• Michelle Mudhar

Peering through the rain curtain - 1st attempt

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

It was going to be the week of the first paraplegic ascent of the Old Man of Hoy. Alas it was not meant to be and this is as close as I got.

Me and my handcycle looking on as climbers summit of the Old Man of Hoy

The wind whipped the sea up into a frenzy all week, the waves would have tossed my kayak about like a toy and the climb would have failed before it had started. My consolation was seeing the stack in all its glory from the cliff face opposite. I could only look on as able bodied climbers congratulated each other on summiting it. Even getting to this vantage point took four people to help navigate the steep rocky path, often at an angle which would tip the bike. We got there though, but not without a few tumbles! The terrain isn't exactly "accessible" in the traditional sense of the word, but even the impossible can become possible with the right help :-)

The team come into view of the stack

For those who don't know the Old Man of Hoy it is actually connected to the land. Its the way able bodied climbers get to it. The steep slope down the cliff leads to a ridge of man sized boulders which have to be scrambled across with great care. Hardly the place to be risking a carry over, its for this reason that I'm dependant on an approach by sea kayak. And if that description doesn't quite cut it, perhaps a picture will:

Climbers scramble back to land after summit of the Old Man of Hoy

Whilst I wasn't able to get to the stack, the team from Glenmore Lodge were. In doing so they were able to plan a line of ascent for a future attempt and pick up vital intel on belay points which would be essential in providing rest locations to prevent my body from suffering from suspension trauma as a result of the harness.

We also managed to get a practice climb in, a nice "short" 30m cliff on the island which was sheltered from the wind. We learnt SO much. The difficulty in actually just getting down to the cliff wall, the affect of the weight of the rope which actually prevents the rig from working. And hopefully some rig improvements which should make it safer for everyone involved. We have a lot more work to do before the next attempt to close out some of the queries from this one. Including a plan for sleeping at the base of the stack if the tides don't work in our favour! But its all good learning and will only make us stronger when we return.

Special thanks goes to Glenmore Lodge and their instructors who were absolutely incredible. Really excited to be working with these guys and their exemplary professionalism which always left me feeling totally safe.

Glenmore Lodge instructors from left to right: Nathan White, Gile Trussell, Mark

The message I want to leave you with though is, I'll be back! Hopefully closer to the stack next time. And spot the handcycle!

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Going where no handcycle has gone before!

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