of any kind in sports science, especially when they include both training changes and nutrition is that so many variables are moving at the same time. Attributing an effect, positive or negative, to one change is an exercise in something between futility and careful guesswork. Was it the sleep, the protein, the fat, the carbs, the type of food, the training, the conditions, your mental state or a whole host of things you hadn’t even thought of that were responsible for what you observe?

Overall, it’s fair to say I have stepped up my game in all aspects of the organisation of my training though. One thing can always throw a spanner in the works regarding training is life outside of climbing. I’ve had a couple of ups and downs outside of climbing lately. Being totally honest, I’ve stopped a couple of training sessions after warming up purely because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to train (putting it mildly). Sometimes training can actually be an outlet for difficulties in ‘real’ life. In fact I’d say climbing has been utterly essential in getting me through some tough times. Sometimes though, I’ve just not been able to do it.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

An Inconvenient Tooth





Mid crux on The Inconvenient Tooth E8 6c. Thanks to Cubby Images for these great pics.

During the good spell back in June, Dan McManus and Ross McKerchar climbed a great looking new E8 8c new routes the arete of the Bhasteir Tooth on Skye. I had never been up there but obviously knew the arete had not been climbed. I always wondered if the roofs would either have any holds on them, or be escapable onto the side walls, so I never went up to look. As it turned out, the side wall gave an E8 - all good!

So I was obviously keen to go up and repeat it. After going up with Calum last weekend and diverting to Algol in the drizzle, I had to return home for a couple of days work. Calum was working on Skye and managed to squeeze in a repeat of the route on the Thursday. I walked in with Iain Small and Cubby on Friday (my first opportunity) on a forecast of rain arriving around mid afternoon.

However, as we dropped our sacks at the foot of the route, it started to spit with rain. We both quickly went up the scramble route to the top of the tooth and abseiled down to check the gear and I hurriedly tied in with the rain still spitting, but only slightly. I expected it to get wet quickly, but moved as fast as I could to arrange the gear in case I could do it just in time. 




The crux was fine - easier than I expected and in no time I was on the easier upper arete which I took my time on since I would certainly not have another chance! I abseiled and stripped it as fast as I could and Iain tied in. The spits were gradually becoming just rain and it wasn’t clear that Iain would have time to do it.



Iain just after the crux.

With a shout he powered through the crux and as the rock started to get a little wet he moved round out of sight and up the final arete. The clouds got thicker and the rain got heavier and drips started to run off the faces that were catching the strengthening wind. Iain moved quickly and then stopped. But impressively, after a couple of minutes contemplation, he continued upward on the final metres of E3 terrain with was by now fairly wet. Winter climbing experience no doubt paid off!


We packed up soaking wet ropes and trudged back down feeling lucky to have made the best of every second of available dryness that day. I reflected that we could easily have not climbed it, all it would have taken would have been a pulse of slightly heavier drizzle before we started climbing. If we’d trudged down soaking wet without the tick, I’d no doubt have felt rather differently about the day, and perhaps about the merit of taking our chances on a poor forecast.



The rapidly worsening weather situation as Iain was climbing the upper arete.

As always with living in Scotland, the wet spells like we’ve had this summer seem to go on and on while you’re in them, but they are quickly forgotten when the conditions turn good and you can have your pick of routes to do. Despite the recent rain, I am gradually working through my list of routes to climb for the summer, although my Ben Nevis projects are looking a bit remote now. Unless we have a September like last year!


Sunnier times back in June - Rich Mayfield just sent me this pic of me repeating The Keswickian E8 7a in the Lakes. Oh for some more sunny days like that!